Pulling up bootstraps

We’ve recently posted some great news articles on our Facebook page from around the country about communities that inject valuable character education into the local sports scenes.  The Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy Leadership and Character Development Camp in Vero Beach, Florida emphasizes character education at their summer camp.  Midnight Basketball in Taylor, Texas is more informal, yet is a well-known gathering place for teens to play in a pick-up game at night and benefit from the wisdom and values shared by local mentors and leaders. 

On a similar note, this year’s Promising Practices winners include schools like Gallup Hill Elementary in Ledyard Connecticut and South Grafton Elementary in South Grafton, Massachusetts whose P.E. teachers have helped to transform the recess period into constructive game time using character education and organized athletic activity. Their actions have greatly diminished playground shenanigans and bullying and encouraged cooperative play and teamwork.

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Graduation Wisdom

June is a great time to evaluate the things that really matter in life. With school years ending across the country and the great weather kicking into high gear (already turning into overly hot, humid days here in Washington, DC), we all begin to take a look at the Class of 2011. Graduates at all levels are being recognized for their hard work and accomplishments as they embark down future paths that are at the same time invigorating and uncertain.

It is interesting, therefore, to study the words that are spoken on these historic occasions. What messages come across? What themes can we promote to future graduates? You will be hard pressed to find a graduation speech that extols the wisdom of achieving fame and wealth. Despite America’s ambitious and capitalistic nature, when it comes down to these defining moments in our lives, we stop to think about the qualities of life that really matter—things like being kind to others, respecting and valuing different opinions, being open to new experiences throughout your life—in general finding a way forward on the path to happiness. Continue reading

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International Comparisons

We’ve all been hearing about great educational systems of nations such as Finland and Japan. If you haven’t yet seen “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” unveiled recently at an event attended by Secretary Duncan, John Merrow’s blog post provides a succinct summary of insights and a link to the report itself.

It’s worth taking a look at what these countries are doing to see if we can learn from them. If these countries don’t debate school choice, teacher accountability, or high-stakes testing, why do we? Will all of our interventions and measurements really make our students achieve more? Perhaps Merrow is right to point to our divergent state policies and lack of support or respect for teachers as weak areas of our educational system.

Even so, that leaves us with the question, “What do we focus on right now?” Continue reading

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