I am pretty good at math. Unsurprisingly, the story about why I am good at math has a lot to do with a few exceptional teachers I had growing up in a small coal-mining town in Illinois.
One in particular was Mr. Nagrodski, my high-school math team coach, who seemed to conjure talented mathematicians out of thin air. In the late 80s, he pushed for a major acceleration in the junior-high math curriculum in our district so that more kids were ready for tough math classes in high school. He convinced the district to let him teach those tough math classes, which hadn't been offered before he arrived. As a result, his teams won state math competitions year after year after year—and not incidentally, turned out far more talented students of mathematics than anyone would have guessed could come from a little town of four thousand. (Among many other accolades, Mr. Nagrodski, was profiled in Fortune magazine back in 1991 as one of “25 Who Help the U.S. Win.")
By the time I was a middle schooler gearing up for Mr. Nagrodski's infamously difficult math team practices, roughly half of my class of 75 or so kids had been identified as gifted and was placed in advanced math courses. I doubt there was much red tape to cut through to get to this point--just a superintendent and a couple of principals to convince.
Not all rural schools work well, but when they do, they
Apple's announcement last week that it is entering the textbook market in a big way, with a free product allowing content creators to build engaging digital textbooks more easily, has already gotten lots of reaction—positive and negative—from around the K-12 blogosphere (including from Fordham's own Kathleen Porter-Magee). Put me in the column of believers, though I don't think the iPad's impact on the classroom will be limited to digital textbooks.
Soon after its release in 2010, accessibility advocates touted the iPad's potential to displace much more expensive assistive devices
A reader from the Raleigh News & Observer wrote in when the blog launched earlier this week to let me know about a program that could be useful to classroom teachers looking to get great materials for free.
News in Education (NIE) is a program sponsored by many newspapers around the country that provides access to free newspaper content (either electronically or with physical papers in some cases) to K-12 teachers for use in their classrooms. The classroom materials seem to vary in quality, but many offer lessons drawn from newspaper content in disciplines from reading and social studies to math and science, and in any case the free newspaper access is valuable in and of itself.
If you're an educator or school leader, check out the Newspaper Association of America Foundation's page on NIE programs for a list of papers near you offering the resource. Looks like a great way to get timely reading material and other resources for the classroom for a song. Thanks to reader Courtney Clark of the N&O for the tip!
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About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Chris Tessone was a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Director of Finance of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He has strong interests in governance and education finance, especially teacher compensation and school facilities finance.
May 16, 2013