America’s record-high grad rate isn’t so impressive

Might say more about the education system than the kids.


The Education Department trumpeted this week that the nation’s high school graduation rate has reached a record high…of 81 percent.

Viewed another way, the data shows that nearly one in five students who started high school in 2009 didn’t graduate four years later.

While that’s not a bad stat as far as the U.S. is concerned, it’s pretty awful compared to other wealthy countries around the world.

Here are seven countries with better high school graduation rates than the U.S.*

1. Slovenia – 96 percent

With a population of just 2.1 million, the country is working with far fewer students than the U.S. But it’s also getting them through school at a much higher rate.

2. Germany – 95 percent

German boys are slightly more likely than German girls to complete high school, but either way, the country ranks high when it comes to graduation rates.

3. Iceland – 95…

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Science Book a Day Interviews Christine McKinley

Girl scientist

Science Book a Day


Special thanks to Christine McKinley for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – Physics for Rock Stars: Making the Laws of the Universe Work for You

Christine McKinley is a mechanical engineer, musician, and author. Her musical Gracie and the Atom, won a Portland Drammy for Original Score. Her book Physics for Rock Stars will be available June 3, 2014. Christine hosted Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on History Channel and Under New York on Discovery Channel. – From Christine’s Homepage

Christine’s Homepage:
Christine’s Twitter:

#1 – What was the impetus for Physics for Rock Stars? Why do rock stars need to know about physics?

Everyone should know the basic laws of motion and energy. Even rock stars. We can’t do anything to change them, so we need to know and work with them. There are so many smart, creative people who don’t know how the universe works. They…

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Shakespeare was in somebody’s English class

“The process of having original ideas that have value” – definition of creativity.

Creativity is as important as literacy – “many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not” … because what they’re good at was stigmatised at school … we need to radically review the way we think about intelligence … intelligence is dynamic. Some people have to move to think.

Why are the arts are at the bottom of the education hierarchy of importance … throughout the world?

Kids are willing to have a go before they learn that mistakes are a no-no, e.g., quote from nativity play …

“Frank said this”… Frankincense.

If you are not willing to make a mistake then you will never have an original thought.

The tough ones show up for a reason, it’s the connection – the power of connection

“How do I raise the self-esteem and the academic achievement of these students at the same time?”
She taught her kids: “I am somebody… I was somebody when I came … I’ll be a better somebody when I leave …”

Kid who got an F and a smiley face asked why she put a smiley face on the paper and she replied you’re on the road, is that ok? Kid says: “Minus 18 sucks all the life otta ya, plus two says I ain’t all bad!”

“All learning is understanding relationships” … “seeking first to understand rather than to be understood” …

When Shakespeare committed word crimes


Shakespeare coined new words when he needed — or merely wanted — them. Can you guess which words were invented by the Bard?

English heading into the sixteenth century was a makeshift, cobbled-together thing. No fewer than eight conquering peoples had added to our vocabulary and shaped our syntax. But the Brits were doing more than just borrowing, swiping and outright stealing words from other languages. Versifiers like Chaucer let newfangled words from the street amble onto the literary stage – newfangled and amble being two of them.

By the time Elizabethan dramatists sought expression for ever-more sophisticated sentiments, crowds cheered their linguistic daring.

A short list of verbs invented by the Bard:


Shakespeare also minted new metaphors, many now cliches, but fresh in his time:

it’s Greek to me
played fast and loose
slept not one wink
seen better days

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Dragons and Unicorns

Chimney stacks
Gladstone Power Station – what is the thing that defines your city?

Got the job on a Wednesday. Started teaching on the Monday: 4 days to get from Brissie to Gladstone & find a place to live.

“Your first year of teaching will be full on,” one of my supervising teachers warned me in 2013.

– She wasn’t wrong.

I think I had about three weekends off during school terms last year. I worked mornings before school. I worked evenings after school. I worked Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. I worked for half of the holidays. So I only found my way to the Gladstone Powerhouse towards the end of the year when I took a wrong turn and got lost. It was a happy circumstance because I had wanted to see this thing close up. The thing that defined Gladstone – power … and the Boyne River seemed to be the dragon and unicorn of this part of the universe.

The energy and resources industries of this regional Queensland town permeate everything – the presence of the Boyne Island Smelter workers in their fluorescent jackets in the shopping centres reminded everyone what sustained life in Gladstone, seven days a week.

Surprisingly, industry wasn’t the first thing to define this place for me. The abundance of wildlife from echidna to eagles, sea slugs, kangaroos … all living in close proximity to suburbia. But suburbia was expanding, sprawling its tentacles, just like Brisbane where these days the bird life is limited to crows, myna birds, some parrots and maybe a kookaburra or two.

In Year 8 English novel studies, I asked students to show me how eagles fly and then show me how crows fly. Most of them had no idea. The lesson was about character traits. Teaching a child to observe is important in any subject. This was about comparing real life with fiction to find truth. Observation is a skill we develop from early childhood. But “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see,” as Henry David Thoreau, a philosopher, writer and environmentalist once said.

“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” –

Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde.

At the start of 3rd term, I handed out cards titled Little Moments Big Memories and asked them to write list all the good things that happened to them at the end of each week. They sat there stumped. They could not think of one thing. In the final week of the Year 8 Medieval Europe Unit, I gave my students blank A3 sheets with grid lines to design a Medieval Europe Snakes and Ladders game from all they learned. I started a brainstorm on the board and then handed the whiteboard markers to them.

Dragons & Unicorns
Year 8 History brainstorm for a snakes and ladders Medieval Europe game. (2014)

They renamed the game, Dragons and Unicorns. It was brilliant! I really do believe that children need dragons and unicorns to exist – as much as dragons and unicorns need children. That was one of my little moments, big memories from 2014.

What are you looking at?
Sad to think that 12-13-year-olds couldn’t list down a few good things that happened to them during the week.