The U.S. secretary of education wants to lower incarceration rates to raise money for schools. New, cool virtual reality field trips. And you may remember more than you think about what you learned in school.

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RAISING TEACHER PAY BY LOWERING PRISON COSTS

That’s what U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proposed this week: Saving $15 billion a year by punishing about half of nonviolent offenders without incarceration, and using those savings to boost the salaries of teachers who work in the nation’s highest-need schools.  (Update:  That was just a few days before Duncan announced Friday that he is stepping down from his post.)

In his speech, Duncan estimated that $15 billion would be enough to increase teacher pay by 50 percent in 17,600 schools across the nation.

He started that speech, given at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., by telling a story about the time when, as superintendent of Chicago’s public schools, he was shocked to find out that most student arrests took place during the school day, not afterward.

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“Those calls to police, to put our kids in jail,” he said.  “We were making them.”

His proposal, he said, “is not about being soft on dangerous criminals – this is about finding ways … to reapportion our resources so we prevent crime in the first place.”

What will happen with his proposal now?  Probably safe to say its future is muddier than it was before Friday.

WITH JUST A CELL PHONE AND CARDBOARD

Despite all the important questions about how – and how much – technology should be used in classrooms, some ideas are pretty darn intriguing.

Like a new kind of virtual reality field trip, made possible by placing a cell phone into a folded piece of cardboard.   A story in The New York Times explained this Google pilot project, and how a class in Chicago, using the phone/cardboard viewer, took a 3-D trip to Verona, Italy without leaving their seats.  The Times points out that virtual field trips are not new – teachers and students have Skyped to other places for years – but still, pretty amazing.

And, at least for now, it’s free.

AND YET…

Over at nprEd, Anya Kamenetz reviewed “Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens,” a book that attempts to walk a middle road in the technology-is-evil and technology-as-savior debate.  In a Q&A with the authors, the theme seems to be:  Any media can be a good tool, if used well.  And that usually means that educators and parents need to watch and play together with kids, to help them become savvy users of media of all kinds.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • Texas narrowly kept its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, leaving Washington as the only state to have lost one. “Gotta wonder how that makes Washington state feel,” the reporter wrote, “since it’s the only state to get its NCLB flexibility yanked and never restored.”
  • The latest results from a major preschool study raised questions about preschool’s long-term value.
  • Our state Senate’s Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee is on the road, soliciting the public’s views on how to adequately fund public schools.
  • Will the University of Washington’s next president come from within?

DON’T MISS:

  • Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham’s challenge to the belief that we forget most of what we learn in school. Not true, he says, citing lots of studies.
  • In the name of equity and physical fitness, schools in Washington, D.C., are teaching every second grader to ride a bike, and the schools are providing the bikes.
  • The director of the UW’s Center for Educational Leadership, argues against opting out of standardized tests, but also proposes a three-year moratorium on using student test scores in teacher evaluations, and requiring students to pass state tests to graduate from high school.