Education News

Survey: Internet helps education, hurts morality

The Pew Research Center has released results to a poll of relatively new internet users in developing countries that found the internet is viewed pretty favorably, particularly when it comes to education.

Sixty-four percent of the respondents felt that the internet had a positive impact on education and 53 percent said the same for personal relationships. When asked the same thing about the internet’s influence on politics and morality, however, only 36% and 29% had a favorable view, respectively. When you look at the way the internet is utilized in America and other developed nations, I’d say these observations align. There are good and bad aspects — but the potential for increased access to education is great.

I’ve said before that I feel technology can be a great equalizer in P-20 classrooms and this survey adds an international element to that stance. The internet allows access to information in ways that were not even dreamed of a few decades ago. Using internet technology to improve educational access on a worldwide scale is so important to elevating the global economy and knowledge base. Imagine the collaboration that will be possible worldwide between this generation of students because of internet access?

While the internet was considered somewhat of a luxury when it first emerged, I think it is vital that all corners of the world gain access in the coming decade. The internet should not be something elite countries have access to; it should be an educational right for all people. Through this mass adoption, knowledge collaborations will continue to grow and it will benefit all of us as world citizens.

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Kindergartners get little time to play. Why does it matter?

Christopher Brown, University of Texas at Austin

Being a kindergartner today is very different from being a kindergartner 20 years ago. In fact it is more like first grade.

Researchers have demonstrated that five-year-olds are spending more time engaged in teacher-led academic learning activities than play-based learning opportunities that facilitate child-initiated investigations and foster social development among peers.

As a former kindergarten teacher, a father of three girls who’ve recently gone through kindergarten, and as researcher and teacher-educator in early childhood education, I have had kindergarten as a part of my adult life for almost 20 years.

As a parent, I have seen how student-led projects, sensory tables (that include sand or water) and dramatic play areas have been replaced with teacher-led instructional time, writing centers and sight words lists that children need to memorize. And as a researcher, I found, along with my colleague Yi Chin Lan, that early childhood teachers expect children to have academic knowledge, social skills and the ability to control themselves when they enter kindergarten.

So, why does this matter?

All work, and almost no play

First, let’s look at what kindergarten looks like today.

As part of my ongoing research, I have been conducting interviews with a range of kindergarten stakeholders – children, teachers, parents – about what they think kindergarten is and what it should be. During the interviews, I share a 23-minute film that I made last spring about a typical day in a public school kindergarten classroom.

Learning for tests? MJGDSLibrary, CC BY-NC-ND

The classroom I filmed had 22 kindergartners and one teacher. They were together for almost the entire school day. During that time, they engaged in about 15 different academic activities, which included decoding word drills, practicing sight words, reading to themselves and then to a buddy, counting up to 100 by 1’s, 5’s and 10’s, practicing simple addition, counting money, completing science activities about living things and writing in journals on multiple occasions. Recess did not occur until last hour of the day, and that too for about 15 minutes.

For children between the ages of five and six, this is tremendous amount of work. Teachers too are under pressure to cover the material.

When I asked the teacher, who I interviewed for the short film, why she covered so much material in a few hours, she stated,

There’s pressure on me and the kids to perform at a higher level academically.

So even though the teacher admitted that the workload on kindergartners was an awful lot, she also said she was unable to do anything about changing it.

She was required to assess her students continuously, not only for her own instruction, but also for multiple assessments such as quarterly report cards, school-based reading assessments, district-based literacy and math assessments, as well as state-mandated literacy assessments.

In turn, when I asked the kindergartners what they were learning, their replies reflected two things: one, they were learning to follow rules; two, learning was for the sake of getting to the next grade and eventually to find a job. Almost all of them said to me that they wanted more time to play. One boy said:

I wish we had more recess.

These findings mirror the findings of researchers Daphna Bassok, Scott Latham and Anna Rorem that kindergarten now focuses on literacy and math instruction. They also echo the statements of other kindergarten teachers that kids are being prepared for high-stakes tests as early as kindergarten.

Here’s how play helps children

Research has consistently shown classrooms that offer children the opportunities to engage in play-based and child-centered learning activities help children grow academically, socially and emotionally. Furthermore, recess in particular helps children restore their attention for learning in the classroom.

Focus on rules can diminish children’s willingness to take academic risks and curiosity as well as impede their self-confidence and motivation as learners – all of which can negatively impact their performance in school and in later life.

Giving children a chance to play and engage in hands-on learning activities helps them internalize new information as well as compare and contrast what they’re learning with what they already know. It also provides them with the chance to interact with their peers in a more natural setting and to solve problems on their own. Lastly, it allows kindergartners to make sense of their emotional experiences in and out of school.

Children learn through play. woodleywonderworks, CC BY

So children asking for more time to play are not trying to get out of work. They know they have to work in school. Rather, they’re asking for a chance to recharge as well as be themselves.

As another kindergarten boy in my study told me,

We learn about stuff we need to learn, because if we don’t learn stuff, then we don’t know anything.

Learning by exploring

So what can we do to help kindergartners?

I am not advocating for the elimination of academics in kindergarten. All of the stakeholders I’ve talked with up to this point, even the children, know and recognize that kindergartners need to learn academic skills so that they can succeed in school.

However, it is the free exploration that is missing. As a kindergarten teacher I filmed noted,

Free and exploratory learning has been replaced with sit, focus, learn, get it done and maybe you can have time to play later.

Policymakers, schools systems and schools need to recognize that the standards and tests they mandate have altered the kindergarten classroom in significant ways. Families need to be more proactive as well. They can help their children’s teachers by being their advocates for a more balanced approach to instruction.

Kindergartners deserve learning experiences in school that nurtures their development as well as their desire to learn and interact with others. Doing so will assist them in seeing school as a place that will help them and their friends be better people.

The Conversation

Christopher Brown, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in Early Childhood Education, University of Texas at Austin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

More children are reading for pleasure than ever, National Literacy Trust finds

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest post from VoicED

The National Literacy Trust’s annual survey has revealed that more children are reading for pleasure that ever before, with a notable increase in the number of children reading every day.

The survey revealed that the enjoyment and frequency of children reading is at its highest level for nine years.

Of the children surveyed, 54.4 per cent said that they enjoy reading either ‘very much’ or ‘quite a lot’. A further 35.5 per cent said that they only enjoyed reading a little bit. Only 10 per cent of the children said that they do not enjoy reading at all.

When looking at how often children read, the figures have increased noticeably, with a 28.6 per cent increase in the number of children who read every day, outside of the classroom, during the periods studied. The figure climbed from 32.2 per cent in 2013, to 41.1 per cent in 2014.

In recent years, a number of major campaigns have been launched to encourage children to spend more time reading. These campaigns include: Bookstart, the Summer Reading Challenge, the Young Readers Programme and National Literacy Trust Hubs.

It has been found that reading outside of school can have a positive effect on a child’s attainment at school, with children who read for pleasure being five times more likely to have an above average reading age, as opposed to those who do not read.

The survey discovered that there is a notable gap in the frequency of reading between genders, with approximately half (46.5 per cent) of girls claiming to read outside of school every day. Just 35.8 per cent of boys said the same.

As well as this, a higher proportion of girls (61.6 per cent) read for pleasure ‘very much’ or ‘a lot’, as opposed to just 47.2 per cent of the boys surveyed.

The survey also indicated that children perceived there to be a lack of interest amongst parents when it came to their child’s reading, with 1 in 4 (24.3 per cent) children agreeing with the statement “my parents don’t care if I spend any time reading”.

Of the children on free school meals, 31.5 per cent agreed with the statement, as opposed to 23 per cent of children not on free school meals.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said of the survey:

“More must be done to help parents realise what a difference reading with their children from a young age can make to their future. Initiatives including Read On. Get On and our Words for Life campaign are raising awareness and helping parents understand their role in supporting their child’s literacy.”


The VoicED Community is a place for education professionals to share their opinions about topics spanning the entirety of the education sphere – from the curriculum to new resources, and from remuneration to SEN support. This piece originally published on and is republished here with permission.


Gallup poll: College affordability out of reach

According to a new Gallup-Lumina Foundation poll, many Americans feel that college is no longer affordable. Just 17 percent of white Americans polled believe that “education beyond high school is affordable to anyone in this country who needs it” and only 19 percent of black people polled believe the same.

Hispanics are far more optimistic in their view of college affordability. By way of the Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of Hispanics polled responded that college is affordable to those who live in America.

Separated into three categories of white, black, and Hispanic, the gulf between how Hispanics feel about the cost of higher education compared to whites and blacks is staggering. That may mesh with how some view the outlook and direction of the country.

But this study also mentions the rising cost of tuition and the copious amount of debt that students are saddled with upon exiting college. According to Gallup, tuition at a “public four-year college has increased by more than 250% over the past three decades.”

That’s likely why many students carry an average of $30,000 in student loan debt and why some in the federal government want to extinguish student loan debt when filing for bankruptcy.

This new study is another in a long line that show just how un-affordable higher education has become for some. With the rising cost of tuition and student fees, many students are being priced out of the ability to attain a college degree.

The cost is also turning off some students as they are afraid of amassing thousands of dollars in debt and ruining their financial future. If anything, this shows just how dire the situation has become and why the federal government needs to act on fixing the problem.

Trouble brewing between FAMU president and board of trustees

Despite receiving an award for HBCU ‘Female President of the Year,’ Elmira Mangum is facing stiff criticism from the school’s board of trustees.

According to, Rufus Montgomery who serves as chairman of the board of trustees, wants Mangum placed on a 90-day probation plan.

“And while some board members talked about moving forward and having faith in Mangum’s leadership, trustees chairman Rufus Montgomery pushed members of the Special Committee on Presidential Evaluation to place Mangum on a performance improvement plan “and hold her accountable.” He suggested a 90-day plan.”

Good thing for Mangum that Montgomery doesn’t make the final decision. The board rejected his plan and decided to go another route.

But the problems between the board and Mangum stem from the board’s assertion that Mangum is failing to meet expectations in her role as president. Magnum, obviously, believes otherwise.

She outlined a list of challenges that she’s faced since arriving.

“She said when she arrived, FAMU was dealing with the aftermath of a hazing scandal, unfavorable financial audits, changes in top leadership and addressing the large percentage of students enrolled who were not ready for the academic challenges.”

The board will meet August 6th and the Special Committee on Presidential Evaluation will meet the day before.

FAMU seemed to be on higher ground as the school had emerged from a cloud of scandal. A string of good press and Magnum’s award were definitely good ways to show off what the school had to offer.

But as the power struggle continues between Magnum and the board, the way forward for the school hangs in the balance.

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here.

Is financial aid meant to help students or colleges?

A recent article via asks a fairly interesting question regarding financial aid for students attempting to attain a higher education.

Does financial aid help colleges more than students?

The article is based on a report via the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that shows how well financial aid works for students.

“Students pay an extra 55 cents in tuition for every dollar of Pell Grant they receive, meaning they only save 45 cents in terms of out-of-pocket costs. Colleges gain even more than the 55 cents from each dollar of new Pell Grants because they collect the extra tuition from all their students, including all the ones who do not receive Pell Grants.”

Basically students can’t seem to catch a break.

The study goes further by stating that student loans make the situation worse as “college tuition goes up by 70 cents for every extra dollar of student loans.”

So basically, if the federal government truly wants to help drive down the cost of higher education and help students, making student loans and Pell Grants more available to students isn’t the best route to take.

The other part of that is how may students attain capital in order to attend college without help from the federal government? Is there a way to place caps on the tuition charged to students who receive loans and grants? If so, then that would make the playing field uneven for everyone.

Certainly a study worth looking further into, the government has to find ways to ensure that colleges aren’t unfairly profiting off of programs meant to help students.

Study: Education equals equality may be a fallacy

According to information posted by, the mentality that education equals equality is not a reality. The data shows that education disparities aren’t getting better for poor people or minorities.

Brookings reports that “big gaps” remain for improving high school graduation rates for minorities and those considered poor.

The study also notes many low-income individuals are staying away from enrolling in college due to “tuition and debt worries.”

It is the failures of the American education system that highlight how far away we remain from some form of economic equality for those in the colorful minorities. Black and brown students are often outpaced by their white counterparts not due to a lack of trying or intelligence, it is the brevity of resources available to those students that prove to be an identifier as to why some educational numbers for minorities are so low.

Is the education equals equality mentality valid at all?

But the article isn’t totally a summation of negativity. Brookings presents solutions that may help to solve the growing problems in education in America.

For instance, one suggestion is that “there needs to be more flexibility in budgets at all levels of government to allow education innovations to be explored and services to be customized for students.”

Generally state legislators do not look kindly upon education budgets when cutbacks loom.

Another piece of guidance is to give parents and students more access to data to properly track school performance, offers, and to help track student progress as well.

In essence, there needs to be a more stringent focus on helping students who lag behind due to inefficiencies in our education system. Through no fault of their own, many students have fallen behind because of our collective nature to form monoliths around past successes.

Minority students and those from low-income families deserve our full attention, and if they do not receive it, our educational system will continue to fall farther behind other nations.

Is course customization the future of teaching technology?

In an ever-changing online environment, course customization may soon reign supreme. As education online continues to grow and evolve, so will demands on the industry and one area that this is especially true is course design — or specifically, creating courses that fit each classroom just right and move away from the “one size fits all” approach to curriculum.

It’s why Blackboard Inc, the once-popular company that provides software solutions and tools for learning for higher education, high school, and k-12 classrooms, is up for sale,

According to, the company’s growth and revenue have slowed due to upstarts and changes in higher education.

Those “changes” are coming mainly in the way of customization options. Recently Odysseyware, an up and coming software company that provides curriculum for online institutions, announced alterations to its system that will make teaching and learning much more personal.

The company’s software will now allow educators to completely customize standard courses, “rearrange, add and delete content including assignments…and search curriculum by topic and standard.”

There are more changes, like the creation of search engines that give educators the unique ability to search and save content, as well. More than anything, this shows how nimble and proactive Odysseyware is being to a rapidly evolving education environment. For students to reach their full academic potentials, teachers must tap resources that best fit each individual class structure and customization options facilitate this.

I believe the way teachers create lesson plans will look much different in 5 years than it does today, thanks in part to the upsurge of customization technology.

Read all of our posts about EdTech and Innovation by clicking here. 

Report: K-12 education news coverage on the rise

Mainstream media drives conversations so analyzing what is being covered in the news gives a general indication of public perception on issues.

A new report from leading education reform policy strategist Andrew R. Campanella titled “Leading the News – 25 Years of Education Coverage” reveals how news media has presented K-12 education stories over the past quarter century. So what does education news coverage look like?

In short, coverage of K-12 education in the news media is on the rise — up 7.7 percent in 2014 over the average of the 25-year span.

Not surprisingly, local news outlets provide the most education news coverage. In fact, local news outlets commit 6.82 percent of their air time to cover K-12 education or schools. That’s nearly three times higher than the national news coverage average at just 2.3 percent. What’s more is that local education news coverage appears to be on the rise.

From 2010 to 2014, the top education news story topic (by far) was sports, garnering 13.6 percent. At a distant second was special events (5.1 percent), followed by education funding (5 percent) and academic subjects (4.65 percent).

As far as groups of people, students get the most mentions at 62 percent, followed by administrators (42.7 percent), teachers (28.3 percent) and parents (23.5 percent).

Coverage of educational policy is on the decline though — down 36 percent in 2014 over the 25-year average. Within the education policy category, funding and school choice were the most-covered topics. These two topics garnered 2.5 times MORE coverage than all other educational policy reporting combined (10 other specific issues).

Looking ahead, the report forecasts that school choice, school safety and state education standards will continue to rise in news coverage. Teacher issues, funding, federal programs and class sizes will continue to decline.

This is just a snapshot of all the report entails. You can read the rest of it by clicking here. 

I can’t say I’m very surprised that local outlets provide K-12 education the most coverage, but I was surprised to see that funding and federal programs are seeing less air time. I’d be interested to see an update of this report in another 5 years to find out if the trends in K-12 educational coverage continue on the same path.

More states moving towards virtual classes for K-12 students

According to, more states are implementing measures that require students to take virtual classes.

In 2014, “state virtual schools exist in 26 states as of fall 2014-one more than last year.”

Many states are moving towards mandating virtual education because students will likely be required to take a virtual course or two should they decide to attend college.

For instance, take Florida. notes that as of 2014, “Florida is the first state in the country to legislate that all K-12 students will have full- and part time virtual options, and that funding will follow each student down to the course level.”

Florida’s virtual school had over 400,000 enrollments in 2014, a number that is likely to at least maintain.

Another state in the south that’s primed to join the virtual party is Alabama. Lawmakers recently passed a bill “that requires each of its districts to provide virtual courses for high school students by the 2010-2017 school year.”

An issue that some states face when choosing whether to require virtual courses is the provider. What, if any, providers are available for local school districts to use?

For Alabama, the choice was easy as the state has selected Odysseyware, “an innovative, multimedia-enriched online curriculum.”

Jeff McClure, Director of Alternative Learning at Pike County Schools, took special note of Odyseeyware’s flexibility.

“Odysseyware provides flexibility outside the structure of a school master schedule,” McClure said.

In operation since the early aughts, Odysseyware continues to grow and expand its efforts to “meet the needs of 21st Century Learners…”

For more information on Odysseyware and services the company offers, please visit

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