Sunday, December 09, 2012

Catcher in the Rye dropped from US school curriculum

Schools in America are to drop classic books such as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye from their curriculum in favour of 'informational texts'

American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014.  A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace.

Books such as JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by "informational texts" approved by the Common Core State Standards.

Suggested non-fiction texts include Recommended Levels of Insulation by the the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California's Invasive Plant Council.

The new educational standards have the backing of the influential National Governors' Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and are being part-funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Jamie Highfill, a teacher at Woodland Junior High School in Arkansas, told the Times that the directive was bad for a well-rounded education.  "I'm afraid we are taking out all imaginative reading and creativity in our English classes.   "In the end, education has to be about more than simply ensuring that kids can get a job. Isn't it supposed to be about making well-rounded citizens?"

Supporters of the directive argue that it will help pupils to develop the ability to write concisely and factually, which will be more useful in the workplace than a knowledge of Shakespeare.


British educational establishment 'blocking progress in maths'

Long division and times tables risk becoming taboo subjects in primary schools because of “resistance” to traditional teaching methods, a former education minister has warned.   Pupils are struggling to develop a fluency in mathematics after being denied the chance to practice basic sums at a young age, it was claimed.

Nick Gibb, the ex-Schools Minister, suggested that learning times tables by heart was necessary to enable children to tackle more challenging topics at secondary school.    But he warned that the methods were viewed as “stultifying” by the educational establishment, potentially acting as a bar on progress in the classroom.

The comments – in an article for as part of our Make Britain Count campaign – come after the publication of a proposed new maths curriculum for primary schools in England.   Under the plans, five and six year-olds will be expected to count up to 100, recognise basic fractions and memorise the results of simple sums by the end of the first year of compulsory education.

By the age of nine, pupils should know all their times tables up to 12x12 and confidently work with numbers up to 10 million by the end of primary school, it was recommended.  Currently, children only need to know up to 10x10 and familiarise themselves with numbers below 1,000 by the age of 11.  It represents a dramatic toughening up of requirements in primary school maths.

But Mr Gibb, who oversaw the proposals before being moved out of the Department for Education in September’s Government reshuffle, said he was concerned that teaching unions were attempting to oppose the proposals.

He said the best primary schools placed an emphasis on complex addition, subtraction and multiplication but there was “strong resistance to the teaching and practice of traditional algorithms amongst many in the educational establishment”.

Mr Gibb, the Conservative MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, said: “On one side of the argument are those who believe that primary school teachers should put more emphasis on the teaching and understanding of mathematical concepts and less emphasis on the techniques or algorithms of calculation.

“Traditionalists, on the other hand, believe that by being taught the algorithms with a lot of practice children not only become fluent and confident in calculation they also develop an understanding of the concepts underlying those calculations as familiar patterns emerge from practice.”

The Telegraph launched the Make Britain Count campaign designed to highlight the scale of the mathematical crisis in Britain and provide parents with tools to boost their children’s numeracy.


What makes a kid do well at school?

Surprise!  They have discovered that children from prosperous middle class families tend to become  prosperous middle class adults!

KIDS who have a special space to do their homework, own lots of books and visit and talk about museums, galleries and films with their parents will push their way to the head of the class.

Research into parents' influence over children's learning has found mums and dads - possibly more so than teachers - are key to their success.

And parents should not be paranoid about their own level of schooling.

The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth report showed taking an active interest and showing a love of learning is what kids need far more than a parent who understands calculus.

Teachers should talk to parents about the best ways to encourage and motivate learning.

Mums and dad should talk to their kids about class, books and films, school subject choices, their dream careers, and what was expected of them at school.

Other suggestions included making learning fun, linking school work with current events, creating a homework area to study in, providing books and newspapers to read, taking children to museums, libraries, galleries, talks and performances and making sure there were family nights together.

Research found that a child with an engaged parent had an advantage that was equivalent to an extra $1000 in resources and improved results that were comparable to a student whose parents had an additional four to six years of education behind them.

Results included higher grades, making advanced classes, lower dropout rates and greater likelihood of tertiary study.

Schools with strong family involvement were four times more likely to improve student reading and 10 times more likely to improve maths results.

But volunteering at school had little impact, and parents demanding high achievement can actually damage a child's self esteem and result in their marks plummeting.

The report will be examined by Schools Minister Peter Garrett, who wants every school in the country to draw up a plan of how they will better connect with parents under federal Gonski reforms.

Parents were the "missing link in education", Mr Garrett said.


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