Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Separating Church and State

Within American culture lie certain convictions that have withheld the length of its existence. The freedoms of speech, equal rights, and freedom of religion, are examples of what sew the fabric of the American Dream. Though these would seem to be pillars of our society, they have also been the source of much debate and contention. Among the nucleus of these topics is the dispute of the separation of church and state, a simple phrase that has been intertwined with the theme of religious freedom and evolution of American society.

Although this phrase carries much weight, it is significant to mention that the actual words are not found within our own Constitution. Implication is definitely present, but the lack of exact verbiage is one talking point in the ongoing debate. Most often credited with this expression is Thomas Jefferson. He used the words, “a wall of separation between church and state.” Over the years, scholars and politicians alike have attempted to extract alternative meanings from the statement and context in which it was presented. Interestingly enough, it seems the further we are from when it was first written, the more intense the debate.

Nowhere is the debate as alive as within our public education. As America grows and the world becomes a smaller place, our classrooms have become the collision point for religious dispute. It is impossible to ignore the fact that America is more diverse than ever before due to the advertisement of “ The American Dream.” This is most evident in certain areas, such as the northeast. Our schools have racially, ethnically, culturally, and religiously modeled the true image of the American melting pot.

In recent history there have been several prevalent topics revolving around this issue. Two of the most notable are the discussion of prayer in school and teaching evolution vs. creationism.

As in the discussion of prayer in public school, it is clearly stated in the Constitution that our government has no place in the preferential treatment or rejection of the expression of religion. In other words there should be no favoritism toward a specific religion or intolerance of another. The courts have repeatedly decided, that in the public school arena administrators and teachers remain neutral in their attention to religion. Yet, the debate continues and occasionally media coverage exposes the fact that much of the country is in disagreement over the rulings handed down.

Another bone of contention has focused on the approach on how to teach students about the origins of life on Earth. Since the introduction of the theory of evolution into classroom curriculum, there have been many legal issues surrounding this heated topic. Arguments have been made on all sides, but legally, the courts have defended teaching evolution in the classroom. The contenders of evolution include ideas such as creationism and intelligent design. There are several states where the debate has battled on, such as Pennsylvania in 2005. In December of 2005, a Harrisburg federal judge put a ban on teaching intelligent design in the classroom saying, “ It is creationism in disguise.”

Regardless of which side you support it is a discussion guaranteed to continue. As for anyone interested or active within the field of education, it is a responsibility to hold legal and historical knowledge on the matter of separating church and state. If nothing less, it should be appreciated that we have the ability in this nation to question, debate, and voice our individual opinion concerning the issues surrounding the separation of church and state.

Separation of Church and State

Benefits and Disadvantages to Separation of Church and State
Separation of Church and State is most commonly recognized as the church staying out of the state's business and the state staying out of the church's business. The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Both the free exercise clause and the establishment clause place restrictions on the government concerning laws they pass or interfering with religion. No restrictions are placed on religions except perhaps that a certain religion cannot dominate and become the state religion."Separation of Church and State" is generally traced back to a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 which was addressed to the Danbury, Connecticut, Baptist Association (Price, 2004). The purpose of this amendment is to protect everyone’s religious rights and not to exclude "God" from the government.
Many have found it beneficial to separate the church and state. Firstly, a blog posted by Joe states that the Establishment Clause in the first amendment’s purpose is to prevent and limit the power of any religion or religious organization from using the power or resources of the government to push their religion on others (2007). For instance, the Mormon Church which may be a large majority of the people in parts of Utah are prohibited to use government resources to implement their strict ideas of morality on non-Mormons (Joe, 2007). Secondly, since public schools are funded by the government and the constitution forbids any law being passed which supports one religion over another, they rarely use religion as part of the education system. Also, taxpayers may have varying views about religion themselves. Lastly, religion can come into conflict with science. Charles Pearson says that some may feel that the theory of evolution may violate their religious beliefs (2011). For example, a parent of a child who is a member of a marching band at school (unnamed) was disappointed to find a logo on the school shirt for the marching band. The parent states that the shirt was associated with the theory of evolution and it should not be associated with the school. The shirt also violated dress code since it was not neutral to religion (Jim, 2009).
Although many might be in favor of Separation of church and state, others may oppose to the idea of separation. Firstly, school prayer advocates have been trying immensely to bring religious activities back into the classroom. Many supporters feel that the Free Exercise Clause of the constitution protects school prayer and encourages religion by letting the teachers give the freedom to pray. However, the Free Exercise Clause ''embraces two concepts, freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is unconditional, but in the nature of things, the second cannot be” (First Exercise Clause, 2001). To ban school prayer means that a student may not have the total religious freedom to express themselves their way, but in a way that is standardized to the educational system. Secondly, banning school prayer can lead to moral decline. Since the banning of school prayer, there has been an increase in divorce rates, teen pregnancy, violent crime, and drug use (Evans, 2005). Religious conservatives are convinced that religious influence in the schools is necessary to teach students morals and values. Thirdly, the majority of people in the United States advocate prayer in schools. Laura Evans states, “According to a Gallup poll conducted in July, 1999, 70% of Americans agree that students should be allowed to say prayers out loud daily during class time” (2005). Evans continues to say that since the United States is a democracy and censuses indicate that the majority of people living in the United States would prefer to have prayers in schools; the government should allow spoken prayers in public schools during school hours (2005).
Retrieved from:

Charter Schools

Charter Schools are considered to be schools of choice; the choice is available to parents, students, teachers, and administrators. This allows for parents and students to choose to enroll in a school that may offer a unique learning environment as well as alternative learning methodologies. Teachers and administrators get more authority to make decisions than most traditional public schools. Basically, these schools are free from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. (Chen, 2007).

Charter schools are granted for a particular period of time, usually for 3-5 years, which are renewed after the end of the term by the granting entity (for example, a major school board). A charter school is based on a performance contract; this provides details about that school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. These schools are under constant pressure to perform well, as they are accountable to their sponsor, usually a state or local school board for good academic results. With charter schools, they are granted more autonomy compared to public schools (Chen, 2007).

There are a few advantages to placing a student into a charter school. One advantage is their level of accountability. Charter schools must abide by the tenets outlined in their charter contract between the school and the chartering unit, which states projected student achievement outcomes as well as penalties for failing to make these gains (Cofield, 2009). If the charter school does not follow the guideline that they have set, they will be creating the same solution that many public schools have. Any outcome that arises, whether it is success or failure, will result from the methodology placed forth by the charter school. Another good part to accountability is if the charter school fails to measure up, parents can “vote with their feet” or, the school can lose its charter altogether (Cofield, 2009). This means that parents have more say in the education of their children and will have more pull when trying to get the ideas of the school to change. Having a separate entity sponsor a charter school than that of typical public schools creates more leniencies towards curriculum.

Charter schools are also free from the bureaucracy of traditional schools. Due to the lack of restrictions on how charters are able to organize, they can reduce hurdles posed by the larger size of traditional school bureaucracies. This allows for more creative control over instruction, often increasingly the likelihood innovative best practices and of student success (Cofield, 2009). Albert Shanker, the former influential head of the American Federation of Teachers who first introduced the charter concept in the late 1980s stated that “The problem is that the traditional school structure virtually prohibits the teacher from arranging alternate ways the student might learn.” According to this theory of action, students and teachers remain “locked” into a rigid schedule that emphasizes the “assembly-line processing of children” (Huerta, 2009, p.417). This method allows for children to have a say in what they want to learn rather than the stereotypic mandated subjects and testing. Some ways that charter schools are trying to get away from the typical public schools are by including the use of applications, contracts, steering families away from enrolling, recruiting families from particular neighborhoods, school discipline policies, and various forms of branding to communicate to parents which students are good “fits” for the particular charter school (Scott, 2009, p. 236). With the accountability at a high rate as well as free radicals deciding how to perform, the academic performance is highly regarded.

Another benefit of charter schools is their ability to improve academic performance for students. Many success stories of increased student achievement abound in the media and in research articles. Reports from across the nation confirm positive trends in charter school academic achievement (Cofield, 2009). Much of the research has stated that, at first, charter schools show no difference compared to public schools among test scores but as time goes on, the results tend to improve. The improvement seems to be more geared towards secondary education which in turn will lead to more success in collegiate and post-college education. The educational gap between a lot of Latino and African American children has remained constant yet will be said to get better as the student continues on with school.

With the accountability, freedom of bureaucracy, and the improving test scores, charter schools seem to be the wave of the future. To keep up with the times, schools are going to need to adjust. Where public schools stick to their rigid regimen, charter schools will expand to near heights.


Chen, G. (2007). What is a charter school? Public School Review. Retrieved from

Cofield, C. (2009). Pros and cons of charter schools. Retrieved from

Huerta, L., A. and Zuckerman, A. (2009). An institutional theory analysis of charter schools: Addressing institutional challenges to scale. Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 84: 414–431.

Scott, J. and Villavicencio, A. (2009). School context and charter school achievement: A framework for understanding the performance “black box.” Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 84: 227–243.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

School Choice and School Vouchers

School choice allows parents to choose the school that their children will go to for their education regardless of their geographic location or what school district that they are currently in. Families can choose to send their children to another public school, private school, or a charter school. It gives parents the freedom in choosing which school/curriculum they feel would be best for their child. In a voucher system, the parents are given the money from city, state, or the federal government that would have gone to the school districts’ public school for their child. They receive a certificate or scholarship that they can use to pay for part or all of the tuition at the school that the family chooses. The money is put into an educational savings account that the parents can withdraw from when needed to pay for the tuition for the child’s school.

On September 10, 2010, Governor Chris Christie signed the Inter-district Public School Choice. It started with the 2010-2011 school year and allows students to attend a public school outside of their school district without any cost to the student’s family. Transportation for the student will be provided for up to twenty miles or if it doesn’t cost more than $884. If transportation does cost more than that then the parent can pay for the rest or receive the $884 in lieu of transportation to the school. Each participating school will have a limited number of openings and if there are more students who wish to attend that school than current openings, the school will have a lottery system to decide which students can attend.

A benefit to having school choice and school vouchers are that parents are able to choose what kind of school/curriculum they feel would best meet the needs of their child. Some parents might want their children to attend a school with religious education or a school with a stricter disciplinary program. Other parents might prefer one school’s foundation courses to the school in their district. School choice and school vouchers allow parents to choose what would work the best for their family.

Another benefit of school choice is that it creates competition between schools. This competition would force the schools to produce their best curriculums, programs, teacher outcomes, etc to help increase student performance. The schools would receive the funding for the student’s who choose them so it would encourage them to improve.

A third benefit to school choice is that for students who are in low-income areas can choose to attend a better school than what their school district has to offer. This would allow students in impoverished areas to receive the same education as middle class and upper class students. The quality of these students’ education would be up to the parents and not based on where the student lives. Poor students would have the same options as those students who are wealthy.

A disadvantage to school choice and school vouchers is that it takes money away from public schools that would need the funding. These schools are already underfunded and they would be losing money that they need to help improve their school’s academic programs. Students who are unable to attend a different school would suffer too because they would be in a school with insufficient funding.

Another disadvantage to this is that vouchers may not cover the entire cost of tuition for the more expensive private schools. A family might not be able to pay for the rest of the tuition that the voucher does not cover.

A third disadvantage to school choice is that the best students from a weakening school are taken out of the school and put into a better one. This would leave the school with the failing students. Likewise the best parents, the ones who are involved in the school system, are also taken out of the school.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Obama Administration's Blueprint for Reform

According to the United States Department of Education, March 2010, The Obama Administration’s Blueprint for reform was created in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This reform is based upon and concentrated around four main areas. First, the blueprint aims to improve teacher and principal effectiveness to ensure that every classroom has an excellent teacher and so that each school has a positive leader. This will be done by treating teachers like the professionals they are, shifting focus from inputs to outcomes, strengthening teacher and leader preparation, and ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and leaders (Steve Robinson of the Domestic Policy Council in the White House).

In addition, the reform seeks to inform families in ways to evaluate and improve their child’s school as well as assisting educators in improving student learning. Furthermore the blueprint for reform implements college and career standards as well as improves student learning and achievement in America’s lowest performing schools with the use of effective interventions. The overarching principles of this reform seek to raise the bar for all students and close the gap as well as foster innovation and reward success (US Department of Education, 2010).

The Blueprint for Reform seeks to rectify concerns individuals have regarding the No Child Left Behind Act. Addressed in the blueprint for reform are several key issues the Obama Administration would like to focus on. A few of these include raising standards for all students, better assessments to determine whether students have acquired the skills necessary for success, and a complete and well-rounded education. Also, the blueprint for reform aims to fund states and districts to develop and support effective leaders and focus on ways to improve teacher effectiveness. States will monitor effectiveness of both traditional and alternative preparation programs as well as invest in school programs, which produce successful students.

Another area addressed by this blueprint looks to the states, districts, and the schools to seek the most challenging goal- for all students graduating high school to be college ready and to have a career by the year 2020. This has since changed from the 2014 deadline created by the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration is asking all states to adopt state-developed standards in areas of mathematics and language arts aiming toward student success in college as well as career-readiness when students graduate from high school (Kulman, 2010).

The Obama Administration also addresses an area concerning successful, safe, and healthy students. The blueprint for reform aims for community-wide services in high-poverty neighborhoods, extended learning time, family engagement, and safe schools. It is believed that family involvement is crucial to education and that student achievement is correlated with family involvement. The reform addresses policies to provide comprehensive services such as parenting education and social and community development services to children and families in poor neighborhoods hoping to reduce achievement gaps between races, ethnic groups, and social classes (Barnett, Glass, Welner, 2010).

In my opinion, I feel as though the Obama Administration has the best intentions possible in making our schools more successful by raising teaching standards and working to lessen the achievement gap. However, I am not sure their means to achieve this are realistic. In order to make this reform successful, I believe that individuals who have worked in the education field should have input and say as to how the blueprint should be implemented, which goals are realistic, and which goals should be tweaked.

In conclusion, A Blueprint for Reform sets high standards for states, districts, schools, communities, and leaders. This blueprint seeks many changes in order to benefit all students. According to the Obama Administration success will be seen by the year 2020 and the achievement gap will be significantly decreased as well as higher graduation rates seen amongst students.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

School Choice and School Vouchers

Warren Shya

As the economy continues to seesaw, funding for education becomes an increasingly valuable commodity to be heavily fought over. The issues regarding education are becoming more prominent today as important concerns move to the forefront. Two of these concerns, school choice and school vouchers, are heavily debated as education strives to better create more competitive students while narrowing the achievement gap.

School choice is a term used to describe a variety of educational options that range from public schooling to homeschooling. It is used whenever a child attends a school outside of the one they would have gone to due to school district and local proximity. These educational institutions include other nearby public schools, private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, and much more.

Currently this debate is one of even greater consideration in New Jersey as Governor Christie recently signed the Interdistrict School Choice Program into law September 10th, 2010 ( This law allows students to attend a school outside of their school district, provided that the school is participating in the program and is within 20 miles.

Naturally, having choices allow parents to find the most appropriate learning environment for their children. One such argument from supporters of school choice claim that it allows greater freedom for parents in pursuing schools such as ones that greatly focus on certain academic and technical disciplines, provide religious instruction to students, or cater to the needs of a child with special education needs.

Supporters also claim that having a diversity of schools to select from increases the overall competition between schools as they try to stay attractive for prospective students. Those that don’t continue to create innovative curriculums and school programs or address parent demands would ultimately be closed down or restructured.

Depending on the state, parents of students might also be eligible for school vouchers. School vouchers are used to help pay for private school or homeschooling expenses. Advocates claim that this would allow impoverished and underprivileged children to attend the more esteemed private schools, possibly opening new doors and opportunities.

While there is much support for school choice and school vouchers, opponents of these two educational concerns bring up important points. Opponents claim that interjecting a business model design into schools (“Only the strong survive”) is not fair to district public schools as they are obligated by much more legal “red tape” then other schools. Alternative schools such as charter schools are given much more freedom regarding issues dealing with teacher unions and state curriculum.

Private schools are not bound to accept every student that they can provide service for which includes students with special needs. Attracting students with considerable wealth and affluence also lessens the amount of resources that private schools must devote to programs such as reduced-fee lunches or afterschool groups. Furthermore, private schools do not typically receive funding from tax payer dollars allowing them to charge as much as they want from tuition. Opponents of school vouchers cite that it is entirely possible for private schools to shut out underprivileged students through unreasonable tuition or other school related fees.

The debate surrounding school choice and school vouchers is a complicated issue with both sides bringing up realistic concerns. Ultimately, both sides are trying to discover a way to “breed” a more competitive student through narrowing the achievement gap. However this is easier said than done, while all schools are designed to educate children, they each face unique challenges and substantial difficulties.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Global Competition

The USA has made it known that they are quite competitive in using high technology, such as Smart Phones and Mac computers, for social purposes, but how about in the classrooms? Certain countries, such as China, India, South Korea, and Japan, have invested in technology as a key point in their economic future. The USA excels in providing more equitable access to school technology, but other nations are working hard to catch up. India, as well as others, is making financial commitments and investments in teach technology skills in their schools (Manzo, 2009).
Smaller countries are seeking out free curricula developed by technology companies, such as Intel and Cisco. Cisco, for example, has pumped out $300 million into its curriculum, which provides free to more than 2,000 high schools and junior colleges around the world (Manzo, 2009). This implies that those countries will narrow the gap between the U.S. and themselves in the teaching of technology skills (Manzo 2009). Some countries are already ahead.
Only recently has Singapore tried to expand lessons that include more creative and critical thinking in using the tools, but they have long taught technology skilling in its schools. South Korea has teacher and student standards that shape all technology education efforts (Manzo, 2009). Technology skills are also being infused in the national curriculum in Britain, Australia, and China.
The problem is that many schools in the USA do not engage in using technology as creative and productive tools. Technology is not a part of the message that these tools are used to build with, to learn with, and to create with in some schools. Some schools argue that too much technology takes away the students ability to problem solve and tackle tasks on their own. Technology educators’ argue that it’s not so much the mechanical use of these devices, but rather how you incorporate them into your thinking and problem-solving.
Over the last five years or so, it's become more the argument that students need to have these skills to be economically competitive, globally (Manzo, 2009). China, India, South Korea, and Japan have invested in making sure that their students have access to the technology and the literacy skills that they see as key to their economic future. “But the U.S. has not given as much attention as the highest-performing countries around the world, which means our kids aren't getting the opportunity to compete (Andrews, 2009, p3)."
In conclusion, our students in the USA are not competitive to our international peers in the use of technology in the classrooms. It seems as though it is split between teachers arguing that we need to keep up with technology to be economically competitive and other teachers saying that too much technology can take away students ability to problem solve and tackle tasks on their own. This writer can see both sides of the argument, but as far as competition goes, the USA needs to amp up the use of technology in the classrooms order to keep up and be competitive with today’s modern society.
Andrew, S. (2009). Intel US Technological Program. Intel Corporation. Retrieved:   
Manzo, K. K. (2009). Global Competition. Education Week's Digital Directions. p. 16-19

Global Competition

Since the 1950s with the launch of Sputnik, the United States has been attempting to compete with other countries in education. According to Patrice Flynn, when the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, the United States became increasingly nervous that their existence as a superpower was coming to an end. In order to compete with the Soviet Union, the United States passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958. This act was meant to ensure that American students would be able to meet any needs in terms of national defense. Currently, however, the focus is on making sure that students are able to compete in the global economy. In this way, the United States is now pushing for students and schools to meet these demands of an international competition in order to once again assert itself as an economic superpower. While previously, the focus was on math and science in order to compete in the Space Race, now technology is being emphasized due to the fact that the economy is becoming increasingly technological. According to Education Week, other countries are also pushing for their students to learn technology. Britain, for example, has added technology into the curriculum to be learned in conjunction with the main subjects. Other countries, like Singapore have already been teaching technology long before the United States has even thought about implementing it in schools. In addition, according to the article, schools should teach critical thinking, creativity, analytical, and communication skills in addition to technological skills. Therefore, once again, much like the 1950s, the United States must be sure to compete with these other countries in education because without these technological skills, the United States would not be able to compete in the global economy.

Currently, the United States is lagging behind other countries in terms of educational success. In fact, Karin Zeitvogel indicates in her article that the United States 15 year olds rank 14th out of 34 countries in reading skills, 17th in science, and 25th in math. This same article states that 15 year olds in Canada are a year ahead of those in the United States in math and more than half a school year ahead in reading and science. The United States has a lower percentage of students enrolled in school except for Mexico and Turkey. Additionally, an article in Education News states that minority students are lagging behind White students in terms of test scores, which is troublesome. Hopefully, by focusing on this group in particular, test scores can see an increase across the board for America. Importantly, the economy is affected by education in that “boosting US scores for reading, math, and science by 25 points over the next 20 years would result in a gain of 41 trillion dollars for the United States economy over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010” (Zeitgovel, 2010). Therefore, serious economic gains can be seen if United States’ students can compete with other students around the world.

While the United States is lagging behind other countries educationally, a national organization called Partnership for Twenty-First Century Skills advocates for a curriculum that includes aspects that will help students be prepared to compete in the global economy. It involves teaching the 3 R’s as is usually taught in schools, but in conjunction with the 4 C’s. The 4 C’s involve critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Additionally, technological skills would be taught as well as career and life skills. Through this new curriculum with an emphasis on critical thinking, technological skills, and responsibility, the United States may be better prepared to compete with other countries educationally and economically.

Overall, it is important for the United States to compete with other countries in terms of education because of the new, more technological economy. Students should be focusing on critical thinking and technological skills in order to be able to compete in this economy. Through the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the United States will be able to teach its students these essential skills. Finally, focusing on minority students’ lagging scores and closing the achievement gap will hopefully bring economic gain to America as a whole.


Flynn, P. (1995). Global competition and education: Another Sputnik?. Social Studies, 86(2), 53.

Manzo, K.K. (2009). Global competition: U.S. students vs. International peers. Education Week. Retrieved from

Minorities unprepared for global competition, report says. Education News. Retrieved from

Zeitgovel, K. (2010). US falls to average in education ranking. Retrieved from

Technology and Curriculum: The Pros

The use of technology in the school environment can be very beneficial to the students, teacher and the parents. When technology is properly used and taught in the school setting, it assist students to gain skills so they can survive in a highly technological knowledge-based economy. In order for the teaching of technology to be effective it needs to be integrated in all curriculum. Some key components of teaching effective technology are participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. It is important to us technology in routine and transparent fashion and allowing it to support curricular goals.

There are several reasons why technology in the classroom can improve students’ achievements. For example computers and other forms of technology can provide drill and practice for students. It is said that computers can provide more motivation in students then that of teachers during drilling and practice skill building, there for this experience can last longer. This type of skill building and use of technology is useful as for children as young as preschool level. (Leu, 2000) Students in at-risk groups, such as in special education and/or from inner city and rural schools, feel more successful in school and more motivated to learn when using curriculum-assisted instruction. The use of computers helps create a visual of abstract ideas for students who can become discouraged from difficult task and concepts. For example students can use their math skills and create visuals of some concepts and helps continue the stimulation of thought on these concepts. (Leu, 2000) The Internet is a huge tool in children’s education because it provides children with expansive amount of information on a specific topic they may think or want to learn about. In 1998, Wenglisky did a study on the use of high rates of technology in students between the grades of fourth and eighth and found that in the groups that had higher use of technology the have a higher positive social climate established and higher scores were attained. The quality of public education could be improved by utilizing the Web to individualize instruction, creating learning opportunities for teachers to engage in collegial support such as e-mail. This helps facilitate better home-school communication through e-mail and school and teachers’ website information. This helps create an at home support for students’ and all of their subject matter. (Symonds, 2000)

A common misconception of the use of computers is that they are for instructional, problem solving games and other types of stimulation of that fashion but computers have much greater use in the classroom. Some people feel that computers and other technology based programs are replacing the teacher as being the educator when in reality computers are used to enrich lessons that are originally taught by actual teachers. Computers provide support and variety to everyday classroom activities. It is important for students today to gain the skills of technology to be prepared for the United States’ workforce. (Leu, 2000)

There have been several studies exploring the United States use of technology in the classroom. In Raisinen’s article he reviewed six different countries and their technology curricula. The purpose of this study was to observe goals such as skills of analysis and problem solving, skills in information processing and computing. The curricula that he followed had children learn and understand the role of technology in their society and in the global perspective and its importance. Lastly, an important part of the curricula is to teach judgment in moral matters and ethics in the use of technology. (2003) What Rasinen had found in reviewing the United States curricula is that they have been teaching technology in schools for years but there are many obstacle that do get in the way from providing the proper knowledge. Many districts do not start teaching much about technology in the elementary level and higher levels in some districts have higher levels suffering due to lack of funding. (2003) The government has understood that there is a lack of resources in specific districts and they have developed programs to help integrate technology in these districts. State Ed Tech Grant funds is a program in which in need districts can begin to catch up with richer districts. The main purpose of this grant is to “integrate” technology through out these districts “curriculum”. (Bailey & Lovett, 2011) With this grant teachers and staff have to agree to professional development in order to improve their skills in technology education. The purpose of this grant is so that there can be studies on how achievement can be improved through the use of technology. This grant also, wants to create students to be technologically literate by the end of their eighth grade year, as well as, effective teacher training and to help create a research based technology curriculum. (Bailey & Lovett, 2011)

In conclusion, there are many great aspects of integrating technology into public school curricula. Some of the downfalls such as funding have government help to improve these districts chances of maintaining a balance with other districts. Technology education is important for teachers and students in order to keep up in a global economy and should continually be integrated in the school system.

Bailey, J. & Lovett, C. State Tech Ed Grants (2011, October 2)

Leu, D.J., Jr. (2000). Literacy and technology: Deictic consequences for literacy education in an information age. Handbook of Reading Research: Vol. 3. (743-770). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Rasinen, A. (2003) An Analysis of the Technology Education Curriculum in Six Countries.

Journal of Technology Education. Vol 15,1,31-47.

Symonds, W. (September 23, 2000). Wired Schools, Businessweek.

Wenglisky, H. (1998). Does it compute? The relationship between

Educational technology and student achievement in mathematic.

Educational Testing Service Policy Information Center.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Emphasis for STEM in Education

In the early 21st Century, technology has forced the educational system to focus more attention on disciplines that prepare students for the future and the world that they are going to inherit. Because technology is advancing at an exponential rate, the need for more students to become proficient in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is becoming an important goal for the United States of America’s educational system. These four subjects are known as STEM, and the increasing push to have these content areas addressed more critically is becoming a very important initiative on the US educational landscape.

A major reason why the United States government and the Department of Education have become concerned about improving students’ proficiency in these subjects is the rate at which US students are falling behind the proficiency of students around the world. A 2006 study performed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed among 15 year olds, the United States ranked 25th in math proficiency and 21st among science proficiency out of the 30 countries that were used in the study. The United States has fallen further behind according to a more recent study by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance. The 2011 study, “Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?” revealed the U.S. students’ ranking in math proficiency falling to 32nd worldwide. In the name of global competition, the initiative to improve our country’s standings in these subject areas has become a major priority. In this technological age, proficiency in STEM subject matter is at the forefront in preparing students for the global economy.

One issue that is plaguing the development of U.S. students’ improvement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is that they lack the advanced or even adequate instruction needed to excel in these content areas. The educators of today, suffered from the same problem that is hurting those they are teaching. Without having efficient educators leading instruction in STEM subject matter, current students are becoming less likely to pursue advanced degrees in these areas. The circle continues as the educators of tomorrow are increasingly less likely to become masters of STEM subject matter instruction. With educators unprepared to be able to properly instruct students in STEM curriculum, the students are the ones suffering, and the proficiency levels worldwide are the evidence. Proper training in STEM education methods for educators has become an important issue in American education. Instructors need to be trained in proper methods of STEM education. The federal push for more emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic education must coincide with educators’ ability to effectively instruct their students in these subjects. The cultivation of students’ interest in STEM subject areas needs to begin early in education, and the instructors need to be properly prepared to be able to foster it.

Without proper instruction in STEM subject matter, students are becoming much less likely to pursue advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics related areas. Because of their lower proficiency levels in these areas, students are instead pursuing advanced degrees in other areas. STEM related fields become more important to our nation and its development every day. Technological development and advancement is at the forefront of today’s global economy. As students in other countries obtain STEM related degrees and become more apt to contribute to their nations growth and development, the U.S. needs to explore ways in which it can help keep up in this educational race. Incentives to promote students to pursue degrees in STEM related fields are becoming an important part of U.S. education. Scholarships and grants to students who are interested in advancing their education in these fields are one way the federal government is promoting this initiative in U.S. education.

Budget increases in U.S. education are very necessary ways to address the need for improvement in our country’s growth in STEM education. The state of the economy and budget cuts not only in New Jersey, but nationwide are one problem hurting this initiative. The need for growth and development of our nation’s youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics related fields are very important to our nation as a whole as the world turns to an ever increasingly global economy. The United States’ need to improve their economic standing and reputation as a global leader begins with our teachers, and most importantly with our students’ education.

Harvard Study Retrieved from (

OECD Study Retrieved from (

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Negative Side of Payne’s Framework for Understanding Poverty

“The poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible.” —Gustavo Gutierrez

For Ruby Payne, understanding poverty means more than just knowing about money. Payne believes that poverty is a form of culture with its own norms, values, rules, and particular knowledge passed down through generations. She believes that children in the culture of poverty do not succeed in school because they have been passed down knowledge about the rules of poverty and not the rules of being in the middle class. Payne also believes that because most teachers in public school are from the middle class, they do not understand the poverty culture and the children within it. She believes the aim of her mission should be to open communication between teachers and students, to make all of the rules of every class known to everyone, and to encourage the teaching of middle class rules to the to the children in poverty. Due to some of these ideas, there are many critics of Payne and her ideas which point out the negative aspects in her mission.

One of the negativities that have been pointed out by critics is that Payne over-stereotypes the people in poverty. Some of the rules of poverty she believes in include “I know how to physically fight and defend myself physically,” “I know how to get a gun, even if I have a police record,” and “I know how to get someone out of jail.” These statements are believed to be highly stereotypical, as well as are the rules of middle class. Payne’s middle class rules include, “I know how to evaluate and purchase appropriate medical, life, disability, homeowners, auto, and personal property insurance.” Some may agree with statement, however, not every middle class person can do this. For these reasons, many critics say that Payne is stereotypical. They believe that Payne has simply appealed to the assumptions people have about the poor, such as promiscuous, gang affiliated, on welfare, gun owning, and drug dealers. However, many people know that is not the case of all people in poverty. Payne must address the fact that there are people in the middle class who may not even know her middle class rules and that some people in poverty may actually know them and not their set of poverty rules.

Another negative criticism of Payne is that she owns the company through which her books and articles and, most importantly, research is all published. Payne speaks in her books about all of the research she has done, yet all of the other research on poverty has concluded that people in poverty do not have their own values, beliefs, or rules. Also, when one begins to read her book, they find that she only points to people she has encountered over the years and not verifiable and reliable research studies.

Lastly, the most negative aspect of Payne’s ideas is the message that teachers are getting from her book and seminars. Teachers have left her workshops believing that “poor people can’t think abstractly,” and have gone back to teaching believing such ideas. Payne offers a quick fix to teaching children in poverty by planting ideas in teachers’ and administrators’ heads that children in poverty cannot learn until they are taught to be upper class. This leads to the belief, by critics, that Payne is virtually stopping social change. The research done by social scientists shows that changing social beliefs may change social policy. So, why are why are we not changing our beliefs and policy about poverty, instead of believing all that needs to be done is teach them middle class rules?

To conclude, there are many critics of Payne’s framework which bring many negative aspects of her ideas. However, it is important that we each take the good and the bad from her work and come to our own conclusions. Mainly, the children in poverty who are failing in school need to be helped and we need to find a way to help them.

Bohn, A. (2006). A framework for understanding Ruby Payne. Rethinking Schools Online, 21(2).

Payne, R. (2005). A framework for understanding poverty. Highlands TX: Aha! Process Inc.

Redeaux, M. (2011). The culture of poverty reloaded. Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine, 63(3), 96-102. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.


has been an active topic in education since 2001. It stands for Science,
Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This program was founded by Judith A.
Ramaley, the former director of the National Science Foundation’s education and
human resources division. The idea of STEM is to “revolutionize” the teaching
of math and science by incorporating technology and engineering into a regular
curriculum. The idea that these four topics have been taught separately is
where STEM Education would step in. Instead of them being separate from each
other, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics would all play a part
in the teaching of the whole. This curriculum would be enforced by problem-
solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and require students to engage in a
situation and find a solution.

are a few benefits to the STEM program. Because much of the education system
has been steered toward female learning on verbal concepts, STEM would teach
independent ways for students to explore all subjects deeper by using the
skills they learn. These are the skills that will benefit our students in the
workforce. Many of the requirements today when looking for a job are that a
person is able to work independently and actively as part of a team, and that a
person can use their critical thinking skills. With these set of skills, our
students today can close the performance gap of American students to students
being produced in other countries.

is a great push for more students to enter into science and technology fields.
Students are feeling less prepared after high school in these areas and as a
result are choosing majors in college that are much easier. Due to this, there
has been a decline in the number of college students that enter science and
technology fields. Research shows that because of this decline in students
taking an interest in engineering and science fields due to the lack of
preparation, there will be a huge problem just over the next decade because
there will be no one qualified in these areas. The problem with this is that
over three quarters of the jobs that will be created in the next decade will
require math and science skills. The integrated of STEM Education into our
curriculum will help students feel more prepared and increase the amount of
people who decided to go into these fields in college. If the students feels
more confident in these areas when graduate high school, they are more likely
to go into a science or math field feeling prepared. This will also increase
job force in the future.

It is
important for people to know that STEM is not just about integrating science,
technology, engineering, and Mathematics, it is about teaching the student as a
whole. This includes involving traditional classes and the Arts. The idea is to make our students better-rounded,
but strengthening the STEM areas so we can increase and push more students to
enter these fields. My personal opinion
of STEM is that is a great idea. I am a strong supporter in the fact that our
students need to be well-rounded, that we cannot just focus on educating our
students in one particular way or area; we need to educate the “whole” student.
I do feel that if we incorporate STEM Education into the curriculum, then
students will feel more confident and will be better prepared to go into these
particular fields.

A Framework for Understanding Poverty

Ruby Payne’s A Framework For Understanding Poverty, explores the various struggles and differences amongst socioeconomic groups with a focus on empowering and enhancing education of those living in poverty by enlightening educations on the community values, norms, fears, and everyday life of their students living in poverty. As Payne outlines the differences of every aspect from goals to language of those living in poverty, to those whom make up the middle-class, and the wealthy. Payne defines poverty as, “the extend to which an individuals goes without resources.” This not just relative to basic needs, it encompasses things such as education, not just financial resources. Unfortunately, financial resources and education tend to go hand in hand. There are many pros to Payne’s research on the idea that the sociological factor of poverty needs to be addressed and incorporated in the learning of these individuals. Payne suggest that educators need to step in and become role models for these individuals. Educators are encouraged to strengthen relationships and build support systems with students whom may not have positive relationships and support systems within their homes and communities.

These positive relationships and support systems enhance the learning that can go on insides the classroom because the students feel safe. These students may act out and behave in a manner that is representative of the culture they area product of. Some behaviors displayed may be the students acting out or talking back to a teacher to safe face and maintain dominance. Educators are encouraged to teach proper behavior, but also give options for behaviors, and discipline in a manner than encourages the student to learn other coping strategies for poor behavior. Educators should provide students with learning environments and experiences similar to those of the middle-class, enabling students to assimilate behaviors to the same manner as middle-class students. This provides the students with something they may have never experienced before, choices.

Payne goes on to describe different values and mind-sets in terms of poverty and middle class. This gives educators a base to stand on for understanding student’s needs in the classroom. For example, in terms on focus on time, poverty mainly focuses on the present, the here and now, whereas the middle class focuses on the future. In terms of education, poverty views it as something that is unrealistic and unattainable, whereas the middle-class looks at it as means to an end of success and achievement. Poverty does not think about ramifications for the future, whereas the middle class thinks very careful about ramifications for the future.

Educators are encouraged to provide coping strategies, options for problem solving, providing information, positive self-talk and connections to people and resources within the school and the community. School-based systems that Payne suggest are: homework support built in to school day, supplemental reading programs, looping of students and teachers for more than one year, daily goal-setting and procedural self-talk.