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Shyamalan “Got Schooled”

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The National Press Club hosted a luncheon with the internationally recognized film writer and director, M. Night Shyamalan. Shyamalan has written and directed many movies including The Sixth Sense (1999), which was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture. How is this Hollywood superstar related to education reform? Shyamalan recently published a book, I Got Schooled, based solely on empirical data to a solution to close the existing education gap in the United States that exists between the success of students in inner city schools compared to their suburban counter parts.

In 2007, Shyamalan was scouting two schools in Philadelphia as locations for a movie when he came across the horrifying discrepancies that existed in schools. He became intrigued with the issue and spent four years attempting to collect and organize data on the differences in schools.

Inspired by the idea that humans only need to do five basic things to stay healthy for a lifetime, Shyamalan utilized the data he collected to uncover a five-item solution that all schools could implement in be successful in providing a sustainable education for all students. The five things he developed are (1) a loud and consistent culture of strong leadership (2) properly trained teachers (3) consistent data collection on effective practices (4) more time in a school setting, and (5) small schools.

Shyamalan describes that all five factors are necessary, and no one item is sufficient on its own or without another. It is important for principals to spend their time teaching the teachers and utilizing the entire school to maintain a culture of growth, instead of relying one classroom alone to provide a fulfilling education for students. Teachers need to be trained “like a navy seal” in order to be successful in the schools, and currently teachers and principals are being held

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Parent Powered Technology

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Education experts gathered at the New America Foundation this morning to offer remarks and panel discussion on the subject “Anytime, Anywhere Summer Learning: Connecting Young Children and Their Families to Early Literacy Opportunities.”

Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy Roberto Rodriguez, National Summer Learning Association CEO Sarah Pitcock, and NYU Professor of Early Childhood and Literacy Education Susan Neuman, among others, shared insights into the opportunities and obstacles of applying technology to combat the effects of summer learning loss.

The “summer slide,” as it’s called, marks both the reversal of academic gains made during the year and a further wedge between the educational outcomes of students from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds. As the panelists observed, students of middle and upper income families often continue to engage in learning opportunities outside the classroom–reading books at home, taking trips to museums, joining storytelling groups at libraries, etc.– while those from lower income families lose access to such academic stimulation over the summer and regress 2-3 months in core proficiencies.

Michael Levine, Founding Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, observed that there is “no new dose of some magical concoction” to undo and prevent the slide, and Ms. Pitcock added that even “an 8-week comprehensive summer program is not the best fit for every child and family.” Rather, the need is for “a variety of solutions.”

In discussing these solutions, the panelists delved into the question “What role does and should technology play?”

Terri Clark of Read on Arizona (fittingly using technology to join the event via Skype) outlined a recent initiative to establish a “digital library” accessible to all students of the Grand Canyon State, and multiple panelists spoke enthusiastically of the potential benefits of rolling out reading apps, expanding technology resources at libraries

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Cesar Chavez Annual Senior Thesis Symposium

Every year Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools, located in the Washington, DC area, have their annual senior thesis symposium. Starting in the ninth grade, Chavez scholars are introduced to the topic of public policy and up until their senior year they participate in several activities that involve public policy. For example, in the ninth grade scholars participate in a community action project (CAP), which takes place during the last two weeks of school. CAP allows scholars to select a public policy topic and collect information on that topic through various methods. When I was in the ninth grade my class chose obesity/healthy eating as our topic. Obesity is a major disorder that is rapidly spreading to the youth more and more each year. My class took recognition in that and decided that we wanted to educate our community on the disorder. Obesity is the result of unhealthy eating; therefore learning about healthy eating as well would only strengthen our argument.

Scholars complete another community action project in the tenth grade, and then once they enter the eleventh grade they participate in fellowship. This year I participate in fellowship, which is similar to an internship with the only exception being that instead of getting paid we receive academic credit. Chavez has partnered with various non-profit organizations as well as government agencies over the years that have agreed to provide fellowship opportunities for their scholars. My fellowship organization is The Center for Education Reform, whose main focus is improving the education system into a system that can sustain for years to come. Each fellowship has a connection with public policy therefore scholars are constantly learning about issues that impact the country. Following the fellowship is the senior class thesis in which scholars select a public policy topic to write a ten to

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