Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Crisis In School Culture?
A new survey by opinion research group Public Agenda (info here) has found that many black and hispanic students often view school as a frightening, dangerous, and out-of-control place where little learning is going on:
It's not the kind of atmosphere most adults would find helpful if they needed to study and learn -- high dropout rates, kids promoted without learning, schools short on money, profanity and disrespect, fighting, drug and alcohol abuse. Yet these are "very serious" problems in schools, according to surprisingly large numbers of the nation's black and Hispanic students. These results are from Public Agenda's 2006 Reality Check surveys of parents, students, teachers and administrators nationwide.Read the whole eye-opening thing and see for yourself. MSM coverage here.
According to the student survey, about three in ten black youngsters report very serious levels of disruption and unrest in their schools -- not just "somewhat serious," but "very serious." Black students (40%) are twice as likely as white students (18%) to say that "schools not getting enough money to do the job" is a very serious problem in their community. Nearly a third of black and Hispanic youngsters (29%) say that "only some" or "very few" of their teachers give students extra help when they fall behind, compared with one in five white students.
"Reality Check’s" surveys of students show repeated and troubling differences between the way minority youngsters describe their experiences in schools compared to what white students report. Asked to rate their schools on a range of key academic and social dimensions, black and Hispanic students are more likely to report "very serious" problems in nearly every category. Twenty-three percent of Hispanic students and 39% of black students say that kids dropping out is a very serious problem at their school, compared to 12% of whites. Likewise, 29% of Hispanics and 37% of blacks say truancy is a very serious problem, compared to 14% of whites.
Just half of black students (49%) believe that they will have the skills to succeed in college by the time they get there. And while it may be an unfortunate fact of modern life that youngsters across the board say problems like disrespect for teachers, profanity and drug and alcohol abuse are at least "somewhat serious" in their schools, these problems appear more prevalent and troubling for minority students. About 3 in 10 black students report very serious levels of unrest and distraction in their schools.
The Knucklehead Of The Day: Ms. Crank Call
Today's Knucklehead has got to be the Shreveport, Louisiana middle school teacher who, while in the presence of students, allegedly left a threatening voice mail message on a youngster's cell phone:
A Caddo Parish middle school teacher has been arrested on charges she threatened a teenager who had been dating one of her students.President Bush was unavailable for comment.
Police said the threatening call was made during the teacher's class in front of other students.
Vicki Garland, a teacher at Ridgewood Middle School, was arrested this afternoon by Shreveport police. Garland, 51, of Benton, went to police headquarters with her lawyer and was booked on misdemeanor charges of making a harassing phone call.
The alleged victim, 16-year-old Bryan Litton, said a threatening message was left on his cell phone earlier this month. The call regarded the boy's ex-girlfriend, police said.
"Hey, Ryan, I want you to leave, I want you leave Julia alone," the caller said. "I want you to stop calling her, because if you don't I'm going to come to your house and I'm going to break every bone in your body, put you in a box and ship you to the president of the United States. You hear me. You leave her alone. I mean it."
Giggling could be heard in the background -- but the 16-year-old boy's father, Scott Litton, isn't amused.
"You don't want to overreact, but you don't want to under-react, either," he said. "You don't really know how serious to take it."
Litton called police and school officials. Garland was suspended with pay during the investigation.
We American public school teachers oftentimes think that we have it tough.
It may be time to reconsider.
These primary school teachers in the African nation of Swaziland truly have it tough.
Sadly, it seems as though the "administrative run-around" is universal.
The 69th edition of the Carnival of Education is being hosted over at Education In Texas. The presentation of this week's exhibits has a decidedly risqué flavor.
For Extra Credit, check out the Homies over at The Carnival of Homeschooling.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The Spellings Report: From Russia With Love!
Our globe-trotting EduCrat in chief is off on another
I'm honored to be here in Russia with my G8 counterparts to discuss the importance of education and our shared challenge and responsibility to ensure our students are equipped with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. I also look forward to visiting with Russian and American students and educators on language initiatives and math and science education while in Moscow.While Spellings meets and greets in Red Square, I wonder if she's aware of the sad fact that many schools (like this one) around the country have had to cancel their field trips due to the high cost of fuel?
In today's global economy, math, science, and foreign language skills are the common currency everyone needs to succeed. And our education systems must keep pace with the times. I look forward to working together to improve education in all our nations and to foster new partnerships and exchanges in the future.
For kids from less-advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, a school field trip may well be the only opportunity that they have to visit some far-off interesting place or historical site.
I doubt that Spellings even cares about any of that. After all, field trips aren't on the standardized tests that kids all over the country must take.
But of course unpleasant realities such as the need to cancel out-of-town travel due to rising fuel costs, the lack of funding in many districts for "extras," such as music and arts programs, as well as the very real feeling that there is a general belt-tightening all-across the EduWorld doesn't apply to ivory tower EduCrats such as Spellings and her pack of well-fed, office-dwelling, wouldn't-work-with-real-children-on-a-bet, minions.
At whatever level, be it federal or state, the denizens of the EduCracy always find a justification for cutting "extras" for other people's children. Just as long as those sacrifices don't apply to their own offspring or expense accounts.
Attn EduCrats and Academics: Those of you who would never actually consider working with kids should think about reading this great post by Alice in Eduland; it's an eye-opener.
Math Monday: A New Paradigm For Parental Choice
Now here's a novel method for schools to use when choosing a math program: Let the parents be the deciders:
ALPINE, Utah (AP) -- The Alpine School District will allow elementary schools to choose between two math programs after years of complaints that a new, progressive curriculum wasn't emphasizing enough of the basics.Fuzzy Math or Traditional Math? Parents in Alpine can now take their pick. But no matter which approach that a given set of parents choose, I'd be willing to bet that students will still be complaining about the amount of homework.
The "Investigations" math curriculum was adopted in 2000 and the district has heard complaints ever since. Some parents claimed the program gives too little emphasis to memorizing multiplication tables and learning long division.
"There were strong advocates for and against the program," assistant superintendent Gary Seastrand said. "Those who were against it felt the system had made a central decision. There were parents and teachers who did not buy into it or like it."
Parents unhappy with the program formed a network to advocate for a restructured math curriculum in the district, which serves nearly 70,000 students. Some dissatisfied parents have transferred their children from Alpine public schools to private, charter or home schools.
"Everyone is excited that Alpine has finally listened to parents after five long years, (during) three of which our children were not taught the times tables under Investigations math," American Fork resident Oak Norton said. "I think it's a mistake for them to offer it in the future, as there are much better programs that work for visual learners."
The feud is part of a national argument between those who want the basics in the classroom and those who emphasize concepts and use estimation and calculators.
Seastrand said a committee will review math programs and choose two for the district in time for the 2007-08 school year. He estimated the cost of obtaining new math materials at around $2 million.
"This is a door that has opened," he said. "We just want to get out of the divisiveness. We believe the school-choice option is better for local patrons. They'll have an opportunity to be involved in the conversation."
The Prank Report: The Freudian Slip?
A group of would-be high school "pranksters" in South Florida used some gasoline in an effort to pull a stunt that is Freudian in it's implications:
Pranksters set fire to a high school football field Wednesday night or early Thursday, burning a phallic symbol into the grass.Heh. As no one has been busted, handcuffed, or disciplined as a result of the peccadillo, it remains unknown if the motive behind the vandalism was a somewhat flacid attempt to enhance male genital awareness or simply work hand-in-glove with those V-Warriors who promote V-Day.
"It was a 15-foot outline of male genitalia," said Miramar Police spokesman Bill Robertson.
A vandal burned the shape into one of the end zones at Everglades High School just in time for the last day of school. The fire was out by the time school employees arrived at work Thursday morning.
Police aren't laughing at the apparent joke, and are looking for the culprits.
"Even though they consider it an end-of-the-school-year prank, we're taking it very seriously," Robertson said.
It appears someone squirted accelerant onto the grass and lighted it. When the accelerant finished burning, the fire went out, left the outline and caused no other damage, Robertson said.
Beware The NCLB Chain Letter!
The EduCrats over at the U.S. Department of Education aren't laughing about a prank email that's been causing quite a bit of consternation lately. Let's take a little peek:
False statements regarding graduation requirements and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) are being circulated via e-mail. These e-mails are inaccurate, could lead to misunderstanding, and need to be corrected.Heh. Now I wonder who out there in the EduSphere dislikes Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings enough to
The hoax e-mails contain numerous inaccuracies, including the relationship between state graduation requirements and No Child Left Behind, the ability to receive federal loans, and descriptions of state law and schools in Indiana and Illinois.
Each state sets its own requirements for high school diplomas, General Educational Development tests (GED) and "Certificates of Completion." NCLB does not change those state definitions, but does require, for NCLB purposes, that states calculate a graduation rate that is based on a "regular high school diploma." In practice, this means that a GED or "Certificate of Completion" does not count positively in the graduation rate calculation.
Similarly, most colleges and most trade schools require a high school diploma or its equivalent for entrance, so anyone holding a certificate of completion would need to go back and complete the necessary academic requirements to get a diploma before they can apply for admission to the school, and apply for federal student aid. This requirement existed before the No Child Left Behind Act.
In addition, according to Indiana officials, there are several inaccuracies about Indiana in the e-mails. For example, there is not a Lake Ridge Elementary School in that state, nor did any Indiana high school issue 82 "Certificates of Course Completion." Rather, according to the Indiana Department of Education, the maximum number of such certificates issued last year was 29, in a high school with 385 graduates. According to Indiana education officials, a GED, a certificate of completion, a certificate of course completion, or a certificate by any other name does not terminate a person's right to pursue a high school diploma under Indiana law. There are similar inaccuracies about Illinois.
The e-mails also include the erroneous claim that NCLB was "revised" in 2004. In fact, NCLB was enacted on January 8, 2002, and is not scheduled for reauthorization until 2007.
Starting From Behind
It seems as though some parents are choosing to enroll their children in kindergarten a year late; they seem to think that it helps kids with reading and math. But it doesn't.
Carnival Entries Are Due!
Entries for the 69th midway of The Carnival Of Education are due TODAY over at this week's guest host, Education In Texas. Please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org . Submissions should be received no later than 9:00 PM (Central), 7:00 PM (Pacific). Please include the title of your site's post, and its URL if possible. View last week's edition, guest hosted by NYC Educator, right here and the Carnival archives over there.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, the carnival's midway should open over at Education In Texas Wednesday.
The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!
Each and every week, Watcher of Weasels sponsors a contest among posts from the Conservative side of the 'Sphere. The winning entries are determined by a jury of 12 writers (and The Watcher) known as "The Watchers Council."
The Council has met and cast their ballots for last week's submitted posts.
Council Member Entries: Gates of Vienna took first place with their entry, Let Us Make Them All Welcome. The Glittering Eye came in second with Assessing the Threat At Our Southern Border.
Non-Council Entries: The Anchoress garnered the most votes with The Essential President Bush. Sigmund, Carl & Alfred placed second with SC&A Vent.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Memorial Day 2006
Today is the day in which we honor those Americans who have made the supreme sacrifice on their nation's behalf. Even though written by Canadian Doctor John McRae in 1915, I can think of no other words that convey the true meaning of this day:
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In the poem, it was the loss of huge numbers of Belgian, French, and British soldiers on the battlefields of World War I that Dr. McRae was speaking so elequently of. But I believe that his lines enduringly speak to the universality of war and its human costs.
See more about the red poppies that grew then (and now) in Flanders fields here.
To see what price Iraq's Fields thus far, click here.
A Universal Retail Dilemma
Community college professor Mamacita takes a whimsical look at a problem that confronts many of us:
How times have changed!
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Student Suspended For Sharing Caffeine Gum
When I first saw the title of this story from Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, I thought that it was one of the more idiotic administrative decisions that has come down the pike in recent years. And then I took a look at the story itself:
A middle school student was suspended for three days for sharing chewing gum because it contained caffeine, school officials said.One of the things that I've learned from my own classroom experience is how teenaged students often become "classroom lawyers." That is to say, they've become experts at "splitting hairs" in an attempt to evade the consequences by saying that the disciplinary guidelines don't apply to them in their particular circumstance.
The girl, whose name and age were not released, gave another Huston Middle School student Jolt gum. The gum is "a stimulant that has no other redeeming quality," said Amy Palermo, schools superintendent.
Products acting as a stimulant are prohibited and possessing them is grounds for disciplinary action, and the suspension was mainly based on the girl's decision to share the gum, she said.
"What if the gum had been given to a student with a heart condition?" Palermo said Thursday.
The school has soda machines, but they aren't turned on during school hours and drinks containing caffeine aren't sold in the lunchroom.
Jolt is manufactured by GumRunners LLC of Hackensack, N.J., and is marketed as a caffeine-energy gum.
For example, it's very common to catch a student in class munching a piece of candy. When caught by the teacher, they'll sometimes say that the rules forbid chewing gum, but don't say anything about candy.
I wonder if this was what the young lady who was distributing the caffeine-laced gum was doing. On their website, Jolt Gum boasts that "2 pcs of Jolt Gum= 1 cup of coffee."
Clearly, this product's chief (perhaps only) marketing "hook" is the fact that it is loaded with caffeine.
Since using "NoDoz" and other caffeine stimulates clearly violate school policy, I suspect that the students involved were indeed attempting to get "a little insurance" should they be caught.
Was suspending the student for three days an overreaction? That's for the community's elected school board to decide.
But in any case, I think that it would be wise for the district to amend its policies in order to clear-up any doubt.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Wonkitorial: Lessons To Be Learned From Private Schools
A number of schools in and around the St. Louis area are part of a bigger movement in private school education that seems to be gathering force nationwide. Called "Nativity Schools" they're private schools that serve kids from economically disadvantaged families:
A framed college acceptance letter rests against a wall in the makeshift office of a small St. Louis middle school.Read the whole thing.
The letter - from Southeast Missouri State University - means the world to the man at the desk, Loyola Academy President Kevin Lee.
It represents the first of the private school's dozens of graduates to get into college.
Seven years ago, Loyola Academy opened as an experiment. Now, with three similar schools here, it is part of a national movement helping urban children enter some of the region's selective private high schools, and from there, win admission to college.
Loyola is the first in St. Louis to see its students graduate from high school.
But more are coming. The movement is expanding nationwide, and two more schools are slated to open here this fall.
The schools, most founded by Catholic religious orders, follow one model: Pick intelligent children, many of whom have not had academic success. Enroll them in small middle schools, charging tuition that each family can afford.
Start classes early each morning. Stay late each night.
Bring students back on Saturdays. Hold mandatory summer school. Teach religion and ethics. Care immensely. Then pay - at least in part - for each child's high school education.
They are known as "Nativity" schools.
Those who support them gush.
"Love, love, love them," said Robbyn Wahby, education aide to Mayor Francis Slay. "I think this is one of the most important pieces of the education puzzle in St. Louis."
As do many, Wahby sees these schools as one small step in ending a cycle of poverty, and maybe, revitalizing depressed sections of a recovering city.
Without question, Loyola has changed children's lives.Each of the four Nativity model middle schools are holding graduations this spring. All brag of successes.
Marian Middle, an all-girls school in the city's Dutchtown neighborhood, has doubled the number of eighth-grade graduates since its first group four years ago, and is now sending girls to such private Catholic high schools as Nerinx Hall and Ursuline Academy.
The five-year-old coed De La Salle Middle School, in the city's Ville neighborhood, cites awards for civic virtue and dramatic increases on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, a common measure of progress.
And the two-year-old St. Cecilia Academy, just north of Carondelet Park, says its students' Iowa Test scores rose 10 percentile points in a year. This year's graduates are going to schools such as SLUH, Rosati-Kain High and St. John Vianney High.
School leaders say the students largely do well in high school.
"Pretty much, they come in ready to go," said Cardinal Ritter President Leon Henderson. "I've been very pleased with them."
And, some say, having urban teens mix with middle-class and wealthier suburban students makes the whole school better.
"We would like much more diversity at our school," said Sister Madonna O'Hara, president of Ursuline. "We owe that to our students." The academy will get its first Marian girls this fall.
Now, roughly 60 schools follow the model, from Washington to Durham, N.C., to San Jose, Calif.
Forty-three of them - some Catholic, some Protestant - belong to the Nativity network, and together they spend more than $39 million to educate more than 3,000 middle schoolers each year.
I think that there is much that we who work in public schools can learn from successful private schools.
For example: In private schools, not only are teachers held accountable for effectively teaching, but students are also held to high standards of behavior and effort. Teachers' expectation of students is that homework will be done on time and pupils will not be disruptive in class, thereby wasting the teacher's (and other students') valuable time. Parents are responsible for ensuring that their offspring get to school punctually, well-rested, and prepared to learn.
Which leads us to ask a question: Why aren't the public schools allowed to hold educators, students, and parents to the same high standards that seem to be working for private schools?
Food for thought.
Recording Sickening Self-Abuse For Posterity
When I first read this story about some high school students making a video recording of a sex act while in class, I thought that it was some sort of joke.
After all, the incident occurred in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
But when I learned that the students involved have been suspended, I now know that it's definitely not some sort of elaborate internet prank but yet another sad example of what ails many American public schools.
In all too many cases, students don't view school as a place to prepare for responsible adulthood, but merely as a convenient locale to socialize, defy authority, flout common-sense rules of decent behavior, and waste valuable resources bought and paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.
Friday, May 26, 2006
The Knuckleheads Of The Day: Dangerous Money
Some southern California football coaches are a little red-faced about some of the more...ah..er... intimate expenses that were charged to the booster club's debit card:
Allegations of improper expenditures by the Fallbrook High football booster club have been referred to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department after the Fallbrook school district found an ATM withdrawal of $164.95 at a brothel in Nevada, among other questionable transactions on a booster club debit card.It's been said that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."
Fallbrook Union High School District Superintendent Tom Anthony said he referred the case to the sheriff's office in Fallbrook after the district conducted its own investigation. The case was referred last week to the financial crimes unit, Sheriff's Lt. Grant Burnett said.
Anthony said some transactions on the debit card were “extremely disturbing” to him and the district's board of trustees. Chief among them, he said, was the ATM withdrawal during Thanksgiving weekend last year at 48 Kit Kat Drive in Carson City, Nev., the location of the Kit Kat Guest Ranch, a brothel.
Debit card records obtained from Anthony show a withdrawal at that ATM of $164.95 at 3:21 a.m. on Nov. 26. It was categorized on the debit card account as “Coaches Expenses: Clinics.”
Debit card and travel records show that then-head football coach Dennis Houlihan traveled from Los Angeles to Reno that weekend via Alaska Airlines and rented a car from Nov. 25-27 in Reno. Purchases for his air travel ($253.40) and rental car ($87.51) were on the debit records, categorized as coaches expenses.
The debit card records also show a withdrawal in Carson City at 9:45 p.m. on Nov. 25 for $282 – hours before the withdrawal at the brothel. It also was categorized as “Coaches Expenses: Clinics.”
Additionally, Anthony referenced other questionable purchases categorized as coaches expenses, including one from Chalet Liquor in January for almost $30.
A big part of the issue, Anthony said, is where the money for the booster club came from and, if it came from private sources, the purpose for which the money was donated. The debit records show thousands of dollars in deposits last year under the category of “Liftathon,” a fund-raising weight-lifting program at Fallbrook. Anthony said the Liftathon normally is deposited in accounts of the Associated Student Body and is generated by students.
Houlihan, 35, and four of his assistants resigned their coaching positions at Fallbrook High two weeks ago. Houlihan, who remained on the teaching staff, did not return phone messages seeking comment yesterday.
At the time, the coach cited a lack of support from the administration stemming from the district's investigation into the alleged expense improprieties. Houlihan said he was placed on paid administrative leave for two weeks in late March and early April while school officials looked into it, but said he was cleared. After he returned to work, Houlihan said he asked officials to issue a public statement saying he had been cleared of any wrongdoing. No statement was issued.
Yesterday Anthony issued a statement that said: “Because of the district's close ties to the Fallbrook Booster Club and the fact that a substantial amount of fund-raising for the benefit of our students is done by the booster club in the name of our school district, upon review of the nature of the expenditures . . . I along with the Board of Trustees immediately initiated an investigation.”
“What is very disturbing in this matter is the potential for eroding the trust of the community,” the statement said.
I guess that doesn't apply in Carson City or the Kit Kat Guest Ranch.
The Prank Report: Food Fighten The Texas Way!
Today's school prank report is all about the Great Texas Food Fight:
After video from a high school food fight ended up on the Internet, students involved in the lunchroom battle might not be allowed to graduate with the rest of their class.I say let the combatants go thorough the graduation ceremony, but don't give them their high school diplomas until after they've spent a few days down at the local homeless shelter serving meals to those who can't afford to play dodgeball with their food.
A food fight in the cafeteria at Lake Dallas High School lasted about five minutes.
"It was supposed to be for fun. I didn't think we'd get in that much trouble for it," said student Victor Drayton. "Cafeteria food -- whole trays, milk, water bottles, bananas, bread, chicken, chicken fingers -- everything."
A student shot video of the senior prank and it was posted on MySpace.com, a popular Web site.
"Just because of the fact that I said we should do it and it actually happened, I've got to take the blame," Drayton said.
The video showed 18-year-old Drayton laughing, but his stepmother, Denise Drayton, said she is very upset and will support the school administrators' decision on what to do.
"If they had not been warned minutes before the food fight started that there would be repercussions from that, I would feel that the school was being pretty extreme," Denise Drayton said.
Denise Drayton said she has been told that her son and a third of the senior class will probably not be able to participate in graduation ceremonies next week.
"To not have the chance to have that proud moment of watching him walk across the stage is devastating, but he did it," Denise Drayton said.
Denise Drayton said the principal is supposed to call her Thursday with a decision about the punishment. She said she hopes the students just have to stay after school for a couple of weeks, but she doubts that will happen.
Justice Delayed Or Rights Denied?
The long arm of the law has reached out and grabbed an Illinois teacher for allegedly having sex with a 14-15 year-old girl back in 1990:
A teacher/coach at a Northwest Side private school has been arrested on charges that he sexually assaulted a middle school student in 1990 while she attended a private school in Wisconsin, according to a release.I wonder if the police have more evidence, or is the accused being damned solely on the basis of those letters allegedly written by him?
Ronald A. Schaefer, dean of admissions, assistant athletic director, girls varsity basketball coach and theology teacher at Luther North High School, 5700 W. Berteau, was arrested at the school without incident on Thursday by the U.S. Marshals Service Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, according to a release from the agency.
He was taken into custody by Chicago Police for processing and extradition to Brookfield, Wis., where he allegedly assaulted a female middle school student who attended Grace Evangelical Lutheran Middle School, the release said.
According to police, Schaefer was a teacher in 1990 and also served as basketball and volleyball coach. The victim, now in her 30s, told police she was sexually assaulted by him, according to the release.
She said Schaefer treated her as a classroom favorite and left her romantic notes, according to documents filed with the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, the release said. She gave police about 35 romantic letters she received from Schaefer during that time, according to the police.
The victim also alleges she had sex with Schaefer at her home and at an undisclosed location in Milwaukee County when she was 14 or 15, the release said.
Officers from Waukesha County, a member of the GLRFTF, and Brookfield worked jointly in identifying Schaefer’s whereabouts, the release said.
There's got to be more to this story than meets the eye...
From Our "What Were They Thinking?" Files
I would have thought that even newer teachers would know better than to say something this idiotic:
A music teacher at a near West Side elementary school is on probation and facing discipline after allegedly making a racist remark to a student.Perhaps the lady is innocent. I hope so.
Chicago school officials said six months ago, Florina Cupsa allegedly told a sixth-grader that "he needs to learn his place as a black boy."
Cuspa denied saying the remark and is appealing the school's decision.
A final ruling on the case is expected this June.
Still...maybe teacher education programs need to start requiring prospective teachers to take a new course called, "Controlling One's Runaway Mouth 101."
Related: Alexander Russo's District 299 is also covering this story.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Science Education In America: Still Not Making The Grade
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has just published the nation's science report card. The grades are decidedly mixed:
Compared to middle and high school students, younger students are making the most progress in science. In 2005, a representative sample of more than 300,000 students in grades 4, 8, and 12 were assessed in science. This website presents national results for all three grades, and state results for grades 4 and 8. The 2005 results are compared to those from 1996 and 2000. Sample questions are presented to illustrate the types of skills and knowledge that were assessed at each grade. Aspects of schooling—such as teachers' time spent on instruction, teachers' preparation, and courses taken by students—are also reported.Continue reading the executive summary here and the rest of the nation's science report card here and the report card's homepage (with additional resources) over there.
At grade 4, the average science score was higher in 2005 than in earlier years. The percentage of students performing at or above the Basic achievement level increased from 63 percent in 1996 to 68 percent in 2005. An example of the knowledge associated with the Basic level is identifying two organs in the human body that work together to supply oxygen. Twenty-nine percent performed at or above the Proficient level. Relating the amount of time a candle burns to the amount of air available is an example of the knowledge and skills at the Proficient level.
At grade 8, there was no overall improvement. In 2005, 59 percent of students scored at or above the Basic level. An example of the knowledge and skills at the Basic level is being able to compare changes in heart rate during and after exercise. Twenty-nine percent performed at or above the Proficient level. Identifying the energy conversions that occur in an electric fan is an example of the knowledge and skills at the Proficient level.
At grade 12, the average score declined since 1996. In 2005, 54 percent of students scored at or above the Basic level. Knowing the function of a neuron is an example of knowledge at the Basic level. Eighteen percent performed at or above the Proficient level. Identifying the source of heat energy released in a combustion reaction is an example of knowledge at the Proficient level.
Most states showed no improvement at grades 4 and 8. Five of the 37 participating states, however, did improve between 2000 and 2005—and did so at both grades. Those states were California, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia. At grade 4, Virginia was also among the top seven jurisdictions in 2005. Since 2000, 9 states improved at grade 4, and 11 states improved and 4 declined at grade 8.
Minority students in grades 4 and 8 are making progress. At grade 4, average scores increased by 7 points for Black students, and by 11 points for Hispanic students, since 2000. White and Asian/Pacific Islander fourth-graders also improved since 1996, as did Hispanic and Black students. At grade 8, Black students were the only racial/ethnic group to make gains since 1996, and no racial/ethnic group showed improvement since 2000.
Due largely to gains made by minority students, the score gaps between fourth-grade White students and their Black and Hispanic peers were smaller in 2005 than in 2000. The gap between White and Black students narrowed by 4 points since 2000, while the gap between White and Hispanic students narrowed by 8 points. The gap between White and Black twelfth-graders, however, widened during the same time period.
To CAHSEE Or Not To CAHSEE ? That Is The Question!
About a week ago, a judge threw out the "must pass" provision of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).
Just yesterday, the California Supreme Court reinstated the requirement, throwing the graduation plans of some 47,000 students who've yet to pass into serious doubt.
Opponents of CAHSEE have appealed the matter to the Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Friends of Dave is happy with the outcome.
Guessing, I would say that the exam will eventually be thrown out by one court or another.
"X" Marks The Spot
It's great to discover that there are some kids who still know something about how the Outside World is arranged.
And eighth-grader Bonny Jain of Moline, Illinois, showed them all how it's done.
We think it's sad that so many American kids no longer study World Geography as a discrete subject...
Science And Politics Goes Scientific
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Legalizing "The Numbers" In The Name Of Education
I like a lottery as much as the next Wonk, but have you ever noticed that when lottery supporters are trying to
Now they're trying to push a re-configuration of the "education lottery" in Illinois.
How much you wanna bet that it'll pass?
I'd also be willing to make a bet that it won't solve the problems of underperforming schools or their budgetary woes.
It's sad to see public education funding becoming dependent (at least partially) on a legalized version of what the Mob used to call, "the numbers."
Funny thing is, when the Mafia ran the numbers, the odds of winning were much better, the payoff was tax-free, and the Organization didn't make promises that it knew it couldn't keep.
Just Saying "No" To Fuzzy Math
After a number of parents and teachers objected, the school board of Olympia, Washington, has ignored an administrative recommendation to adopt a constructivist math program for their middle schoolers:
The Olympia School Board indefinitely delayed a proposal Monday to adopt a new middle school math curriculum after receiving a swell of objections from some parents and teachers.Amid quite a bit of fanfare, our district here in California
The move means that middle school students will continue to use the same math textbooks in the fall and that any new curriculum won’t be adopted for at least several months if not a year.
District administrators and the vast majority of a committee made up of teachers and parents had recommended purchasing the Connected Math Project (CMP) textbooks — a curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
The textbooks use an approach — known as constructivist — that focuses more on problem solving and critical thinking and less on mastering basic math skills and formulas. That approach would line up with the Trailblazers curriculum used in Olympia’s elementary schools.
However, nine parents asked the board Monday to delay a vote on the issue. The board also received some 150 signatures from other parents seeking a delay as well as a letter voicing concern about the curriculum from a majority of teachers in the Olympia High School math department.
There wasn’t an official vote on the issue but board members Russ Lehman, Michelle Parvinen and Bob Shirley said they favored delaying the curriculum adoption — meaning a vote to adopt the new textbooks likely would have failed. Board members asked the district to recommend a new timeline and process for discussing the issue.
“No one expressed doubts about the curriculum,” said Peter Rex, a district spokesman. “They wanted to have greater buy-in from parents and teachers.”
Proponents say the proposed new middle school math curriculum would improve learning and test scores among Olympia School District students who have consistently struggled in the past.
“I have a lot of years of teaching experience, and I have yet to experience in all of those years what I’ve experienced with this program,” said Bob Hughes, a Jefferson Middle School teacher who has piloted the program. “As these students put these concepts into place, they truly own them. These are your lowest performing students that see this” improvement.
Opponents say Connected Math would be a bad move for students who are excelling with the existing program.
“This would be a serious step backward from the achievement the district has now,” said Olympia parent Frank McCormick, referring to the district’s high math scores compared with others statewide.
The teachers who worked with it, the kids that were subjected to it, and the parents who were frustrated by it, intensely disliked the program.
It was allowed to die a quiet death when it was discovered that standardized test scores weren't going up but were headed down.
Big School Administrator Is Watching You!
An Illinois high school district is warning its students that they'd better behave themselves while at home and online Or Else:
If you're like most parents of teenagers, your kids spend quite a bit of time after school tapping away at the computer. Well, here's a tip: They're probably not doing homework.Prediction: This disciplinary policy will be thrown out faster than someone can say, "Has the ACLU learned of this one yet?"
More than likely, they are conversing with one another online and posting pictures or stories about their activities in blogs — many with the naive assumption that they're sharing secrets with a precious few. But this is the worldwide Web, and everything kids are splashing across sites like MySpace or Friendster can be seen by a global online audience.
A school district in Illinois said that kids who post images of themselves engaged in lewd, inappropriate or illegal behavior — even off school grounds — are subject to disciplinary action. School officials say they are not trying to censor students but to protect them.
A survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 57 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 have created content for the Internet. That translates into roughly 12 million youngsters. Do they all understand the tool they're using?
The school board of Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 in northern Illinois is worried that they don't.
"There are things that students and parents need to be aware of when they put information out in the public domain," said assistant superintendent Prentice Lea.
The school board voted Monday to redo its code of conduct to include online postings. Starting next year, any student who goes online to post threats, pictures of themselves drinking or smoking, or in sexually suggestive poses will face an investigation and possible disciplinary action.
Any illegal or inappropriate behavior students post online could get them in trouble. Some students say it crosses a line.
"They have no right to do it," said [student] Julia Galachenko.
Alex Koroknay-Palicz, of the National Youth Rights Association, echoes that view. "Just like they were scared of Elvis with his hip thrusts, they're scared of rock music, they're scared of punk music," he said. "They're scared of anything new that comes along that young people embrace."School officials insist the new policy is not a police action but a protective one.
"We want students to be aware that as they move into their adult lives, they are accountable for information that they put … out there on a blog site," said Lea.
Lea said that college admissions officers and prospective employers increasingly use the Internet to find information on candidates, and often basing decisions, at least partially, on what comes up.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Alexander Russo's This Week in Education compares the readership of five EduBlogs.
According to the Alexa chart that he provides, we're not doing too badly.
We wish to thank each and every one of you for stopping by and exchanging your thoughts and ideas with us.
This week's edition of the Carnival of Education is being guest hosted by NYC Educator and is now open for your reading enjoyment with a new and original format.
For Extra Credit, see what the Homies are up to over at The Carnival of Homeschooling and then be sure to stop by the 4th edition of The Carnival of Children's Literature at Here in the Bonny Glen.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Demoting A Popular Principal: What's The Deal?
It's not very common to see parents and teachers protesting on the same side, but that's what they're doing over the reassignment and demotion of a popular Virginia high school principal:
In Prince William County, parents and teachers are rallying around a popular high school principal.I wonder if there is more to this story than meets the eye... I am especially concerned about the allegation that some staff members may have been making inappropriate comments about minority students.
The school board voted 4-2 in a mid-April closed session to reassign and demote Freedom High School principal Dorothy McCabe.
McCabe was promoted two years ago to run the school and oversee the county's most diverse student body.
The school board's decision was kept secret until a few weeks ago when McCabe informed the faculty she would not be back.
Parents did not receive a letter about the change until last week. Now, parents are angry they were kept in the dark and they are asking the school board to reconsider its decision.
McCabe is barred from speaking about her personnel case. But an Education Association representative said an associate superintendent told McCabe in mid-March that she would be reassigned and demoted.
"The only thing she had heard in that meeting was that she was concerned about the administrative team not jelling and she was also asked the age question, about how old she was," said Christy Sullivan of the Education Association.
"I was shocked to hear Dot McCabe was being demoted as the principal of Freedom High School ... she is truly devoted to the school. It's an outstanding environment around the school. The kids love her as do the teachers," said Ted Kelley, a representative of the Superintendent's Advisory Council.
Teachers and staff members at the school have signed a petition, praising McCabe and outlining the school's accomplishments. There are currently 102 signatures on the document.
The Education Association has filed several grievances. They point to McCabe's latest evaluation, which was not completed until after the school board vote. It shows that McCabe was judged to be an effective administrator in 72 of 85 categories.
In a summary letter to McCabe, the associate superintendent particularly criticizes the principal for a school climate in which some teachers made negative comments about minority students.
In the evaluation, the administrator wrote: "Dr. McCabe's leadership are in need of ongoing development in discipline strategies and understanding cultural differences."
The former Freedom Parent Teacher Student Organization president and her husband, the current Boosters president, have asked for a town hall meeting to press the administration for an explanation.
"To say that after two years, 'You're not doing a good job and we're not even going to tell the parents why we think you're not doing a good job, and just remove you.' I think that does a disservice to us as parents, but, more importantly, to our children in terms of their education, the disruption it causes," said Caroline Lewis.
The Boosters Club is a non-profit organization made up of students and parents who volunteer time and energy to raise money for the school's various teams and events.
A spokesman for the Prince William County schools said they cannot comment on personnel matters.
Unfortunately, we are not apt to learn more, as McCabe has been effectively gagged and district administration will not give an additional details about what it calls (correctly) a "personnel matter."
Heh. In the 14 years that I've worked for our midsized district here in California's "Imperial" Valley, the district has never demoted or fired a single administrator, though they've shown numerous classroom teachers the door and their "0- tolerance policy" toward teachers who break even the most minor of rules is well-known.
The Prank Report: Knucklhead Alert In Illinois!
Sometimes, it seems as though some high school seniors throw common sense out the door as graduation day approaches:
Police weren't laughing Monday over a supposed "senior prank" by a Peoria High School student they accused of showing up on campus wearing a ski mask.In this post-Columbine world, I'm amazed that anyone would even think that this type of "prank" would be even mildly amusing. Now as for that "cafeteria food fight..."
Police were called and the school, 11200 N. 83rd Ave., was placed in lockdown for nearly 2 ½ hours as more than two dozen officers searched for intruder, fearing that the masked man possibly was armed.
The student, Zubair Hussaini, 18, was arrested in a nearby neighborhood after the masked man fled from the campus, said Mike Tellef, a Peoria police spokesman.
"He told the officers he was not armed and did this as a 'senior prank' after being dared by another student," Tellef said.
Hussaini was taken into custody and booked in a Maricopa County jail on charges of interfering with an educational institution and obstructing governmental operations, both misdemeanors, he said.
Police recovered a ski mask and yellow tee-shirt believed to have been worn by the intruder, but no weapon, Tellef said.
"This type of activity places the community and our officers at risk at it requires an emergency response," Tellef said.
Such a prank may seem harmless but could lead to "drastic consequences," not to mention the waste of resources that could have been put to better use, he said.
There was no indication what disciplinary action, if any, would be taken by the Peoria Unified School District.
Federal privacy laws prohibit any comment about that issue, said Jim Cummings, a school district spokesman.
The incident followed an arrest Friday by Glendale police of a student at Mountain Ridge High School, accused of trying to orchestrate a cafeteria food fight.
Update:(PM) Reader Jim B. emails that the incident occurred in Arizona, not Illinois as we reported. We apologize for mistating the facts.
Teaching Teachers To Teach Reading: Outdated Methods?
Here's something that will not come as "news" to many practicing teachers:
Most U.S. undergraduate teacher-education programs give prospective teachers a poor foundation in reading instruction, according to a new study by a Washington-based non-profit group that is working to reform the nation's teacher-education system.When I was taking my education courses at San Diego State, (I earned my Bachelor's from Florida State University.) I had one wholly ineffective course in the teaching of reading.
The report, released on Monday by the National Council on Teacher Quality, looked at coursework and textbooks used at 72 leading colleges of education and found that most use what the council considers outdated, discredited approaches to teaching reading — especially for underprivileged children.
Kate Walsh, who heads the council, says teachers' colleges and education reformers have "an enormous ideological difference about what they think is important to teach new teachers."
Sharon Robinson, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, says education schools are adopting new approaches, but such changes take time to affect what's taught to young teachers.
"The professional community does indeed see the need for change," she says. The new research "is in fact starting to influence the field." She says teachers' colleges haven't rejected the research, "but the community has to find a way to accept this work in a way they can use."
Monday's study finds that only 11 colleges currently teach teachers about all five so-called scientific components of reading, which dictate that students should learn reading through phonics, vocabulary and similar means.
Other approaches often require students to learn by memorizing key words and inferring the meaning of others through the context of a sentence.
Many educators have embraced the phonics approach, but many others — especially older teachers — say it offers children an incomplete picture of reading and leads to heavily scripted lessons. But Walsh says that if education schools embraced scientifically designed programs and rigorous teacher training, "there would be far less need for a scripted curriculum."
And that was during the era when the "Whole Language" approach was in full vogue. During that far-off time, words such as "phonics" and "grammar" were not only frowned upon but were absolutely forbidden and could get an educator into trouble.
I clearly recall back in '93 when a very good friend of mine was "written up" by a state auditor because he was "caught" teaching a traditional grammar lesson to a class of 7th grade GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) students.
See the actual report from the National Council on Teacher Quality here and the report's executive summary over there.
Underreporting Crime In Public Schools: A Shell Game?
It is being said that some New York schools are underreporting incidents of violent crime in order to make them appear to be safer than they actually are:
Schools across the state, including Long Island, are seriously underreporting student fights and other violence, according to a new survey that blasts state education officials for failing to collect accurate data that could alert parents to dangers.Read the whole thing and judge for yourself.
The survey by the state comptroller's office found that, in 10 out of 15 districts sampled, at least a third of violent incidents were not reported to Albany. Such reports have been required since 2000 under a state law adopted in the wake of the fatal shootings at Colorado's Columbine High School.
At Brentwood High School, for example, state auditors checked student records and found 78 assaults that had caused physical injuries during the 2003-04 year. No such incidents had been reported to the state, auditors reported.
School administrators in Brentwood and elsewhere blame such discrepancies on confusion over which incidents to report. For example, according to state rules, not all hallway shoving matches need to be counted, if they end quickly and without formal discipline. Among the signs of confusion: Uniondale High School reported more assault cases than appeared in its student files.
I'm not surprised.
Sadly, underreporting unpleasant statistics concerning school safety has been an open secret in public education for years.
In the weird little world that is public education, telling the unvarnished truth as one sees it to one's superiors (or the public) can often lead to an aspiring administrator being "demoted" back into the classroom or, even worse, the unemployment line.
Carnival Entries Are Due!
Entries for the 68th midway of The Carnival Of Education are due TODAY over at this week's guest host, NYC Educator. Please send them to: email@example.com . Submissions should be received no later than 10:00 PM (Eastern), 7:00 PM (Pacific). Please include the title of your site's post, and its URL if possible. View last week's edition, right here and the Carnival archives over there.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, the carnival's midway should open over at NYC Educator Wednesday.
The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!
Each and every week, Watcher of Weasels sponsors a contest among posts from the Conservative side of the 'Sphere. The winning entries are determined by a jury of 12 writers (and The Watcher) known as "The Watchers Council."
The Council has met and cast their ballots for last week's submitted posts.
Council Member Entries: Done With Mirrors took first place for the second week in a row with their latest entry, Public Virtue.
Non-Council Entries: Vox Poplar garnered the most votes with You Dissin' My God!.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Dancing Under The Influence?
Administrators and parents in one North Carolina Catholic high school aren't taking any chances that students under the influence will be sneaking into this year's prom:
The 630 students who attended Saturday's Charlotte Catholic High School prom at Bank of America Stadium had to pass a random Breathalyzer test before they could enter the event, school officials said. Assistant Principal Steve Carpenter said the school wants to send a message to students that they can still have a good time without alcohol.I wonder if anyone will think to do a sweep of the venue before the prom begins?
Charlotte Catholic is the first school in the Charlotte region to use a Breathalyzer to test students.
Carpenter said several parents have offered to purchase more Breathalyzers for school use.
The test will be used at most sports and social events.
"It's something that we plan to use at other events," Carpenter said. "We're just trying to make our kids safe."
There are just so many places where one can hide a bottle...
The Spellings Report: The Secretary's Fuzzy Math
U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has written an op/ed piece that appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal just the other day. Titled, "Accountability Plus Standards Equals Success" it makes for interesting reading:
In the past, education reform was like the weather—everyone talked about it, but no one ever seemed to do much about it. That all changed four years ago with the bipartisan passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. Now, the talk in New York, and elsewhere, is about improving schools and rising test scores.Did you notice that the Secretary's equation (Accountability + Standards = Success) doesn't add up? Spellings' so-called "equation for success" is missing one key component that is found in just about every successful academic program.
"Elementary schoolchildren are getting a better education, and the achievement gap is continuing to close," New York state Education Commissioner Richard Mills said last year.
"Now we can see elementary schoolchildren in the highest-need schools improving year after year," Regents Chancellor Robert M. Bennett agreed.
What's the key to this success? No Child Left Behind has changed the equation on reform. For years, we poured new money into the same old education system, which yielded the same old outcomes—stagnant reading and math scores and a growing achievement gap between rich and poor and black and white.
The act has introduced high standards and accountability to the equation. Schools are now responsible for measuring and improving student performance in grades 3-8, toward full grade-level proficiency in reading and math by 2014. This is an achievable goal, and not too much to ask; in fact, some schools have already achieved 100 percent proficiency.
Under the law, all categories of students, including minorities, English-language learners and students with disabilities or from disadvantaged families, must show improvement. This is what is meant by "no child left behind."
To meet these higher standards, resources have been increased as well. Federal education spending for New York's schools has risen by 44 percent, including $1.2 billion in Title I funding to help the Empire State's neediest children.
In the past, additional federal dollars often meant new federal mandates. Under the act, funds can be used for innovative and individually tailored programs, such as Reading First, which trains teachers in scientifically proven instructional methods, or after-school instruction, such as Hyde Park school district's Saturday morning math classes for middle school students.
The results have been clear and unmistakable. In New York, fourth-grade math achievement rose 11 points between 2002 and 2004. Meanwhile, the achievement gaps between white and Hispanic and white and black fourth-graders fell by 10 points. Last year, a record 70 percent of fourth-graders met all state learning standards in English, 22 points better than in 1999—including, for the first time, a majority of black and Hispanic students.
In short, the act is working as advertised. It has defied the critics who argued its high standards were unrealistic and would unfairly "stigmatize" our schools. On the contrary, the number of schools missing their academic goals in New York fell by 4 percent last year. "The standards under NCLB were higher this year," Mills noted, "yet fewer schools are being named as in need of improvement."
The worst thing we could do now is to stop this reform in its tracks when students reach grade nine. Everywhere I go I hear about the need for reform of our nation's high schools. Less than half of all high school graduates are prepared for college-level math and science coursework, according to ACT.
And America's 15-year-olds rank 24th out of 29 developed nations in mathematics literacy and problem-solving. In this changed, competitive world, warns Micro-soft Chairman Bill Gates, "I would rather be a genius born in China than an average guy born in Poughkeepsie."
President Bush's new High School Reform Initiative would extend the act's accountability principles to grades 9-12 while helping older students struggling with reading or math. And his American Competitiveness Initiative would commit nearly $6 billion to strengthen mathematics, science and critical foreign language instruction and expand Advanced Placement testing in middle and high school.
We now know what works—higher standards and accountability. Our dedicated teachers, principals and administrators have turned these principles into real results for our kids. They deserve the chance to do so once again.
Unlike Secretary Spellings, who has never worked with real kids in a classroom or anywhere else, those of us who have know that without parental support, the odds that any given student will succeed academically become much longer.
As is the case with nearly all of Spellings utterances, she completely neglects to mention the vital role played by parents in the educational process.
But some things she rarely forgets to mention in her public remarks. As one can see, Spellings just loves repeating the U.S. Department of Education's favorite shibboleth, "In God we trust, all others bring data."
Heh. Maybe Madame Secretary should practice what she preaches and authorize a study in order to see how American parents compare with parents of other countries when it comes to helping their children with their homework assignments. I wonder if there is a corralation?
And I find it fascinating that while the secreatary brags about increased funding, classroom teachers in our mid-sized school district here in California haven't had any kind of increase in take-home pay in nearly five years even though test scores have increased each year.
Administrators, on the other hand, have had their salaries increased by 4-6% each and every one of those years. They get their insurance covered too.
I wonder why neither Spellings nor the Governator ever have anything to say about that?