Author Archives: Curriki

No Child Left Behind being replaced by Every Child Achieves

janetpic_preferred_croppedJanet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

The “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA) has passed the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Approval of similar legislation is expected in the House (which has called their bill the Student Success Act). The original ESEA act from 1965 was focused on addressing equity, at a time when civil rights and desegregation were in focus.

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Every Child Achieves Act of 2015
This bill reauthorizes and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The bill addresses issues such as accountability and testing requirements, distribution and requirements for grants, fiscal accountability requirements, and the evaluation of teachers. The bill provides states with increased flexibility and responsibility for developing accountability systems, deciding how federally required tests should be weighed, selecting additional measures of student and school performance, and implementing teacher evaluation systems.

ECAA is designed to replace the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act for elementary and secondary education which has been in force since 2002. You can find a summary of the bill here.

There has been much criticism of the extensive – many would say onerous – testing regimes enforced by NCLB, from educators and parents across the U.S. It was felt that the testing requirements were excessive, and took away from time that should be spent in teaching and learning in the classroom, and that the penalties were counter-productive. The American Federation of Teachers has called NCLB a “test-and-punish” system, due to federal sanctions against low-performing schools.

ECAA would relax these testing requirements, and provide more flexibility for schools to allow parents to opt their kids out of tests. Federal sanctions would no longer apply; any such rewards or sanctions would be handled by individual states.
The President of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, says about the ECAA, “This bill reflects a paradigm shift away from the one-size-fits-all assessments that educators know hurt students, diminish learning, narrow the curriculum and that they fought to change.”

The well-known education activist Diane Ravitch supports the Senate bill because “it draws a close to the punitive methods of NCLB….(and) is an important step forward for children, teachers, and public education. The battle over ‘reform’ now shifts to the states.”

One concern is that the bill would weaken provisions meant to track the progress of students with disabilities, which may account for one in eight of America’s school children.

We’d like to hear your view, what do you think about the new legislation?

Curriki is all in favor of flexible learning models and curricula that adapt to the needs of individual students. This is why we make available to the public for free over 62,000 educational resources, in open source format. These include full courses, lessons and many supplemental materials. With our new website coming on line early next month, it will be even easier to search these materials, and also to contribute materials so that other educators can make use of them.

Recess in Kansas – Too Short?

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

According to an article this week from the Associated Press, elementary students in public schools in the State of Kansas have only 20 minutes or less for their daily recess.

The Kansas State Department of Education and the state’s Association for Physical Education, Recreation and Dance presented their research findings this month to the Kansas State Board of Education.

The Kansas Health Foundation supported the study. Jeff Willett, the vice president for programs and advocacy at the foundation noted that “Far from taking time from learning, these healthy habits (physical activity) actually help kids succeed in school”. Physical activity supports mental activity and improved learning.

Sân_trường_THPT_Phan_Đình_Phùng,_Hà_Nội

Children at recess in Hanoi, Vietnam

There are concerns nationwide in the U.S. about childhood obesity and the level of fitness of children. According to the National Youth Fitness Survey in 2012, only one quarter of preteens and young teens are getting an hour or more of physical activity per day.

Teachers and parents should be encouraging sufficient recess periods during the school day.

Lessons plans around fitness, exercise and nutrition can be found here on Curriki:

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_Group_CurrikiMonthlyThematicCollections/KidsgovExerciseFitnessandNutrition

and also here:

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_kathyf/FitnessforLife

Classroom Technology for New Teachers

technology in classroom

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

I had an interesting chat with Educator Ilna Colemere, who helps familiarize student teachers with technology applications they can use in the classroom. Her students love the Curriki site, because they say it “provides a wealth of resources indexed by several searchable tags.”

Ilna Colemere

Ilna Colemere

As Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Office of Teacher Education Services with the University of Texas at San Antonio, Ilna works with about 500 students each year.


How important do you feel technology is in aiding student learning?

Technology adds another dimension that isn’t available with a book or other tangible object. It can be used by one person or shared across a group – and the group doesn’t even need to be in the same room. Multimedia technologies can be very rich, community-driven resources that provide real-time learning.

However, it’s important to remember that the strength of student success with new technology does not lie in the device, software or app. The strength lies in the instructional facilitator and his/her ability to guide and encourage thinking outside the box. The teacher is the key and the technology is another tool.

What do you feel is the single, most impactful technology employed in classrooms today?

There really isn’t one single technology, especially with new technologies coming out every day. Handheld devices and robotics are popular in classrooms today. And there’s a huge push for students to learn coding, which is a valuable skill that involves a lot of logic.

Multimedia is everywhere. It attacks all the senses, and it’s instantaneous. Speaking of multimedia, MIT has developed software that captures the vibration of an object to determine the impact of noise levels on living and nonliving objects – an activity that involves math, science, social studies and technology. If we’re able to apply this to seismic activity, perhaps one day it could be used to predict earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. True example of thinking outside the box!

Technology can be both good and bad. We must make sure the resources are credible and support ISTE standards. Be a good digital citizen.

How has Curriki helped new teachers better engage their students?

The assumption is that all young people are tech savvy, but that’s not always true. We’re seeing all levels of proficiency and exposure – some are technology experts, others struggle. Because our student teachers are new to the teaching profession, it’s difficult for them to look at teaching materials with a critical eye.

That’s why Curriki is so useful. Curriki is a multimedia treasure. All the materials have been vetted by teachers, each with a different voice and perspective. Curriki gives student teachers a good idea of standards and answers their questions: “Is this resource valued?” and “Will this meet my teaching objectives?”

What are your favorite Curriki resources?

I like the technology workshops. And I like the ability to save curated resources in “My Curriki” so that I can easily find them again.

I also use the resources that relate to [state of] Texas, even if we are not Common Core, because they focus on a central core of knowledge and skills.

And finally, I recommend Curriki Groups to my student teachers as a place where they can collaborate on specific topics, get new ideas and share best practices. For example, one group I recommend they join is the STEM Group.

How do you accommodate different learning styles?

Not everyone learns the same way and our new teachers don’t want to have to visit dozens of sites to find the different resources they need. Curriki has everything in one place using all forms of media, from lesson plans and units to curated resources. And because all these resources have been vetted by “real” teachers, Curriki gives these new teachers the confidence in the material to meet instructional needs.

Why do you do what you do?

I’ve been an educator for 40+ years, having taught from pre-K to adjunct at the university. I believe the role of a teacher is to empower students to learn for themselves.

If you could tell teachers one thing about Curriki, what would it be?

Sign up for Curriki! It’s only takes a minute and it’s free. Curriki provides a rich collection of cross-curricular materials easily integrated with the adopted state curriculum. Plus, you’ll be able to collaborate with other teachers and use, share and customize the thousands of resources available on Curriki.

Are your kids bored? Check out NASA Kids

Are your kids bored? Check out NASA Kids Club – K-5 educational games, multimedia & more. http://ow.ly/PcnSo http://ow.ly/i/bEI19

How to Improve Essay Writing Skills with 10 EdTech Online Tools

By Curriki Guest Blogger Julie Petersen JuliePetersen2

Who thought that your education wouldn’t be based solely upon studying and exams? When you decided to pursue a degree, you didn’t expect to spend much of your time on essays, research papers, case studies, and other types of academic papers. Nevertheless, every student is expected to improve his writing skills throughout the educational journey.

Why do professors consider these projects to be so important? Believe it or not, they don’t assign several tasks with the mere intention to torture you. The academic writing practice develops your ability to express your mind, analyze academic and scientific materials, and provide your own arguments supported by facts. These skills are essential for any career you are focused on.

However, you are hardly relieved by the realization that essays are important. You need practical advice that will help you move forward and complete the assignments with success. In the continuation, you will find EdTech tools that will help you do that!

  1. Writing.com

When you need someone to support you throughout the writing process with the right tips and constructive feedback, then this is the website you should turn to. Writing.com is a community for writers, but you don’t have to be a professional author to create your online writing portfolio and become part of the platform. In addition to the numerous writing tools, you will get access to great contests that will inspire you to discover your creative voice.

  1. NovelGuide.com

Are you stuck with a project for your literature class? You’ll probably find the needed resources at this website. NovelGuide offers plot summaries on most novels that are part of the curriculum in high schools and colleges. You will also benefit from the Discussion & Question section available for each book featured at the website.

  1. TeenInk.com

What could be more motivational than an actual paper written by a student? Inspiration can come from anywhere: life occurrences, books, websites, school environment, famous personalities, and much more. The essays featured at this website can serve as an example of creative writing in its best light.

  1. Essaymama.com

This is the online tool that will get you out of the most difficult situations. When you have a close deadline to meet, but you are nowhere near a finished paper, you can rely on the assistance by the writers and tutors at this website. You can get help with virtually any type of paper, regardless of its topic. The team of writers includes experts from several areas of study. Thus, EssayMama can provide you with a piece of advice that will help to complete any academic project, but you’ll also get a valuable lesson on essay writing along the way. The blog section of the website is worthy of attention; check for regular updates with news, infographics and tips regarding academic writing.

  1. Essay Map

When you have a successful plan, even the most complex project will be simple to complete. This online tool will help you stay on track throughout the development of the content. You can use the online version of the tool to create the map, but you can also print the blank map and fill in the blanks if that works for you.

  1. Persuasive Essay Thesis Builder & Online Outliner

Let’s simplify the name of this tool; we’ll call it Thesis Builder because that’s its main function. If you don’t have a solid thesis statement for your essay, you cannot proceed with the process until you develop one. This automated tool instructs you to provide the topic of the paper, your main opinions and supporting arguments. Then, it will produce a thesis statement that you can edit or simply paste in your document.

  1. EasyPunch.com

You have troubles organizing your ideas and expressing them in clear academic writing style? Essay Punch will take you through each step of the writing process. You can use pre-set prompts for descriptive, persuasive, and informative essays. Then, you can proceed with online interactive exercises that will help you become a better writer through regular practice.

  1. TheEasyEssay.com

This is an instant organization program that brings the writing process down to its foundation. The system works for students at any age. It enables you to organize a basic 5-paragraph paper, but you can also expand that structure to a more complex essay of 17 paragraphs. Once you start using this tool, you will boost your communication skills without even noticing.

  1. HemingwayApp.com

When you present a paper with complex structure and lengthy arguments, you expect to impress your professor. That strategy backfires in most cases. Street language is not acceptable in an academic paper, but that doesn’t mean you should write unreadable content that wouldn’t convey a clear message. Hemingway App is a tool that will help you make your paper bold and clear by simplifying the words and sentences. In addition to dense and complicated sentences, the tool will also highlight adverbs, passive voice, and words or phrases that could use some editing.

  1. Read-Able.com

This tool offers a quick and easy way to test how readable your paper is. You don’t want to confuse your teacher with a paper that would consume a lot of his time. With this flexible readability software, you will make sure that the essay you are about to submit is appropriate for your grade level.

Academic writing is not as scary as it seems. Even the most intriguing assignments can be made simpler when you have the right educational tools on your side. Start exploring the above-listed tools and you’ll notice how your writing skills are improving by the day.

Julie Petersen is a tutor and a blogger, who features the latest career and educational trends in her articles. At present time she is working on her first ebook dedicated to online learning. You may see Julie’s latest publications and contact her via Linkedin or Google+ page.

Have you checked out the new Curriki? Ch

Have you checked out the new Curriki? Check out this short webinar to get a sneak preview! http://ow.ly/P0P7z http://ow.ly/i/bzWj6

Math People

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

What makes a “math person”? What is it that causes people to pursue majors and careers in math and other STEM disciplines where mathematics is crucial to success?

The National Science Foundation has recently supported a study by Professor Zahra Hazari at Florida International University’s STEM Transformation Institute. Professor Hazari worked with colleagues at Harvard University and Western Kentucky University to interview over 9000 college students taking calculus.

Love_math_1What they found was that it’s not simply about math competence and confidence. Students reported that they developed interest and positive attitudes toward math, and had received recognition from family, teachers and other students. So they responded positively when asked if they saw themselves as a “math person”.

According to Professor Haazari, “We really have to engage students in more meaningful ways through their own interests and help them overcome challenges and recognize them for doing so. If we want to empower students and provide access to STEM careers, it can’t just be about confidence and performance. Attitudes and personal motivation matters immensely.”

Some recommendations for teachers:

  • Have high standards
  • Be generous with praise
  • Look for ways to connect math to the real world

These are good recommendations for all students in math courses, not just those who end up as “math people”. The point here is that both weaker students and the stronger students benefit from encouragement and engagement.

A blog about the study, including a link to the full report “Establishing an Explanatory Model for Mathematics Identity”, can be found at the NEA Today web site:

http://neatoday.org/2015/06/23/in-praise-of-the-math-person

Curriki has developed courses in Algebra, Geometry and Calculus for high school students with support from AT&T for the first two and Huawei, for the Calculus course. These adhere to standards, and are project-based, to help make the subjects more relevant to the outside world. You can find those courses here:

algebra1

> Algebra 

> Geometry 

> Calculus 

Check them out!