Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Carnival Of Education Archives

This is the complete listing (by host and date) of the weekly Carnival of Eduction. (Please ignore this post's date.) Those who are interested in hosting an edition should contact the Carnival's administrator at: edwonk [at] educationwonks [dot] org .
The Carnival Of Education Archives
Week 80: at The Education Wonks on 16/Aug/06

Week 79: at California Live Wire on 08/Aug/06

Week 78: at This Week In Education on 02/Aug/06

Week 77: at Text Savvy on 26/Jul/06

Week 76: at Education In Texas on 19/Jul/06

Week 75: at The L.A. Times' EduBlog School Me! on 12/Jul/06

Week 74: at NYC Educator on 05/Jul/06

Week 73: at The Lilting House on 28/Jun/06

Week 72: at Why Homeschool? on 21/Jun/06

Week 71: at What It's Like on the Inside on 14/Jun/06

Week 70: at The Education Wonks on 07/Jun/06

Week 69: at Education In Texas on 31/May/06

Week 68: at NYC Educator on 24/May/06

Week 67: at The Education Wonks on 17/May/06

Week 66: at HUNBlog on 09/May/06

Week 65: at The Education Wonks on 02/May/06

Week 64: at The Education Wonks on 26/Apr/06

Week 63: at The Education Wonks on 19/Apr/06

Week 62: at The Magic School Bus on 12/Apr/06

Week 61: at The Education Wonks on 05/Apr/06

Week 60: at Right Wing Nation on 29/Mar/06

Week 59: at The Education Wonks on 22/Mar/06

Week 58: at The Education Wonks on 15/Mar/06

Week 57: at MathandText on 08/Mar/06

Week 56: at The Education Wonks on 01/Mar/06

Week 55: at The Education Wonks on 22/Feb/o6

Week 54: at The EdWahoo on 15/Feb/06

Week 53: at The Education Wonks on 08/Feb/06

Week 52: at Diane Weir on Education on 01/Feb/06

Week 51: at The Education Wonks on 25/Jan/06

Week 50: at The Education Wonks on 18/Jan/06

Week 49: at Jenny D. on 11/Jan/06

Week 48: at The Education Wonks on 04/Jan/06

Week 47: at The Education Wonks on 28/Dec/05

Week 46: at Circadiana on 21/Dec/05

Week 45: at The Education Wonks on 14/Dec/05

Week 44: at What It's Like on the Inside on 06/Dec/05

The first edition can be seen here, the second, here the third, here the fourth, here, and the fifth, here the sixth, here the seventh, here the eighth, here the ninth, here the tenth, here the eleventh here the twelfth here, the thirteenth, here the fourteenth, here the fifteenth, here, the sixteenth, here the seventeenth, here the eighteenth, here the nineteenth, here, the twentieth, here, the twenty-first, here the twenty-second, here the twenty-third, here the twenty-fourth, here, the twenty-fifth, here, the twenty-sixth, here the twenty-seventh here, the twenty-eighth, here the twenty-ninth, here the thirtieth, here the thirty-first, here, the thirty-second, here the thirty-third, here and the thirty-fourth, here. the thirty-fifth, here the thirty-sixth, here the thirty-seventh, here, the thirty-eighth, here, the thirty-ninth, here, the fortieth, here, the forty-first, here, the forty-second, here, the forty-third, here, the forty-fourth, here, the forty-fifth, here, the forty-sixth, here. To go to EdWonk's main page, (with a variety of education-related posts) please click here.

These midways have been registered at TTLB's Carnival Roundup and Blog Carnival.

The Counterfeit Currency Of A High School Diploma: A Letter From John S.

The Counterfeit Currency of a High School Diploma

When the "Founding Fathers" finally got the chance to run our young nation’s economic affairs free of dependence on England, they stumbled. A likely cause, they were mostly land owners, farmers and lawyers not experienced with handling money on a large scale. Alexander Hamilton understood money better than any of the “Founders”. Hamilton founded the US Bank and remedied many of the economic problems when he was appointed by George Washington to be the first Secretary of the Treasury. The United States did not however begin with a common national currency.

From the early days of the United States, with minimum regulation, over 1,600 state-chartered, private banks issued paper money. These State bank notes, with over 30,000 varieties of color and design, were easily counterfeited, and combined with numerous bank failures to cause confusion to say the least. With no common currency there was no confidence in the value of any given dollar.

After nearly 100 years of “festive federalism” the anti federal control politicians finally through in the towel. Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and pressed to finance the Civil War, in 1861 the thirty seventh Congress authorized the United States Treasury to issue paper money and the US finally got what it desperately needed a common currency.

What makes any currency (or diploma) valuable? The perception and confidence in the currency based on the belief that the exchange value of the currency is at parity at the time of the exchange. Today one ten dollar bill has the exchange value of any other ten dollar bill, not so in 1860.

In the United States the power to define what “standards” a student must meet in order to receive a high school diploma has traditionally been assumed to be the responsibility of the States. This being one of the few things in existence both Federalists and Teachers Unions agree on.

These “standards” vary widely depending on the state. The MCAS in Massachusetts and the Regents in NY are at the top with Mississippi and California at the bottom. Do colleges have confidence a high school diploma from one school is as valuable i.e. required the same subject matter knowledge to obtain as any other? Do employers? Not likely. By any reasonable definition a high school diploma in the United States is a counterfeit currency.

Our most demanding high school standards or high school exit examinations aren’t demanding at all compared with many other countries. The new National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) advanced placement eighth grade math standards are the same as Singapore’s everyday Sixth grade math standards.

Last year California gave waivers to over 10,000 high school seniors who had never taken Algebra (a state legal requirement to graduate) so they could graduate on time. They might as well have printed those diplomas on toilet paper.

The majority of our economic competitors are not foolish enough to allow the issuance of counterfeit high school diplomas and instead rely on demanding national content specific standards and/or a demanding matriculation examination to graduate from high school. In some countries the amount of class time and subject matter covered by the end of high school is equivalent to what is required by a student receiving a bachelor’s degree in the US. In China the high school students don’t take the SAT they take the GRE and perform as well as our best college students.

The federal requirements under NCLB may prove to be unconstitutional which would allow the states to determine their own standards, their own definition of “progress” as well as how and who is to be measured yet still receive federal funds. A national disaster that would haunt future generations for decades.

The unbendable belief by many conservatives in always following the “original intent” of the founding fathers is tragically laughable in the case of the need for demanding, national, content specific, grade level academic standards. The “Founders” were among the greatest men in history but far from infallible, remember how well they handled the issue of a common currency for the first century.

Is there any chance the US Congress will address the lack of national standards let alone world class, national, content standards for core subjects at every grade level? The word snowball comes to mind. In addition to the fundamental constitutional issues, there are no campaign contributors on the side of world class, national, content standards. Installing national content standards is the right thing to do but this is a representative democracy where money talks, philosophical absolutism reigns and everything else falls silent. When those whose lives will be impacted most have neither money nor votes their voices are seldom if ever heard.

We don’t need to create our own world class standards for math and science; Singapore, China, Japan and much of Europe have already done so. Singapore’s standards (ranked #1 in the world in math and science) are already in English. Any parent with a credit card and an internet connection can benchmark their student’s progress in Math and Science against the world’s best by purchasing the materials online at www.singaporemath.com.

With NAEP participation now mandatory for all states who receive Title 1 funding, we at least know where any given state ranks compared to the other forty nine. With no consequences for a last place finish NAEP is a paper tiger. The use of both AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate) are growing as they become the “de facto” national content standards used mostly by the well to do and the lucky few. The IB program is recognized around the world.

Until we have world class national content specific standards, and a matriculation exam to match, High school diplomas in the United States will remain a counterfeit currency.

Top 15 Reasons for National Content Specific Standards.

  1. There is irrefutable evidence that national, grade level, content specific standards are a major component of the world’s highest achieving school systems and are a cornerstone of that achievement. Every country that outscores the US on TIMSS has national standards.
  2. Education costs are reduced significantly due to the elimination of a number of expenses including, pedagogic staff, and other administration.
  3. Teacher’s skills can be focused on how to teach a subject area not what to teach.
  4. Teacher’s skills can be employed to improve the instructional methods and classroom practice from the classroom up. In Japan this is called “Lesson study” and it has been ongoing for over three decades.
  5. Older, wiser more experienced teachers can be of help to younger teachers when they are allowed to collaborate.
  6. Instruction and optimal classroom practice become the focus.
  7. Teachers have more time to focus on each child’s needs in relation to how to learn the specific lessons.
  8. The entire curriculum is covered because all of it is known, understood and measured
  9. Parents can participate directly and conveniently in their child’s education. Parents tend to be less alienated from the school when it is very clear what their child needs to learn.
  10. The 15,000 school districts can be held directly accountable because everyone knows what a child is supposed to have learned at each grade level in each subject area.
  11. The application of technology is more economical because the development expense can be leveraged across a nation.
  12. The media could become easily involved in aiding education by providing educational assistance or enrichment at specific times over the airwaves (TV/Radio/Net)
  13. If a specific lesson in the curriculum designed to meet the content standards is incorrect or in effective it quickly becomes obvious.
  14. The US population is mobile; families move often and the lower the socioeconomic status the more often families move. The lack of consistency in standards creates chaos in the lives of school aged children.
  15. Bill Gates might actually hire your children after they graduate.

    John S

    Napa, CA

Note to readers: This letter is posted here for the convenience of readers who are visiting The Carnival of Education.

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Posting No Bills In Troy, New York

There is quite a controversy about some classroom posters at Troy High School:
A poster at Troy High School that reads "Gay People are Everyday People" appears to be multiplying instead of coming down.

Some parents have been fighting the Troy School District for more than a year to have the poster removed from an English classroom, claiming it promotes sexuality and a homosexual lifestyle.

But the maker of the poster said the school's English department has decided to go the other direction, ordering 25 more copies.

"Now there's going to be 26 at the school," said Leslie Thompson, executive director of Ferndale-based Affirmations Gay/Lesbian Community Center, which distributes the posters.

"I'm really rather proud of the district, the school and the teachers for standing by their gay students," she said. "(The poster) is really a strong message for those kids."

District spokesman Tim McAvoy confirmed that at least four new posters went up recently.

The poster originally went up in 2003 at the request of the student group Human Equal Rights Organization, which was doing a project on tolerance. It portrays five teenagers surrounded by photos of professionals such as caterers, mail carriers, musicians and teachers.
I see several issues in play here. As a classroom teacher in a small, somewhat conservative, desert community in California, I would not display anything in my own classroom that any large segment of our community would find offensive. I firmly believe that I work for the parents of our community.

Even though dealing with such a controversy may provide some valuable life-lessons for my students, it would also be a major distraction from my primary mission of teaching the district/state adopted content-area standards.

In this age of increased accountability for teachers, I can't afford such disruptions of my educational program.

Regarding the controversy at Troy High School, the display of one poster by one teacher could be thought of as a case of First Amendment freedom of speech Vs. Community Standards. Having said that,
I believe that the school's ordering of an additional 25 posters is an unnecessary provocation.

I'm frankly puzzled why the school's administration has tacitly approved of this course of action, which can only serve to exasperate the situation.

It would be interesting to know the school board's position on this matter.
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tonight. The Carnival should open here at The Wonks Wednesday morning.

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The Kiwi Method For Dealing With A Universal Problem

In New Zealand, they have their problems with school bullies too. Here is an interesting website publicizing a program developed by New Zealand's police to deal with what must be a universal problem in schools throughout the world.
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tonight. The Carnival should open here at The Wonks Wednesday morning.

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The Daily Prank Report: Where The Pranksters Are

Due to the long Memorial Day weekend, there hasn't been much end-of-the-year prank activity reported in the MSM.

However, it is said that forewarned is forearmed, and so we offer for your perusal
a website where pranksters are able to brag about their misdeeds both before and after the fact. The "pranks" that are profiled range from the slightly amusing to downright destructive acts of vandalism.

How about if us teachers developed a data-base for the tracking and reporting of class clowns?
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tonight. The Carnival should open here at the 'Wonks Wednesday morning.

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Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 17th Edition of The Carnival Of Education are due TONIGHT. We should receive them no later than 10:00 PM. (Pacific) Please send all submissions to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. Get additional details about the Carnival here.

The Carnival's midway will open here at the 'Wonks tomorrow morning.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Eatin Good In The Neighborhood (School)

As the parent of the 13-year old TeenWonk, I'm always wondering how (and what) she is eating at school. Each week, we give her enough money to buy her lunch. For some time, I've suspected that she does what many of her classmates do with their lunch money. Rather than buying a nutritional school lunch, they spend the cash on junk food at our school store.

Now it appears that
there may be a solution on the horizon:
Three school districts in the Atlanta area last week became the first in the country to offer the parental-monitoring option of an electronic lunch payment system called Mealpay.com, created by Horizon Software International of Loganville, Georgia.

For two years, the payment system, used by 1,000 school districts in 21 states, has allowed parents to electronically prepay for student lunches. Students type in their identification number before the cafeteria cashier rings up each day's lunch bill. The bill then is deducted from the student's account.

The system was initially designed as a convenient way to make sure children bought lunch without worrying that lunch money would get lost, spent on other things or stolen.

Under the system, parents can see all of a student's lunch purchases. Even those paid in nickels and dimes -- instead of the prepaid lunch account -- are recorded in the system, said Tina Bennett, program director.

"A parent could give a child $20 and within two days that money's gone. This allows them to see if they bought chips," Bennett said. "What we're really hoping is to get parents' involvement, to let them know what's happening."
Could this be called spying on the kids? Sure, some might consider this as "spying." But as a California classroom teacher, I see kids doing things every day that I know their parents would not want them doing. They would simply be shocked if they knew.

As parents, we would choose to be informed of what our daughter is buying at school with lunch money that we had given her.

And her privacy? We respect that here in our home.
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, May 31st, 2005. The Carnival should open here at The Wonks Wednesday morning.

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Memorial Day 2005: An Amazing Life Becomes More So

Even though this isn't education-related, we just couldn't let it go without saying anything.

Would you believe that one of the last 30 veterans of World War I (1914-1918) will be riding in a Washington, D.C. Memorial Day Parade today? His name is Lloyd Brown, and he is 103 years old. Incredibly, this man lives by himself in Charlotte Hall, Maryland, and manages to drive a golf cart to the end of his driveway each day to get the morning paper.

Brown plans to ride in the parade Monday in Washington to represent the rest of the 4.7 million U.S. servicemen who took part in the Great War. He is one of the 30 who are still alive, according to an unofficial estimate by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"World War I people are getting scarce," Brown said. "Nothing can be done about that."

Brown was 16 when he lied about his age so he could join the Allied cause in 1918. His Maryland driver's license still lists his birth date as October 7, 1899, instead of the correct 1901.

"Everybody was patriotic; everybody wanted to join," Brown told The Washington Post. "Those who joined were local heroes, well received on the public streets."

Brown still remembers patrolling the North Atlantic for enemy submarines aboard the USS New Hampshire.

He reenlisted after the war as a Navy musician, and played cello in Australia as a member of an admiral's orchestra. He later served as a firefighter in the District of Columbia, and sold antiques in Charlotte Hall, in southern Maryland.

Son-in-law Thomas Espina said Brown doesn't allow anything to bother him too much, including aging.

"I don't consider it a long life," Brown said. "I feel as though there are a lot of people around my age."

Even though Mr. Brown lives alone, his daughter Nancy checks on him each day.

As a history teacher, I can only imagine all the history that this man must have experienced in his exceptionally long life. And I wonder what it would feel like to know that each and every person that you knew as a child is gone.
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, May 31st, 2005. The Carnival should open here at The Wonks Wednesday morning.

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The Daily Prank Report: Arizona's Alphabet Mountain

For the past three years, the seniors of Scottdale's Desert Mountain High School have painted their school's initials on a nearby mountain side:
For at least the third time, some youths went straight from Wednesday's graduation ceremonies at Desert Mountain High School to a nearby mountain and marked the letters "D" and "M" near the crest.

"They were nice this year," said Bernie Finkel, a volunteer steward with the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust. "They didn't use paint."

Finkel and two other stewards waited until it was hot enough for the snakes to seek shade before climbing the mountain to erase the signature Friday morning.

This year, the teenagers used yards and yards of white muslin to create the letters, pinning the sheets down with small rocks and duct tape.

"The real concern is not defacing the desert and endangering wildlife, it's safety," said steward Leonard Marcisz, who joined the cleanup effort. "Anyone has the potential to stumble or fall on those rocks or run into a dangerous reptile."
Gotta watch-out for those dangerous reptiles. Around here in Middletown, California, we have a lot more of those around our junior high school than we need.
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, May 31st, 2005. The Carnival should open here at The Wonks Wednesday morning.

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Memorial Day 2005

Today is the day that we remember those who made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation. We present the President's Memorial Day Proclamation:
Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 2005
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

On Memorial Day, we honor the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in service to our Nation. When the stakes were highest, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen answered the call of duty and made the ultimate sacrifice for the security of our country and the peace of the world.

Throughout our Nation's history, members of the Armed Forces have taken great risks to keep America strong and free. These proud patriots have defended the innocent, freed the oppressed, and helped spread the promise of liberty to all corners of the earth. In serving our Nation, they have been unrelenting in battle, unwavering in loyalty, and unmatched in decency. Because of their selfless courage, millions of people who once lived under tyranny now are free, and America is more secure.

On Memorial Day, we remember that this history of great achievement has been accompanied by great sacrifice. To secure our freedom, many heroic service members have given their lives. This year we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, and we remember the Americans who died on distant shores defending our Nation in that war. On Memorial Day and all year long, we pray for the families of the fallen and show our respect for the contributions these men and women have made to the story of freedom. Our grateful Nation honors their selfless service, and we acknowledge a debt that is beyond our power to repay.

In respect for their devotion to America, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved on May 11, 1950, as amended (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. The Congress, by Public Law 106 579, has also designated the minute beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 30, 2005, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I also ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. I urge the media to participate in these observances.

I also request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States, and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control. I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty ninth.

Lest we forget.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

To Whom It May Concern

Memo To: Jennifer McBride,
Info Copy: The University of Oregon
Re: Your Column entitled "10 Reasons Not To Kill Bush"

Dear Ms. McBride,

Even though we recognize your First Amendment right to publish it, we don't know if
your May 25th column in the Oregon Daily Emerald was meant to be serious, funny, satirical, instructive, or simply "cute."

We do know that it was inappropriate.


The Wonks Family

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Boy Stories

Didn't Harvard's Lawrence Summers get into some trouble over something similar to this? According to an in-depth piece by The Christian Science Monitor:

If you want to get boys to read, assign F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." So say students at the all-boys Haverford School in suburban Philadelphia.

"Everybody loves 'The Great Gatsby,' " says Robert Peck, who since 1973 has taught English at the 1,000-student K-12 private school.

But the vast majority of assigned-reading novels are not such a slam-dunk with boy readers. Getting boys to read is an exercise that stumps many an educator.

Not only do boys consistently test lower than girls on reading, but they are well known to be reluctant readers. Some teachers suggest that the problem is only getting worse — that boys today have more distractions, particularly electronic ones — and are even less likely to come to class ready to get excited about a book.

But now more are suggesting that the problem may not lie entirely within the boys themselves. Some educators believe that the way schools teach reading tends to favor girls, both in terms of teaching style and reading materials chosen. It's a concern that has pushed teachers to work harder to both find materials that boys like to read, and to find more "boy-friendly" ways to present that material.

Girl readers are generally drawn to narratives that focus on relationships between people, while boys tend to prefer adventure, science fiction, war stories, history, and, of course, sports. Research also suggests that, given the choice, boys will often prefer non-fiction, magazines and newspapers, how-to reading, and biographies — reading material that some teachers say is not serious enough for class assignments.To jump-start boy readers he suggests nonfiction.

Boys may actually read more than people think they do, says Wadsworth — but it's not material assigned in school. For boys, he recommends topics like "baseball, butterflies, collecting stamps."

"Biographies of people whose lives would excite boys — adventures, anyone who's done something with a sense of challenge — would be a good start."

Just take a look at your local public school's basal reader or anthology. You'll see what they're talking about. Meanwhile, the seniors at the all-boys Haverford school have put together a list of recommended reading for the summer.

For reasons that must be obvious to anyone who has read the above, Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons made their list.
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, May 31st, 2005. The Carnival should open here at The Wonks Wednesday morning.

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The Daily Prank Report: Idiocy In Iowa

When will students ever learn that when a prank damages property, then it is no longer a joke but a criminal act?
A senior prank has landed a high school student and his friend in a sticky situation in Marion.

Alexander Raiche, a senior at Linn-Mar High School, and Nicklas Denny are accused of super-gluing the locks on 27 exterior doors at the school early yesterday, the last day for seniors.

Damage is about 300-dollars a door, or about eight-thousand dollars.
Principal Jerry Van Dyke says janitors were able to clean up the mess and school started on time.

Raiche and Denny are charged with second-degree criminal mischief. Officials say they were arrested after overnight janitors spotted the pair and called police.
They should make these two little clowns pay every nickel of the repair costs.

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Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, Gummo, And Georgio

Who would have thought that our Commander In Chief would ever have had thick glasses, bushy mustache and a cigar? At California's El Camino Real High School, they're a little bit red-faced. Once again, free speech for some, but not for others...

Related Commentary: Joanne Jacobs

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Tales From The Trenches: Classroom Teachers Speak

Once again, we present our regular Sunday feature, (updated throughout the day; newest posts at top) of entries that we have selected from those sites that are written by classroom teachers. We like to think of this collection as a group of posts that have been written by those who helped make reading possible.

The other day, Darren attended the anti-Schwarzenegger rally sponsored by the California Teachers Association. After reading his post at Right on the Left Coast, be sure to go to the "home page" and then scroll down and have a look at the numerous photos that Darren took of the event.

The upcoming administration of the SAT is on the mind of Erin at Critical Mass. Here is a sample:
The "new SAT," with its essay and grammar sections and its absent analogies section, will be administered for the third time on Saturday, and speculation about what the new format really tests continues. Shortly before the second administration of the test earlier this month, an M.I.T. writing instructor announced that he had discovered a direct correlation between essay length and score; more important than correct grammar, clarity of argument, accuracy of fact, or lucidity of expression, it seemed, was the sheer volume of prose a test-taker could produce during the allotted 25 minutes.
At Hube's Cube, the regrettable decision by Lincoln Middle School (in the Vista Unified School District, near San Diego) to abolish its classes for the gifted and talented is the subject of a post that offers a classroom teacher's viewpoint of this attempt at "leveling" students.

Retired highland soldier and student-teacher Dave T. over at The Carbarfeidh Pages offers his take on recent criticism of British celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Fascist tyranny. Be sure to check out Dave's personal profile!

At A Series Of Inconsequential Events, they had a classroom Funfest that featured some parents that have been a little too involved. Here is a taste:
Dear Parents,

Though it pleases me to see you take an interest in our school functions, it pains me to explain to you that this little contest at school today was not, in fact, for you. Your children worked very hard to earn the right and the money to participate today. See, you have already attended and graduated from the fourth grade...now it's your children's turn.Despite your neighborhood newsletter, this event was not meant to spawn a cutthroat competition among the parents. It was not intended to be a show of who could spend the most money, nor was it a contest for Most Artistic Parent. While we invite you to attend the Funfest, we did not actually mean for you to run the booths yourself so that your child would have more shopping time than your neighbor's child.
One of the unforeseen consequences of The No Child Left Behind Act is that there's lots of money to be made in after school tutoring. In a sign of the times, some of this tutoring has now been outsourced to India. Clarence, over at Remote Access, has some thoughts on the new paradigm.

is taking on the New York Times for its continual bleating about "Teaching to the test." Didn't somebody say that tests were supposed to measure what the kids have learned when taught to the standards?

North Carolina history teacher Betsy N. at Betsy's Page has written a post in support of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. She examines the Act's positive influences on helping to close the achievement gap of minority students.

As the year draws to a close, Mr. McNamar at The Daily Grind is reflecting on the use of blogs in the classroom:
The Blogging Goal--the classroom blog is a place where students react to the literature we read in class. The blog gives them a place to wrestle with theme, plot, characters, and self-to-text connections.
Bronwen, at Suburban Decay, had a humorous incident in her classroom the other day that involved a child telling her teacher the proper way to clean one's fingers after eating cheesy snacks...

Here at The Education Wonks we
humbly submit for your approval our take on the school that is refighting the Civil War using slingshots, water balloons, and super-soaker squirt-guns.

See last week's Tales From The Trenches
right here.
Submissions for The Carnival of Education: Week 17, should be sent to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later then 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, May 31st, 2005. The Carnival should open here at The Wonks Wednesday morning.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Entry-Level EduCrats Urgently Wanted

Are you a recent college graduate with a four-year degree looking for your first real full-time job?

Do you have a grade-point average of at least 3.45?

Do you wanna work in Education but can't stand the thought of actually having to teach kids?

Is the idea of visiting public school campuses and instilling a sense of fear into those who actually do teach children appealing to you?

Are you one of those who must have a higher starting salary than a beginning teacher because what teachers earn just isn't enough?

we have a job for you in the U.S. Department of Education!

Hurry! Your application must be postmarked by June 9th. (But just in case you miss that deadline, you need not miss out. New positions are being created constantly.)

Friends and relatives of Department of Education employees are strongly encouraged to apply.

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The Daily Prank Report: This One Is So Not Funny

The Secret Service looked into this so-called prank at a high school in Widefield, Colorado:

High school yearbooks were recalled so that administrators could black out a joke caption under one student's picture: "most likely to assassinate President Bush."

Mesa Ridge High School officials recalled about 100 yearbooks earlier this month and had staffers use markers to obscure the words in them and in the still-undistributed copies. The Secret Service even launched an investigation.

"They kind of ruined our yearbook," said Christina Tredway, who just graduated from the school just south of Colorado Springs. Most students thought the blacking-out was a bad idea since the caption obviously was a joke, she said.

Widefield School District officials called the caption a prank that wasn't caught before the yearbooks were printed, and district spokesman James Drew said future yearbooks will be triple-checked before printing.

Lon Garner, special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Denver District, said the agency would look into the incident because all threats against the president must be investigated.

"That's our mission," he said. "That's what we do."

The school is not releasing the names of the miscreants who were involved in the pulling of this sick little stunt.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Shorter Is Not Necessarily Better: California Bill Limiting Textbooks To 200 Pages Passes Assembly

Would you believe that those legislative geniuses in the California Assembly up in Sacramento have passed a law that would ban California school districts from buying textbooks that are more than 200 pages long?

The bill, believed to be the first of its kind nationwide, was hailed by supporters as a way to revolutionize education.

Critics lambasted Assembly Bill 756 as silly.

The text of AB 756 says it could reduce the cost and weight of textbooks.

"This bill is really the epitome of micromanagement," said Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge. "(It's) absolutely ridiculous."

"With all due respect," said Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, "this Legislature worries more about the rules than they do about whether children learn."

But Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said critics are thinking too narrowly.

No position on AB 756 has been taken by Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, or by education groups ranging from the California Teachers Association to the California School Boards Association.

The Association of American Publishers opposes the bill, saying the arbitrary 200-page limit could force publishers to produce multiple volumes to cover the state's content standards.

Textbooks would have to be restructured, the group contends.

"To do this will increase the costs of instructional materials without adding any instructional value," lobbyist Dale Shimasaki, representing publishers, said in a letter of opposition.

Goldberg said she's willing to negotiate over specifics, but that publishers have been uncooperative.

Her bill would apply to future purchases, not existing textbooks.

The bill was pushed through the Democratic-controlled lower house by a vote of 42-28 with most Republicans opposing the measure. The Bill now moves on to the Senate for consideration. Governor Schwarzenegger hasn't indicated whether or not he supports the proposed law.

As a teacher who actually teaches students in a California classroom, I hope that he takes that veto pen out of his desk drawer.

The fact that many in the Assembly don't believe that California's students are capable of getting productive use out of a 200+ page textbook is a source of concern for us. We resent the fact that our State's legislators continue to underestimate the abilities of our kids.

Get the full newspaper story (user id: root -password: password) with
much more right here. See a government analysis of the bill there.

Tipped by: Kathy over at Blog From the Bog

Related Commentary: Joanne Jacobs

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The Blue And The Gray Meet Again

I found this little tidbit [bugmenot id: cypherpunks[at]spam.la password: clpherpunks] about eighth graders in Green, Ohio, who are re-enacting Civil War Battles using water balloons and squirt guns:
In 1862, Ben Hawk's great-great-great uncle, a Confederate general during the Civil War, bled to death at the Battle of Shiloh.

On Friday, Hawk joined 89 eighth-grade classmates to launch thousands of water balloons and squirt water guns in a Civil War re-enactment.

And like his uncle, Hawk, 14, chose to fight Confederate.

At Friday's 11th annual encampment, eighth-graders wore tie-dyed shirts -- red and gray for Confederates, red and blue for Yankees -- to re-enact Pickett's Charge of 1863 in a field behind Green Intermediate School.

To the sound of a Union drummer and the occasional Civil War-era rifle blast, teams of four braced themselves against the force of rubber-rope-and-funnel slingshots, aimed and fired about 60 yards, over smoke bombs, to the opposing side -- slap, splash, laugh.

The experience, originally proposed jokingly by a student, has since inspired numerous "soldiers" and re-enactors, and led to a Civil War class at the high school, said language arts teacher Dan Huff, who teams up with history teacher Shannon Dinan to teach the four-week Civil War unit.

Dinan does her best to present both sides, but Huff's Southern bias is well-known; three of his uncles also fought for the Confederacy.

"What I'm trying to do is take the Confederate flag back from the racists. That flag was never a banner of hate nor of slavery," Huff said, adding that freed blacks made up 10 percent of the Confederate force. "The kids pick their own sides. This year, I had to recruit Yankees, I did such a good job."
As a history teacher myself, I have to question Huff's assertion that free blacks made up 10% of the Confederacy's fighting forces.

With all those slingshot-thrown waterballoons flying about, I can't help but think that this is a liability lawsuit just waiting to happen. Still...it's a good thing whenever kids are motivated to learn more about history.

I suppose that next year, the South will Rise Again.

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The Rise Of The Bees

This is a trend that we like. Who would have guessed that Spelling Bees would be making a comeback? Not only are the 'Bees Back, but CNN is reporting that they're popping-up in the national culture as well:

According to the 2002 Oscar-nominated documentary "Spellbound," which brought the quirky culture to audiences around the world, some 9 million U.S. children compete in spelling bees.

From local school contests, through district and regional rounds, the elite make it to the National Spelling Bee. This year 273 kids aged 9 to 14 will compete for the top prize of $22,000 in cash plus scholarship funds, an encyclopedia and huge national media attention.

The spelling bee is so ubiquitous these days that it even features in an advertisement for Citibank in which a small boy stands nervously at a microphone trying to spell "volatility."

It was also the inspiration for this year's hit comic musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," a low-budget show that landed six Tony Award nominations.

Very Nice Indeed.

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The Spellings Report: Another Federal Mandate

While leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties have struggled over the enforcement of party discipline in the Senate, Secretary Margaret Spellings and the Department of Education have been working on some enforcement of their own:

The Education Department outlined Tuesday how it plans to enforce a little-known provision that Congress passed in 2004: Every school and college that receives federal money must teach about the Constitution on September 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787.

Schools can determine what kind of educational program they want, but they must hold one every year on the now-named "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day." And if September 17 falls on a weekend or holiday, schools must schedule a program immediately before or after that date.

Would you believe that the person delegated with developing the plan has the job title of Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement? Honest. That's the job title.

More info from the Dept. of Ed here, and here.

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The Daily Prank Report: Yuma's Smelly Truth

Today's Prank Report takes us to the sunny desert community of Yuma, Arizona. It seems as though some vandals pranksters have found a uniquely aromatic way of making their presence known:

A pound of chicken liver could land some pranksters in a heap of trouble.

Over the weekend, Kofa High School was vandalized when someone dumped chicken liver juice into the air handlers from the roof, causing an estimated $30,000 worth of damage.

Sgt. Mike Kohmetscher of the Yuma Police Department said employees arriving at the school Monday morning noticed a "nasty" odor in some of the classrooms and called in air-conditioning technicians.

"(They) found out that somebody had climbed on the roof, taken chicken liver and poured the liquid juice in the air handlers," Kohmetscher said. "We think it's probably kids from the school, an end-of-the-year prank."

Six classrooms in the 100 and 200 wings were affected, and Assistant Principal James Sheldahl said they will be unusable for the rest of the school year. He said the damage extended to the carpeting, drywall and the air-conditioning air handlers, which is why the estimated damages amount to $30,000.

The prank could result in several felony charges, including aggravated criminal damage, trespassing, burglary and interfering with an educational facility.

"When we find the people, we're going to take every measure to the extent of both the school policy and the law," Sheldahl said. "It's not just a prank, it interrupts the learning of over 2,000 students."

Kohmetscher said it's not uncommon for students to pull pranks at the end of the school year.

"They probably didn't intend damage, just to disrupt school (and) get notoriety," he said. "You don't get notoriety unless you tell someone."

Kohmetscher said the investigation is ongoing.

Perhaps as punishment for their stunt, the pranksters could be made to eat a few pounds of chicken liver. It would be good for 'em.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

When Teachers Go Wild: Fed Up In Lousiana

One knows that it's nearing the end of the school year when stories like this from Waggaman, Louisiana begin to surface:
A public school teacher fed up with his students' behavior found a way to berate them in the context of a class assignment. The Jefferson Parish teacher wrote and distributed a two-page essay to his fourth-grade students saying he hated his job, blasting the children's "animal" behavior, and even identifying some of them by name.

Titled "I Wonder Why?" the essay ended with an assignment for each student to write a 200-word essay on how the teacher should treat them.

"Make sure you tell me why I need to treat you a certain way," the assignment reads. "I want to make sure that I no longer cheat and act unfairly."

In the essay, the teacher detailed the loud, disobedient behavior of his students on a particular day and how some ridiculed him while others accused him of cheating for a competing class during a spelling bee. The teacher said he was tired because pain from a root canal had kept him awake most of the previous night.

About the spelling bee that went awry, the teacher wrote, "What should have been a nice little game turns into anger and sadness. I hate my class at times like this, because anytime I try to do something fun, they ruin it. They can take the best thing in the world and just ruin it."

About students who hit each other and ran through the halls, he asked: "Makes me think, are these children or animals?"
The assignment was supposed to be done in class. Instead, several students took it home and showed it to parents. Not surprisingly, several have shown concern, with the parent of one 9-year-old stating, "I was outraged and I was upset, I'm thinking, you shouldn't be a teacher if you hate kids."

It was not disclosed if the unnamed teacher, who works at Norbert Rillieux Elementary School, was facing any sort of discipline. Spokesman Jeff Nowakowski of the Jefferson Parish public school system wouldn't provide any details, including the teacher's name, saying, "It's a personnel issue."

Related Commentary: OverEducation has much more and Schoolhouse Blog chimes in.

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The Daily Prank Report: Animalisms

At a high school in Columbia, South Carolina, things are beginning to look a little rustic. From WLTX television:

Goats on the tennis court. Chickens in the stairwell. It happened Monday morning at Dreher High School.

Columbia police are investigating the prank. They say they've identified twelve students who may be behind the animal stunt. So far, no charges have been filed.

Meanwhile, animal control officers are trying to locate the owner or owners of the animals.

They're hoping someone will see the photos and
hilarious video and come forward.

To us, just the thought of all of these live animals running amok in a school is funny. This type of prank is much more in keeping with "the spirit of the times" than some of those that we have profiled in the past few days that were nothing more than acts of vandalism. (Of course, the prank wouldn't seem so funny if we had to clean-up the mess.) Contrast this stunt with that from yesterday which featured dead opossums.

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The Spellings Report: Jordanian Press Conference

Earlier today, we reported on globe-trotting Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' junket conference with her counterparts from the G8 and the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA), held at Dead Sea, Jordan from May 22 to 23. This conference was staged at an exclusive spa on the Jordanian-side of the Dead Sea.

On Monday, the Secretary met with members of the Jordanian Press and
answered a few questions. This was the most interesting exchange:
Al Rai:(Jordanian Press) How do you see, as the United States, the required reform in education in the area as you highlighted it in your speech in the morning, that there is a very necessary need to reform in the Middle East? What kind of reform are you asking for?

Secretary Spellings: Well, I think there needs to be more access for girls and women in particular. I think the region is widely variant with respect to who has to work on what. Some nations have made more progress with literacy and technology and infrastructure and the like than others. So, that is why it is so important that these initiatives are locally developed and address the needs of each individual nation, but as I said, the shared priority is around literacy. We all know we have great work to do in that arena. And that it has been in our international interest and in our national interest to have a highly skilled work force.

Spellings played safe and talked about making education more accessible for girls and women.

I don't know why Spellings chose not to address the fact that anti-American sentiment continues to be fanned in countless Madrassa schools that are to be found throughout the middle east. These schools of religious instruction often propound a militant form of Islam known as Wahhabism and have been frequently cited as fertile recruiting grounds for Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Perhaps Spellings didn't want to offend the sensibilities of her hosts by reminding them of unpleasant facts.

On a more positive note, Spellings' remarks to the Jordanian press were much more "meaty" than when
we reported her last exchange with a member of the American press. Here is a sample of the tone of that interview which was "conducted" by reporter Deborah Solomon from the New York Times Magazine:

NYT: Time for a pop quiz. Can you tell us the capital of Illinois?

Spellings: Uh. Springfield?

NYT: Correct.

Spellings: Phew. That was a close one.

NYT: What's the capital of Wyoming?

Spellings: Cheyenne or Cody. (Long pause.) Cheyenne.

NYT: Yes, it's Cheyenne, which I know because I watch ''Jeopardy!''

Secretary Spellings must have been paying attention when she was taking "Media Management 101" back in her college days.

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The Spellings Report: Middle Eastern Travelogue

What do many hard-working politicians do for a refreshing change of pace when one begins to find Washington to be a bit tiresome?

Why, everyone knows that they
take a government-paid overseas trip, stay in exotic locales, rub elbows with powerful counterparts from other nations, and meet the Queen:

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings led the United States delegation to the first-ever meeting of education ministers from the countries of the G8 and the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA), held at Dead Sea, Jordan from May 22 to 23.

In addition to the participation in the ministerial, Spellings met with Jordan's Queen Rania Al-Abdullah [pics here] and Minister of Education Khaled Toukan. During her trip, Spellings will visit the Iskan Al-Jamiaa Discovery School and a U.S. Agency for International Development (AID)-funded public kindergarten, and will meet with Junior Achievement graduates and early childhood education stakeholders.

Of course, a curious person might wish to ask Secretary of Education Spellings and First Lady Laura Bush (who also attended the junket conference) why is the United States Government spending taxpayers' money building schools for foreign students while many of our own campuses are in a sad state of disrepair. As a classroom teacher in a school that is in need of some serious maintenance, I would like to ask the Secretary that question myself.

But curious persons aren't usually allowed anywhere near exclusive Dead Sea spas. And I'm fairly certain that no classroom teachers are in the Secretary's entourage.

Instead, we get a series press releases from the U.S. embassy in Amman: here, here, and here.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Daily Prank Report: Hold That Dead Possum

'Tis that time of the year again. Students begin pulling what they call "pranks" and what school authorities often call "vandalism."

Several graduating Seniors broke into Georgia's Jonesburo High School and caused some $7000 in damages. Among the "pranks" pulled by these students was the usual spray-painting of graffiti, as well as damage to school facilities. Disturbingly, the malefactors dragged two dead opossums, thought to be roadkill, through the school's cafeteria.

Even though video cameras taped the suspects, they were dressed in black and wearing ski-masks. School spokesman Charles White said that authorities have "some pretty good leads" and that the break-in might have been an "inside job."

Meanwhile, although the cafeteria prepared bag-lunches for students, several chose to call their parents and have food brought to the school.

It remains unknown if the dead opossums are being held as evidence.

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New School On The Block

The Donald has decided to open a school. Hmm... let's see....what are his qualifications:
  • Two failed marriages
  • Several Bankruptcies
  • Investors who have lost their shirts buying his company's stock

Yep. This Clown has a lot to teach us. Perhaps Donald Trump should call his "school" Joker U.

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Fun With The Law

Most California school teachers are aware of the fact that they must obey duly enacted statutes of the California Education Code. I thought that it was pretty dry stuff until I read this statute:
Section 48908: All pupils shall comply with the regulations, pursue the required course of study, and submit to the authority of the teachers of the schools.
Heh. Who would have thought that every time a kid at our school back-talks a teacher, refuses to follow instructions, or report for detention, that it's a violation of the law? This must be the most violated statute in California. I know that it's broken countless times every day at our school.

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The Midway Is Open At The Carnival Of Education!

Step right up, the midway is open! Science and Politics is hosting The Carnival Of Education this week. They've done a fine job managing the midway with 28 exhibits.

Next week, The Carnival comes home to The Education Wonks. Please send your entries to owlshome[at]earthlink[dot]net. We should receive entries no later than 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, May 31st. The midway should open next Wednesday morning.

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The Ole Disappearing Act

Beginning at approximately 5:00 PM (Pacific) yesterday, the 'Wonks was knocked off the air for about five hours. Apparently there was some problem with the servers at Blogger that has since been resolved.

Several of our readers sent us emails expressing concern. Thanks for your kind thoughts; we do appreciate them!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Would You Believe Guidelines For Gifts To Teachers?

Would you believe that many school districts are publishing guidelines for those that wish to give gifts to teachers? Apparently, the end of the school year is a time for giving gifts to teachers. These guidelines sometimes include maximum spending limits for each gift. From The Houston Chronicle:

Longtime first-grade teacher Rebecca Guess has received her share of trinkets, affectionate notes and other gifts from students to mark the end of the school year.

But even Emily Post would have been challenged by the Turner Elementary School teacher's most memorable gift: a training bra.

In the hands of a lesser teacher, the gift might evoke ridicule. But for Guess, the undergarment was an innocent gesture from a student of modest means.

"I made a real big deal about it," Guess said. "She just wanted to give me something, and that's one of the most precious things to me."

Apples no longer cut it.

Along with books and pencils, teachers pack up dozens of gifts from their students as the school year closes.

Some students make cards or write notes. The parents of others buy teachers candles, gift certificates and even jewelry. With the quest for the perfect gift sometimes becoming competitive among parents, some districts have set guidelines to minimize the impression that favored treatment exists between parent and teacher.

While there are no rules governing gift-giving in the Houston Independent School District, other districts have set maximum dollar values.

In Alief, [Texas] teachers can accept gifts worth up to $300 in rules set by the University Interscholastic League.

Last year in New York City, the schools' chancellor limited gifts to no more than $5 per student after some parents complained.

North Forest teachers can accept gifts that do not compromise their "professional judgment" as stated in the State Board for Educator Certifications' code of ethics, which the district adopted as its own.

Tina Salem, who has two children enrolled at Tomball Elementary, said she typically spends about $15 on her children's teachers. Her end-of-year gift to Sincler was a handmade pair of flip-flops.

At another Tomball school, Willow Creek Elementary, the parent-teacher group asked teachers to provide their favorite colors, favorite candle scents and other preferences in a "teacher's favorites" list to eliminate some guesswork.

"Not all our teachers filled out the list — they felt weird about it," said Cathy Pool, whose two children attend the school.

Our southeastern California school district has not published "gift guidelines," primarily because very few teachers receive any type of gift from our parents.
Entries for this week's Carnival of Education (guest hosted this week by Science and Politics) are due no later than 5:00 PM (Eastern) today. Submit entries to Coturnix1[at]aol[dot]com. See last week's Carnival here.

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