Friday, June 30, 2006
Jenna's New Job
Jenna Bush, who was teaching in a D.C. elementary school, will be working in a somewhat more exotic locale this fall:
Friends say that the blond, younger-by-minutes First Twin has been quietly making plans over recent months to leave D.C. for a teaching job in Latin America, most likely around the end of summer.There's more to read in the whole piece.
The move reflects the growing seriousness of a 24-year-old whose collegiate partying provided endless fun for gossip columnists during her father's first years in office -- yet also offers an escape from the Washington spotlight she and sister Barbara always have seemed to resent. Last week marked her final day at the Mount Pleasant charter school where she taught for a year and a half.
"First-year teaching is one of the most difficult jobs a person can have," said Linda Moore , head of the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, where Jenna and a fellow instructor oversaw a class of third-graders being taught in both English and Spanish. "She was a wonderful first-year teacher."
Now I don't know if Miss Bush is leaving her Washington job because she was asked to leave (as some probationary teachers are) or if she's simply bored with the oysters-and-champagne social scene of
Of course, if the teaching life doesn't suit her, Jenna (and/or twin-sister Barbara, for that matter) could always get a fresh start with this organization, which is in urgent need of many young adults who are looking for an exciting job opportunity with lots of overseas travel.
It would give the presidential daughter a chance to Be All That She Can Be.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Now tag, soccer, and flag-football are being banned from an increasing number of America's public schools during recess.
It's depressing that this
Bon Voyage Ms. Frizzle!
Ms. Frizzle, who has been one of our daily reads from the very beginning, is wrapping-up the year.
Sadly, she may very well be going on a permanent leave of absence from her weblog as well.
We will miss hearing her very special voice in the EduSphere...
Consider dropping by and wishing Ms. Frizzle well as she embarks on a new phase in her teaching career.... and think about following her strong suggestion! You will be intrigued...
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Dumbing It On Down
Michael J. Petrilli of The National Review says that in order to raise standardized test scores in math and reading, schools are neglecting other subjects:
History, science, and the arts are being de-emphasized by most schools in order to make room for teaching basic reading and math skills, according to a recent study. Who's to blame for this? Critics of reform point to the No Child Left Behind law.There's much more to read in the whole thing.
And they're right to do so — to a point. NCLB mandates that schools boost achievement in reading and math — only reading and math — or face tough consequences. To the surprise of some, the incentive has worked, but so, too, has the law of unintended consequences.
This is not the only example of that phenomenon. NCLB puts pressure on educators to get all students to a low level of proficiency, so schools ignore kids at the top of the class. The law leaves the standards-setting to the states but ties sanctions to the results, so the states "race to the bottom" and lower their standards. And yes, the statute focuses its accountability provisions on reading and math, so schools ignore everything else. The latter problem is easily fixed (if politically unpopular). Congress should add history testing to the law's requirements, and make the history and science results count. (Science testing will be required next year, but the results won't count for accountability purposes.) Now that we know that schools will respond to incentives, we should be clear about our aims.
But tweaking the law's carrots and sticks is not enough. We must also address the fact that schools are choosing the path of least resistance by narrowing the curriculum. After all, pushing other subjects aside is not the only choice schools face. Great schools beef up their students' basic skills while also providing them a broad, rich education. Why don't most? There are two reasons — one ideological, and the other political.
Just last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a sixth-grade teacher from a nearby elementary school. He indicated to me that all of his instructional time was devoted to reading and math.
His students received no history or art instruction whatsoever, and very little science. This is typical in our 5000-student-district here in California's "Imperial" Valley.
Sadly, this is the new reality for all-too-many of our public school students in a post No Child Left Behind world.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
There's perfect attendance, and then there's perfect attendance:
Call him the Cal Ripken Jr. of the New York City school system.I remember missing only one day in first grade and none in second grade. It kinda went down hill from there...
Only instead of showing up for baseball games, 18-year-old Steven Reneau shows up consistently for class.
When asked how many days of school he's missed over the last 12 years, Reneau smiled.
"Not one. In kindergarten I missed three days, but since first grade I haven't missed a single day."
That means when Reneau graduates from Staten Island Technical High School on Tuesday, he will have attended class for more than 2,000 straight school days.
"I got sick once and I came to school with the flu," Reneau said. "But it wasn't that bad."
It's a dedication that Reneau said he brings to everything he does. He insisted on doing the interview Monday in Jersey City, where he's now a summer intern in his mother's office, so he wouldn't miss any work.
At school, he was class president and a member of the swim team. And someone his teachers said you could always count on.
"Not only is he smart, but he has a sense of responsibility," said student activities coordinator Kenneth Bonamo. "He's reliable. He'll be there for you and he'll do the right thing."
The perfect attendance has paid off for Steven. He played it up on his college applications, and this fall he's heading to Yale, where he doesn't plan on missing any class there either.
"It's something I've done for a while and I plan to keep going," he said. "Why stop now?"
He will stop for a moment Tuesday ... to accept an attendance award from the borough president and, probably, a standing ovation from his fellow graduates.
Carnival Entries Are Due!
Entries for the 73rd midway of The Carnival Of Education are due TODAY over at Melissa Wiley's new site, The Lilting House. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org . Submissions should be received no later than 6:00 PM (Eastern), 3:00 PM (Pacific). Please note the time change. Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and its URL if possible. View last week's "alphabet soup" edition, hosted by Why Homeschool, here and the Carnival archives over there.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Carnival's midway should open Wednesday.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Taking It On The Chin Again In NOLA
Just when you think it can't get any worse for New Orleans' public schools, it does:
New Orleans area school systems will lose more than 200 (m) million dollars in state funding under a revamped financing formula passed by the Legislature this month.Thousands of New Orleans students can't return until the schools re-open.
The cuts were prompted largely by drastic swings in enrollment and a statewide loss of more than 70-thousand students.
New Orleans public schools, formerly the state's largest district, will take the biggest hit, dropping from 219 (m) million dollars in state funding in 2004-2005 to about 39-point-four (m) million dollars for the fiscal year that starts Saturday.
And the schools can't re-open until the students return.
It's a vicious circle.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
The Traveling Wonks
The Wonk Family is in transit to our summer place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. The roadtrip itself is 2,164 miles and given good weather and no surprises, we should arrive late Sunday evening or early Monday. Stopping only for fuel and food-to-go, the trip takes about 36 hours.
We should resume posting on Monday.
Among other communities, we should be passing through: Yuma, Tucson, Las Cruces, El Paso, Odessa, Abilene, Dallas, Shreveport, Jackson, Birmingham, and Atlanta.
They'll be a lot of bad food but we'll get to see many beautiful places along the way.
Our favorite stops have always been Rooster Cogburn's Ostrich Ranch near Tucson and Vicksburg, Mississippi, where live "river music" is performed each Sunday.
As always, I have a secret fear that the trip will turn into some variant of this motion picture.
Update:(6/26) We pulled into our driveway 2:27 AM. At 35 hrs, 24 min, we didn't set any records. Not a drop of rain, until 30 minutes after we finished unloading the car. It's been pouring ever since. A bad sign... No slithering creepy-crawlies in our dark and damp cellar when I had to venture down there to light our gas-powered hot water heater. A good sign.
Friday, June 23, 2006
School Materials As Weapons
You know things are bad when a school doesn't allow students to take home school materials out of fear that they'll be used as weapons:
CHICAGO -- When the school day ends at Cook County's temporary juvenile detention center, hundreds of students must leave essential education tools behind: their textbooks.There's more to read in the whole thing.
Such centers commonly prohibit the unsupervised use of hardcover books and basic school supplies like pencils out of concern the youths could use the items for violence.
Child welfare advocates, however, say the rules can create a prison-like atmosphere that discourages rehabilitation. "Any facility ought to be safe and secure enough for kids to have books," said Betsy Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative.
This month, a judge appointed a former state corrections official to oversee changes at the detention center, stemming from a 2002 settlement of a lawsuit that claimed the facility was mismanaged.
Juvenile advocates say some of the problems cited in the lawsuit extended into the center's classrooms.
"Teachers consistently said they do not assign homework because staff do not allow the youths to bring books or even pages to come back up the unit," the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative concluded after reviewing practices at the facility in December.
Jerry Robinson, superintendent of the detention center, said the assessment was unfair because access to education tools is restricted, but not banned.
"They have the ability to get a pencil," Robinson said. "They can write letters. We just control it so (the pencil) is not kept in the room."
As bad as things are here in California's "Imperial" Valley, I cannot imagine teaching at a campus where I have to fear violence from the students.
All teachers who serve students in America's prisons, jails, and juvenile institutions certainly have our respect.
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: The Glittering Eye took first place with The Iraqi Insurgency Has No Central Command.
Non-Council Entries: The American Thinker garnered the most votes with The Jihadi Network's Fatal Flaw.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
When I was a young KidWonk, summers were for vacation from doing homework. Things have changed:
Gone are the days of the short summer reading list. Facing pressure to boost test scores, many public schools now load students up with summer science projects, book reports and even PowerPoint presentations.I asked our 14-year-old daughter, the TeenWonk, if she had any summer homework. She indicated that the all incoming sophomores at her high school were expected to read The Catcher in the Rye and Oliver Twist. And that was it.
The second graders at Alfred E. Zampella Elementary School in Jersey City, N.J., received the bad news today — school ends next week, but the assignments will keep coming, as school administrators try to keep the learning going all summer long.
"Writing is fun and math is fun, but it's too much things to do," said 8-year-old Genesis Torres.
Some educators agree and say sending work home with kids during the summer is burning them out.
"A kid wakes up every single day in the summer with homework hanging over their head and I think there's a lot of questions about whether that level of stress is really healthy for kids," said Etta Kralovec the co-author of "The End of Homework."
She said the added testing required by No Child Left Behind is putting extra pressure on schools, but she thinks piling on the work during the summer may not be the way to produce better results.
"One of the ways people think schools can perform better is by giving kids homework, and that has the appearance of getting serious about learning," Kralovec said. "But that appearance is not necessarily the reality for students."
The stress was too much for Wisconsin high school student Peer Larson. He sued his math teacher, claiming summer calculus homework was interfering with his job as a camp counselor and his relaxation time.
"I was catching up on sleep or just enjoying myself because that's what I should be able to do during the summer," Larson said.
But the judge threw out the case.
Is Learning Lost During Vacation?
The principal at Zampella Elementary in Jersey City said the drive to get kids studying over the summer is more about preparing for the fall and a concern that students just lose too much knowledge during their break.
"I have problems with the fact that two months they're off and they're not learning," principal Sandra Frierson said. "They come back in September and its harder for the teachers to keep abreast of where they are."
Frierson, an educator for 32 years, said she is giving the kids at her school a challenge.
If the students read 20 minutes a day for five days a week and all together read a total of 500,000 books, she'll give herself a unique makeover.
"If everyone accomplishes that, I'm coloring my hair green," said Frierson as an incentive.
While Frierson wants her students to keep reading and studying all summer, Kralovec thinks summer is best used for other types of learning.
"There's a lot of learning that needs to occur in the development of a child and school subject learning is only one part," she said. "They need to learn how to be siblings … how to cook … how to be members of a community, and so the work that kids do in school is important but it's not the only kind of learning they need."
Still, the parents we spoke to at Frierson's school said they feel that the more homework their kids are assigned, the better.
"Some people say kids need time to be kids during the summer. Oh, come on. They have nothing to do but PlayStation, ride bikes, play soccer — they need some little reading and writing, too," parent Maysoon Awad said.
Frierson is hoping to get her students excited about the summer work by naming it "summer reinforcement," instead of calling it by the dreaded word "homework."
But when asked if they were eager for the work, the kids in her assembly hall offered a resounding "no."
She's already finished Catcher and will tackle the Oliver next week.
Cell Phones Vs. Schools: The Latest Dispatch
The eternal struggle between schools and cell phones-in-the-classroom has just been taken to a whole new level.
Does anyone know where I can get a surreptitious cell phone disrupter suitable for classroom use? Just to level the playing field.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The Darwin Award In Education: Ben Clevenger
Today's Darwin Award in Education (backstory here) goes to the Michigan high school social studies teacher who
The Rochester Hills Community Schools fired a teacher this week who took students on a spring break trip to Europe, where some engaged in heavy drinking.We continue to be puzzled by educators who self-terminate their careers and toss-away years of formal education and training by doing bone-headed things like this...
The April trip to Italy and Greece included four staff members from Stoney Creek High School and more than 80 students. The district fired Ben Clevenger, 24, a social studies teacher who organized the trip, which was not sponsored by the district.
School staff must adhere to the "highest level of professional conduct" in ensuring the safety and well-being of students, district spokeswoman Debbi Hartman said in a statement Monday.
"This expectation is held whenever an employee is engaged in an activity that involves students, regardless of whether or not that activity is school- or district-sponsored."
The Board of Education must approve any staff firing. The board is scheduled to take up the issue at its June 26 meeting, Hartman said.
Clevenger said Tuesday he had received his termination letter Monday. The letter said he was being fired for "professional misconduct."
"I'm looking at my options with my union," Clevenger said.
He declined to comment further. But he said June 1 that alcohol use became an issue early on in Italy, where the legal drinking age is 16.
On the first night there, one student threw a beer bottle from the roof of the hotel the group was staying in, shattering a car windshield. On the fourth night, Clevenger said he found several students drinking at a bar at 2 a.m. and escorted them to the hotel.
Concerned about the students' safety outside the hotel, Clevenger said he told the teens that he didn't want them drinking, but if they were going to, they should do it in their hotel rooms.
Clevenger resigned in May, but he said that resignation was forced. He said June 1 he would rescind his resignation.
On Monday, the district's human resources director fired Clevenger, who taught for two years and does not have tenure. Untenured teachers can be fired any time, for any reason.
Clevenger has 10 days to appeal the termination.
School Nutrition: Too Many States Not Making The Grade
This doesn't come as a big surprise to many of us who work in schools:
In the past year California, Connecticut, and New Jersey all made headlines for bumping soda out of schools and for otherwise improving the foods available to kids during the school day. But according to a year-end School Foods Report Card issued today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the state of Kentucky has the strongest school nutrition policy in the land.Get the report card right here.
For the 50 states and the District of Columbia, CSPI evaluated the policies for foods and beverages that are sold in schools through vending machines, school stores, fundraisers, and a la carte foods-foods sold in the cafeteria alongside the federally subsidized school lunch program. CSPI looked at nutrition standards for foods and drinks, and the grade levels, hours, and locations on campus to which the states' policies apply.
Kentucky's school food policies were given an A-. The state only allows vending machines and school stores to sell food on campus in the afternoon, a half-hour after the last lunch period, and has strong nutrition standards for foods and drinks sold during the rest of the school day in all schools. Permitted drinks include 1 percent or fat-free milk, waters, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, or other drinks with less than 10 grams of sugars per serving. For foods, Kentucky set reasonable standards for portion sizes, saturated fat, sugars, and sodium. The state got an A- rather than an A because of its weak beverage portion size standards, lack of limits on trans fat, and a loophole for a la carte foods (it allows any item that is a part of a reimbursable meal to be sold through a la carte).
Nevada, Arkansas, New Mexico, Alabama, and California all received B+s. Seven states received Bs or B-s; 15 states received Cs or Ds (the District of Columbia received a C), and 23 states received Fs.
Only ten states have school nutrition standards that apply to the whole campus and the whole school day at all grade levels. Nine states limit the saturated-fat content of school snacks, and only seven address trans fat, which, gram-for-gram, is even worse for children's hearts and health. Just five states set limits on sodium. Nineteen states limit added sugars.
"Although some local school districts have school foods policies that are far better than the state standards, far too many states allow way too much junk food in schools," said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. "With junk food tempting kids at nearly every other public place in America, schools should be one place where parents don't have to worry about what their kids are eating. States should continue to enact stronger nutrition policies, but since the school lunch program is, after all, a federal program, Congress should take action to ensure that all school foods are healthy."
The nutritional value of meals served in school cafeterias were excluded from the study. My guess is that this was done because meals must meet federal nutritional guidelines.
Effective this August, teachers in our district here in California's "Imperial" Valley will no longer be permitted to give any candy, pizza, or other treats to students at any time.
We've been told that to do so would violate new federal statutes.
Miami Book Banning: Here Comes The ACLU!
Last week, we took a look at a decision by Miami's elected school board to ban a series of children's books from the district's campuses because the text about Cuba wasn't harsh enough in its treatment of life under the Castro regime.
We didn't care much for the decision and urged the board to reconsider.
But we thoroughly dislike the ACLU's decision to sue the school board in an attempt to
Even though we didn't care for the board's decision to remove the books, the board had every right to do so without interference from the ACLU as the board's course of action didn't involve the placement of a controversial book in its libraries but the removal of a book that, in the board's judgment, didn't meet acceptable community standards.
The ACLU has no business getting mixed up in this one. It should allow the community's elected representatives to do their job and exercise the oversight that the people elected them to do.
A Loss In The EduSphere Family
Joanne Jacobs' father, Alan, has passed on.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Jacobs family.
It's the alphabet soup edition over at The Carnival of Education! Hosted this week by Why Homeschool, the 72nd midway of the C.O.E. is more than a mouthful.
Over at The Carnival of Homeschooling, everything's going to the birds.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Inside This Teaching Life: That's Mine Now!
When you were a student, did you ever have the teacher take away some Forbidden Item? Usually, the teacher would utter those immortal words, "That's mine now!" as the offending article was confiscated.
Maybe it was a note, some bubble-gum, or a magazine the you'd rather your mother not know that you had in your possession....
Here's a pretty good roundup of
The one about the dead owl depressed us, the one about the handcuffs amused us, but the Pencil of the Unknown Cheater struck a little too close to home.
Giving Parents And Kids A Choice: Rise Of The Charters
Charter schools are now going mainstream:
A decade ago, charter schools existed largely on the fringes. Many were start-ups operating out of rented church basements -- alternatives to failing urban schools that struggled to teach the basics.Read the whole thing.
Now more than 200,000 California students are enrolled in 574 charters -- independently operated public schools that have wide latitude in what they teach and how they teach it.
While charters are still most popular in big cities and among low-achieving students, they're starting to take root in bedroom communities and affluent suburbs, creating stiff competition for regular public schools and drawing students from highly regarded private schools as well.
``We shop around to find the right mechanic for our car, but a lot of time we don't take the same approach when it comes to choosing schools,'' said Wanny Hersey, a skilled pianist and principal of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos. ``Once parents realize that school choice is out there and that one size doesn't fit all, they can evaluate different programs.''
Bullis was founded three years ago by parents outraged after their neighborhood elementary school was closed during a budget crunch.
The K-6 school lacks a permanent campus; it's housed in a dozen portable trailers on the parking lot behind Egan Middle School. But families are flocking to the young school's small classes, rich drama and instrumental music programs and individual learning plans for each student.
One measure of parent interest: 180 students applied for 40 kindergarten slots available this fall. Sustainable cooking, public speaking and conflict management are among the electives. Numerous projects, including an environmental education partnership with Hidden Villa, a 1,600-acre wilderness preserve in Los Altos Hills, are in the works.
For Steve Johnson, moving his daughter Sophia, 12, from a private school to Bullis last year was like moving from a house to something that really feels like home. Sophia graduated from sixth grade last week.
``She has learned faster and better here,'' he said. ``It's challenging, but she's rising to the occasion. I wish they would expand.''
I like the concept behind charter schools.
I like them (mostly) because I believe that they offer parents a real choice of several differing types of school atmospheres and curriculum delivery within a public school setting. From military academies to highly controverisal "agenda driven" programs, charter schools come in all sizes and flavors.
It's all about public school choice, really.
Down here in California's "Imperial" Valley, parents don't have the option of sending their children to a charter school, even though several groups of parents have attempted to get a charter school off the ground.
The problem is our local school boards (which are often mere "rubber stamps" for well-entrenched superintendents) and the stereotypical "small-town" fear of anything new and innovative.
Of the 17 independent school districts in "Imperial" County, not one governing board has ever authorized the start-up of this increasingly popular model of school governance and curriculum delivery. They have consistently "shot-down" all attempts to start-up any type of charter school.
Before a charter school may receive public funds and commence operations, it must receive the blessing of the local school board. And here in the Valley, our 17 school boards are very jealous of their "turf." Charter schools operate outside the control of the local school board/superintendent.
It is unlikely that any of our local school boards will authorize any charter school in the foreseeable future.
As "Imperial" County has the highest unemployment and lowest per-capita income of any county in California, a large percentage of our students are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
As one might expect, our county-wide test scores aren't that good, with a majority of the county's public schools being labeled as "underperforming."
And yet our local EduPolicy-makers refuse to think in New Directions.
Which hurts our kids.
This story about the resignation and arrest of a Delaware high school chorus teacher on charges of offering a student money in exchange for a sex act as well as the possession of child porn is yet more evidence that there are indeed monsters walking the earth.
There's got to be some way to put an end to this type of behavior and expel these monsters-masquerading-as-teachers from among the ranks of educators once and for all.
But what is it?
Carnival Entries Are Due!
Entries for the 73rd midway of The Carnival Of Education are due TODAY at this week's host, Why Homeschool? Please send them to email@example.com . Submissions should be received no later than 7:00 PM (Pacific), 10:00 PM (Eastern). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and its URL if possible. View last week's special "staff party" edition, hosted by What It's Like on the Inside, here and the Carnival archives over there.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Carnival's midway should open 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: Right Wing Nut House took first place with Spinning Their Way to Defeat in November.
Non-Council Entries: A Newer World garnered the most votes with One Liberal’s Argument for Still Staying in Iraq.
Monday, June 19, 2006
S.O.P In N.J.?
I'm shocked! Shocked to see that somebody is stealing from the New Jersey public school system!
The story seems like an old plot line from The Sopranos. Could this be life imitating entertainment?
Bad In Baltimore
How much worse can it get for those who are trapped in the crime-infested Baltimore public school system?
If this isn't a district in literal and figurative meltdown, I don't know what is.
Maybe things would get better if County Superintendent "Dr." Joe A. Hairston had to spend a little time teaching students in an actual classroom once in a while.
Interestingly, "Dr." Hairston's pay was just increased by the
It appears to us that it's not only Baltimore's children who are getting the short end of the stick but Baltimore's tax-payers as well.
And what ever happened to pay-for-performance? Or is merit-pay a concept that's only applicable to those who actually work with children?
Update:(PM) "Dr." Bonnie S. Copeland, who oversees Baltimore's public schools, will be hitting the bricks on July 1st. It's rumored that the board will be paying her some $100,000 in order to get rid of her. This comes about a month after Eric Letsinger, who was the system's chief operating officer, was fired for allegedly using public funds to take school system and city officials on a fishing expedition.
Update: (06/20) It's been brought to our attention that Baltimore's public schools are separate from those of the County. They are not under the administrative control of Superintendent Joe Hairston who therefore cannot be held accountable for the mess that the City's schools are in.
Our reporting was not factual, and we apologize for this error.
Wonkitorial: Getting Better Teachers Into The Classroom
Lee Iacocca, who was instrumental in the development of the Mustang while C.E.O. of Ford and later brought the Chrysler Corporation back from near bankruptcy, (more bio here) once said:
In a completely rational society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsiblity anyone could have.In this era of ever-increasing performance expectations (due to the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act) placed upon our schools, we believe that it has become absolutely imperative to attract our best and brightest college graduates into our nation's public school classrooms.
Sadly, a great many high-achieving college students don't even consider public school teaching as a possible career choice.
There are a number of factors, but it's safe to say that one of the chief reasons is the public's perception that teaching is simply a job, (and a part-time one, at that) and not a career.
This perception is fueled by the facts that public school teaching in this country has historically been thought of as an occupation with: low status, low pay, high stress, little respect, and few, if any possibilities for promotion based upon merit.
The result of this negative perception is that talented, ambitious, hard-working, and high-achieving college graduates stay away from public school teaching in droves.
Which further fuels the perception that classroom teaching isn't a good career choice.
Teach For America, (website here) a privately-run not-for-profit organization that we've come to have quite a bit of respect for, has had substantial success recruiting academic high achievers for the 2400 teaching positions that it filled this year. Most of these newly-minted teachers (few of which trained to be teachers while in college) will be sent to schools that primarily serve economically disadvantaged students.
The problem is that many T.F.A. participants permanently leave teaching after serving their two-year commitment. (The Seattle Times article states that two-thirds quit the classroom.)
The good work of Teach For America not withstanding, what we need each and every year are tens of thousands of highly-effective teachers who will dedicate themselves to a career in teaching and actively strive to improve their teaching abilities over a lifetime of service in the classroom.
Which leads us to ask a question: Why aren't those people who are charged with formulating EduPolicy doing more to make teaching a sought after and highly-desirable career choice?
A few months ago, Eduwonk.com guest-blogger Alice In EduLand, wrote a post that's had us thinking ever since:
As my final word, I would like to make a suggestion to all of those who make policy decisions for our schools: consider teaching.She said it so much better than I ever could...
I don't mean that you should teach, I mean that you should think about what stops you from doing it. It doesn't pay much? Your colleagues will be dull and boring? You'll never be respected for your intelligence or ability? It's tedious and time-consuming? It's frustrating to work with piles of bureaucrats and paperwork? Your parents will ask you when you're getting a real job? You'll never really be recognized for doing good work?
If you can find a way to make teaching a career that's good enough for you then people like you will do it.
We think that it's high time that EduCrats in general, (and the globe-trotting U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings in particular) take a hard look at what needs to be done in order to help make Iacocca's idealistic statement less about idealism and more of a reality.
By raising the overall quality of our teachers, we will help ensure that more children will have the opportunity to reach their academic potential.
From local school boards to the offices of the U.S. Department of Education, the recruitment and retention of the best teachers ought to be a primary concern for all those who formulate education policy.
Every child in America deserves to be taught by a truly (not just on paper) well-qualified and dedicated classroom teacher.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Sign Of Our Times
Earlier this afternoon, the WifeWonk sent me to the supermarket to pick-up a few things.
While waiting in the cashier's line, I happen to notice a baby girl and her mother that were in front of me. (The little one was in the shopping cart and looked about a year old.)
The baby was cute in the way that all babies are, but what grabbed my attention was that this particular baby girl had a large (temporary?) tattoo that had been applied to the small of the back, just above her diapers.
The tattoo was a grouping of Chinese characters.
I didn't care to ask mom for a translation nor did I wish to know if she bore any markings of her own.
The Darwin Award In Education: Topless In Texas
Today's Darwin Award In Education (background here) has got to go to the Texas high school art teacher who authorized her "partner" to publish topless pictures of her on the internet:
Until they found the topless photos, Austin High School officials considered Tamara Hoover a model art teacher with a knack for helping students find their creative streaks.We present the Darwin Award in Education to those educators who throw away their own careers by doing something so completely boneheaded as to leave most rationally-thinking people scratching their heads.
Now, she's fighting for her job.
The photos, which were posted on Flickr.com by her partner, depict Hoover in the shower, lifting weights, getting dressed, in bed and doing other routine activities.
Her abrupt dismissal highlights a new concern for employees: Your boss has Internet access, too.
"People don't realize when they put their entire diary out there, they're giving very private information to the public," said Kate Brooks, director of career services for liberal arts students at the University of Texas at Austin. "You never know what's going to appeal to someone or disturb someone."
The school district said the photos were inappropriate and violate the "higher moral standard" expected of public school teachers. As a result, she's become an ineffective teacher, she was told as she was escorted out of class last month.
The photos came to light as a result of a feud over ceramics equipment with another art teacher, according to sworn affidavits. Students who had seen the pictures showed the teacher, who then notified school officials.
Colleagues and students dispute the district's characterizations of Hoover.
"I don't view Tamara any different having seen the photographs," said fellow Austin High teacher Robin Lind. "It doesn't make her less credible or less respectable."
Still, experts say it's a risk employees take when posting personal information online. That's particularly true for teachers, said Bill Shaw, professor of law and ethics in business at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas.
"School teachers are supposed to be mature enough not to titillate their students," Shaw said. "A teacher is more or less expected to be a guide or ... demonstrably mature. And this doesn't sound to me like it meets those standards."
Hoover said Friday the photos are art and makes no apologies.
"I'm an artist and I'm going to participate in the arts," Hoover said. "If that's not something they want me to do then I want to be told that. I don't feel as if I was doing anything that was beyond expectations."
Some of her students agree.
"Many artists have nude pictures, like Georgia O'Keeffe," said 16-year-old student Austen Clements. "If Georgia O'Keeffe wanted to teach at Austin High, I don't think they'd say, 'No, you have nude pictures online.'"
Hundreds of photos of Hoover were part of partner Celesta Danger's online documentary of their lives together.
"I don't think I can be responsible for other peoples' perceptions or reactions when they look at my photos, it has to do with their state of mind at the time," Danger said. "I'm not out to change people's minds, but I'm not a pornographer."
Even in the name of art, Brooks warns her students that it's impossible to predict how potential employers might respond to personal information.
Sites like Flickr and MySpace.com have become popular not only with teenagers and adults, but with companies screening potential employees.
Internet career site CollegeRecruiter.com estimates that about 5 percent of employers research applicants on sites like Flickr, MySpace, Friendster and Facebook, but that number is growing.
Brooks said employers with whom she works regularly tell her they've rejected otherwise qualified job applicants because of material they found online.
Her counselors already warn students about what they post online. This year the university will dedicate a Web page to the issue.
"We would never tell a student to not put anything on MySpace or take anything down, that's their choice," Brooks said. "But that's the point: They need to be aware of the choices they're making."
Employers should handle the sites with caution, too, experts say.
"Information on those sites is inherently unreliable," said Steven Rothberg, president of CollegeRecruiter.com. "People post information about themselves that is not true. Their friends know it's not true, but the employers don't know that."
Hoover' teaching career remains on the line. The district wants to revoke her teaching certification, which would keep her out of Texas classrooms permanently.
Hoover will appeal the ruling and is prepared to take the case to court, she said.
"I never thought in any way I was doing anything to compromise my position at the school," Hoover said. "I love working there and I love teaching art. I feel like that's what I'm here to do."
Update:(AM) See a gallery of Celesta Danger's photos of Tamara Hoover here, here, and here. (The topless ones seem to be M.I.A.)
Saturday, June 17, 2006
The Spellings Report: An Open Invitation For The Secretary
For months now, we've been exposing (here, here, here, here, and here) the spendthrift ways of U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings as she and her entourage go to-and-fro on various sight-seeing junkets all over the globe.
It seems as though all this taxpayer-funded travel (with more to come) by the EduCrat-in-Chief has finally attracted the interest of the MSM:(emphasis ours)
As Cabinet members go, the education secretary typically sticks to domestic matters. But Margaret Spellings has put her own stamp on the job -a passport stamp.While schools all over the country have been forced to cancel field trips for kids due to rapidly rising fuel costs, Spellings and Company have continued to jet themselves all over creation.
In less than a year and a half, Spellings has traveled to Afghanistan, England, Egypt, France, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan and Russia. Next up are Greece and Spain this month.
Spellings says she needs to travel to shape policies at home that reflect an understanding of the nations the United States competes against or financially aids.
Not everyone agrees.
Keith Ashdown, spokesman for the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, questioned how much benefit taxpayers would get out of the trips. The Education Department would be better served, he said, to send midlevel employees who handle day-to-day activities.
"These trips by executives at agencies, there's not a lot of bang for the buck," Ashdown said. "They're mainly expensive public relations events to make the agencies look good."
Transportation, food and lodging for her overseas travel cost the Education Department $36,981, records show. The total cost of her travel was thousands of dollars higher, but a few trips were paid for by other agencies.
Since taking office in January 2005, Spellings has taken seven trips overseas. That's one more than her predecessor, Rod Paige, took during his entire four years in the Cabinet.
"We are looked to and admired around the world as people who know how to do education for the masses," Spellings said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday.
Spellings is traveling more than previous secretaries, because these are different times, said Christopher Cross, who has written a book about the history of the Education Department.
"We're so much more aware of the international competitiveness," said Cross, who served as assistant education secretary under the first President Bush. "If she were sitting in her office and not doing any of these things, I would be even more concerned."
Spellings' trips also result from her close relationship with President Bush, whom she met in Texas years ago. She served as top White House domestic adviser during Bush's first term.
Three of her trips came at the request of the White House.
She accompanied first lady Laura Bush to launch a training institute for women teachers in Kabul, Afghanistan. She also led U.S. delegations to the 2005 World Expo in Nagoya, Japan, and to the 2006 Paralympics in Turin, Italy.
Her other trips focused mainly on meeting international counterparts. Some examples:
Spellings traveled with members of Congress in April 2006 to Bangalore, New Delhi, and Agra in India to help the U.S. learn how to compete better.
Spellings attended two meetings of the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, an effort launched in 2004 by Bush and leaders of other major nations. Her travel took her along the Dead Sea in Jordan in May 2005 and to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in May 2006.
Spellings went to Moscow in May 2006 for a meeting of education ministers from the eight largest industrial nations. She also met with Russian teachers and students about math, science and foreign language study and signed a deal with Russian leaders about student and scholar exchanges.
The trips have had different purposes, she said. But all reflect a greater international focus for the Education Department since Bush's first term.
Paige had a more domestically focused mission, which was starting No Child Left Behind. The sweeping education law was Bush's first priority in office. Bush signed it in January 2002.
"Secretary Paige traveled a lot domestically _ that's just where the need was," said William Hansen, who was Paige's deputy secretary.
Spellings said the vast majority of her trips are within the United States.
"We will never, ever lose sight of our prime directive," Spellings said. That remains getting all children up to par in reading and math by 2014, the goal of Bush's education law.
For what gain? In order to see what we can learn from the Egyptian school system?
How much would you like to bet that the secretary took a little "field trip" of her own to the great pyramids while she was in Cairo?
Heh. And to think that I fondly remember when Republicans used to loudly proclaim that they were the guardians of the taxpayers' money and that they were the party of a smaller and leaner federal government. They were the party that pushed term limits and all those other Contract With America promises that were forgotten as soon as they took office and became incumbents. And let's not forget that the G.O.P. used to be all about law-and-order.
Spellings and her endless junkets are symptomatic of the type of arrogance found throughout the federal EduCracy: They're quick to tell us who're in the field actually working with children about the need to do more with limited resources. At the same time, those who inhabit Washington's well-appointed offices regularly rack-up the miles on
Meanwhile, these wouldn't-go-near-kids-on-a-bet-non-teaching-teaching-experts continue to bleat about how schools must be held "accountable" and schools must continue to work ever-harder to keep those test scores going up.
Spellings never mentions the need for parents to ensure that children arrive on time to school rested, prepared to learn, and with their homework assigments completed.
The Secretary never mentions the need for students themselves to at least put forth an effort to learn the material and follow common-sense rules of behavior and decorum.
Here's an idea: I would like to see Margaret Spellings come to our junior high school and model for me exactly what I should do when a parent refuses to come to the school, answer the phone, or answer her door, when I need to have a discussion with her about meeting her child's academic needs.
And yet I'm the one who is held accountable for her child's academic performance. Along with 173 other children that I teach every day.
So here's a proposition for you, Ms. Spellings:
If you've got the guts to take a journey that may actually illustrate for you the conditions that are really to be found in all-too-many American public schools that serve kids in economically disadvantaged areas, we have just the fact-finding trip for you and your well-fed entourage.
Take a trip down here to California's "Imperial" Valley during the first weeks in September. We may not have any royalty for you to socialize with, but we do have lots of illegal immigrants that your political party and the government that it controls has permitted (and continues to permit) to unlawfully settle in our communities thereby overwhelming our hospitals, police, paramedics, schools, and other services.
We also have the highest unemployment and lowest per-capita income of any county in California.
Regrettably, in Imperial County, there aren't any of the five-star resorts that you and your horde of
As an extra incentive, I'm told that they even have a swimming pool, but do not offer room service.
If you can stand using your per-diem meal allowance to
Later, we'd be happy to show you around our school district, visit a few classrooms, and even furnish you with an opportunity to make a few remarks that we guarantee would appear in what passes for our local newspaper.
The invitation is open, Madame Secretary, if you dare.
Take a walk on the wild side. Visit a few real classrooms, see some real kids, have a conversation with a few educators who actually work with children.
You can reach us at this address: edwonk [at] educationwonks [dot] org.
We'd be delighted to assist "your people" with making the needed arrangements. We won't even bill your Department for our time.
Friday, June 16, 2006
In Cincinnati, the public school district has alleged that a number of private school students enrolled right at the end of the school year in order to fraudulently cash-in on that state's voucher program:
The Cincinnati Public School District is blocking the efforts of some private school parents who allegedly tried to enroll their children in the public district in the last days of school to qualify for state tuition vouchers.Heh. I noticed that the parents only apologized once they were caught "accidentally" trying to take advantage of the program. As the "accidentals" seem to have been all been from the same parochial school, it makes us wonder if there was some collusion involved...
That prompted some parents and officials from St. Mary's School in Hyde Park and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to extend their regrets for the actions of the last-minute enrollees. St. Mary's also is considering re-examining its voucher policies.
The public district sent letters to the parents of at least eight St. Mary's students to say they are enrolled effective for the 2006-07 school year. To qualify for vouchers, the students had to be enrolled during 2005-06.
"We have notified those parents by letter that they are certainly welcome to attend Cincinnati Public Schools, and we are glad to have them at the start of next school year," said Janet Walsh, spokeswoman for the district. "In the meantime, their enrollment for last school year has been flagged as ineligible. That appears to be within our purview."
It sent the letters after St. Mary's parents tried to enroll their children in John P. Parker School in Madisonville in the last two days of class.
Parker is one of 17 Cincinnati Public Schools that has been labeled in "academic watch" or "academic emergency" for three years.
That makes its students eligible for tuition vouchers worth up to $5,000 in state aid to attend private schools in the fall. Charter school students and incoming kindergartners who would be assigned to those schools also qualify.
Several St. Mary's parishioners called officials at Cincinnati Public Schools to apologize, Walsh said.
The accusation has prompted a debate about whether the parents violated the spirit of the law or simply used a legal loophole to save money. St. Mary's tuition is $2,475 next school year for in-parish students and $4,850 for out-of-parish students.
The voucher program, which is new for the 2006-07 school year, allows up to 14,000 tuition scholarships statewide. Current private school students are ineligible, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
It's nice to see that somebody is keeping an eye on the public till after all...
Wonkitorial: Miami Book Banning
In a 6-3 vote, the Miami, Florida school board overruled its own superintendent and banned a series of books about other nations from campus libraries because the text about Cuba wasn't harsh enough in its portrayal of life under the Castro regime:
A controversial children's book about Cuba — and similar books from the same series about other countries — will be removed from all Miami-Dade school libraries after a school board vote that split Hispanic and non-Hispanic members in an incendiary political atmosphere.Some might say that the board's overruling of the committees and superintendent demonstrates that the system of oversight by elected (and therefore directly accountable to the citizenry) school boards does indeed work.
Only the Cuba book, Vamos a Cuba, and its English-language counterpart, A Visit to Cuba, were reviewed through the district's lengthy appeals process. Some board members who voted for the ban admitted they had never seen other books in the series, which features 24 nations including Greece, Mexico and Vietnam — none of which had been formally objected to.
"Basically it paints life in those 24 countries with the same brush, with the same words," said board chairman Agustin Barrera, who said he read most of the books.
As part of the 6-3 vote, the board overruled two review committees and Superintendent Rudy Crew, all of whom had decided to keep the book. Even longtime district officials could not remember any previous banning of a book by the school board. And the American Civil Liberties Union said it was prepared to file a lawsuit challenging the decision, which the school board's own attorney said would be "costly."
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said the district should work to collect more material with different viewpoints, not remove the controversial books.
District officials were unsure how many copies of other books in the series there were, but schools hold 49 copies of the Cuba book.
It became the target of controversy earlier this year when the father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary student complained about the book's rosy portrayal of life in Fidel Castro's Cuba.
"The Cuban people have been paying a dear price for 47 years for the reality to be known," said Juan Amador Rodriguez, a former political prisoner in Cuba who filed the original complaint, which was denied, and subsequent appeals. But in his final appeal to the school board, the majority decided its inaccuracies and omissions made it inappropriate for its intended kindergarten-to-second-grade audience.
"A book that misleads, confounds or confuses has no part in the education of our students, most especially elementary students who are most impressionable and vulnerable," said board member Perla Tabares Hantman.
Opponents of the ban said it was tantamount to censorship of politically unsavory speech — something specifically barred by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Next week we will have another complaint about another book from another group," said board member Evelyn Greer. "If this standard is applied, we will go through every book in the system."
Legal experts said the board's action appeared to be unconstitutional. A 1982 Supreme Court case ruled that school boards have wide discretion to determine which books go on shelves, but "that discretion may not be exercised in a narrowly partisan or political manner."
That argument follows this line of reasoning: After a complaint by a concerned parent, board members examined the text and decided that it didn't satisfy community standards. The board then directed its removal forthwith from those school libraries under the board's jurisdiction.
Be that as it may, we're troubled by the fact that the board decided to ban the whole series from its school libraries without bothering to read the excluded books.
By not taking the time to actually read the books before excluding them, the board comes across as lazy (at best) or as closed-minded rubes (at worst).
Hopefully, the board will reconsider its decision and evaluate each book according to its own merits.
Related: Miami Gradebook has been all over this controversy.
Another Questionable Judicial Decision
Here's one more disturbing decision handed-down by yet another panel of judges. This time, it involves Colorado
A 15-year-old girl can enter into a common-law marriage in Colorado, and younger girls and boys possibly can, too, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.Nice going judges.
While the three-judge panel stopped short of setting a specific minimum age for such marriages, it said they could be legal for girls at 12 and boys at 14 under English common law, which Colorado recognizes.
The ruling overturned a lower-court judge's decision that a girl, who is now older than 18, was too young to marry when she was 15. The panel said there was no clear legislative or statutory guidance on common-law marriages, and that Colorado courts have not determined an age of consent.
Colorado is one of 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, that recognize common-law marriage, which is based on English law dating back hundreds of years.
For traditional ceremonial marriage, Colorado law sets the minimum age at 18, or 16 with parental or judicial approval.
"It appears that Colorado has adopted the common-law age of consent for marriage as 14 for a male and 12 for a female, which existed under English common law," the ruling said. "Nevertheless, we need only hold here that a 15-year-old female may enter into a valid common-law marriage."
The appeal was filed by Willis Rouse, 38, who is serving time for escape and a parole violation. He argued that he and the girl began living together in April 2002 and applied for a marriage license a year later. The girl had become legally independent by then, but her mother also consented to the marriage and accompanied the girl and Rouse to obtain a license, the ruling said.
A judge invalidated the marriage, saying anybody under age 16 needed judicial approval for either common-law or ceremonial marriage.
While Thursday's ruling found that the girl was old enough to marry, it did not conclude whether she and Rouse have a valid marriage. The court sent the case back to the trial judge to make that determination.
By permitting a law from Medieval England to nullify
I wonder if these judges would feel differently if it were their sons and daughters who were involved in these "relationships?"
We've Been Prank'd!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Back To BC In KY
The State of Kentucky has made it official: Public schools in the Bluegrass State will use B.C./A.D. and nothing else:
The state school board on Wednesday scrapped a plan to teach students about an alternative to the calendar terms B.C. and A.D., which carry religious overtones.We have to ask a question: What possible harm would it have done to teach both concepts?
The board, with six new members appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher, reversed a decision two months ago that had sparked a religious debate in Kentucky.
The traditional B.C. and A.D. designations mean Before Christ and Anno Domini, Latin for "in the year of the Lord." The board on April 11 adopted curriculum changes that included teaching the designations B.C.E., for Before Common Era, and C.E., for Common Era.
The change drew criticism from some activist ministers and religious groups. Some conservative Christians complained the change was an attempt to sterilize a reference to Christ.
"It's part of a larger effort to expunge religious references in our culture," said Martin Cothran, a policy analyst at The Family Foundation, a conservative group based in Lexington. "I think it's not something that's coming from regular people. It's coming from certain other sectors of our society who think that we ought not to talk about religion in our public life."
The new abbreviations would have been added to the traditional B.C. and A.D. references.
State education officials have defended the new terms, saying they are coming into widespread use and would likely show up on college placement tests.
On Wednesday, the school board voted 10-0 in favor of abolishing any reference to B.C.E and C.E. and to preserve the traditional abbreviations.
"The B.C/A.D. connotation have served civilization quite well for a couple millennia now and I saw no compelling reason to change," member David Webb said.
Daniel Chejfec, executive director of the Central Kentucky Jewish Federation, said he thought the board in reversing itself ignored people with different religious beliefs.
"The message they are sending is that this is a Christian country and not an American country," he said.
While Fletcher, an ordained Baptist minister, appointed six members to the board recently, he did not direct anyone how to vote on the matter, spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said.
Nonetheless, "we are pleased that the school board has made what we believe is the right decision for Kentucky's schools," Whitaker said.