Five for Friday: Updates in Education

A new President means new policy, and the Obama administration has hit the ground running. This week we highlight national education news that we hope President Obama will take into consideration, as well as featuring some exceptional work by individuals in the field.
*After receiving a grant from the National Geographic Education Foundation, My Wonderful World Public Engagement Coordinator and University of Colorado (Colorado Springs) professor Rebecca Theobald plans to expand geography offerings in K-12 classrooms with her colleague Steve Jennings. Their task list includes professional development for teachers in geography education and explaining how geography plays an essential role for students in 21st century learning.  

*Is Borat a better mathematician than American students?  According to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) released at the end of 2008, he should be. Kazakhstan was just one of several nations that trumped the U.S. in math and science skills.  While the U.S. falls just barely in the top 10 for each of these subjects, it begs us to question the state of our entire educational system when considered alongside the 2006 Roper Poll on geographic literacy.

*The Louisiana endowment for the humanities awarded Cathy Mills, a middle school art and history teacher, with the prestigious Humanities Teacher of the Year award for her interdisciplinary project-based lessons.  Most notably (to My Wonderful World), Cathy organized a trip of sixth-grade lobbyists to visit the state Capitol.  The proposed bill?  Legislation that would endow geography education.

*The Senate confirmed Arne Duncan as U.S. Secretary of Education earlier in the week. We’re eager to see how Secretary Duncan deals with nation-wide dissent over the No Child Left Behind Act, along with the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental legislation, a policy initiative supported by the National Geographic Education Foundation.

*The University of Maryland (UMD) is reporting that study abroad participation and interest has increased steadily over the past decade.  In fact, the Institute of International Education reports an 8% rise in study abroad participation from the 06-07 academic year to the 07-08 academic year. Yet, while UMD boasts increased interest from its student body, will the number of students who actually participate in study abroad programs for 08-09 year remain strong? Should President Obama take steps to ensure that cross-cultural exchange programs prosper (thrive?) in the face of an economic crisis? Let us know what you think!

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