Teacher Quality Not Linked to Advanced Degrees or Experience

An advanced degree and multiple years of teaching experience don’t necessarily make for a better teacher. A new study from the Tennessee Department of Education shows that teachers with these qualities, which traditionally increase teacher salaries, do not increase what children learn over teachers without them.

“Previous research has consistently shown there is little to no correlation between teacher graduate degrees and effectiveness” as measured by what children learn in a school year, said Kelli Gauthier, a Tennessee Department of Education spokeswoman. ”Similarly, research has shown that teacher effectiveness is not correlated with experience after the first five years in the classroom. This study reinforces those results. We have highly effective teachers who have master’s degrees and highly effective teachers who do not. We have highly effective teachers with many years of classroom experience and highly effective teachers with relatively few years in the classroom.”

This study is “important news,” said John Chubb, a Hoover Institution fellow and author of The Best Teachers in the World, because, unlike economists, education authorities have hardly studied the relationship between teacher quality and inputs like degrees and experience.

“At a time when school districts are struggling to make ends meet with fewer state and local tax revenues, it is especially important that districts ensure their compensation systems are aligned with the goal of student achievement, and therefore reward the most successful teachers—regardless of degrees or experience—and not pay based on factors that do not predict student success,” he said.

Skewed Incentives
The common practice of tying salary hikes to advanced degrees and extra college credits means “teachers tend to take the fastest, cheapest route to earning a master’s degree,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “A far better system would be one which rewards teachers for being effective, with teachers themselves identifying the specific coursework that would help them become more effective.”

Salary schedules also push bright young people away from teaching, Walsh said, because they are confident in their abilities and want to earn more for high performance rather than receive “relatively small incremental raises over the next 25 years.”

As of 2012, 20 states required student achievement to count as a significant or the most significant factor in judging teacher performance, according to NCTQ.

The study and body of related research emphasizes the importance of Tennessee finding ways to select, reward, and retain teachers based on effectiveness rather than meaningless characteristics,

Gauthier said. It also suggests the state needs to support current teachers better and help improve teacher performance over time, she said.

Chubb is not sure whether the study will make much difference in state policy.

“Years of academic research have not persuaded policymakers to alter compensation practices; here’s hoping a study from the Tennessee Department of Education will,” says Chubb.

Putting the education in educational apps

New apps developed for children come online every day and many of them are marketed or labeled as “educational” — but how can we tell which of these thousands of apps will actually help children learn? A comprehensive new report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, integrates research from scientific disciplines like psychological science, linguistics, and neuroscience to provide an evidence-based guide that parents, educators, and app designers alike can use to evaluate the quality of so-called “educational” apps.

Since the iPad was introduced just five years ago, over 80,000 educational apps have become available in the Apple app store, which means apps are being developed far faster than the scientific community can evaluate them, say report authors Kathy Hirsh-Pasek (Temple University), Jennifer Zosh (Penn State University, Brandywine), Roberta Michnick Golinkoff (University of Delaware), James H. Gray (Sesame Workshop), Michael B. Robb (Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College), and Jordy Kaufman (Swinburne University of Technology).

The full report and accompanying commentary by communications researcher Ellen Wartella (Northwestern University) are available free to the public online.

While scientific research examining specific features of individual apps may be scarce, scientists have amassed a wealth of knowledge about how children learn and this knowledge is directly applicable to the assessment of new forms of digital media, including apps, the authors say.

In their report, Hirsh-Pasek, Zosh, Golinkoff and colleagues present a comprehensive review of research from many disciplines related to the science of learning, offering a set of four evidence-based principles that can be used as guide, both by developers creating new products and by parents hoping to find high quality games for their children.

The researchers conclude that “educational” apps best support learning when they are:

  • Active in a way that requires mental effort and not just swiping
  • Engaging, not distracting
  • Meaningful in the context of a child’s life
  • Socially interactive because children learn best with others including parents and peers

“These four principles can help us distinguish apps that masquerade as educational from those most likely to engage children in an educationally meaningful experience,” the researchers say. While not all of these principles are necessary, the more an app promotes these types of learning experiences, the greater the educational value of the app will likely be.

The researchers point out that many apps feature content that seems educational, like letters or numbers, but this doesn’t mean that they have true educational value. For example, studies have shown that e-storybooks that contain lots of “bells and whistles” can distract young children from attending to and learning from the actual story. These findings suggest that apps that feature attention-grabbing sound, movement, or other visual elements may be more distracting than they are engaging, and are unlikely to serve as effective educational tools.

“There are a number of great apps in the marketplace,” the researchers note. “One of the major reasons we sought to complete this project was to empower a much wider audience to be educated consumers and developers of apps. Since we embarked on this project, we have been approached by a number of the leading app developers who seem excited to include more of the scientifically informed processes in their product lines.”

With the science of learning at their core, Hirsh-Pasek, Zosh, Golinkoff, and colleagues believe that the next generation of apps will be able to fully realize their potential as effective and engaging educational tools.

Elementary Students Held Back In Early Grades Often Do Not Get Special Education Plan

Many children who are retained in kindergarten, first or third grade for academic reasons do not subsequently receive a document outlining the individualized special education services they should receive, according to a new report.

Each year, 5 percent to 10 percent of American students are retained at the same grade level, according to background information in the article. One in 10 students age 16 to 19 have repeated a grade. “Some of these students may require special education services at the time they are retained, in subsequent years or both,” the authors write. “One approach to supporting a child with low academic achievement is the provision of speciala education services, as indicated in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a legally binding document describing a child’s special education services and is developed after the child has undergone a special evaluation and has been determined eligible for services.”

Eligibility for an IEP varies from state to state, but under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, every American child has the right to an evaluation. Michael Silverstein, M.D., M.P.H., of Boston Medical Center, and colleagues studied 380 children nationwide who were retained in elementary school for academic reasons (300 in kindergarten or first grade and 80 in third grade). The children were followed up through fifth grade.

Of the children retained in kindergarten or first grade, 40 (12.9 percent) had an IEP on record during the year they were held back, 60 (18.2 percent) received an IEP in the next one to five years and 210 (68.9 percent) never received an IEP. Twenty (18.9 percent) of the third-graders had an IEP during or before the year they were retained, 10 (8.8 percent) received one in the next one to two years and 60 (72.3 percent) never received one.

Children retained in kindergarten and first grade were less likely to have an IEP if they had a high socioeconomic status or lived in the suburbs rather than rural areas. “Among kindergarten/first grade retainees with persistently low academic achievement in math and reading, as assessed by standardized testing, 38.2 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively, never received an IEP,” the authors write.

“Although debates about the value of grade retention abound, the practice, in and of itself, has never been demonstrated to be an effective intervention relative to subsequent academic achievement or socioemotional adjustment,” the authors write. “Therefore, some experts in the field believe that retention should be accompanied by focused individualized assessments of children’s special education needs. Although our results do not definitely demonstrate that retained children have been denied their rights to such assessments, they raise the question of whether the potential special education needs of retained children, particularly those who demonstrate persistent academic difficulties, are being addressed consistently.”

This study was supported by a training grant from the Maternal Child Health Bureau.

Voter Education Kicks Off with U.S. Senate Debate

Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout among all states in 2012 – with less than half (44.5 percent) of eligible voters casting ballots. Yet, older voters turn out to the polls at a much higher rate than any other age group, suggesting that Hawaii voters age 50-plus will play an important role in determining this year’s election results.

Beginning in July, AARP Hawaii will sponsor a televised debate and numerous in-person voter education events designed to help residents make informed decisions as they cast their votes.

The voter education season kicks off on Tuesday, July 15 on KHON2 (7 – 8 p.m.) with a live, televised debate featuring Senator Brian Schatz and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, leading Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate. Sen. Schatz was appointed to the United States Senate in December 2012, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye. Rep. Hanabusa has served as Representative of Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District since January 2011.

At a time when “entitlement reform” and Social Security have become bargaining chips in Washington, D.C., and as increasing numbers of boomer-generation residents feel unprepared for their own retirement, the debate is expected to include questions about the candidates’ positions on Medicare and Social Security. The debate format also calls for questions to be solicited from the general public and for candidates to have an opportunity to question each other directly.

Beginning July 18, AARP will also sponsor a series of federal and state issues forums. These sessions will include a briefing on the future of Social Security and updates on AARP’s priority state legislative issues related to caregiving and long-term care.

The existing schedule is as follows (Kauai event date to be decided):

  • Friday, July 18 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.) Maui Beach Hotel
  • Monday, July 28 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.) Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
  • Tuesday, July 29 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.) King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel
  • Saturday, August 2 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.) Ward Warehouse, Kakaako Conference Rooz

AARP does not endorse candidates, have a political action committee (PAC), or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. For over 28 years, non-partisan voter education has been part of AARP’s mission to help Americans live their best lives. AARP informs its members and the general public about candidates’ position on issues so they can choose candidates that best represent their views and values.

Following the Primary Election on August 9, AARP Hawaii will make an on-line state and federal voter guide available to the public, enabling Hawaii voters to find out where the candidates stand on issues important to them.

Education loans can augment the boundaries of what you can achieve

Education loans are open to all people in all its myriad forms. Education loans can realize your education plans or the education plans of your children. You can strengthen you own future and the future of your son or daughter with education loans. An extensive range of student and parent loans are presented under the category of education loans. There are many types of education loans. Discerning about the types of education loans will help you in making the accurate decision. The single largest resource of education loans is federal loan. The two main federal education loan programmes are the Federal Family Education Loan Programme and the Federal Direct Loan Programme. In the Federal Family Education Loan Programme the bank, credit union or the school is the lender. While the federal direct loans programme, the department of education is the lender.

Private education loans are offered to people so that they can provide financial backup to their education plans. Private education loans are not endorsed by other government agencies but are provided by other financial institutions. Private education loans programme are optimum for both undergraduate and graduate studies.

Formal education is requisite for future success. Though this is not a hard and fast rule, but education certainly helps you in gaining an upper hand. With universities getting expensive by each day an education loan will certainly give you an incentive to go ahead with your education plans. Each year while contemplating on your education plans the thought of finances almost invariably comes in. While working towards you degree, you are constantly plagued about paying for the education fees, books, and other living expenses. Education loans can provide funding for tuition fees, board and room, books computer, and even student travel. An education loan can help you with all these expenses. Education loans are sufficient enough to take care of all these expenses. If you have been forced to drop your education for any reason, you can still take up your education at any point of time. Irrespective of your age and also where you have left your education.

There are no specific eligibility criteria for education loans. Any person who is in need of sponsorship for education can find an education loan that befits his or her financial necessity. Loan amount on education loans vary with the kind of education you want to pursue. The repayment options with education loans will similarly accommodate your personal financial preferences. You can either repay interest amount while still in school or six months after graduation. Education loans offer upto ten years for repayments. The refund alternatives on education loans also include deferment, forbearance and consolidation. The various sites on education loans can give you innumerable repayment options and monetary remuneration.

Education loans will help you in planning your life after graduation. However, an education loan like every loan is a huge financial obligation. An education loans is generally the first substantial loan for most people and therefore the first major expense. Do not be completely dependent on your education loans for the funding of your complete education. Try to apply for any other financial sustenance like university grants, scholarships, fellowships, work study programmes and assistance ship and any other form of aid. This will certainly encourage a fluid dispensation of your education loans. You can start by going to the financial aid office in your school or university. It will provide you further insight to the kind of education loans, you must apply for.

Education is an experience of life. It is so rewarding in itself that it helps you to manage almost everything in your life. Education loans discipline your impulse towards education and training into a fruitful contrivance. The payoff is delicious in terms of improved quality of life. Education is expensive! Is it? With education loans it can’t be. NowPsychology Articles, you don’t have to take the road in front of you. Make your own road with education loans.

God is real fact opinion or assertion Texas students had to answer

Saying God is real may get you an F.

Jordan Wooley, a 7th grader in Houston, Texas, said this week that her teacher at West Memorial Junior High School recently gave a class assignment that asked students to say that God didn’t exist, according to KHOU.

The assignment, which you can see below, asked students to label statements as either facts, opinions or commonplace assertions. Wooley wrote that the statement “There is a God” was both a fact and opinion for some, but her teacher didn’t agree — telling Wooley that both her answers were wrong and that she had to admit that God wasn’t real.

“I said it was fact or opinion,” Wooley said. “Based on my religion and based on what I think and believe, I do not think it was a commonplace assertion.”

Wooley’s mother, Chantel, couldn’t believe this happened in her daughter’s class.

“That a kid was literally graded against her faith in God in a classroom, so who would want to be known,” Chantel said, according to KHOU. “So the kids were caught in a Catch-22. If they argued their faith, they were being told they were arguing against their faith, and that happened in the classroom.”

Jordan Wooley wouldn’t let her frustration go unheard. She spoke at a recent Katy Independent School District board meeting about the scenario, explaining that she wasn’t the only student offended by the assignment.

“My friend, she went home and she started crying. And she was actually supposed to come with me, but she didn’t think she could,” Jordan said at the meeting. “So my friend, she turned in her paper and she had still put that God was a fact and to be true. And my teacher crossed the answer out several times, telling her that it was completely wrong.”

But the West Memorial Junior High faculty released a statement — which has been deleted from the Katy Independent School District’s website — that said this assignment wasn’t meant to create conflict over religious beliefs. In fact, the worksheet was meant to encourage critical thinking among students, according to the statement.

“The activity, which was intended to encourage critical thinking skills and dialogue by engaging students in an exercise wherein they identified statements as fact, opinion, or common assertion was not intended to question or challenge any student’s religious beliefs as reported by some media outlets,” the statement read.

The school also said the assignment “will no longer be used by the school.”

This isn’t the first time discussions about religion’s place in school settings has come up. In 2014, Maryland parents voiced concerns about schools teaching lessons about Islam during world history class, according to WUSA-9. In fact, one family requested that their daughter be excused from the lessons because they objected to religion being taught in public school, WUSA-9 reported.

“We just want to be involved in our daughter’s education,” Melissa Wood, a parent of a student, told WUSA-9. “We as parents should be able to choose what our kids are learning.”

As our own Kelsey Dallas reported earlier this month, policymakers in Tennessee are also debating “if children are mature enough to study religious doctrine in history class” after parents complained that many homework assignments focused on religious teachings.

This “ideological struggle,” as The Atlantic calls it, looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future, as American schools, policymakers and parents figure out the appropriateness of teaching religion in school.

To help bridge the gap between the two sides, author Linda K. Wertheimer suggests schools explain to both parents and students why they’re learning about religion.

It’s also important for schools to stress that they’re teaching, not preaching, religious ideas.

“If anything, schools are in a better place than they were in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was commonplace for teachers to lead children in prayer and recite Bible verses as part of the morning routine,” Wertheimer explained. “The 1963 court ruling prohibiting teacher-led prayer gradually led to bigger efforts to educate children about many religions. But there is a real fear of proselytizing when it comes to classes about the Bible as literature or history. Parents should be the most concerned about those types of courses.”

Lawmakers Are biggest shiniest college buildings best use of taxpayer dollars

SALT LAKE CITY — State lawmakers are considering a proposal that they say would encourage public colleges and universities to use tax dollars more frugally in building new structures by changing the way those buildings are funded.

The discussion is headed by Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, who raised the possibility early this year of getting the Legislature “out of the building business” by allocating money for capital projects on a per-student basis rather than by individual projects.

It’s a reminder for lawmakers and college leaders that educational quality should come before lofty atriums, but the current process engenders otherwise, he said.

“As a Legislature, we value brick and mortar more than we value accountability in our higher education system. Our money shows that. That is what we value — brick and mortar over what goes on in the brick and mortar,” Urquhart said. “That’s a real problem we face in dealing with higher education. Those are the incentives we hang out there.”

The Education Interim Committee considered an early proposal from Urquhart on Thursday to allocate capital funding to each institution on a yearly basis. One possibility would be to take the 20-year funding average for higher education capital facilities, currently about $82 million, and distribute it among institutions based on various needs.

The yearly amount for each campus could be determined with current enrollment, projected enrollment growth, degrees awarded, square footage of facilities and other possibilities.

Institutions could use the money each year to make needed upgrades of existing facilities, or they could let the money accumulate over several years to pay for a new building, coupled with private donations, Urquhart said.

“What I’m proposing is that we have a building fund for our higher education institutions. The Legislature puts in a certain amount of money, and ideally, we’d put ongoing money into that and build it up,” he said. “If we have the right formula in place, then they will try to leverage those dollars to go out and get private donations and will build frugally. They will try to get as much out of those dollars as they possibly can.”

The current process for funding new college buildings usually happens on a project-by-project basis. Institutions identify capital needs on their campuses, then make requests to the Utah Board of Regents. The board then prioritizes several capital projects and makes a recommendation to the Legislature, with the expectation that not all buildings will be funded.

The Legislature ultimately provides at least partial funding for a select number of projects. Last year, the Board of Regents requested almost $250 million for nine capital priorities, and the Legislature appropriated $83.4 million for four buildings.

“What this system means is the institutions come and they want the big building, and the bigger, the better. So it’s an opportunity really to sit on Santa’s lap,” Urquhart said. “Conceptually, a better system would be for the institutions to have more direct responsibility for the money, rather than putting all their eggs in one basket and going for the biggest, shiniest building.”

David Buhler, commissioner of higher education, said the proposal is “an interesting concept,” but since the discussion is still young, institution leaders haven’t been able to explore the implications of it and what unintended consequences might arise.

“We’re at a very early stage here,” Buhler said. “This is a different kind of beast. This is an example of how it might work. It really (depends on) whether the Legislature wants to go this way, and if they do, we really appreciate the opportunity to have a seat at the table.”

Buhler said he hopes lawmakers will keep in mind that college enrollment in Utah is projected to increase by 50,000 students in the next decade, and that growth looks different at each institution. If the proposal was adopted, institutions would have to be able to depend on yearly appropriations to be able to plan and carry out capital projects, he said.

“What would be really detrimental is if this were set up, institutions are counting on it, and we have a downturn and it’s not funded one year,” he said. “You’re ready to break ground, but the money’s not there.”

Members of the Education Interim Committee were supportive of the concept, though some questions remain about how such a formula would work. Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, said if the Legislature could guarantee yearly funding for a higher education capital fund, it could create more assurance and consistency than the current system.

“From an administration standpoint, it takes the uncertainty out of the process, so they’re not spending their time in an effort and in stress wondering whether they’re going to be able to accomplish what they need,” Snow said. “This money will be there. They can count on it. I think it will help them manage their capital facilities.”

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said lawmakers should also consider the fact that more college courses are being offered online, which could replace physical square footage needs with server space.

“This may work for a while, and I think we should do it. But as the world changes, and disruptive technologies continue to disrupt higher education, we’re moving in a world where we’re just getting certifications and (being) respected for what we know and can do, as opposed to how long we’ve sat in a higher education institution,” Stephenson said. “Sooner or later, in the next 10 years, this might be obsolete because we have a lot of empty buildings.”

Why most 8th graders are not good at geography

Most eighth-graders are not proficient in geography, a new report by the U.S. Government Accounting Office finds, with just 24 percent of eighth-graders “proficient” in geography in the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores.

NAEP testing is a statistical sample only at selected school, and no one school is judged by the results, which means schools are not motivated to teach to the NAEP test. NAEP is widely seen as the gold standard of U.S. educational assessment.

Geography is measured every year. It was measured in 2014 and in 2010, but prior to that the last test was in 2001, and then it reaches back all the way to 1994. Since 1994, things have not changed all that much. The same 24 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in geography then as 20 years later in 2014.

The GAO report found several explanations for the lack of progress, including misconceptions about what geography is, lack of teacher training, poor instructional materials and lack of geographic technology in the classroom.

Narrowed focus

Geography is being shortchanged by a narrow focus on reading and writing, argues Thomas Herman, a geography professor at San Diego State University and a coordinator for the California Geographic Alliance, part of a network of state alliances started in 1986 with the support of National Geographic.

The network’s mission is to help improve geography education in classroom by offering teachers training and curriculum tools to integrate geography. The network also helps nudge policymakers, administrators and teachers to broaden the curriculum, Herman said.

In Herman’s view, the heavy emphasis on standardized testing of reading and math is driving out the content-oriented learning that, ironically, provides the purpose and motivation for those basic skills.

This emphasis actually flies in the face of the new Common Core curriculum, which strongly emphasizes critical thinking, Herman notes. “I see a misalignment between what is being tested and the accountability feedback loop,” he said, “which results in overemphasis on ultra-fundamentals.”

“If testing only measures reading and math,” he adds, “it doesn’t matter what the guidance says about integrated, inquiry-driven learning. The superintendent will only be focused on making the test scores look better.

“Geography offers relevance,” Herman said. “We live in a geographically constructed world. Our roles are constructed around geography. Kids are interested in what’s going on out there.”

Advancing technology

Geography is not about memorizing state capitals,” said Rebecca Theobald, a geography professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and the coordinator of the Colorado Geographic Alliance.

Ideally, Theobald said, as students get older and gain more content knowledge, they can become knowledge producers, using rapidly advancing geospatial technology, the more rudimentary forms of which are now found on most smartphones.

“Geography is an integrative discipline,” Theobald said, “and can be used to shed light on all kinds of social and scientific issues, from politics and economics to hydrology or morphology.”

Some students have mapped rat sightings in New York City, while students in the Northwest have mapped pine beetle infestations, Theobald said. Google Earth also offers possibilities. One analysis of the Darfur tragedy, Theobald noted, outlines a map of Sudan with villages that had been burned in the genocide.

At the early grades, Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Fordham Institute, said geography is simply about land forms and earth science — being able to identify continents, rivers and lakes, or understand the difference between desert and tundra.

“A literate person knows what Tundra means,” Pondiscio said, “and when they encounter it in reading, it doesn’t slow them down.”

These concepts build on each other, he continues. A history text may state that “annual flooding in the Nile delta made Egypt a fertile agricultural superpower.” But without some knowledge of geography, that phrase might make little sense to young readers, Pondiscio says.

Content is king

Preoccupation with reading and math scores is self-defeating when those skills are divorced from the content that gives them form and purpose, Pondiscio said.

“Decoding language is a skill,” he said, “but reading comprehension is not. Reading comprehension requires shared background knowledge between reader and writer.”

After students master basic skills in the early grades, the teacher’s job is to provide content knowledge, and with it the basic skills needed to expand, Pondiscio said.

After basic decoding is mastered, Pondiscio said, “any effort to treat reading as a skill makes things worse, not better. If you are not learning geography, you are not learning to read.”

Pondiscio agrees with Herman that, properly understood and implemented, the much-vilified Common Core curriculum is an antidote to the preoccupation with testing. “If I could have one wish,” he said, “It’s that every elementary teacher would understand that teaching reading is teaching content.”

Sandy teacher gets Google donation to fund project for special needs students

SANDY — Diane Nahalewski spent last summer scouring the Internet, garage sales and hardware stores for something that could make getting through the school day a little easier for her students.

As a resource teacher at Park Lane Elementary, Nahalewski — affectionately called “Mrs. N.” by her students — teaches about 30 special education students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Some days are easier than others, but most of the time, helping students “get the fidgetiness out” while completing their work has been difficult, she said.

After experimenting with PVC pipe, bungee cords, pool noodles and zip ties, Nahalewski was able to retrofit some of the students’ desks into standing desks, letting them either stand while they work or sit on a stool and move their feet with a foot swing that bounces.

Buying new standing desks for students would cost about $300 per student, plus the cost of a stool, but Nahalewski was able to convert existing desks for about $15 each. Even so, the school couldn’t afford to extend the project to every special needs student.

Until Monday.

In a surprise announcement, representatives of Google and national charity DonorsChoose.org came to the school and agreed to fully fund Nahalewski’s project for all of her students.

About $60,000 in funding was also announced for similar projects that would help more than 50 teachers and some 5,000 special education students in Salt Lake and Utah counties.

“The real intention behind what we did today is to just honor teachers who are thinking creatively about how to support all students, especially those who might learn in different ways,” said Hannah Peter, partnership manager for DonorsChoose.org. “So we’re just really excited to spotlight a teacher who’s doing just that and also hope that through her amazing work, maybe there will be ripples and other teachers will find inspiration in how she’s approaching her work.”

Nahalewski originally posted a request for funding on the website, which connects willing donors with teachers or schools that need help funding a project. If a funding goal is met, the charity ships the needed materials to the school.

“I thought, ‘Maybe it’s not just the kids that show being fidgety, but the kids that don’t show it as well that need this.’ So I wanted it for everyone in my room,” Nahalewski said.

As part of a company-wide initiative, Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, is providing funding for teachers across the country to improve educational access for students with special needs. The company focused some of its efforts in Salt Lake and Utah counties with the ongoing installation of Google Fiber and worked with DonorsChoose.org to find suitable projects, according to Google spokeswoman Angie Welling.

It was then that Nahalewski and her desk project came up.

“We loved Mrs. N’s project. We thought it was really creative, really innovative,” Welling said. “Here’s a teacher who recognized a need in her classroom and got really creative about how to fix it: PVC pipe and bungee cords and pool noodles and things like that.”

The donation includes funding for Nahalewski’s desk project, $500 for each of the five other DonorsChoose.org projects in the school, $2,500 for future projects in Nahalewski’s class, and about $60,000 to help some 50 other projects in Salt Lake and Utah counties.

“Those are students who have different ways of learning or they need different tools and technologies that they don’t have right now,” Welling said. “For those 5,000 students and for those 50 some-odd teachers, we really hope that this has a direct daily impact in their lives, helps the kids learn, improves the classroom environment and gives the kids some tools that they didn’t have before.”

Park Lane Elementary Principal Justin Jeffery said letting teachers, such as Nahalewski, have the flexibility to be innovative is important in meeting the needs of students, especially those in special education.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of all learners,” Jeffery said. “When I think of the things that she’s doing, she’s meeting the needs of a specific group of learners that have trouble, and even some that don’t. We’re trying to do all kinds of things to meet their needs.”

Nahalewski accepted the surprise donation Monday amid the cheers of students and teachers. She said she looks forward to extending the project to all her students that want to participate.

“It’s just all finally come together,” she said. “We’re hoping to just keep moving forward.”

Experts discuss how to handle defiant high school students

COLUMBIA, S.C. — How should adults respond when a teenager defies her teacher?

Disturbing videos showing a school resource officer flipping a girl from her desk and tossing her across the floor this week raised tough questions.


Police officers are commonly brought into public schools nowadays to maintain safety and deter illegal behavior. But the School Resource Officers’ Association says school districts should first agree not to involve officers in classroom discipline.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has a “memorandum of understanding” delineating when officers should be involved, but the district has declined to make it public, so it’s not clear whether Senior Deputy Ben Fields was asked to cross a line at Spring Valley High School.

Sheriff Leon Lott, who fired Fields after seeing the videos, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his deputy should not have been summoned in this case.

“It would be totally different if she were threatening the safety and security of the classroom,” Lott said, “but she was just exhibiting defiant behavior and being disrespectful to the teacher.”

“The role of an SRO is not a disciplinarian. We’re there to keep the peace and make sure people don’t break laws,” Lott added.


The girl broke a school rule by using her cellphone in class, but the teacher could have spoken to her quietly, even when she refused to surrender it, rather than delay the lesson for everyone else, said Geoff Alpert, a University of South Carolina professor and expert on police violence.

Lott suggested another possibility: “Completely ignore her. She was the one who was suffering.”

Delaying consequences can be effective, said Larry Thompson, a former Kansas teacher who consults with schools via his “Responsibility-Centered Discipline” program.

“Time often helps the brain get out of the fight mode,” Thompson said. “The old model of classroom management does not fit the new model of what our kids need.”

Even when the girl refused to leave her seat, Alpert wonders, “Why didn’t they call a school counselor? She’s not doing anything to hurt anyone. She’s just being disruptive.”

Attorney Todd Rutherford questions why the deputy was “brought into a classroom to deal with a student who was sitting quietly, simply not wanting to leave class.” He represents both the girl in question as well as another student who challenged her treatment. Both are charged with “disturbing schools,” a misdemeanor publishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.


Touching a student should always be an officer’s last resort, Thompson said. “Physical contact is the very last piece that we ever want to have to do.”

Removing other students from the room is something both Alpert and the sheriff suggested, but Alpert said it could cause other problems.

“That gives her power in front of all of her friends,” Alpert said. “It’s a horrible message. Worse than that, what are you going to do to, leave that cop and the little girl in the room alone?”

Physically confronting her was “probably avoidable” said Pete Strom, a former U.S. Attorney in South Carolina. “When he saw that she was not going to react, is there another way to do this? Could you get another resource officer in? Could you just let the thing de-escalate? Wait until she’s after class instead of getting everybody into this confrontation?”

The officer had “so many options available,” Rutherford said. “The first is to say, ‘She’s not bothering anybody.’ The second’s to say, ‘Ma’am, are you going to sit quietly and listen?’ and she says yes. The third one is, if she absolutely refused to get up and she’s causing a problem and he wants to get her up, there are pressure points, grabbing her under her arm, wrist lock, there are a number of things that can be done, none of which include telling the student next to her to move so he can flip her desk over, slam her and toss her across the room.”


Sheriff Lott believes society should re-evaluate the role of police in schools, because officers are there to enforce laws, and one of them criminalizes classroom misbehavior.

“We have a bad law in South Carolina called “disturbing schools,” Lott said. “If an administrator or teacher did ask the officer to intervene, most likely the officer is going to do it. Generally, they’re going to do what they’ve been asked to do because they’ve been placed in the school.”a