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School may be out for the summer, but education news has not slowed down.

Nationally, the biggest story is that Congress may finally overhaul its main education law, known as No Child Left Behind, which expired eight years ago. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray hopes to push through a bipartisan bill she wrote with Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

What’s at stake: Who defines school success — each state or the federal government. What happens if schools fall short. Whether test scores are used to evaluate teachers. Perhaps even what kind of tests students take. And much more, since this bill covers lots of ground, and includes billions in funding for the Title 1 program, which is aimed at helping students from low-income families.

But annual testing looks like it’s here to stay. Both the House and Senate versions would still require yearly reading and math tests in grades 3-8, and once in high school.

(Donna Grethen / Op Art)
(Donna Grethen / Op Art)

A sampling of other interesting education news/commentary this week:

The Hechinger Report looks at a new federal study of students high-school transcripts, and who’s taking certain classes, such as calculus. The bottom line on calculus is not surprising. On average, Asian-Americans take that class at a much higher rate than any other ethnic group. But the size of the gaps is sobering. The study shows that 45 percent of Asian-Americans in the class of 2013 took calculus, but just 18 percent of whites, and not quite 6 percent of blacks. Another surprise: Girls took calculus at about the same rate as boys — about 14 percent.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is trying to reduce sexting through educating students about its dangers.

Finally, Harvard’s Ed. Magazine offers a list of simple ideas that can improve schools. Not that those ideas are all that’s needed — the authors make it clear that education is a slow, complex enterprise. But they also wonder whether we need all the national commissions, the task force-created initiatives, the “reams of jargon-laced documents and action plans.” Here are three of the ideas on their list:

  • Teach students to ask their own questions. This comes from Dan Rothstein, who has co-written a whole book on the subject. “When students know how to answer their own questions, they take greater ownership of their learning, deepen comprehension, and make new connections and discoveries on their own,” he writes.
  • Start the high school day later. The science is there, the authors say, although this one may not be as simple as the authors think. Note the debate underway in Seattle.
  • Revamp open house, to focus on learning rather than rules. This was suggested by Karen Mapp, a Harvard senior lecturer, who notes that there are 15,000 open houses on any given night each fall “and we blow it.”

Finally, we leave you with a comment from one of you, user851374, responding to a post about school discipline:

“Complaining that parents haven’t taught children respectful behavior or ranting about what is or isn’t racist behavior is getting us nowhere fast … It’s time for all of us to start working WITH each other, parents, students, teachers and administrators and stop the blaming.”