Friday, December 29, 2006

1984 All Over Again?

The collection of children's individual iris scans into a data base (as in this Texas story) is bound to make many uncomfortable as this use of technology catches on around the country:
GALVESTON — Technology developed to keep track of prisoners by scanning their irises became available Thursday to identify missing children or elderly people afflicted with Alzheimer's disease in Galveston County.

The Galveston County Sheriff's Department is the first sheriff's department in Texas and the 47th nationwide to join the Children's Identification Database, or CHILD Project.

The addition of Galveston County is part of an effort to image the irises of 5 million children into a nationwide database over the next few years, said Robert Melley, vice president and CEO of Biometric Intelligence & Identification.

"We have 1,800 sheriff's departments representing 46 states who have committed to participating," Melley said.

So far, the CHILD Project is in 26 states after more than 18 months, said Biometric President Sean Mullin. Children with an iris scan in the national database cannot be identified unless they are in a county that has the CHILD Project equipment, he said.

The system can scan an eye and match an iris in 3 to 5 seconds after comparing it with stored images in a national database, Mullin said.

Mullin and Galveston County Sheriff Gean Leonard appeared together at a news conference at the Galveston County Justice Center to explain how the technology will assist in identifying missing children.

"We hope others will follow our lead in Texas," Leonard said in announcing the department's participation.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that, on average, more than 2,000 children are reported missing every day across the nation.

Leonard said he hopes eventually to scan the irises of all 71,000 in the county. He hoped that groups such as parent-teacher organizations, churches and senior care centers would invite his officers to events where scans can be made.

To be scanned, a child sits in front of a portable scanner. The portable system is in a black plastic box about the size of a briefcase. When opened, a spherical camera sits on top of the lid and a second camera with a wide, horizontal lens pops up to eye level.
Read the whole thing.

What's coming next? Tamper-resistant national I.D. Cards?

Heh. I don't think that we have to worry much about that. A soundly-engineered national I.D. card would actually help curb the invasion inflow of illegal immigrants who continue to take advantage of our helplessness invite themselves into this country.

And politicians from both the left and right side of the political spectrum don't want to actually do anything about that. There's just too much money to be made with things just the way they are...
See our latest EduPosts here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Let's Carnival!

The 99th midway of The Carnival of Education (hosted this week by math teacher Darren of Right on the Left Coast) is now open for your enjoyment with a variety of exhibits and sideshows from across the EduSphere.

And for extra credit, round-out your educational experience by dropping in over at the latest edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.
See our latest EduPosts.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

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 honors with Directions on Iraq: A Blogging Colloquium (Updated).

Non-Council Entries: The Fourth Rail garnered the most votes with The ROC.
See our latest EduPosts here.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 99th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by Darren over at Right on the Left Coast) are due today. Please email them to: mrmillermathteacher [at] yahoo [dot] com . (Or use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 5:00 PM (Eastern), 2:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible.

Visit last week's midway, hosted by The Median Sib, over there.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the exhibits should open Wednesday.
See our latest EduPosts.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day 2006

We finally completed our cross-country road trip this morning.

From California's "Imperial" Valley to our place in South Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, it's exactly 2164 driving miles.

By driving in shifts, we made the trip in 37 hrs 23 min. Not a record, but not too bad either, even though it rained continuously from the Texas-Louisiana state line all the way to our home.

A few statistics:

Number of times that we heard "Sleigh Bells Ring Are You Listening" on the radio: 136.

Number of times that I attempted suppressed the urge to rip-out the radio and throw it through the windshield: 136.

Number of times that we stopped at McDonald's Restaurant: 04

Number of times that McDonald's screwed-up had some difficulty filling a simple straight-forward "drive-thru" food order: 04.

Number of times that both the WifeWonk and the TeenWonk over-ruled my plea suggestion to stop at Burger King's drive-thru window instead: 04.

Number of gorgeous blondes who were driving bright red Mercedes convertables: 01.

Number of times that the WifeWonk thumped EdWonk on the head: 01.

Too many times to count: As with our other trips, we observed that the Georgia Highway Patrol continues to enjoy its annoyingly efficient richly-deserved reputation for snaring unsuspecting-and-likely-innocent motorists alleged speeders with out-of-state license plates on their highways.

*stretching and yawning* Time to go crash get some shut-eye and dream of those elusive Sugar Plums dancing in someone's head...

*getting-up* To all of our friends who've dropped-in at our site, Merry Christmas!.... and to all a good night!

See our latest EduPosts right here.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Wonks In Transit

We're on the road today. If there are no surprises, we should reach our summer place in Tamassee, South Carolina, Sunday evening, after a road trip of some 2164 miles. Regular posting should resume shortly thereafter.

To those who are "celebrating" Festivus, let's not forget to
air those grievances.
See our yesterday's Extra Credit Reading right here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Is A Teacher's "Classroom Coming-Out" Protected Speech?

A lesbian high school teacher "comes out" in her Ohio classroom and is subsequently dismissed from her job. But it didn't end there:
Columbus--A lesbian teacher fired over a class presentation on the National Day of Silence settled a lawsuit against her former school district after it agreed to make its policies more gay friendly.

Jimmie K. Beall of Galloway and the London City School District, west of Columbus, settled their federal lawsuit days before the December 11 trial was to begin.

Under the settlement, “sexual orientation” was added to the school system’s equal employment policy and the ones for any other “program and activity for which the board is responsible.”

Beall also received $37,500 in financial compensation.

The settlement also preserved U.S. District Judge John D. Holschuh’s landmark ruling, written when he denied the school district’s motion to dismiss the case in June.

Holschuh, a Carter appointee, advanced a legal framework suggesting that sexual orientation is a “protected class” even though no federal or Ohio law prohibits such discrimination and the district had no policy against it.

There are only three such rulings in the entire United States--another one in Ohio and one in Utah--where teachers have been protected. More often, teachers do not fare well in these suits.

Beall had excellent performance evaluations from her hiring in 2000 to the 2003 Day of Silence.

In the annual April observance, individuals, often students, remain silent to call attention to LGBT harassment and discrimination.

That day, Beall--without speaking--gave her high school government class a PowerPoint presentation on the occasion, and in the process, came out to her students.

Upon hearing about it, Beall’s principal said the lesson was the same as teaching religion and that she was on “shaky ground.”

Two days later, he withdrew his three-week-old recommendation to offer her a three-year contract, and instead told the board of education to let her go.

Beall’s suit named the board of education and the system’s former superintendent, Thomas Coyne, as defendants.

Coyne publicly maintained that Beall was let go because she had only limited certification to teach the classes she was assigned. But he sent an e-mail to board members calling the Day of Silence presentation a “controversy,” adding, “the situation is tainted by the fact that she presented a class on gay rights on Wednesday and would not talk in class because all gay persons were supposedly keeping quiet on Wednesday.”

That e-mail turned out to be an important piece of evidence in Holschuh’s decision.

Beall was represented by Erika Pearsol-Christie of Cloppert, Latanick, Sauter and Washburn through an agreement with Beall’s union, the Ohio Education Association.

Beall credits the district’s new superintendent, D. Steven Allen, for making the settlement possible.

“I would have hated for this to go to trial,” said Allen. “There was no way we would have won, and it would have been a silly waste of time and money.”

“In my opinion,” said Allen, “[the litigation and settlement] helped change the culture of the organization. We’re different than we were a couple of years ago. It’s not where I’d like to see it yet, but we’re well on the way.”

Allen said the settlement brought the school system into compliance with federal law.

Allen added that the previous board and superintendent would not think Beall was discriminated against because she is a lesbian.

“I disagree, or we would not have settled,” he added.

Allen said Beall did not have the proper certification, but neither did about a dozen other teachers in the system at the time.

“They hired her knowing what her certification was,” Allen said. “And that wasn’t her fault.”

“And my daughter, who is now a senior in college, was in Jimmie’s class that day,” Allen said, “and it is her opinion that Jimmie is an inspirational teacher.”

“Because I had a child in that grade level, I knew [my daughter’s] classmates and other teachers,” said Allen. “All the feedback [on Beall] was positive.”

Beall said correcting the policy and the injustice was more important to her than the money, and she feels like she won a significant victory that many people told her she would lose.

“Statistically, we probably have other gay and lesbian teachers,” said Allen, “and I don’t know why it had to be an issue.”

Beall now works as a counselor in the Columbus Public Schools.

“I’m glad she landed on her feet and is doing well,” said Allen.

The London Board of Education officially adopted the new policy at its December 18 meeting.
Heh. We can't help but wonder which of Ohio's high school content-area standards was being addressed when Beall gave her "silent" powerpoint presentation?
See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Extra Credit Reading: Friday, December 22, 2006

A federal judge has just halted Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's coup d'etat attempted takeover of the Los Angeles public school system. Related: The L.A. Time's edublog School Me! is all over the story.

Thery're going after cyberbullies in Wisconsin. And don't miss that articles side story about the board's debate of a new proposal to raise the minimum G.P.A. for athletes from D+ to C-. (Disc: We thoroughly dislike bullies, as we believe that all children have an absolute right to go to school without worring about threats or physical assaults.)

Iran's president whackjob-in-residence Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is learning what student activism
is all about.

Meanwhile, New Jersey teacher David Paszkiewicz is learning all about the high price of running his mouth
proselytizing his religion in front of a captive audience of students a public school classroom.

Today's Non-Sequitur: Like many, we've just about had
our belly-full of this year's Christmas fad, those air-headed yard decorations. There's more here.
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit there.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Three-Week School Vacation

In order to accomodate its immigrant population, a large California school district is turning the kids loose taking three weeks off for Christmas vacation:
LOS ANGELES - A Southern California school district where 92 percent of the students are Latino has extended its winter break an extra week, in part to give immigrant families time to travel home to Mexico and Central America for Christmas.

Officials in Santa Ana, a working-class city 40 miles south of Los Angeles that has long been a magnet for immigrants, say they decided to lengthen the school holiday after finding that many students were absent anyway.

"What we had experienced before is that people would take a little extra time off at Christmas and miss school," Santa Ana Unified School District spokeswoman Susan Brandt said Tuesday. "Some of our families do choose to go back and visit relatives in Mexico. That was the issue."

Brandt said the three-week winter vacation was part of a larger redesign of the district calendar that was intended to put all 60 Santa Ana elementary, middle and high schools on the same schedule.

She said the travel plans of immigrant families were one factor considered and that teachers also appreciated the longer break. The additional days will be made up at other times in the school year.

"This issue tends to trigger a lot of reaction from different sides but it wasn't a political decision," Brandt said. "This is based on research and looking at ways to keep our attendance levels up," she said.

The school district, which has some 58,000 students, has urged parents in recent years to keep their children in school except for formal holidays. The district gets state funding based on attendance and stands to lose money when children are absent.
While we can certainly appreciate a three-week break from the asylum school, we have to wonder if taking this three-week vacation has a negative effect on the students' learning process?
See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Extra Credit Reading: Thursday, December 21, 2006

And then there was the case of the five-year-old kindergarten student who stands accused of sexually harassment. (Considering that the incident happened near Babylon on the Potomac Washington, DC, it might be argued that the kid is simply getting an early start...)

First, we covered the story of the British elementary school that's spreading the spurious rumor that Santa doesn't exist, and now we have the New York school bus company that informed 65-year-old driver-and-Santa-lookalike Kenneth Mott that the wearing of Santa hats was forbidden after one parent complained about the seasonal headgear. But once the word started to get out, things changed with amzaing speed! (Seems like there's more than the usual number of Grinches running amok this year.)

It's great to see a school community come together in order to cheer on a middle school teacher who is involved in
the fight of her life.

We have to confess that we've got a "thing" for penguins. So when a children's story book based on two real-life male penguins raising an egg
was banned a few weeks ago by a North Carolina school system, it attracted our interest. Well..... it seems as though certain supposedly gay penguins will have the last word... for now.

If many school districts think that they're having trouble
recruiting talented science and math teachers now, just wait until the "teacher accountability" provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act become fully operative in 2014. That's when the real fun begins...
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading there.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Evolution Wars: The Battle Of Atlanta

We have received the latest dispatch from the Georgia Front in the seemingly endless war between those who support the teaching of a traditional science curriculum and those who favor the teaching of intelligent design in public school science classrooms:
ATLANTA - A suburban school board that put stickers in high-school science books saying evolution is “a theory, not a fact” abandoned its legal battle to keep them Tuesday after four years.

The Cobb County board agreed in federal court never to use a similar sticker or to undermine the teaching of evolution in science classes.

In return, the parents who sued over the stickers agreed to drop all legal action.

“We certainly think that it’s a win not just for our clients but for all students in Cobb County and, really, all residents of Georgia,” said Beth Littrell of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

The school board placed the stickers inside the front cover of biology books in 2002 after a group of parents complained that evolution was being taught to the exclusion of other theories, including a literal reading of the biblical story of creation.

The stickers read: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

A federal judge ordered the stickers removed in 2005, saying they amount to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The school board appealed, but a federal appeals court sent the case back, saying it did not have enough information.

“We faced the distraction and expense of starting all over with more legal actions and another trial,” said board chairwoman Teresa Plenge. “With this agreement, it is done and we now have a clean slate for the new year.”
Read the whole dispatch.

We wish that the U.S. Supreme Law-making Body Court would rule on this one way or the other, once and for all, and be done with it.

Prediction: the War litigation will continue for decades to come, with 1000s of billable hours being racked-up by lawyers on both sides
See our latest EduPosts here, today's Extra Credit Reading here, and The Carnival of Education over there.

Extra Credit Reading: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Once upon a time, Seattle's School Board decided to ban on-campus sales of junk food. But those elected buffoons EduPolicy experts are discovering (much to their financial dismay) that teens are a whole lot smarter than they gave 'em credit for because said teens have already gotten around the shortage of contraband calories by using the most ingenious (and obvious) of methods...

Over at The Median Sib, Carol has opened the midway of The Carnival of Education with a variety of exhibits and sideshows from across the EduSphere.

Not only is Professor P.Z. Myer's Pharyngula our favorite science blog and one of the best reads of the Progressive Left, it's also
the winner in the Best Science Blog category of this year's Weblog Awards.

Here's everything that you wanted to know about No Child Left Behind's A.Y.P. but
were afraid to ask.

The Wanker of the Day Award goes to the British school that is
telling nine and ten-year-olds that there is no Santa Claus! (We think that folks who spread this spurious rumor ought to be sentenced to listening to that most annoying of Christmas songs, Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer 100 times without letup.)

Wasn't there something said in a movie a few years ago about "cheaters never win and winners never cheat"? I guess that it took 'em long enough to
learn that lesson in the Cheat Town Camden, New Jersey school system.

Heh. It seems as though a Certain Member of Main's Portland School Committee had a little too much Christmas cheer, then stiffed a cabbie for a $4.65 fare, and finally led the police on a wild board member goose chase in which he wound up
plucked and tied.

Today's Non Sequitur: In the not-too-distant future, we just might find ourselves being sued in court....
by a machine. (Some might argue that human lawyers were replaced by 'souless' automatons years ago...)
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading there.


The 98th midway of The Carnival of Education (hosted this week by The Median Sib) is now open for your enjoyment with a variety of exhibits and sideshows from across the EduSphere.

Don't forget to round-out your educational experience by dropping in over at this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The School Of Second Chances

A Pennsylvania teacher allowed a kindergarten student to leave campus in the custody of two strangers the other day:
DARBY, Pa. -- A local school district says one of its teachers accidentally gave custody of a kindergartener to a pair of strangers.

A Darby, Pa., woman who requested not to be identified is calling for change- after her five-year-old niece was released from kindergarten Wednesday to the wrong parent.

“They need to take this incident very seriously,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “Anything could have happened to her.”

She says the procedure is that parents gather outside the school door, the teacher spots the parent and sends the child outside to meet them.

“The teacher released her to the wrong parent, someone who looked like us-it was neither one of us,” said the woman.

The school district acknowledges the teacher mistakenly sent the child out the door to the wrong parent, but the little girl’s family says if the story ended there they may not be so angry.

“Another parent saw her and she said, ‘I'm supposed to walk myself home,’ instead she walked her home, and no one was here.”

The woman, a stranger to the girl’s family, then walked the girl back to school where a waiting relative caught up with the little girl.

The family called NBC 10 after they say they felt the school wasn't sympathetic to the situation.

The superintendent says he understands the urgency and wants to fix problem.

“We need to understand the problem, put ourselves in the parents’ shoes and make sure this doesn't happen again,” said Dr. Dana Bedden from the William Penn school district.
Obviously, this school is in need of doing some serious re-vamping of its dismissal/parental pick-up procedures.

We sincerely hope that Superintendent Bedden also has a serious conversation with the unnamed principal about the need to better train his or her teaching staff in the importance of releasing students only to those who are authorized to pick-them up.

This particular school is getting a "second chance" at preventing a tragedy.

That doesn't always happen.
See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Merit Pay Chronicles: Ballyhoo In Houston!

Now that the holidays are approaching, merit pay for teachers is again being debated with Houston, Texas being touted as the latest success story:
As business executives look to collect bonuses this holiday season, public school teachers are starting to join that revelry.

The Department of Education recently launched the first federal program to use bonuses to motivate teachers who raise test scores in at-risk communities, and awarded the first $42 million of the $94 million Teacher Incentive Fund last month.

Some states were already handing out merit pay, which remains controversial in school systems. Some supporters say if it works in the private sector, why not try it among educators.

"If you work at a large company … you receive performance pay, so I believe teachers deserve incentive pay," said Marilyn Manjang, a third-grade teacher at Lyons Elementary School in Houston.

At her school, 95 percent of children live at the poverty level, but it is still considered an exemplary school. This year Manjang could earn an extra $3,000 if her students improved their standardized test scores.

In an effort to recruit, retain and motivate teachers, the Houston Independent School District implemented a performance-pay program that would reward individual teachers for their students' performance.

District Superintendent Abelarvo Saaverda believes this program is key to improving the education students in his district receive.

"It's going to attract more high-performing teachers into our school system," he said. "And any time I can put a high-performing teacher in front of a classroom, that's good for kids."

Texas is engaged in a $300 million experiment to find out whether big bonuses can produce big gains in student achievement. It's one of the largest teacher-incentive plans in the country.

Twenty-three other states and the District of Columbia have embarked on similar initiatives. Florida, for example, has launched a program that spends nearly $150 million to give bonuses to its top teachers.

Texas administrators say they don't have enough evidence to prove it's working, but since the program began, standardized test scores have gone up 10 points in Houston, while nationally scores have dropped by seven points.

Merit pay has long been controversial. Proponents say it's a powerful type of school reform that can reduce teacher absenteeism and turnover, and help weed out the weakest educators.

Critics say merit pay could make schools divisive places and often kills morale, and the National Education Association, the union that represents 3.2 million public school teachers, opposes the use of bonus pay.

It says these grants will promote unhealthy competition in a profession that thrives on teamwork and collaboration, and that real learning is the casualty when teachers shift their focus from quality instruction to boosting test scores.

"It's a smokescreen to cover up the real educational problem in the country," NEA president Reg Weaver said. He said there are more important issues to concentrate on.

"What I'm talking about is making sure that students have adequate and equitable funding, smaller class sizes, qualified certified teachers, " he said.

Teachers unions argue that it's not enough to pay some teachers more and that you can only retain good teachers by raising the overall salary level.

Even worse, some teachers caution that merit pay puts too much emphasis on test scores, to the detriment of the student.

"It makes the teachers forget the curriculum and forget trying to achieve high standards and just look at these test objectives and drill and kill to get those objectives mastered, " said Andrew Dewey, an 11th-grade public school teacher in Houston.

But there are programs that focus on more than just test scores, like one in Chicago, which local teachers local teachers support, and will use the new federal money. In Chicago, one-third of the city's teachers are expected to retire over the next five years.

"We're trying to put in place a professional development system where teachers will feel supported, where they will feel they're getting better," said Chicago school district president Arne Duncan.

Struggling schools would hire "mentor teachers," who would make extra money training their colleagues and decide whether they deserve end-of-year bonuses.
It may come as a surprise to some, but we like the idea of merit pay.

The challenge, of course, is how to fairly assess teacher performance and student progress, as well as take into account factors beyond the teachers' control such as parents who don't do their part to make sure children arrive at school on time, well-rested, prepared to learn, and with their homework properly done
Entries for the Carnival of Education are due today. See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Extra Credit Reading: Tuesday, December 19, 2006

California junior high school history teacher Polski3 wonders aloud whether or not students' grasp of history ought to be a discrete component of NCLB or should history as a separate subject be allowed to go extinct.

Now it would be dishonest of us if we said that we liked The Queen of All Testing the
globe-trotting U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. One of the reasons is that she seems more concerned about hob-nobbing with folks like the real Queen and visiting exotic oriental locales on yet another of her many taxpayer-financed sight-seeing junkets goodwill tours and less interested in spending time taking a look around some American schools that are in need of help. Until now. Thanks, Ms. Spellings, for spending a little time down here in southern California getting to know some inner-city American kids and teachers.

It is a given that high school students tend to stay-up late and then sleep-in late. In order to cope with this reality, a number of high schools around the country
are exploring the idea of opening later in the day.

Joanne Jacobs
has the scoop on how even primary school-age students are now studying the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, which was originally designed for college-bound high school students.
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading there.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 98th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by Carol over at The Median Sib) are due today. Please email them to: carol [at] themediansib [dot] com . (Or use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 6:00 PM (Eastern), 3:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the exhibits should open Wednesday.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

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: Andrew Olmsted garnered the most votes with The Peace Myth.

Non-Council Entries: Winds of Change.NET took first place with The Clash of Convictions and the Remaking of the World of Wars.
See our latest EduPosts here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Rise Of The Teaching Machines?

Student teachers are getting the opportunity to deal with virtual classroom situations in a virtual classroom:
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A loud boy launches spit balls at a classmate. Another kid slumps in his seat, oozing apathy and his desire to be anywhere else. Other students laugh mockingly and make inappropriate sounds as the rookie teacher faces his worst classroom nightmare.

It's no easy job to regain control and coax the students into writing an essay about what they did last weekend. Fortunately for the teacher, it was only a computer simulation.

The children are a mix of virtual humans projected on a screen and an out-of-sight actress who provides their gestures and dialogue. As the teacher interacts with each kid, the actress assumes the student's identity and movements with the help of technology that senses her motions.

Computer simulations, which for years have been used by the military and airlines, are increasingly finding their way into professions such as teaching, policing, sales and other fields that depend more on interpersonal skills than technical proficiency.

The STAR Classroom Simulator, a partnership between Simiosys LLC, the Haberman Educational Foundation and the University of Central Florida, mixes computer technology and a human role-player. It's in trial and is expected to be commercially available within a year.

"I thought it was a great device to see how you would respond in a spontaneous situation with a student that might be either aggressive or have some repressive tendencies," said Kevin Gouvia, a former teacher at an Orlando-area urban high school who recently tried the simulator.

Randall Shumaker, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Simulation & Training, said simulators could give realistic but safe training to teachers, whose mistakes can be traumatizing, or suicide prevention counselors, whose errors can be fatal.

"The dropout rate for urban teachers is 40 or 50 percent," Shumaker said. "Part of the reason appears to be they just get thrown into the fires. We can build systems that give people a graded approach so you expose them to this in a virtual world and gradually turn up the heat."

While many lament that people are losing their face-to-face social skills because of cell phones, e-mail and text-messaging, some may receive computer training on how to interact with other humans in the most delicate situations.

SIMmersion LLC, a Columbia, Md., company partially owned by Johns Hopkins University, has developed interrogation simulations for the FBI by filming actors giving different responses, including gestures, to a range of potential questions that an agent might ask.

The footage is then built into a program that responds to a list of questions typed or spoken by the trainee.

Dale Olsen, SIMmersion's president, said he is talking with companies in the communications and pharmaceutical industries to develop tailored programs that train in performance evaluation and sales.

All social simulators chase an elusive goal of replicating human behavior.
They provide a safe environment that can be used any time and is a cost-cutting alternative to hiring multiple actors.
One deficiency that I see with the computer simulation is that it doesn't seem to make any provision for the numerous classroom disruptions caused by the office's use of the public address system or unneccessary interruptions caused by office aides bringing gym clothes that have been forgotten by the kids and then brought to the school by their parents.
See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Math Monday: The Essential Element For Success

No matter how good the curriculum that's being used, success really depends on the human element that's in front of the class. For example, take a look at Washington State fourth grade teacher Charlene Maib:
COLLEGE PLACE - A simple review of place value turned into a competitive game in Charlene Maib's fourth-grade math class at Meadow Brook Intermediate.

Using an overhead projector, Maib explained how the students would add place values until they reached their target sum.

``Do you see how we're playing this?'' she asked the class. ``The first one to get 10,000 wins.''

Keeping her students interested and engaged is a challenge Maib takes seriously as a teacher. Keeping herself educated on fresh approaches to math is part of what has helped her students succeed.

Maib was recently recognized by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for her work on a committee to evaluate math curriculum.

``It was a huge, huge learning experience,'' she said.

She has served on committees throughout the state for the last four years. Doing so has kept her up to date on advances in math curriculum.It also offers her new ways to approach education with her own students.
Read the whole thing.
See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Extra Credit Reading: Monday, December 18, 2006

We think that this Indiana school district has made a great move by putting heart defribrillators in all of its schools. The question is: Why don't all schools across the country have these devices as well as someone on campus who is trained in their use?

Those of us who are concerned with the federal government's enforcement of the No Child Left Behind Act (and that means pretty much everyone who's involved in public education) should consider taking a look at this take on A.Y.P. (Adequate Yearly Progress) over at Education Sector's

Columnist DeWayne Wickham
provokes thought by pondering the possible return of racially-segregated schools in some parts of the country.

Here's the good news: The Afghani government
plans to build 1000 schools. Here's the bad news: Taliban guerillas plan to destroy 1000 schools...

The Huffington Posts' Gerald Bracey
believes that when it comes to American public schools, the sky is not falling while the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce firmly asserts that we'd better be reaching for some skyhooks.
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading there.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wonkitorial: Another Report That'll Be Ignored

The Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce has been taking a look at our public education system and and is now issuing a clarion call for systemic change:
An independent commission yesterday proposed dramatic changes that would shake up American public education in an effort to make the nation more competitive globally. The recommendations include authorizing school districts to pay companies to run all their schools; enrolling many students in college after the 10th grade; and paying teachers about $100,000 annually.

The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce -- a bipartisan panel that includes former Cabinet secretaries and governors in addition to federal and state education officials and business and civic leaders -- issued the recommendations in a report on the future workforce. The commissioners warned that unless improvements are made in the nation's public schools and colleges by 2021, a large number of jobs would be lost to countries including India and China, where workers are better educated and paid much less than their U.S. counterparts.

"We're calling for a complete shake-up from top to bottom," Charles Knapp, chairman of the commission, said at a news conference.

"The United States has one of the highest costs of education but produces mediocre results," added Knapp, former president of the University of Georgia. "The recommendations are absolutely necessary if we want America to maintain its standard of living."

The 170-page report, "Tough Choices or Tough Times," is the result of a year-long study by the panel, which includes New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; Joel I. Klein, chancellor of the New York City public schools; former Michigan governor John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers; Roderick R. Paige, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Education; Marc H. Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans; and D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey. It was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

Implementing all the recommendations, commission members said, would cost about $60 billion.

Education experts expect the study to spur public debates in legislatures and school board chambers across the country, much like the groundbreaking 1983 report "A Nation at Risk."

The report will prompt "constitutional changes, cultural shifts and changes in political will," said Andrew Romanoff, speaker of the Colorado House, who plans to introduce a measure incorporating a recommendation to increase offerings of early childhood education programs. "The report will provide the basis for our conversation."

The most controversial recommendations include empowering school districts to sign contracts with companies and teachers to run the schools -- which would replace schools' administrative structures with something similar to that in charter schools -- and forcing teachers to give up pensions in exchange for large pay increases.

Districts, they said, should relinquish control to the most highly qualified contractors, who would be rewarded for successfully running schools -- or fired if student performance languishes.

The schools "would be like charter schools in one crucial respect: They would be highly entrepreneurial," said Marc Tucker, vice chairman of the commission and staff director and president of the National Center on Education and the Economy.

But Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, said hiring contractors to run the schools would create "a huge new set of enterprises that we have no evidence will work." Moreover, it would negate the administrative economies of scale provided by a central office and "add a great deal of costs to a school," she said. "We've seen that to an extent with charter schools."

Boosting teacher pay would draw better candidates to the profession, commission members said. They recommend that schools increase teacher pay by at least $20,000 -- to $45,000 for beginners and $95,000 for experienced ones working a regular school calendar. Teachers who work year-round, they said, would be paid $110,000.

Teachers would get the raises in exchange for giving up pensions and switching to 401(k) retirement plans.

Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, agreed that teacher pay should be increased. However, "it is shortsighted to call for salary programs that increase teacher pay but deplete retirement benefits," he said in a statement.

The proposal also calls for:

Setting up "personal competitiveness accounts" for all citizens to cover the cost of retraining if their jobs are phased out.

Allowing students in vocational courses to graduate from high school after the 10th grade and enroll in trade schools or community colleges if they pass exams demonstrating academic competency. High-performing college-prep students would spend the 11th and 12th grades taking advanced courses and then, after graduation, enroll in college as sophomores and juniors.

Tucker said the recommendations would take 15 years to implement, but he predicted that they would result "in what will plausibly be the best national public school system in the world."
So.... what do we have here?

We have a commission that says, in so many words, that if teachers were compensated better, then school districts could be much more selective in who they hire. As classroom service would suddenly become very attractive to legions of our "best and brightest" young (and not-so-young) people, the overall quality of the classroom teaching talent would improve.

Just like private enterprise.

And like private enterprise, those employees who can not (or will not) perform will be out.

But this isn't to be.

It is our guess that, in the end, this report will just end-up sitting on the shelf gathering dust (like so many of its predecessors) because the EduCracy (and especially those who fund it) are unwilling to spend the kind of money that it will take to boost teacher salaries to high enough levels to actually attract the 100s of thousands of our best and brightest into the classroom and keep them there.

It's all about the money.

The fact is that we, as a society, are either unable (or unwilling) to support the idea of having our public school teachers earn that kind of money.

And that's the bottom line.

Related: Joanne Jacobs has
much more as does the Science Goddess over at What It's Like on the Inside.
See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Extra Credit Reading: Sunday, December 17, 2006

In one Nebraska school, they're actually putting kids to torture!

The United States government has thrown away spent 100s of millions of taxpayer dollars on Iraqi schools, only to have those institutions torn apart by rising violence.

The Los Angeles Times' edublog School Me! has their weekly roundup of international EduStories.

Today's Non Sequitur: Time Magazine has chosen the Person of the Year: It's You.
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading there.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

NCLB: A Federal EduCrat's Erotic Dream?

Isn't it amazing that The Queen Of All Testing U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is able to sleep at night after holding teachers 100% accountable for the academic progress of wankers students like this while giving said wankers students (and their parents) a free pass?

We can't help but wonder what sorts of images fill the Secretary's dreams.

I can't find anything in
my own bedtime reading...
See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

This Is Awful!

Why do people do things like this?
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) -- A man killed five people, including three of his children, before fatally shooting himself Saturday morning, and a fourth child was in the hospital with life-threatening wounds, police said.

The man killed one woman around 8:30 a.m., then went to another home and shot his longtime girlfriend, their four children and himself, Capt. Rich Lockhart said.

Police did not immediately identify the shooter or the women. Relatives identified the shooter's girlfriend as Shanika King, who was in her 30s.

The slain children were a 1-year-old boy, 11-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl, police said. An 8-year-old boy was in critical condition.

Witnesses identified the first victim, a woman in her mid-30s, as the shooter's cousin, Lockhart said. The woman's son told police a man came to the door and asked to see his mother. The boy said he heard a "pop," but thought it was fireworks.
I may be wrong here, but did this type of thing happen 100 years ago?

If not, why is it happening now, and what can be done to put a stop to it?
See our latest EduPosts.

Extra Credit Reading: Saturday, December 16, 2006

If your kid hasn't had his or her shots, then he or she may not be attending school. (Here in California, there's a similar "rule," which 1000s of parents evade simply by claiming to belong to a religious fath that doesn't believe in vaccination.)

In spite of the efforts of one Georgia mother to have Harry Potter
banned from school libraries, it appears as though Harry and the Gang will remain on the shelves.... at least for now.

Yet another unelected lawmaker federal judge has dealt yet
another kick in the shorts to public school educators. It seems as though students sporting fashion accessories from the Hitler Collection may be protected speech...
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading there.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dungeons And Yearbooks

Do schools have the right to determine the students' yearbook attire? One Rhode Island mother believes that her son should have his photo with armor and sword included in the school's yearbook. It goes without saying that she has filed a lawsuit in order to get her way:
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The mother of a high school senior who posed in chain mail and held a medieval sword for his yearbook picture sued after the school rejected the photo because of its "zero-tolerance" policy against weapons.

Patrick Agin, 17, belongs to the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization that researches and recreates medieval history. He submitted the photo in September for the Portsmouth High School yearbook.

But the school's principal refused to allow the portrait as Agin's official yearbook photo because he said it violated a policy against weapons and violence in schools, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by the Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit seeks an order that would prevent the yearbook from being published without Agin's senior portrait.

Agin's mother, Heidi Farrington, said she and her son believe the decision defies common sense.

"He doesn't see it as promoting violence," Farrington said Tuesday. "He sees it just as a theatrical expression of the reenactment community that he's involved in right now."

According to the lawsuit, principal Robert Littlefield told Farrington she could pay to put the photo in the advertising section of the book, but he would not allow it as Agin's senior portrait.

"That in and of itself demonstrates to us that there's absolutely no legitimate rationale for banning Patrick's photo," said Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU.
Personally, I believe that since the yearbook is a collective effort that is representative of the school and its community, it should be up to the school to decide what standards apply to its content.

Lady Wackjob Mom and the American Inquisition ACLU should back off on this one.
See our latest EduPosts here and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Friday Freak Show

I've heard of policies limiting gifts from students to teachers, but who would have thought that a policy limiting gifts from teachers to students would be necessary? This because of one wackjob deviant's former Boston teacher's alleged criminal behavior:
During the three years that he allegedly was molesting a student, a Maynard High School teacher showered him with gifts, including two cars, music equipment, and cash, court records say.

"Obviously, in hindsight, the gifts should have raised a red flag," said Bill Kohlman, chairman of the Maynard School Committee.

As a result of this case, Maynard has become one of only a few communities in the western suburbs to enact explicit rules on teachers' gifts to students. The School Committee last month unanimously approved a policy that caps at $200 the total value of gifts a teacher can present to a student in an academic year.

Meanwhile, the teacher whose actions prompted the rule, Joseph Magno , faces trial Jan. 22. Magno, 65, remains confined to his Hudson home, monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet, according to the Middlesex district attorney's office. He has denied the allegations against him through his attorney, Don DeMayo.

Before his arrest in January, Magno was held in high esteem as the founder of Maynard High's radio station, WAVM, and as the friend and mentor of students for more than four decades. An advisor to the radio station, he was known for his generosity, buying students dinners, taking them bowling and to movies, and paying their way on trips as far away as Florida.

Superintendent Mark Masterson said Magno's case was the impetus for change.

"The School Committee wanted to take a step back and reflect, look at this issue and craft a thoughtful policy," said Masterson. "When we became aware of this issue, we wanted to make sure that checks and balances were in place."

Kohlman said the committee wanted to make sure the policy was not so restrictive as to limit "a teacher's ability to reward a student who has really worked hard, or encourage a student who is struggling."

Under the new policy, teachers have to notify their principal in writing before giving a student anything with a value of $20 or more.

"This was a way to put controls on this practice without having teachers reporting that they gave elementary students a pencil or stickers," said Kohlman.

Exemptions are allowed for teachers who are presenting gifts to students who are also relatives. Also exempt are students who benefit from fund-raisers, such as someone recovering from an accident.

School districts outside Maynard are not so sure that such a policy is needed. Of the 37 communities served by Globe West, only a handful regulate gift giving between students and teachers.

The Berlin-Boylston district has had a policy on the books since 1985 about employees accepting gifts, but nothing about teachers giving gifts to students. Most districts, including Framingham and Nashoba Regional, rely on sexual harassment policies and teacher conduct codes to regulate gifts to students.

Bellingham Superintendent Chris Mattocks said his district abides by the State Ethics Commission statute that officials are not allowed to give gifts over $50 in value.

"I have been in this district for five years, and it has never been an issue," Mattocks said.

Other superintendents, such as Wayland's Gary Burton, said although their districts have no official policy on the matter, "we do have a professional code of ethics to guide us."

But officials in Maynard say they would rather have the policy explicitly stated than be surprised again.

"This is not an effort to restrict the generosity of our staff, but rather make sure that there is some kind of oversight," said Kohlman.
The really sad thing is that it's due to the actions of people like this clown Magno that districts and school administrators have to waste their time implementing such policies in the first place.
See our latest EduPosts.

Extra Credit Reading: Friday, December 15, 2006

What's in a name? A lot if you're sitting on the Florida school board that just might name a brand-spanking new elementary school the Breakfast Point Academy.

The Wanker of the Day Award goes to.... Florida elementary school teacher Heather Ovalles, who was
arrested and booked on a charge of cultivating her own Secret Garden. (We suspect that Ovalles will soon be the recipient of a Darwin Award in Education as well.)

Here's a relative rarity in the relatively rarified world of public school administration: A principal who actually
lost his job due to misconduct. (Accountability for administrators as well as teachers...Will wonders never cease? What will they think of next? Something really radical like Merit-Based Promotion in Public Education?)

History Friday: Florida high school history teacher and navy veteran James Brown has been recalled to active-duty and will soon be witnessing history in Afghanistan.

In response to a number of
commenters responding to this post, Polski3 has decided to continue blogging and not let his voice be silenced! Woot!

Today's Non-Sequitur: Take a look at this story and photo of the world's tallest man, who saved the lives of not just one but two dolphins!
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

One Principal's Pathetic Potty Policy

What kind of knucklehead educator operates his or her classroom like this Maryland teacher allegedly did? And what kind of wanker principal would impose the sort of policy that permits this incident to occur in the first place?
A Salisbury Middle School policy that called for students to be escorted on bathroom breaks resulted in three students being forced to answer nature's call via a soda bottle.

Excessive requests for bathroom breaks throughout the day have prompted faculty members to be more skeptical, requiring some students to be escorted.

When no one was available to escort three bathroom-eager students on Friday, their teacher had an unusual solution to the problem.

Preston Whittington said his 13-year-old nephew, an eighth-grader at the West Side school, was told to urinate into a soda bottle along with two other boys.

Allen Brown, Wicomico County's assistant superintendent for Student Services, said the incident is being reviewed as a personnel matter. Brown would not release the teacher's name.

Whittington, whose two children also attend Salisbury Middle, said the incident occurred because of the strict policies at the school.

"So I guess they either have to hold it or mess themselves," he said.

Whittington's mother, who is also guardian of his nephew, is upset and wants answers.

"Kids should be able to wash their hands or pee in private," Whittington said.

Brown said the school has been having problems with students defacing the bathrooms, such as not urinating in the appropriate area.

To address the situation, school administration felt it necessary to announce to all eighth-graders and teachers that teachers and administrators would be more selective on students going to the bathroom.

That meant that students who made a habit of going to the bathroom several times throughout the day would have to be monitored by a faculty member when they left the classroom.

According to Brown, the students involved in the bottle incident asked to use the bathroom at about the same time. The teacher called for someone to escort them, but nobody came.

Rather than leave the classroom unsupervised, the teacher's solution was to give the students a bottle.

Brown said the fate of the teacher has yet to be determined. "(Interim Superintendent Thomas Field) will have to review the incident and he will decide what measures will be taken," he said.

"In my 39 years of working here, I've never heard of anything like this," Brown said. "It was just a dumb thing to do."

Levi Willey Jr., president of the Wicomico County PTAs, on Tuesday criticized how the matter was handled.

"That's not even civilized," Willey said. "You don't ask anyone to do that in a public area."

Christopher Wilde, Salisbury Middle School PTA president, has had two children go through the school and has a daughter now in eighth grade.

He said his children have had positive experiences.

"I have a fair amount of faith in the administrators," Wilde said Tuesday.

Wilde said that in the fall parents and teachers had told him they observed students spending more time wandering the halls than learning.

"I trust their judgment for the safety of our children," he said. "Are they perfect? Certainly not."

Wilde said he talked with his daughter after school Friday and she had not mentioned the incident. His daughter did, however, express concern that teachers said bathroom times would be limited.

She told him that in her class, when the teacher had commented on excessive bathroom usage, a girl raised her hand.

"She explained to the teacher that it was a biological function and that if you eat and drink, you'll have to go," he said laughing. "They made kind of a joke about it."

"If this happened to my daughter, I would be a little upset, but I would ask why," Wilde said. "How do you know for sure if some kids have to go to the bathroom? That's a tough call for teachers."

Whittington said he believes the bathroom rules are too strict for children to follow.

"I'm a retired correctional officer and we didn't run things like this," he said.
In order to prevent my junior high school students from taking an excessive number of bathroom breaks during their 50-minute class periods, I have a simple solution: I never say "no" to students' requests to attend to their restroom needs. But there is one little condition: All students taking bathroom breaks must come-in for five minutes after school in order to make-up the lost instructional time.

Most of my students end-up requesting only one or two breaks per semester
See our latest EduPosts here, yesterday's Carnival of Education here, and this date's Extra Credit Reading there.

Extra Credit Reading: Thursday, December 14, 2006

TipWonk KauiMark has pointed us to the incredible story of Virginia art teacher Stephen Murmer. It seems as though Mr. Murmer has been suspended from his classroom because of his peculiar habit of painting pictures with his backside and/or his genitals. (We didn't make this up---- honest!) Of course it goes without saying that the American Civil Liberties Union couldn't wait to get itself involved.

While reading
this story about a California high school teacher who is being sued due to having an alleged sexual liason with two students, I learned the disturbing fact that some 367 teachers have had their teaching credentials revoked in the last five years due to sexual misconduct.

Voting continues
right here for the best EduBlog in this year's Weblog Awards. (Readers may cast one vote each 24 hours.)

Here's something we like: In one Texas elementary school, 200 out of 500 students have had
perfect attendance this year, resulting in an early Christmas for some. Good for them.

In Iraq, thousands of girls have been
forced to quit school due to increasingly unsafe conditions.

Technology Thursday: Who would have thought that there is a site out there that's on the lookout for
The Top 101 Web Sites For Teachers? Guess we learn something every day!

Today's Non-Sequitur: Here's a list (with photos) of the top-10 places
to get married. (*sigh)
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's edition of The Carnival of Education there.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Carnival Of Education: Week 97

Welcome to the 97th edition of The Carnival Of Education! We are delighted that the Midway has returned home after a short road trip.

This week's collection of exhibits from around the EduSphere represents a very wide variety of political and educational viewpoints. Unless clearly labeled otherwise, all entries were submitted by the writers themselves.

Special Announcement: Voting continues in this year's Weblog Awards. Readers may vote for their favorite (nominated) EduBlog once every 24 hours by clicking here.

If you have a website and are interested in hosting an edition of The Carnival Of Education, please let us know via this email address: edwonk [at] educationwonks [dot] org.

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about last week's midway over at History is Elementary. As always, links are much appreciated and trackbacks are adored. Visit the Carnival's archives here and see our latest EduPosts there.

Next Week's Carnival midway will be hosted by Carol over at The Median Sib. Writers are invited to send contributions to: carol [at] the mediansib [dot] com , or use this handy submission form. Carol should receive them no later than 6:00 PM (Eastern) 3:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, December 19th. Please include the title of your post, and its URL, if possible. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the midway should open next Wednesday morning.

Let the free exchange of thoughts and ideas begin!


Same-sex classrooms have become very fashionable lately. But we were taken aback when we read that the principal of Janet's K-4 primary school was thinking about
separating the sexes in the fourth grade! (Title of the post: "Boys Go To Jupiter, Girls Go To Mars.")

The debate over next year's re-authorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act promises to be hot-and-heavy. Alexander Russo's This Week in Education
is covering the war's discussion's first stirrings over in the now Democratic-controlled House Education Committee.

We were left shaking our heads when we read this entry from Joanne Jacobs about the Massachusetts high school that has
stopped publishing the names of students who've made the Honor Roll. (Be sure to check out the principal's sorry excuse rationalization for halting this popular and time-honored practice.)

Hey! Here's a great idea whose time has finally come 'round at last: pay teachers for good lesson plans! But before we begin saving our nickels and dimes for that new Range Rover, it may be a good idea to take a look at
this reality check from What It's Like on the Inside.

We earnestly believe that schools should be a "safe haven" for our students. Nevertheless, we were saddened
when we learned of one district having to put armed police in its middle schools, The problem was pithily put into words by a school board member when she said, "Police bring a certain authority to the school that neither teachers or principals have." (Heh. Maybe the problem can be fixed by fixing a few board members...)

There was quite a bit of buzz in the EduSphere recently over two New Jersey students who were protesting their school's uniform policy by wearing buttons that equated the policy with the "Hitler Youth." Rhymes With Right
takes a look at the issues involved.

The Poor, Starving, College Student
links to, and comments on, a couple of MSM articles detailing the University of Rhode Island's efforts to revamp the delivery of science instruction to that state's public school students.

Humbly submitted for your consideration is our entry, which posits that even in a post-NCLB world, there should be room in our students' day for the study the Arts and Humanities.

Teaching and Learning:

In the debate over whether or not the teaching of penmanship is still relevant in the 21st century, count us among those who enthusiastically vote "yes." Having said that, take a look at D-Ed Reckoning's
original method for the teaching this rapidly-disappearing skill. (Ed's note: No innocent puppets were hurt in the making of this submission...)

Here's an interesting entry from The Online Education Database whose title says it all:
77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better. An engaging (and meaty) read for parents, teachers, and students.

How do we keep Gifted Children interested in the learning process? That's not always an easy question to answer but Wells on Education
has a suggestion.

Can a number be divided by zero? Phil for Humanity says that one can indeed divide a number by zero and dares anyone to
prove him wrong!

I clearly recall when my best friend, who fell victim to Lou Gehrigs Disease, was "hammered" by State authorities some ten years ago for teaching grammar rules to our junior high's G.A.T.E. students. And even though times have changed considerably since then, N.Y.C. Educator
brings to our attention the fact that some still think that the teaching of grammar in public schools is outdated, outmoded, and... should be... outlawed.

Edspresso's Super Secret Spy Operative "John Dewey" sends us
the latest dispatch from the Math Front in the war that's being waged in Teacher Ed. Schools between partisans of Constructivism and those who support More Traditional Teaching Methods.

One of the biggest everyday challenges we practicing classroom teachers face is that of successfully "engaging" students in the learning process. On the other hand, an often-heard complaint of students is that much of what is learned has no "real world" application. Over at Going to the Mat, we see
that it is possible for even mathematical models and economic theories to be used in both the "un-real" world of Hollywood and the very real world of Freakonomics.

From the Classroom:

IB a Math Teacher publishes over at 3σ → Left. IB has sent us a submission that will resonate with just about any public school teacher who has spent any significant time whatsoever in front of the chalkboard and
dealt with parents and their demands for Special Treatment.

What would you do if a child came to you in confidence, said she was pregnant, thought she might be miscarrying, but the mom didn't know about the situation?
Find out what Ms. Cornelius of A Shrewdness of Apes did and have your heartstrings pulled at the same time.

Substitute teacher KauaiMark
reminds us about the importance leaving good lesson plans and warning us of possible double entendres in what is handed-out to students....

A reader has pointed us to a site written by a teacher working in Canada's Yukon Territory. Average Mom has written a lovely reminder about
how good teaching should be.

Editor's Choice: Check out this
selection of student-written letters that the Median Sib's elementary school are sending to our soldiers, sailors, and airmen in Iraq.

Over at Right on the Left Coast, Darren
reminds us of how high school rallies have changed over the years. This is a sample:
Here's something that happened at a rally when I was in high school. There's no way it could happen today--heads would roll, jobs would be lost, lawsuits would be filed. However, it was considered so harmless and entertaining that pictures of it were published in either our yearbook or our school newspaper (I think it was the yearbook).

A couple of male and female A-listers (sportos, cheerleaders, student council types) were called to the front of the rally for a kissing contest. The girls were blindfolded, and they had to try to figure out which sporto was kissing them. At the last moment, however, after they'd been blindfolded, the sportos were secreted away and replaced by our two male counselors--at the time probably in their 50s. It was they who ended up kissing the girls, and we roared in laughter. You should have seen the looks on the girls' faces after they'd guessed with sporto had kissed them, removed their blindfolds, and saw who it really was! The gym could have collapsed from the cheering and laughing.
California teacher Chanman is supervising a student teacher this semester. The beginning teacher has already discovered that when it comes to student discipline, the reality is a whole lot different than the theoretical.

Teachers Unions and Collective Bargaining:

The American Federation of Teachers' NCLBlog
is asking for readers to consider making a contribution to a scholarship fund that has been established in memory of Ohio's Tom Mooney. Mr. Mooney was President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers and was noted for his tireless work in the cause of his union and its membership.

Mamacita of Scheiss Weekly paid dues to the teachers union for some 20 years and now gives her
candid opinion regarding the action, inaction, and incompetent leadership that is exhibited all too many local union functionaries. (Disc. We teach in California, where our NEA-affiliated state and local will take over $900.00 each and every year, whether one wishes to belong to the union or not.)

School Governance:

Is there ever a circumstance when students who peacefully express controversial opinions while off campus can be held accountable by school authorities? This entry from Scott Elliott's Get on the Bus raises
all kinds of issues regarding students and their Constitutional right to the free expression of thoughts and ideas.

After reading
this contribution from ms_teacher, I was reminded just how quickly many of those teachers who are co-opted "promoted" into the ranks of school administrators forget where they came from.... (Not a problem in our district, where only about 10% of newly-minted administrators are promoted from within the ranks of the district's teachers. The hiring of outsiders is both routine and expected...)

My goodness! Over in Chicago, some high-level EduCrats are actually
mandating that high school students participate in an essay contest about.... how to close the standardized testing "Achievement Gap." (You can't make this stuff up...)

As revealed by
this entry from I Thought a Think, Seattle's John Marshall High School is in need of some serious restructuring and head-rolling. (Maybe U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings could drop-in for a little visit and show 'em how it is done.)

Would you believe that there is a Texas principal out there who developed a PLAN to remedy poor test scores in... math. That same principal then berated her staff's "unprofessionalism"... but "forgot" to inform her "unprofessional" staff that their school had received a Gold Performance Acknowledgement from the state in... math?
Believe it!

International Viewpoints:

The Indian bloggers over at Babblogue show us that in India, as in America, there's often
a great deal of difference between the school that we'd like our children to attend and the one that our children are likely to attend.

The Secret Lives of Teachers:

After opening a package containing some items that included a large bone with some meat still attached, one teacher learned
a valuable lesson: one should be very careful when sending notes to one's Secret Santa....

Who says that all school-related business trips are forgettable? Next week's midway host The Median Sib went down to Memphis and had an
unforgettable experience. Key vocabulary needed: Johnny Cash, Jerry Springer, Eric Clapton, and... manhandling.


What would you do if your youngster seemed OK but didn't display much interest in any one thing in particular? This in spite of your best efforts to spark his or her interests in everything from chess to carpentry? As one might expect, the outcome for one parent was as unexpected as it was unpredictable.

Editor's Choice: Sadly, our friend Spunkyhomeschool has made the decision to put her always-engaging weblog on hiatus and move on to new and different things. Consider going over to Spunky's place and asking her to reconsider.

Inside the Blogs:

Whether inside corporate America or Someplace Else out there, "lifetime" employment isn't what it used to be.
This week's submission from George Orwell Dr. Homeslice gave us the "chills."

At Trivium Pursuit, they're giving us a lesson in debating terms. By cleverly using a snippet of dialogue between the Wizard of Oz's Dorothy and the Scarecrow,
we learn all about equivocation.

From the Collegiate Way, we have this
well-timed entry about the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols that is held every year on Christmas Eve in the chapel of King’s College at Cambridge University.

And finally: This, like most of our journeys around the EduSphere, has been both enjoyable and informative. Our continued thanks to all the contributors whose submissions make the midway's continuing success possible, the folks who find the time to help spread the word, and the readers who continue to make it rewarding
This midway is registered at TTLB's carnival roundup. See our latest EduPosts here, and the complete Carnival archives over there.