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It's Time to Get Serious About Boosting Black Males' Academic Achievement

A new documentary hopes to spark tough conversations about helping black males do better in school.


As school systems across the country grapple with the sobering statistics about black males' performance, a new documentary hopes to inspire some real solutions.

The film, Beyond the Bricks, follows two black male students in Newark, New Jersey, but the issues the teens face are representative of what their peers across the country experience. On the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress test, a mere 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys were proficient in reading or math. In comparison, 38 percent of white boys were proficient in reading and 44 percent were proficient in math.

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Why Alternative Education Needs to Go Mainstream

Dropouts in alternative programs get a personalized learning experience. Maybe if they had that in the first place they wouldn't leave school.

Research shows that alternative education—small learning communities, individualized, personalized instruction, a low student-teacher ratio, and support for pregnant or parenting students—works to get dropouts back on track. But ironically, notes creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, current education reform efforts like the federal No Child Left Behind Act are "rooted in standardization" even though we know that a quality education should "be about personalization."

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Demystifying International Tests: What Makes the PISA Special?

Hint: It's not about comparing students across nations.

If you've heard about how American students are scoring lower than their international peers on standardized tests, you've probably heard about the PISA. (No, it's not an exam about a famous Italian tower that leans.) The Program for International Student Assessment is a test that's given every three years to measure and compare the achievement of 15-year-olds across the globe.

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Superb Idea: Hire Teachers for Public Schools the Way We Hire Them for Private Schools

Districts like Washington D.C. are changing their hiring practices to ensuring only the most talented applicants get in front of kids.

Teacher hiring might be moving beyond just ensuring applicants have a few transcripts and a Department of Justice background check. Districts like Denver and Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. are shifting their focus away from whether an applicant has a complete file in a central office to determining if prospective teachers truly have the knowledge and skills to be effective in the classroom. It's a change that's reminiscent of the thorough approach many elite private schools take when it comes to hiring, and the districts hope it'll ensure that only the most talented and promising teachers are actually hired.

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