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Need to Know, February 11, 2011: Ahead of the class

As the nation debates how to get the best performance out of students and teachers, Need to Know presents an hour devoted to success stories in teaching. The program highlights three dramatic stories of academic transformation – focusing on literacy, physical education and science education.

Watch the individual segments:

School of thought in Brockton, Mass.

In 1998, when Massachusetts implemented new standardized testing, administrators at Brockton High School, the largest public school in the state, learned that more than 75 percent of their 4,000 students would fail to graduate. But thanks to a small group of dedicated teachers who implemented a school-wide program to bring reading and writing lessons into every classroom, even gym, Brockton is now one of the highest performing schools in the state.

A physical education in Naperville

While physical education has been drastically cut back across the country — in response to budget concerns and test score pressures — Naperville Central High School, in the Chicago suburbs, has embraced a culture of fitness: PE is a daily, graded requirement. And for one group of struggling students, there’s an innovative program to schedule PE right before their most challenging classes. In the six years since that program started, students who signed up for PE directly before English read on average a half year ahead of those who didn’t, and students who took PE before math showed dramatic improvement in their standardized tests.

Good chemistry

Most people agree that for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global economy, we need more people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). But today, two-thirds of college students who start out majoring in the sciences end up switching concentrations. One university in Maryland is bucking that trend. Under the leadership of Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is transforming the way science is taught, emphasizing lab settings and small group problem solving. The results: more students majoring in subjects like chemistry and more students passing the class. The University has also been a leader in minority achievement in STEM fields. In the school’s Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which focuses on high-achieving minority students, nearly 90 percent graduate with degrees in science or engineering.

Education roundtable

Alison Stewart leads a lively discussion with education reformers about practical solutions that work. Panelists include: Dr. Susan Szachowicz, principal of Brockton High School in Massachusetts and one of the reform leaders; Zakiyah Ansari, parent leader with the Coalition for Educational Justice in New York; and Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at New York University and author of “The Trouble with Black Boys…And Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education.

In Perspective

Why access to a good public education is the civil rights issue of our time. An essay by Jon Meacham.

Web Exclusive Segments

Girl mathletes run the numbers

While opportunities for women in the sciences have grown, women remain a minority in co-ed math competitions. But at this prestigious high school-level math contest, the winner is guaranteed to be a girl.

Brockton’s retired teachers devise a script for success

Brockton High School’s principal and three retired teachers brainstorm to come up with a “script” for those looking to replicate the school’s success.

Getting kids out of their seats

At Naperville Central High, a suburban school outside of Chicago, educators are committed to combining movement with learning. In many classrooms here, teachers are getting their kids up using “brain breaks.” The idea is that splitting up a lesson with exercises will help kids stay more focused and attentive. And educators here say it doesn’t cost a penny.

Share your education ideas!

If you’re an educator and you have one practical idea that can be implemented in a classroom to help students, then take part in our Education Ideas project. Upload a video that discusses your idea to our YouTube channel, and we’ll pick some of the best ones to showcase on our website, and possibly our national broadcast.
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