‘Curlfriends: New In Town’ reminds us that there can be positives of middle school

Middle school. For teens, tweens, and their parents, the two words can evoke heavy doses of anxiety, fear, even horror.
Kids are, all of sudden, really growing up. Their bodies are changing in unexpected ways; they’re shedding some of their childhood interests and styles, and trying on new ones, for better and — sometimes — for worse. Friendships form, are torn apart, recalibrate. Crushes abound. In the classroom, academic expectations amplify.
But some books — like the new graphic novel, Curlfriends: New In Town, the first volume in a debut young adult series written and drawn by author and artist Sharee Miller — remind us of the many possibilities and excitements interwoven within those challenging years.
The book follows 12-year-old Charlie Harper, beginning around her first day of middle school, which she transfers into three weeks after the year has started. Charlie has spent most of her young life abroad, moving from school to school as her family followed her father’s job in ..

Schools keep buying online drop-in tutoring. Research doesn’t support it.

Ever since schools reopened and resumed in-person instruction, districts have been trying to help students catch up from pandemic learning losses. The Biden Administration has urged schools to use tutoring. Many schools have purchased an online version that gives students 24/7 access to tutors. Typically, communication is through text chat, similar to communicating with customer service on a website. Students never see their tutors or hear their voices.
Researchers estimate that billions have been spent on these online tutoring services, but so far, there’s no good evidence that they are helping many students catch up. And many students need extra help. According to the most recent test scores from spring 2023, 50% more students are below grade level than before the pandemic; even higher achieving students remain months behind where they should be.
Low uptake
The main problem is that on-demand tutoring relies on students to seek extra help. Very few do. Some school systems have rep..

School ed tech money mostly gets wasted. Utah has a solution. 

Last year, Brandi Pitts’ kindergarten students were struggling with a software program meant to help them with math. The tool was supposed to enable teachers to tailor their instruction to individual students’ learning needs, but even the kids with strong math skills weren’t doing well.
At a training session this summer, Pitts, a teacher at Oakdale Elementary in Sandy, Utah, learned why: The program works best when teachers supervise kids rather than sending them off to do exercises on their own. Her school had received free software licenses through a state-funded project, but she’d initially missed the formal instruction on how to use the program because she was out sick.
“A lot of times with education, we have to figure things out on our own,” she said. “But having that training, I’m so much more encouraged that I can improve my teaching.”
School systems spend tens of billions of dollars each year on ed tech products, but much of that money is wasted. Educators, who are rarely ..