New findings: U.S. squarely in middle on many global education indicators
From pre-kindergarten through graduate school, the education system in the United States faces tough competition from the rest of the world, a new study found.

The study made public Tuesday by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows other nations are catching up and in many cases have surpassed the United States at many levels, from pre-kindergarten enrollment to the percentage of adults with advanced degrees.
OECD's annual " Education at a Glance" report finds, for instance, that 41% of 3-year-olds in the U.S. are enrolled in pre-kindergarten. Among all OECD countries, the average is 72%.

For 4-year-olds in the United State, the number rises to 66%, but still falls below the OECD average of 88%.
Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's deputy director for education and skills, said the gap in pre-school enrollment - as well as other factors - isn't necessarily because things have gotten worse in the U.S.. "There has just been enormous progress" elsewhere in the world, he said.    >>READ MORE 
No Child Left Behind?
After a long stalemate, a bipartisan team of congressional negotiators has agreed to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law, currently known as No Child Left Behind, sends roughly $14 billion a year to schools that serve mostly low-income students.

Here's what we know about the rough agreement. First, annual testing - a major feature of NCLB - would remain for grades three through eight and at least once in high school. Schools would still have to test 95 percent of their students and report the results by race, income and special need.

Delia Pompa, former vice president with the National Council of La Raza, says this requirement is crucial.

"It is the mechanism that brought to light how children in subgroups - I'm talking about Latinos, African-Americans, children in poverty, limited English-proficient children - how they're doing."

As for what would change, the U.S. education secretary could no longer push for academic standards like the Common Core or mandate that teachers be evaluated based on things like student test scores.
10 STEM-Based Activities For Computer Science Education Week
While parents and teachers alike will be busy with holiday activities throughout the month of December, they should mark their calendars from December 7-13th for Computer Science Education Week. The week, held in recognition of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who would have been 109 on December 9th, is an annual program dedicated to inspiring students from kindergarten to grade 12 to take an interest in computer science.

It's a time for parents and educators to promote and encourage STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in fun and accessible ways. One way is through's Hour of Code, which provides simple games and modules designed to keep kids' interest and teach basic coding in only 60 minutes. From modules featuring Frozen's Elsa and Anna, to lessons on how to build an iPhone game there is something for every age and every skill level.    >>READ MORE 
Microsoft Corp. has partnered with to use its popular-computer game, Minecraft, to help students learn computer programming with the creation of a 14-level tutorial.

Soon enough, the tutorial will be available online for kids to use right away to learn computer programming skills.

"Kids will be able to go to's website and find a tutorial with 14 levels of Minecraft including a free-play board, said Deirdre Quarnstrom, director of Minecraft education at Microsoft, which is's biggest financial backer," according to Bloomberg.

The tutorial is part of's Hour of Code tutorials, which uses well-known forms of entertainment to get kids into computer programming during Computer Science Education week, which this year is Dec. 7 -13.

Minecraft was, according to's founder Hadi Partovi, the most popular request from students and parents.
"The open-ended nature of Minecraft's game play will help teach students programming skills that have been hard to demonstrate with previous lessons that involved guiding a character through a fixed landscape," Bloomberg said.
To Measure What Tests Can't, Some Schools Turn To Surveys   
Last year, Susan Avey, the principal of Bogle Junior High School in Chandler, Ariz., had a heart-to-heart with one of her new teachers about how he was relating to students.

In a previous year, this might have been a conversation based on subjective impressions. The teacher might have gotten defensive. But this year, Avey had a new tool up her sleeve: a survey of her students.

"He came in to talk to me and said, 'I felt like I had really good relationships with kids, but reading my comments, I was surprised that I wasn't rated as highly.' "

Drilling down into the results, they found that the teacher's relationships with girls, specifically, were weaker than those with the boys. The teacher was also a coach, and it turned out he liked to use a lot of sports analogies in class. Maybe that habit was missing the mark with non-sports enthusiasts?

This little data-driven aha moment is happening more often at schools around the country.    >>READ MORE 
15 Classroom Holiday Party Ideas To Help You Ring In Winter Break  
The end of first semester can be hectic for teachers, with students turning in final projects in a series of never ending deadlines. With all that grading and lesson planning, a holiday party can be the last thing on teachers' minds.

Teachers, let us take party planning off your plate. We scoured Pinterest for the merriest classroom party ideas around. From holiday crafts to Grinch-tastic games, these activities will bring your students good cheer. 
Kevin Karr Kept Carl Cart's Car Parts

Carrie Carries Kerry Curry's Cookie Cutter

Brian Brennan Brands Brennan Baron's Brown Baked Beans

Build your school's spirit this year with a large, custom display banner. Call M. H. West & Co., Inc. for pricing and size options.    ( 804.782.1938)

M. H. West & Co., Inc. now accepts payments through PayPal for your convenience. 
I teach biology to students who recently immigrated to the United States and are just learning English. It feels like a Sisyphean task -- teaching biology, a science loaded with complex vocabulary such as mitosis, protein synthesis, replication, cohesion, ecosystem, commensalism... the list goes on -- to students who are just learning how to say "tree" and "sun" in English and how to hear the difference between the long "e" and short "i" vowel sounds. The challenge doesn't stop there. At the end of the year, my students take the standardized state test for biology that assesses their ability to recall vocab-laden details, such as the differences between archaebacteria and protista.   >>READ MORE 
Starting a new job is always tough - no matter the profession. But the first year for a new teacher can be brutal.

Research shows that roughly one teacher in 10 will quit by the end of that first year, and the toughest time - for many - is right now. In fact, this season is so famously hard on teachers that it even has a name ...
Seeing Promise in Early Education, Sonoma Valley District Expands Preschool Programs  
Watching over her noisy Sonoma Valley preschool classroom, director Sonya Valiente described what her 24 young charges learn.

"Circle time, singing, being able to sit - a big thing is social skills," she said. "When they have a problem with another kid, they are able to handle it. We give them the tools."

Nearby, Miriam Gutierrez, a parent, scooped sand with her daughter and several other children. Parents at the preschool, located on the El Verano Elementary School campus, are asked to volunteer at least four hours a month in the classroom.  >>READ MORE 


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Feb 8-9, St. Louis, MO

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Mar 7-10, Austin, TX 

M. H. West & Co., Inc.'s Chair & CEO, Marilyn West discusses current topics of interest every Monday in our free publication, Marilyn's Monday Morning Message (M4). 
Too often we give children answers to remember
rather than problems to solve
. - Roger Lewin

Grandparents sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.
- Alex Haley