Classroom computer use may dampen achievement. A push to teach coding before reading. Fights over whether a fresh-food snack needs to be fresh. And plans to add 260 new charters in Los Angeles.

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COMPUTER USE HURTS ACHIEVEMENT?

That’s what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found — the group that administers the international exam known as the PISA.  In 2012, OECD researchers compared computer use in class with the test scores among 15-year-olds around the world.  And they found that the more computer use, the lower the scores in reading and math.

“Those that use the Internet every day do the worst,” said Andreas Schleicher, who directs the education program for the OECD.  “That’s pretty sobering for us,” he added.

School-technology advocates, according to the Hechinger Report, say the report probably reflects poor use of computers, and cite examples in which good use of technology is helping kids learn.

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Another perhaps bright/perhaps sobering note:  U.S. students are one of the world’s leaders in how well they read on screens.

CODING BEFORE READING

Meanwhile, the push to teach every child how to write computer code is reaching down into the early grades, to children who haven’t yet learned to read. WNYC in New York reports on new software designed for children that young.  It’s backed by those who want coding to be seen as fundamental to education as reading and math, WNYC says.  The radio station quotes advocates and critics, but notes that both sides agree that passive computer use isn’t good, especially for little ones.

FOOD FIGHTS

Not all debates about education in Washington, D.C.  involve test scores and teacher evaluations.  There’s also food.  Given the amount that the government spends on school meals — about $16 billion a year — Politico says there’s a war over what can show up in students’ snack cups.  Apparently lobbyists for frozen, canned and dried food are fighting to be part of a small program that provides fresh fruit and vegetables to about 7,500 schools in low-income neighborhoods.  The idea is to build students’ interest in healthy food, but the frozen/dried/canned industries say they’re good, too.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  •  In a unanimous vote, the Seattle School Board placed a one-year moratorium on some types of elementary-school suspensions — non-violent offenses such as breaking rules and disobeying teachers.
  •  Washington’s nine charter schools may get some public money after all, even though the state Supreme Court says they’re not entitled to it, although plaintiffs think they should pay it back if the justices ruling holds.  And four former Washington attorneys general say they think the justices got it wrong.  (So does current A.G. Bob Ferguson.)
  • Yet down in California, the L.A. Times reports that there are plans to open 260 new charters in Los Angeles over the next eight years, an effort that includes big-time philanthropist Eli Broad.  The estimated price tag?  $490 million, which has yet to be raised.  Advocates say they want to challenge a failing school system by putting half the city’s students in charters.  The president of L.A. Unified’s school board is quoted saying that while he supports “high-quality charters,” this plan is “an outline for a hostile takeover.”

DON’T MISS:

  • The Texas State University System has joined an effort to offer free online classes that allow students to complete their freshman year for free.
  • A provocative essay from a black parent, also in the L.A. Times, about why she sends her kids to private school.
  • The Boston Globe has launched a new education project, Learning Curve, that’s similar to The Seattle Times’ Education lab in its exploration of promising practices in education.
  • If you’re interested in giving parents more meaningful roles in schools, there’s a nearly full-day conference on Oct. 10th dedicated to that issue, spearheaded by the Washington Family Engagement Trust. Scholarships are available.