Back to School Daze

If you’re an educator and you know the old song lyric, School Days, School Daze, dear old golden rule days, you may agree that the beginning of the school year feels like a daze. That daze may be due to the demands of the 21st century classroom.

Schools have been inundated with technology, and teachers are continually challenged with figuring out how to use that technology to enhance learning. If you teach in a district with one-to-one laptops, you’re required to create computer-friendly lessons. If you’re in a BYOD (bring your own device) district, you have to be concerned with how students are using personal devices when they are not involved in educational activities. In addition, staff development time for learning how and where to use the technology is challenging, and the resources may be limited.

Most educators are also grappling with the rollout of the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Existing curriculum must be adjusted to match the new standards, or   new curriculum must be mastered – despite limited time given to learn it.  All of these changes add to the stress of starting a new school year.

Here at STS we’re currently developing tests to match the CCSS. But we’re also continuing to use standards from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Coalition (STEM) standards as we look ahead to the integration of all of the standards in use today. Our goal is to insure that our products accurately reflect the curriculum needs of the 21st century classroom.

We’re also offering an array of online testing options to accommodate the greater use of technology in schools. For grades 3-8, STS offers the new online Learning Standards Assessment (LSA) in Language, Math and Science. The LSA offers quick testing and instant scoring as well as maximum flexibility. We also offer an online version of our bestselling High School Placement Test. The HSPT® E-Score takes the place of an answer sheet and allows for quick scoring and convenient make-up testing.

In the midst of your hectic school year, rest assured that our attention to your ever-changing needs will help provide you with the very best educational products for your classroom.


Update on the Common Core Standards

In 2010 the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers released a new set of national education standards called, “The Common Core State Standards Initiative.”  The Common Core Standards enumerate specific curriculum goals in the areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards were voluntarily adopted by most of the 50 states and implementation was expected to begin in 2014.

However, in recent months the new standards have become mired in political controversy. The once voluntary standards became mandatory after the Obama Administration linked adopting the Common Core to granting waivers for No Child Left Behind.  This in turn sparked a move by some states to rescind their adoption of the new standards. Educational experts have also been divided as to whether or not national standards will improve academic achievement.

As a result of this controversy and the cuts in education nationwide, many educators have been left wondering when/if the new standards will be implemented. Here at STS we’ve spent the last few years studying the Common Core.  Rest assured that if the new standards are enacted in 2014, we will be prepared with updated assessment tools that fulfill the new curriculum requirements.

To read more about the status of the Common Core Standards, click here.

Fine Arts in Your Curriculum

Is your school teaching Fine Arts? If so, what subject areas? If you are the product of a school system that did have classes in Music (chorus, band, music appreciation, musical instrument instruction) and Art (traditional art instruction, art history, art appreciation, graphic arts), etc., please share with us what difference these classes made in your life.

Cash for Grades: Are you buying it?

cash4grades3Educators have long said that learning is its own reward. But these days, many students are finding that good grades and behavior can bring them cash and gifts. School districts across the country are taking part in controversial incentive programs known as ‘cash for grades’. In these districts, students who earn top marks are receiving much more than gratitude and praise for their hard work, i.e.: $500 for improved test scores, $100 for passing grades, hourly pay for after-school study programs, and even iPods, pre-paid cell phones and flat screen televisions for good behavior. But critics of these programs, many of which are privately funded through corporate or philanthropic donors, believe the payments amount to little more than bribes.

Does using money and lavish gifts as a motivator send the wrong message to students about their responsibility to learn, and what happens to a child’s motivation to do quality work when they are not being paid? Paying students for performance may show short-term improvement, but the long-term effects are unknown. The argument has been made that ‘cash for grades’ teaches real life lessons, just as students will some day work for a paycheck. Many supporters feel that the efficacy of ‘cash for grades’ programs should not be judged if students learn that through hard work they can accomplish something they didn’t believe was possible, regardless if the initial motivation was a monetary reward.

Only further research will show if paying for performance is effective or destructive. Do you think it is better to reward cash or compliments?

Related links: Washington Schools offers ‘cash for grades’

New York Times video: Blogginheads: Cash for Grades

Chicago Tribune: Earn an A? Here’s $50