Friday, January 16, 2009

Ideas Worth Borrowing, cont.

Here's another great idea that's free for the taking: In my hometown of Portland, Ore., ordinary folks with a passing interest in spider venom, say, or nanotechnology are gathering in our local brewpubs to talk science. Science pub nights, for the 21-and-over crowd, are the focus of this recent Oregonian article. Expert speakers guide the conversation, but the tone is strictly informal. As coordinator Nancy Lapotin explains, "It brings science to the people." Portland Public Schools is also hosting informal science cafes where teens can talk about science with experts. It adds up to a citywide conversation about all things scientific. Francis Eberle, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, hasn't heard of any other communities where this is happening--yet.
Photo by Nic McPhee, Creative Commons

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ideas Worth Borrowing

Charlie Roy, blogging at Souly Catholic, describes how teachers and administrators have rallied to dramatically cut the rate of students failing courses at his Illinois high school. Their goal was an ambitious 50 percent reduction, but they're on track to do much better. So far, they have reduced course failures by 75 percent compared to last year.
The successful game plan starts with student support teams that include an administrator, counselor, and two teachers. As soon as a student starts slipping academically, the team responds with a fast plan of action that includes strategic interventions, measurable goals, and regular follow up. The individualized, student-centered approach seems key to success. As Roy explains, "The effectiveness of the interventions was tied to the strength of the relationship created between the team and their students."
Not only are students achieving positive results, but staff are experiencing the benefits of collaboration. Regular team meeting times and online collaboration (via Google docs) support ongoing conversations. They've shifted from worrying about kids to putting their collective energy into designing ideas that work, from mini-courses to peer tutoring. When you see staff members making friendly side wagers about their ideas, you know they're invested.