How Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (2017) Changes IEPs: A look at IDEA for General Education Teachers
Most general education teachers receive training on education law in their credential programs, where they learn about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), student Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and teacher responsibilities for working with students with special needs. However, authors Michael A. Couvillon et al. argue that education law is an area in which teachers should receive ongoing training provided by school districts: “Special education law is one area of information that should be included in staff development activities of public school teaching and administrators; unfortunately, it is frequently overlooked” (1).
Developing Students’ Intrinsic Motivation to Write
Today, the Common Core standards in the United States call for an increased emphasis on student writing in multiple subject areas. Some students may welcome more writing opportunities at school, while other students may dismiss writing as frustrating and burdensome. In their article, “The Bright and Dark Side of Writing Motivation: Effects of Explicit Instruction and Peer Assistance,” authors Fien de Smedt et al. explain that student motivation to write plays an important part in students’ actual writing performance. Previous studies have shown that students who have stronger beliefs in their own writing abilities and who are motivated to write actually have better writing performance (1). In contrast, students who have weaker beliefs in their own writing abilities and who are less motivated to write often display a dislike of writing in school (1). The question for De Smedt et al., then, is: How do we increase students’ motivation to write, and thus help them become more willing and better writers?
Teaching Social Studies in the Era of “Alternative Facts”
In his article, “Fake News, Alternative Facts, and Trump: Teaching Social Studies in a Post-Truth Era,” Wayne Journell paints a clear picture of how the current government leadership and the American media have together birthed the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” It is in this era that American citizens can willingly “disregard verifiable facts as fake simply because they contradict their agenda” or their own worldview (8). It is in this era that American citizens can turn to media outlets of their choice to hear news and ideas that only reinforce their own viewpoints. It is in this era that Social Studies teachers are needed more than ever. Journell remarks that “both political thinking and media literacy are skills that need to be taught and practiced over time” (10). While teacher training and education research will continue to address these topics, Journell offers some guidance for Social Studies teachers in the meantime.
Emphasizing Concepts vs. Procedures in Math: Student Achievement and Social Justice
Over the past few decades, teachers in the United States have faced increasing pressure to boost American students’ mathematics achievement. Comparisons with other countries have revealed that American students lag behind in math achievement, especially when compared to student performance in Japan and Singapore. Thus, American education leaders and policymakers have prioritized mathematics achievement in part to secure America as a globally competitive and innovative nation (Yu 82).
In their paper, “Teacher support, instructional practices, student motivation, and mathematics achievement in high school,” authors Rongrong Yu and Kusum Singh explain that for the past 20 years, mathematics educators and administrators have been engaged in “mathematics wars,” heated debates that have pitted those who favor procedural teaching against those who favor conceptual teaching (81).
Previous studies have shown that students in high-achieving countries like Japan and Singapore “spend more time on inventing, analyzing, and proving, with less time on routine procedures, but U.S. students spend almost all their time on routine procedures” (83).
How School Goals Affect Teacher Motivation and Burnout Rates
In the United States, nearly 40 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years (Skaalvik and Skaalvik 154). Research has shown that this high teacher turnover rate is attributable to high levels of stress, time pressure, and discipline problems, among other things (153). In their paper, “Motivated for Teaching? Associations with school goal structure, teacher self-efficacy, job satisfaction, and emotional exhaustion,” Einar M. Skaalvik and Sidsel Skaalvik argue that school-wide goals also play a significant part in influencing teachers’ job satisfaction and motivation to stay in the teaching profession.
Vocabulary Instruction in High School Social Studies Classes: General Academic Terms are Overlooked
For the last 20 years, there has been almost no change in students’ measured achievement in the area of social studies in grades 4-12 (273). According to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), only 45% of American 12th graders score at or above the basic level for social studies content, as they have for decades (273). In their paper, “An investigation of high school social studies teachers’ understandings of vocabulary teaching and learning,” authors Janis Harmon et al. explain that to address this issue of academic stagnation, education standards—especially Common Core—are now emphasizing “disciplinary literacy, that is a focus on the specific literacy demands unique to the various content areas and the sub disciplines within each area” (272).
Instructional Differences in High-Poverty Elementary Schools: High vs. Low Performing
As of the 2013-2014 school year, 25% of U.S. public schools were designated as high poverty (37). The status of these schools not only reflects the economic position of the 20% of American children who live in poverty, but also the ever-widening academic achievement gap (37). In their paper, “Exploring instructional differences and school performance in high-poverty elementary schools,” authors Regina G. Hirn et al. note that there is a well-documented link between socioeconomic status and school achievement (37). They remark that compared to affluent students, poorer students are less likely to “become proficient in reading or math” and tend to have “poor trajectories throughout their lives—including being more likely to be in poor health, to have children with poor health, to have children as teenagers, and to have children who do not do well in school” (37-38). Along with student poverty, Hirn et al. explain that high-poverty schools’ hiring trends also negatively contribute to student achievement. In particular, high-poverty schools “tend to employ teachers with less experience, lower levels of education, and lower retention rates than those in wealthier areas” (38).
For Hirn et al., No Child Left Behind, licensure, and credential requirements have failed to address the achievement gap problem in the United States. They argue that to address the problem of low achieving schools, it is necessary to examine the teaching practices within those schools (38).
What Does “Trustworthy Evidence” Mean to Students?
Facebook. Instagram. 24-hour news. Twitter. Gossip. Newspapers. School. Television. Today students are bombarded with information about the world. As accessing information becomes easier, the task of determining the accuracy of information becomes increasingly difficult. What is fact? What is misleading? What is trustworthy evidence?
In their paper, “Thinking Deeply, Thinking Emotionally: How High School Students Make Sense of Evidence” authors Rebecca Jacobsen et al. explain that teachers are “increasingly being asked to prepare students to both evaluate information critically and use evidence to construct arguments” (2). These education requirements are set in national education standards, including Common Core for English Language Arts, History/Social Science, and Technical Subjects, as well as in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (2). The authors note that in the NGSS, students “engage in arguments from evidence” starting in kindergarten (2).
Jacobsen et al. remark that for these education standards, it is assumed that students know what evidence is and that all students accept and use evidence is similar ways. Previous studies have shown that this is not always the case, however.