National Scene

January 31, 2020 - Volume 40 Issue 4


Teaching and Learning

ABC News (1/29, Sidhu) reports a new study from Brigham Young University concluded that “children focus on tasks up to 30% more when teachers praise them for good behavior rather than reprimand them for being disruptive.” Study leader Dr. Paul Caldarella said, “What we found would be for teachers to praise more and reprimand less if they want to improve student behavior in elementary school classrooms.” He added, “Unfortunately, previous research has shown that teachers tend to reprimand students for problem behavior more than they praise students for appropriate behavior, which can have a negative effect and worsen student behavior.” Dr. Neha Chaudhary, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital who was not involved in the study, concurred, saying, “The idea that praise can result in greater focus than can punishment is not surprising. In fact, it’s backed by science.”

The Independent (UK) (1/29) reports the study “involved more than 2,500 pupils across three US states” and found “that students spent 20 per cent to 30 per cent longer paying attention to tasks in the classes with the highest praise-to-reprimand ratio (PRR), compared with those where the PRR was the lowest.” Dr Caldarella added, “Everyone values being praised and recognised for their endeavours – it is a huge part of nurturing children’s self-esteem and confidence.”

CNN (1/30, Lamotte) also provides coverage.

Forbes (1/29, Hulett) Councils Member Matt Hulett writes that National Assessment of Educational Progress test results indicate there is a “literacy crisis in our nation,” and addresses the social and economic fallout of poor academic outcomes. Hulett writes the “traditional whole-classroom instructional model doesn’t work in a classroom of 35 students who are all at varying levels of ability, and there simply isn’t enough time in the day for teachers to determine the profile and therefore the instructional needs of each of the individual students. I believe adaptive blended learning (ABL) is an answer to providing an equitable solution for struggling students.” Hulett explains that the concept “combines human intelligence (HI) with data from technology, or artificial intelligence (AI)” to improve student success.

The Laurinburg (NC) Exchange (1/28, Havlak) reports the NTCQ review found that 60 percent of North Carolina’s teacher education programs “earned an A or B on scientifically based reading instruction — but its literacy rates remain poor.” This is despite the state’s “Read to Achieve program, which spent millions in taxpayer dollars to improve third-grade reading. In 2013, the state launched the program to help struggling children read proficiently by the end of third grade, but $150 million and seven years failed to make a dent.” According to the Education Department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 36 percent of North Carolina students scored at or above a fourth-grade reading level in 2019.

The AP (1/26, Ranaivo) reports Montgomery County Public Schools has become the first Virginia school district to “offer all of its high schoolers dual-enrollment computer science courses that will count as credit at a local community college – in this case, New River Community College.” The program could allow MCPS students to “simultaneously graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in computer science.” Just a few students, however, will “probably attain such as an accomplishment due to the fact that they would need to carefully map out their degree plans early, said Mark Husband, the school district’s director of career and technical education and business partnership.”

Student Welfare

In a piece published by The Hill (1/29), Dr. Michael Rosenbaum from Columbia University Irving Medical Center and George Washington University’s William H. Dietz say the US government has “initiated a double-barreled attack on the health and nutrition of our school children using the same sinister strategies previously employed by workhouses and witches.” Not only is the USDA “trying to deny essential food access to over half a million children by modifying the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” the agency and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue are “working hard to pack school lunch programs with less healthful, higher calorie, and more fattening foods that contribute to obesity to serve the interests of big business.” The pair go on to say that “damaging the health of children to feed the profits of companies marketing unhealthy processed foods is intolerable.”

School Funding

In an opinion piece for the New York Times (1/29, Amerikaner), Ary Amerikaner, vice president at the Education Trust, writes that a major difficulty in tackling fairness in school funding across districts is that “parents, local advocates and even school board members are often in the dark about how spending breaks down across their local schools.” Data from a Center for Progress study show “that at least 4.5 million students from low-income backgrounds are in schools that receive roughly $1,200 less per child each year than wealthier schools in the very same district.” Past studies from Rutgers University and Syracuse university “have indicated that schools with a high percentage of students from low-income households need two to three times more money than other schools to address those students’ greater challenges.” Amerikaner says that “good is coming this year,” when Obama-era rules “mandating all states to publicly report how much each school spends per pupil” comes into effect.


The Seventy Four (1/28, Antonucci) reports the US Bureau of Labor Statistics “released its annual report on union membership last Wednesday,” showing unions lost 170,000 members, while the US economy added more than 1.6 million jobs. The data show union membership “decline remains virtually unchanged through Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, dramatic alterations in the composition of Congress and statehouses, and amid the working lives of an entire generation of Americans.” The stats further show that “the working membership of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers accounts for approximately 42 percent of public employee union membership. In fact, more than 20 percent of all union members belong to NEA, AFT or both.” According to The Seventy Four, teachers unions are “perhaps the only unions remaining whose activism can dramatically affect a region’s economy and day-to-day operations.”

The AP (1/26) reports the superintendent of a Rhode Island school district and the head of the teacher’s union are at “odds over teacher absenteeism rates.” According to Warwick Superintendent Philip Thornton, state Department of Education data show “11% of the district’s teachers were chronically absent last school year.” But Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh “tells WLNE-TV she has an issue with the data’s source and methodology.”

The AP (1/28) reports black legislators in two “predominantly white Midwestern states urged their Republican colleagues Tuesday to join a national push to outlaw discrimination based on hairstyles such as braids and dreadlocks.” According to the Democratic lawmakers, employers and teachers “often wrongly see white people’s hair as the standard for what’s clean and professional.” Thus, legislative committees are revisiting their states’ anti-discrimination laws.


In a piece published by the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger (1/28), the founder of the New Jersey Children’s Foundation says public charter schools are “perhaps the biggest lightning rod in the truth wars over education.” But the “science is now catching up to the debate and it’s leaving the charter critics with egg on their face,” according to Kyle Rosenkrans. A new study released nationwide by Professor Marcus Winters at Boston University’s Wheelock School of Education “found that attending Newark charters in the city’s common enrollment system STILL caused ‘large’ and ‘sustained’ improvement for students in the Brick City.” Indeed, charter schools “aren’t the only public education solution for children,” however, both the “scientific evidence and popular opinion now show that public charter schools can play a critical role in the improving student learning and thereby helping cities provide stronger education options for children.”