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January | February 2011 - Five Things You Should Know

Five Things You Should Know

1. No fair!

Have you heard of “value-added modeling,” the latest fad formula for using student test scores to rate teachers? It’s intended to measure the growth of students in your classroom, but a panel of America’s top researchers recently found that those scores vary wildly from year to year—hardly a reliable measure of teacher quality, and neither a fair nor accurate way to judge your work. For more, go to

2. Pocketbook matters

While we’re on the topic… You also should know that a growing number of Americans support merit pay for educators. According to the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, 71 percent of Americans said teachers should be paid on the basis of their work, and 54 percent said salary should be “somewhat closely” tied to student achievement. Does that mean test scores? We hope not! (See above.) But it does mean teacher quality is, as it should be, a critical issue.

3. Study Habits

Do you tell your students to find a quiet place to study? They’d be better off in a new place, according to scientists who have consistently found that a switch in scenery helps retention. It also helps to hop between subjects, rather than focusing on a single skill for extended periods of time. “We have known these principles for some time and it’s intriguing that schools don’t pick them up,” a psychologist told The New York Times.

4. Where’d they go?

After years of steady increase, the percentage of kids in special education peaked at 13.8 in 2005 and then headed south, declining to 13.4 percent in 2008. Why the drop? Is it (a) Better teaching; (b) Earlier intervention; (c) Administrators saving money; or (d) Administrators trying to keep their numbers so low that they won’t have to make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind? Choose your answer and share it.

5. Recipe for health

Chicken nuggets are the most served item in school lunches, according to a survey by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—but they’re not the worst item. That would be beef and cheese nachos. Hello, 24 grams of fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium!  But with less than $3 per meal, how exactly do you afford free-range chicken and heirloom apples? Get new ideas and grant information for your cafeteria at

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