Friday, September 30, 2005

The Good Old Days Really Weren't So Good After All

Check out this charming article that was written in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of Mt. Shasta, California, and focuses on some interesting tidbits about their community's schools: (emphasis added)
There were two classrooms on each floor, designed to hold 54 students each.

The whole construction, estimated at $7,000 actually came to $8,000. [Heh. There were cost over-runs, even in 1900.]

As early as 1922 there had been a petition for a kindergarten signed by 19 families, but it was denied because of lack of space.

In 1928 there was a policy that married teachers should not be hired, but by 1935, four of the eight teachers were married. In 1938 the policy was enforced by the Board of Trustees, and the three married teachers were abruptly notified that their services would not be required for 1938-39.

In 1942, married teachers could be hired if their husbands were or could be called into the armed services.

Today, there are strict guidelines for student discipline. But in 1923, even though corporal punishment was allowed, the Trustees had to deal with a thorny issue when the principal was arrested on a charge of assault and battery for punishing a student named Carrie. The charges were dropped by the parent after the Trustees heard of the actions of the student. John D. was expelled for "continued willful disobedience, open and persistent defiance of the authority of the teacher and for smoking cigarettes." In 1927, Elsie K. was allowed to come back to school, but she would have to prove first that she was going to act like a lady.

Gino remembered a favorite teacher who would take a willing student into the closet. She would make alarming spanking noises and the student made howls of pain and came out rubbing his rear end. Most students did not know that this was a charade to deter others from misbehaving.

In 1933 the Trustees reduced the teachers' annual salaries from $1,350 to $1,300. The janitor's salary was also reduced to $1,440, but it was still higher than that of the teachers.

Some of this is charming, and some of it hurts because it's still so true today...
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. See our latest posts over there.

Notes From The Education Underground: The Teachwonk Diaries

Today's Episode: The Office Pulls A Three-Alarm Drill In Cluelessness

This entry isn't about about some vitally important proposed change in ed-policy. It's not about our large class sizes, nor is it about NCLB. It's not even about our district superintendent, Dr. Evil. It's about one of the little annoyances that teachers around our school have to put-up with, and which we aren't allowed to complain about. (And nobody wants to be labled as "negative" or, worse, "Not a team-player.") The principal has even made it clear that the time-honored "gripe board" in the teacher's lounge was to no longer have any signed or unsigned complaints written upon it.

This post is about fire drills in the mud.

Schools in our 11 campus district are required to have one fire drill each calendar month. So far, so good. We had our September drill somewhere around the 12th.

Yesterday, our principal decided that it would be good to have an extra fire drill, as, he explained later, the office wanted, "to test the alarm system."

The usual fire drill protocol around Howard Taft Junior High School is that kids and teachers are required to drop everything they are doing and walk single-file from their various classrooms to their assigned positions on the athletic field, where students are then required to sit down in the grass.

All the while, the administrative staff watches and takes appropriate notes on our exiting speed and observed student misbehaviors.

So, to satisfy our prinicipal's need for extra fire drill practice, (He simply couldn't wait until at least the first of October.) we all filed out to our assigned positions on the athletic field, where most students and teachers found themselves lined-up in mud and about two inches of water.

Sitting, of course, was out of the question.

You see, our industrial-strength-for-the-desert irrigation system had put plenty of water on the field the night before, leaving much of it unusable for a couple of days afterward.

The administrators would have known that, if they had bothered to check the field themselves or asked the physical education teachers what condition the field was in.

So nearly all of us teachers stood around in the mud and water for several minutes while The Select took their notes and watched us.

This was not the first time that this had happened.

The mud drill mercifully ended several minutes later when a "return bell" sounded and hundred of kids and teachers with muddy and wet feet returned (again in single-file) to their classrooms and attempted to salvage some instructional time from a thoroughly-disrupted period.

Nothing was said by the members of The Lodge; administrators in our district never admit to making any mistakes.

Just one more pet-peeve that could have been prevented with a little planning and could have been smoothed-over with a quick and sincere admission of the oversight by the parties responsible.

We teachers are making book on whether or not the field will be flooded for the October drill. The smart money says that the odds are 50/50.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. See our latest posts over there.

The Spellings Report: Finally, Some Direction From Above

After weeks of uncertainty, Secretary Of Education Margaret Spellings has issued her ruling:
Schools affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes won a big reprieve Thursday, getting a one-year pass from federal penalties even if students' scores fall short of government standards.

Schools and districts "seriously affected" by the hurricanes may delay important provisions of federal law without having to ask for approval, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said.

Spellings has been flexible with school chiefs in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. But she had not budged, until now, on student progress required under the No Child Left Behind Act.Most notably, schools that get federal poverty aid will not have to worry about penalties they normally would face when they show little progress in reading and math.

Typically, schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress for two straight years must offer students a transfer to a better school. Schools that fall short three consecutive years must offer poor children the tutoring of their choice. The penalties get steeper by the year.

In recent letters to state leaders, Spellings denied requests to waive this yearly progress requirement. She said it was the "linchpin" of the education law that President Bush pushed through Congress.

Spellings changed course on Thursday, telling the House Education and the Workforce Committee that she would give states a one-year grace period, as allowed in cases of natural disaster.
Common-sense prevails.

Now if we classroom teachers could just get the Secretary to also hold students and parents accountable for their own academic success we might have a viable chance of fulfilling the requirements mandated by No Child Left Behind.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. See our latest posts over there.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Teaching In Inner-City Schools: What's To Be Done?

These are some of the challenges that confront many of our country's inner-city teachers:
Twenty-five freshman boys and girls, ninety minutes, 2-4 grade levels below their peers, the last two periods of a 13 period day -all of these things equal one tired and frustrated first year teacher.

I've tried so many things. I called parents, I wrote referrals, I compromised, I gave a pop quiz, I dropped the curriculum and tried current events, I turned the lights on an off, I yelled (numerous times), I kept them after class, I started talking notes on each student, I warned them they were being graded on class work, but nothing has worked.

I keep hearing you'll be fine, they're just kids, but these kids can be incredibly difficult. They look at me with disgust; they glare and snicker. I have to fight to keep my cool. I'm struggling to not tell them my true opinion of them during those moments.

They are rude and more disrespectful than any other children I think I have ever met. They disrespect me, as well as each other.

After one of my best students in the class raised his hand to answer yet another question, I heard a cough from across the room; it was a cough with the phrase "your gay" underlying it. I gave the kid a look to let him I know I heard it, but let it be at that.
Edwize has more to read in the whole post, which does a fine job of showing us some of the reasons why so many young teachers leave the teaching craft during the first five years.

My attitude toward disruptive students tends to be rather straight-forward: When any student is disrupting the classroom environment, then that pupil is denying all other children in that room their opportunity to have access to a quality education.

Such disruptive behaviors shouldn't be tolerated.

When a school's administrative apparatus allows this to continue, it is committing educational malpractice toward every child in that classroom, including the disruptive student.

I firmly believe that students who will not permit the teacher to teach should be removed from mainstream classrooms and be placed in a more structured setting with a much lower student-to-teacher ratio.

Teachers who work in the inner-city often do so with the additional handicap of having to do so in badly-maintained facilities. Even worse, many earn less compensation than that earned by their suburban counterparts.

They deserve much better.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. See our latest posts over there.

Open Thread

A thread! A thread! My kingdom for a thread!

God And Man In Pennsylvania: Part II

Last week, we reported that the battle between supporters of "intelligent design" and traditional science were taking the fight into court. (Additional background here.) What is in contention is whether or not I.D. should be taught in the public school classrooms of Dover, Pennsylvania.

Here's the latest dispatch from the Front:
The concept of "intelligent design" is a form of creationism and is not based on scientific method, a professor testified Wednesday in a trial over whether the idea should be taught in public schools.

Robert T. Pennock, a professor of science and philosophy at Michigan State University, testified on behalf of families who sued the Dover Area School District. He said supporters of intelligent design don't offer evidence to support their idea.

"As scientists go about their business, they follow a method," Pennock said. "Intelligent design wants to reject that and so it doesn't really fall within the purview of science."

Pennock said intelligent design does not belong in a science class, but added that it could possibly be addressed in other types of courses.
In October 2004, the Dover school board voted 6-3 to require teachers to read a brief statement about intelligent design to students before classes on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to an intelligent-design textbook for more information.

Proponents of intelligent design argue that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force, and that natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.

Eight families are trying to have intelligent design removed from the curriculum, arguing that it violates the constitutional separation of church and state. They say it promotes the Bible's view of creation.

No matter how this case is decided, look for the litigation to continue, probably all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: I just wish that someone would decide this matter one way or the other, once and for all, and let us who actually teach the kids get on with the job of teaching.

Stay tuned.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. See our latest posts over there.

Advice Wanted

It's nice to see that sometimes the good guys do finish in First Place:
I challenged my advisory class to raise money for the recent Hurricane victims. I had six of the 25 students actively raising money. They collected over $335 dollars to send to the American Red Cross. After I started my class on this activity, at least for those who wanted to participate, raising money for the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund became a school-wide fund raising activity, with students who contribute at least a dollar getting a wristband which allows them to wear jeans on Friday. (We are a uniform required school)
There is more to read in the whole post and I would hope that you do so, as Polski3 is looking for some advice from readers.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. See our latest posts over there.

Interesting Times

The truly sad thing is that someone could probably make a good case for why this is needed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Carnival Of Education: Week 34

The thirty-fourth midway of The Carnival Of Education is now open for your reading enjoyment. We hope that you'll find that this collection of writer-submitted posts is representative of the very wide range of thoughts and ideas that are to be found in the EduSphere.

As always, those entries selected by the editors appear at the bottom of the page, just above the Carnival archives.

All successful carnivals are a team effort. We ask that you consider helping to spread the word. The more readers who know about this collection of exhibits, the more who will "drop-in" visit the midway, and read the posts. Trackbacks, links, and casual mentions all help.

A number of sites have been very helpful in publicizing and/or hosting the midway. We thank them for their continued support. If you would like to guest-host an edition of the Carnival at your site sometime in the future, please contact us at owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net.

Your comments, constructive criticism, and suggestions are always heartily welcomed. Readers are appreciated, commenters are adored.

An Invitation: Writers of education-related posts are encouraged to contribute to the 35th edition of The Carnival Of Education. Please send your submissions to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net no later than 9:00 PM (Pacific) 11:59 PM (Eastern) Tuesday, October 4th. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the midway should open here at The Wonks next Wednesday morning.

Let's take a look at what the midway has to offer this week:

Jay Mathews writes about education matters for the Washington Post. Mathews grabbed much attention recently with a column that spoke glowingly of the current state of public education in this country. EdWahoo takes
a clear-headed look at Mathews' assertions.

With all the emphasis on testing lately, Mamacita wonders if many school administrators look at a group of students and see kids,
or do they see something else altogether?

I've always thought that students who dress for success do better in school. Unfortunately, the current trend is to display more and more skin, which many male teachers are reluctant to openly point-out due to fear of lawsuits. So what do these "brave hearts" do? They run and
call on teachers such as Ms. Cornelius to address the concern. Here is a sample:
About once every other day, one of my male colleagues comes scurrying to me pointing out some shocking little piece of eye-candy to ask my intervention. A few days ago it was the young assistant principal who encountered an outfit so provocative he couldn't ignore it, and asked me to corral a young hottie dressed in strategically placed string. So at least he stood behind me with his arms crossed, looking like a bull mastiff with a toothache, while I did the actual dirty work...
Who would have ever thought that the term "bullet points" as used on a document could ever be considered anything but descriptive? Ms. Frizzle let's us know about the new reality.

Like that
wonderful song sung by Sam Cooke says, "I don't know much trigonometry." But Political Calculations does and brings us some mathematical solutions to our problem.

The old debate: when it comes to public education, should we emphasize the traditional liberal arts, or would it be better, as many say, to focus on a more technology-based approach that would better enable our workforce to compete in the worldwide economy. Cleveland teacher MB Mathews
makes that case that both are vital to our nation's future success.

Ever wonder how dedicated young teachers balance their professional and personal interests? Nani, a teacher in New York City,
let's us have a look.

Here at The Wonks, we strongly advocate for the rights of parents to homeschool their children. For those who do choose to do so, homeschooling offers its own set of unique challenges as well as rewards. Vernice Jones, who writes over at at Jones Blog, has overcome one of those challenges with
a little help from an unexpected source.

Around here, we are always excited to learn about teachers who encourage their students to write blogs. (Sadly, our ultra-conservative district doesn't allow teachers to sponsor student-written sites.) But there can be a downside, such as when Clarence, who teaches in northern Canada,
has to pull the reins in on some of his students' writing.

By now, most teachers have access to a computer in their classrooms. Tim, of Assorted Stuff, correctly points out that many teachers are unaware of the enormous power that is
sitting there atop their desks. We heartily approve of Tim's recommended listening.

I've personally overheard one or two folks say some unkind things about those who majored in elementary education. At Bright Mystery, they
clarify some misconceptions and would like to know why this honorable course of study has gotten such a bad rap over the years.

At The Daily Grind, Washington State teacher Mr. McNamar
discusses ways in which The Carnival of Education continues to bring people who are interested in education together for the purpose of engaging in the free exchange of thoughts and ideas. (Ed's Note: Thanks for the kind words, Mr. McNamar.)

Until I read this contribution, I didn't even know that it was possible to catch Chicken Pox more than once. (I suddenly feel feverish...*reaching for the telephone to call a 'sub.) The science teacher who writes over at What It's Like on the Inside
takes us back to our childhood by reminding us about "Pox Parties." Don't miss this one, which reminds us of a certain cartoon episode. I guess that one could say that it's mass entertainment imitating life.

One of the propositions in California's upcoming special election is one that, if it passes, would give teachers a choice when it comes to unions withholding monies from their paychecks for political purposes. California teacher Polski3
gives us the skinny about the dishonest methods being used by some groups to defeat the measure.

Over at Rhosgobel, college instructor Radagast gives us a "heads-up" about
some exciting classroom technology: It's called, "In class response systems," aka "clickers." This technology excites us, as the potential for immediate in-class feedback (especially at the high school and college level) is enormous. But there is a cautionary note...

A teacher of children with severe emotional disabilities, Ms. Ris has
the latest installment in her series of posts offering sound advice for teachers and parents of children with special needs.

I learned something new while I was reading
this post over at Going to the Mat: "the 'low-hanging fruit' bounce" as applied to the No Child Left Behind Act (I have to say that I agree with Matt's use of the term...) and what compliance with the Act has caused many public schools to do in order to meet federally-imposed mandates.

It's always great when we hear from teachers who have accepted the challenge of teaching some of our neediest kids, those of the inner city. Greg Wickersham, the teacher who writes Urban Educ8r, works in Georgia and
has some thoughts about staying home a couple of days at the express request of Governor Sonny Perdue. (Get some rest!)

With both Georgia and Kentucky taking extraordinary measure to conserve fuel in response to shortages caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Education Matters
examines the merit of a four day school week.

At The Common Room,
they give us a reminder of something that all kids need to learn about, even though some over at The House of Spellings may disagree.

I've always been envious of folks who have the gift of inventiveness when it comes to the coining of new words and phrases. Mark Lerner has come-up with
a good word to describe a bad situation: "superdomed."

The RightwingProf over at Rightwing Nation
takes a tough look at some of the issues and problems that seem to plague or system of both primary and higher education. Consider taking a look at the Prof's thoughts about homeschooling.

And now for some entries that have been selected by the editors:

Jenny D. has
some great thoughts about Kentucky's four-day school weeks that are being implemented in several areas of the state. Some of these predate the hurricanes!
has an altogether new and insightful take on the recent controversy involving the federal government's proposal to give the parents of students displaced by Hurricane Katrina vouchers that may be used in private schools.

At the Education Intelligence Agency's Intercepts, writer Mike Antonucci lets us know about
the truly insane method that the State of Michigan uses to calculate student attendance. A must read.

Cold Spring Shops
discusses some of the fundamental issues surrounding the teaching of marketable skills to students with disabilities. Cold Spring also links to a roundup of sites that address issues of interest to those who work with or are the parents of children with special needs.

And finally, we here at The Education Wonks, humbly submit for your approval our take on the continuing controversy involving those provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act that require schools to disclose student-contact information to military recruiters.
Carnival Archives

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 and the thirty-third, here. To get to EdWonk's main page, (with a variety of education-related posts) please click here.

This midway is registered at TTLB's Carnival Roundup.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Report Card Bingo

Fieldcrest High School rewards students who earn good grades by allowing them to use their report cards as lottery tickets in order to win cash and other prizes:
Under the "Hooray for As" program, students at the central Illinois school will be allowed to submit report cards with As and Bs into a random drawing.

Several report cards will be selected after each of the four grading periods, and those students will get $10 for each A and $5 for each B.

"It's a small thing, but every little bit helps. It's a nice little pat on the back and it's recognition," said Fieldcrest High School Principal William Lapp. "Even if we get two or three kids to be motivated, it's a success."

Local banks are providing financial backing for the program.

If they can attract enough funding, school officials hope to offer the "Hooray for As" program to students in the district's elementary and middle school, too.

Another new program will honor a senior of the month with a $50 savings bond. At the end of the year, one senior will receive a $250 scholarship.

"Extracurricular programs have that natural recognition because you have a thousand people at a football game on a Friday night. The challenge is recognition for academics," said Superintendent Randy Vincent. "The more schools do to focus on academic reward and recognition, the better off they're going to be."
I actually like this idea, as it is being sponsored by members of the business community and rewards kids who attend school and earn good grades. Such community involvement is usually limited to promoting athletics or, possibly, band boosterism. I have to give an "A" to Fieldcrest's principal for getting this done.
This week's Carnival Of Education midway will open here Wednesday. Carnival submissions are due by 9:00 PM (Pacific) tonight. Send them to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. See our latest posts here.

Open Thread

Got something on your mind? Anything at all? Here's your chance. No rules, just the freedom to say what needs to be said.

Big Brother Is Watching

Singapore, the nation that administers corporal punishment for acts of vandalism, is cracking-down on some potty-mouthed student bloggers:
In August, five junior college students who posted derogatory remarks about their teachers and vice-principal on their blogs, or online journals, were suspended for three days, the Straits Times reported.

Seven secondary schools and two junior colleges have also got tough on penalized students for making offensive remarks about teachers on blogs: one secondary school student who called a teacher a "prude" and a "frustrated old spinster" on her blog was ordered to remove the remarks.

Blogging, writing in online journals, has become huge popular among the young in tech-savvy Singapore, where over 65 percent of the city-state's 4.2 million people are wired to the Internet.

But with libelous blogs emerging as a hot legal issue, one has to be careful with what is written.

In May, a Singapore student shut down his blog after a government agency threatened to sue for what it said were untrue and serious accusations.

In September, three ethnic Chinese bloggers were charged in court under Singapore's sedition laws for making racial slurs against the Malay community on their weblogs.

Lawyers say students could be sued for defamation, even if a teacher was not named.

"As long as someone is able to identify the teacher, and it is an untrue statement that affects his reputation or livelihood, then the student is liable," lawyer Doris Chia of Harry Elias and Partners was quoted as saying in the Straits Times.

An injunction can be taken to get the student to remove the blog and issue an apology, she said.
Here in the United States, it would be highly unlikely that any educational entity (such as a university or school district) could actually cause a student to pull the plug on his or her blog unless the entries could clearly be deemed libelous in a court of law.

Even though freedom of speech doesn't include the right to yell "
Fire!" in a crowded theater, it does infer that public figures (and it can be argued that teachers are "public" figures) have to "take" a certain amount of guff from students and the public as long as it's outside the scope of our employment.

Realistically, I guess that it just goes with the territory.
This week's Carnival Of Education midway will open here Wednesday. Carnival submissions are due by 9:00 PM (Pacific) tonight. Send them to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. See our latest posts here.

Notes From The Education Underground: The TeachWonk Diaries

Here in California's "Imperial" Valley, our local dog-trainer is named The Imperial Valley News. It's your usual chain-owned small-town fare, but they do have a fairly popular feature that they call, "Probe." Folks write to Probe seeking answers to Life's Minor Mysteries.

A recent note to the Probe editor serves to illustrate how kids from a nearby community's "better" families
get special treatment (bugmenot id: what? password: what) when they run afoul of the law and school authorities. (emphasis added)

My daughter goes to Southwest High School in El Centro. She came home upset last week. It turns out the cheerleading coach sponsored a party for the cheerleaders and football players.

Everybody got drunk. One of the cheerleaders even went to the hospital due to alcohol poisoning.

The cheer coach quit before she could be fired. Two girls were given a slap on the wrist (they were not allowed to cheer Friday). Both still were able to be in the homecoming court.

Where's our morality? The queen and princesses are supposed to represent the high standards of what a senior girl should be.

I think they should be taken off the ballot and the cheerleading squad.

Maybe needing medical assistance was not enough to wake them all up to reality. What message are we sending to our high-schoolers? Mixed Message, El Centro, California

Probe's Answer:

We all have to wake up. Those of us who are parents have to face the fact that no matter how intelligent we think our children are, how much work we have put in to teach right from wrong, our children will make bad choices and sometimes those choices endanger their lives.

You are right on several points. A severe message needs to be sent on this matter.

We agree if there are members of the homecoming court who took part in a drinking fest at the home of the now ex-cheer coach, those teens should not be allowed to participate in homecoming activities. If there were football players involved, they should be sidelined for some amount of time.

Some of you may think that sounds harsh. After all, you might say, they simply made a bad choice and already paid a price.

As far as we're concerned they have lost some privileges and while the party may not have been a school-sanctioned event, the implications of what occurred should be taken seriously by the school and the district.

In regard to the cheerleading coach, we think she probably had nothing to do with the alcohol and just wanted to provide a nice place for the teens to have a party.

Some of us know her from when she worked here and are convinced she is a fine person. She, however, showed bad judgment in trusting the teens and leaving her home to the kids.

She probably made the right decision in stepping down from her coaching duties, if only to help clear the air.

We still would like a lot of answers from this mess. First and foremost, where did the teens get their alcohol?

We hear teens [sic] able to purchase alcohol from certain local stores if they flash enough cash and the clerk gets a nice kickback. This needs to be investigated, and this newspaper will do so because it is a serious issue.

Kids could have died or been damaged for the rest of their lives from alcohol poisoning in this case. We would like to help that not happen again, although we know this weekend there probably were more parties. There will be more parties next weekend and the one after that.
This type of "kid-glove" treatment for the scions of the Valley's "better" families is pretty much a given in this rural California backwater.

It isn't the first time that students from the right side of El Centro's tracks have gotten into problems. Two years ago, there was a similar bachanal held at a wealthy farming family's home. In that case, the mother, who had supplied the alchohol to the students, was arrested. As one might expect, the charges were later dropped and nothing more was heard of the matter.

The name of the accused provider of the alcohol never even appeared in the I.V. Press, nor did the address of the party.

A few years before that, while they were in Washington, D.C., nearly the entire debate team got blind drunk in their hotel rooms on liquor that had been smuggled in for the purpose.

The school district did nothing, even allowing the many seniors who were involved to participate in the prom and graduation.

When several students from the school's soccer team, however, got drunk at a player's home after one of their games, nearly the entire team was suspended from school for three days and all who were present were permanently removed from the squad.

The soccer players were mostly Hispanic, and mostly from poorer families.

And what will the paper do about the drunken football players and cheerleaders? If past behavior is indicative of probable future actions, it is likely that there will be no follow-up story and the matter will soon be conveniently forgotten yet again.
This week's Carnival Of Education midway will open here Wednesday. Carnival submissions are due by 9:00 PM (Pacific) tonight. Send them to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. See our latest posts here.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 34th edition of The Carnival Of Education are due TONIGHT. We should receive them no later than 9:00 PM. (Pacific) 12:00 midnight (Eastern). Please send all submissions to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. View last week's edition, right here.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the carnival's midway should open here at the 'Wonks Wednesday morning.

The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

Each and every week, Watcher of Weasels sponsors a contest to see what are some of the most link-worthy 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 voted on the posts submitted for the week of September 16th.

Council Entries: The Sundries Shack won first place with Memorial to Millions of Dead Jews Offensive to Muslims. Dr. Sanity's Regression and Gates of Vienna's Sheepdogs Driving the Bus both tied for first runner-up.

Non-Council Entries: Eject!Eject!Eject! won a solid victory with Tribes.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Isn't That Special?

Our good buddies (Heh) over at The National Education Association have posted an article in their monthly propaganda organ magazine, NEA Today on teachers who blog.

A number of teacher-written blogs are profiled, particularly those who have been friendly toward the NEA and its policies. Interestingly, they published an excerpt from
Hipteacher, who hasn't posted anything at all since May.

But as you might expect from an organization that won't even allow it's rank-and-file to vote for their own state/national leadership, or have any say in how much they are forced to pay in the form of dues and agency fees, President Reg "Boss" Weaver's minions paid shills don't bother to list even one single site that has dared to question NEA's stifling of dissent autocratic leadership model or their complete lack of financial accountability to their dues-paying membership.

But who would ever expect the NEA to offer any of its members a forum for the expression of dissent?

Like an NEA-sponsored blog, perhaps?

Unlike the American Federation of Teachers' highly-regarded blog Edwize, (Sponsored by AFT's New York City affiliate; see our sidebar.) don't look for the NEA to have a comments-enabled blog anytime soon. We have developed quite a bit of respect for UFT's Edwize precisely because they do tolerate, and even encourage, the expression of dissenting points-of-view from both members and the general public.

Ed's Note To Boss Weaver: C'mon Reg, start an NEA-sponsored blog that allows folks to comment. It would be such a "gas."

We dare you.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for this week's edition right here. Take a look at our latest posts over there.

The Question Of The Day

Is the use of corporal punishment in public schools ever acceptable?

Military Recruiters And The Need To Know

Unless a child or his parents actively seek to "opt-out," certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act mandate that all public high schools shall furnish local military recruiters with student contact information: (emphasis added)
High schools are the latest anti-war battleground, with parents, students, educators and activists around the country stepping up campaigns to prevent military recruiters from reaching students.

Many of the efforts focus on a provision in President Bush's 2002 No Child Left Behind law that requires federally funded secondary schools to give military recruiters the same access to students as they do college or job recruiters.

The exceptions: Private schools that have a religious objection to military service don't have to comply. And parents can "opt out" of providing details, including names, addresses and phone numbers, to military recruiters.

Among recent activity:

• "Opt-out" events planned through November in 321 communities are giving parents and students 18 or older forms asking school officials to not release personal information or school records to military officials. They can send similar requests to the Pentagon. By Tuesday, more than 24,000 opt-outs had been requested, says Leave My Child Alone, a national coalition coordinating the events. Meanwhile, a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., would prevent schools from releasing private information to military recruiters unless families request it.

• Seattle's school board this month voted to tighten districtwide military recruitment policies, and made clear that conscientious objectors can have equal access to students. Other districts, including Toledo (Ohio) Public Schools, this year highlighted the opt-out option in brochures sent to families.

• Grass-roots groups last month launched a series of "Not Your Soldier" camps that teach students ages 13 to 22 how to counter military recruiters. Topics include non-violent campaigns and the ROTC.

The efforts come at a time when some military branches, especially the Army, are struggling to meet recruitment goals.

Unlike anti-war marches, "counter-recruitment" campaigns represent "one of the ways pressure is being put directly on the military," says Bill Dobbs of United for Peace and Justice, a New York group sponsoring a counter-recruitment conference Sunday in Washington as part of a Peace and Justice Festival. "It's the next big thing for the anti-war movement."

But many "opt-out" supporters cite privacy issues. Many were alarmed to learn that a database being created this year for the Pentagon would include students' personal information, such as Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses and grade-point averages.

"It's so insidious," says Kim-Shree Maufas, a San Francisco mother involved in local opt-out efforts. "You figure if anyone wants to get to your kid they have to go through you. Not in this case."

Douglas Smith, spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command, says high schools are an important venue because "it's the last time we'll have them all in one place."

He says most recruiters move on if they get a "hard no" from a student. But "If we get a soft no ... I think that's an (invitation) for recruiters to call again," he says.

I have no problem at all with military recruiters visiting high schools as part of "career day" type activities. During these turbulent times, they have the important and vital mission of recruiting qualified young men and women for our country's armed forces.

However, as a practicing classroom teacher, I believe that access to all
confidential information pertaining to high school (or even college) students should be on a strict "need to know" basis, with the use of such information being restricted to school, law enforcement/court, and social services personnel for legitimate academic, discipline, and health-related issues.

I also firmly believe that only personnel who have passed rigourous background checks before they come anywhere near information as sensitive as our students' phone numbers and residential addresses.

Having said that, this is one of many parts of No Child Left Behind that needs to be repealed or modified. The private records of our students should remain exactly that-- private.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for this week's edition right here. Take a look at our latest posts over there.

Language Envy

Whenever I read a story like this, I'm reminded about how few American students obtain fluency in a language other than English.

In the not to distant past, it was accepted that an American could know only English and yet be considered "educated." But times have changed.

For better or for worse, our workforce must now compete in the worldwide economy.

Isn't it time that the learning of a second language was adopted into our standard teaching curriculum from the earliest grades through high school and beyond?
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for this week's edition right here. Take a look at our latest posts over there.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Newsday reports that in New York state's public schools, instances of corporal punishment continue to be inflicted upon students in spite of a twenty-year old statewide ban:
Formal reports of corporal punishment, which has been prohibited in New York's classrooms for two decades, more than doubled over the past five years to 4,223 in 2004, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The number of accusations, including the verified case of a child exiled into the winter cold without shoes or a coat, climbed even as far fewer school districts submitted the state-mandated, twice-a-year reports on corporal punishment. In 1999, 283 reports were not filed from among the state's 832 school districts. In 2004, the number of reports not filed was 1,203.

New York's schools, with about 3 million students, have had to report incidents of corporal punishment since 1985.

Many cases verified by school districts involve faculty or staff pushing, slapping, and grabbing the faces or arms of students. The documented cases include a teacher who put a misbehaving student outside to cool off, without a jacket or shoes, in December. Another tackled a student as he reached for a pencil on the floor. One teacher bent a student's finger backward, several have taped students' mouths shut, and in New York City, 646 cases of corporal punishment were documented in the spring 2004 semester alone.

The records also show that school district action against teachers, substitute teachers, bus drivers, teacher aides, lunch monitors and other employees meting out corporal punishment varied widely. Most received counseling from an administrator or a memo in their personnel files. A few were fired.

For example: The teacher who put the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES student out in the 32-degree day for eight to 10 minutes faced a "counseling session ... about appropriate expectations with action plan." The tackling teacher from Orange County's Pine Bush schools was suspended for six months with pay and had to complete online classes in classroom management. The teachers who taped students' mouths shut received counseling memos for their personnel files and one was suspended. The finger-bending teacher from Owego-Appalachin schools received a personnel file letter.
There is more to read in the whole piece.

I can still feel my rear-end stinging after my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Croft, swatted my bottom with a ping-pong paddle for something that another kid had done. And I've never forgotten the three swats that Mr. Sheehan gave me in sixth grade for calling another student a "jackass" while we were on the school bus.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. Take a look at our latest posts over there.

Of Braves And Warriors And Indian Chiefs

In Michigan, of all places, two High Schools are refusing to put-aside their now politically incorrect sports logos:
Despite the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) banning the use of American Indian mascots by sports teams during its postseason tournaments last month, the Tecumseh Indians and the Clinton Redskins remain firm on continuing to use their names and mascot logos.
There is more to read in the whole story.

Mascot names such as warriors, chiefs, braves, Indians, and even tribal names such as Florida State's Seminoles, don't bother me much. But I do have a problem with schools using the term "redskin" as a moniker for their sports teams.

I've never much cared for it, as redskin was indeed a derogatory term used against Native Americans through much of our country's history.

Perhaps it's time for this particular nickname to go.

As for those Censorchimps over at NCAA banning the use of certain names for college/university mascots, I'm
dead-set against it. I don't think that an "executive committee" of any organization should be the final arbiter of what is or is not a politically acceptable form of school spirit.

Such a committee arbitrarily limiting free expression smacks of oligarchy.

However, when the community brings pressure to bear on a school to change its nickname, it's a different matter. That smacks of democracy.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. Take a look at our latest posts over there.

Prank Call

Imagine This:

You are a California teacher who doesn't like the fact that a teachers union can take some of your money and give it to causes and candidates with whom you disagree.

And then a union operative calls you at your home seeking your vote in an upcoming state-wide special election.

Darren, over at Right on the Left Coast,
took the call.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. Take a look at our latest posts over there.

Idiocy Happens

Ewww!! What on earth could this woman have been thinking? How did it happen in the first place? Was she sleeping on the job?

Here's yet another reason why school districts should invest in a corps of well-trained substitute teachers...

Via: TipWonk Lisa of Bohemian Conservative

The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

Each and every week, Watcher of Weasels sponsors a contest to see what are some of the most link-worthy 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 voted on this past week's submitted posts.

Council Entries: Rightwing Nuthouse won first place with The Wild, Wild, Wild, Wild, and Wacky World of Cindy Sheehan.

Non-Council Entries: JunkYardBlog garnered the most Council votes with, A Knife in the Back.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Best School System In The World?

And this is just for starters:
Juxu Herka, 13, kicks her Adidas trainers into a pile of assorted Nikes and Pumas and walks to her English class in her socks - a morning ritual at Arabia School in Helsinki which gives a clue to why Finland has the best state schools in the world.

This land of vodka and Nokia phones has more graduates than any other country and its 15-year-olds are the best at solving maths problems, according to the latest education survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Juxu and her classmates have no league tables or Sats, they enjoy short school days, free hot lunches, lots of music, art and sport, and 10-week summer holidays. In a country where 60 per cent of the people are university-educated, the children have the world's best education.
I would like to have what they're having out here in California's "Imperial" Valley.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here. Take a look at our latest posts over there.

For The Dad In All Of Us

Fred, a high school teacher in Florida, puts everything into perspective. A must read.

Snow Days In Georgia?

The State of Georgia is taking some extraordinary measures to reduce fuel consumption due to shortages (and rising costs) as a result of Hurricanes Karina and Rita:
Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue Friday asked the state's schools to take two "early snow days" and cancel classes Monday and Tuesday to help conserve gasoline as Hurricane Rita threatens the nation's fuel supply line.

If all of Georgia's schools close, the governor estimated about 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel would be saved each day by keeping buses off the road.

Perdue also said an undetermined amount of regular gasoline also would be saved by allowing teachers, other school staff and some parents to stay home. He says electricity also would be conserved by keeping the schools closed.

It's up to each school superintendent to decide whether to call off classes. The governor said, "If Georgians stick together, work together and conserve together we can weather whatever problems Rita brings our way with the least possible inconvenience."

As he did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Perdue asked the state's residents, and ordered government agencies, to limit nonessential travel and use commute alternatives including telecommuting, car pooling and four-day work weeks. He said if demand is reduced, "we will have enough market power to hold prices down. All together, we can influence demand within our state."
As prices spiraled after Hurricane Katrina, Perdue suspended the state's gas tax and the Legislature quickly approved the measure in a special session, saving motorists an estimated 15 cents per gallon. The tax is scheduled to return a week from Saturday.

All but four school districts in Georgia have already decided to comply with the Governor's wishes.

Out here in California, a number of federal, state, and local taxes are added to the price of gasoline. After all that, the state imposes a sales tax on top of everything.

That's right. We pay a tax on a tax.

Update: (09/25) Jenny D. is reporting on a Kentucky proposal to shorten the school week to four days in order to conserve fuel and allow teachers to get their cars repaired.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here.

Main Page/Latest Posts

Friday, September 23, 2005

God And Man In Pennsylvania

The fight over the teaching of intelligent design in public schools is headed into court:

A federal judge in Pennsylvania will hear arguments Monday in a lawsuit that both sides say could set the fundamental ground rules for how American students are taught the origins of life for years to come.

At issue is an alternative to the standard theory of evolution called "intelligent design." Proponents argue that the structure of life on Earth is too complex to have evolved through natural selection, challenging a core principle of the biological theory launched by Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species" in 1859. Instead, contend adherents of intelligent design, life is probably the result of intervention by an intelligent agent.Intelligent design has been bubbling up since 1987, when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools could not teach the biblical account of creation instead of evolution, because doing so would violate the constitutional ban on establishment of an official religion.

The suit, brought by 11 parents, challenges the Dover Area School District's adoption last year of an addition to the science curriculum directing teachers - in addition to teaching evolution- to tell students about intelligent design and refer them to an alternative textbook that champions it. Three opposing board members resigned after the vote.

The parents contended that the directive amounted to an attempt to inject religion into the curriculum in violation of the First Amendment. Their case was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation for Church and State, with support from Scott's organization.

The school board is being defended pro bono by the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian law firm in Ann Arbor, Mich. The case is being heard without a jury in Harrisburg by U.S. District Judge John Jones III, whom President Bush appointed to the bench in 2002.

Science organizations have generally turned their backs on forums in which they have been challenged to defend Darwinian evolution, on the theory that engaging the intelligent design school in any way is to take its ideas too seriously. For example, when the Kansas Board of Education held hearings this year on new science standards that criticized evolution, science groups boycotted.

The Pennsylvania case, however, gives scientists the chance to go on the attack, forcing intelligent-design advocates to defend their beliefs. But because local school boards have almost complete latitude to set the content of the curriculum, the plaintiffs must navigate a narrow path.

It isn't enough for them to discredit intelligent design - indeed, that is almost irrelevant to the legal question. Instead, what they must do is show that the school board's decision would have an unconstitutionally religious purpose and effect, Scott said.

There is more to read in the whole article.

If we set aside, for the time being, possible issues of constitutionality, why on earth is intelligent design being taught in the science classrooms?

Traditionally, our public schools' science curriculum has emphasized teaching pupils the use of the scientific method as a means for investigating and testing both new and accepted hypotheses and theories. The inclusion of intelligent design in our science courses would necessitate the fundamental re-structuring of that curriculum.

As a practicing classroom teacher, I consider the controversy over the teaching of intelligent design is similar to that which has embroiled The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. No matter what the outcome, the litigation will continue. I just wish that the United States Supreme Court would make a definitive ruling on the matter and be done with it, once and for all.

Our public school teaching corps needs to know one way or the other, so we can get on with the job of instructing our students.

Related: The Politburo Diktat, Pharyngula
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here.

Main Page/Latest Posts

Where Have All The Summers Gone?

It looks as though there is a possibility that Florida lawmakers may soon pass The Summertime Restoration Act of 2005:
Parents who grumbled that there ought to be a law against school starting at the beginning of August might just get their way.

Two state representatives -- Hollywood Democrat Eleanor Sobel and Hialeah Republican Ralph Arza -- said Thursday they are considering filing separate bills that would mandate a later start date.

'Whenever I speak, I talk about the beginning of school. I say, 'What do you think about starting the day after Labor Day?' '' said Sobel, whose bill will propose that change. "They just love it. They applaud me.''

''We're excited,'' said Sherry Sturner of Golden Beach, who formed Save Our Summers-Florida, a grass-roots group that has collected nearly 1,000 signatures for a later start date. "That's what we want.''

Schools in Broward and Dade started Aug. 8 this year, a week later than in 2004 and two weeks later than the year before.

''It really just is the middle of summer,'' said Margot Lazar, a Parkland mother of two who belongs to the group, "I don't see how that's benefiting the children.''

Proponents of a later start date cite hurricane activity, August heat, and family vacations as reasons to wait until September.

And, often, they blame the FCAT -- administered statewide in February and March -- for the early return to class.

District leaders in Broward and Miami-Dade have fought the perception that the high-stakes exam drove them to open school earlier.

''It doesn't have anything to do with the FCAT,'' Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher said at a workshop Thursday.

She said board members wanted to align the district's semesters with college schedules and to have students take their final exams before winter break.

Broward Schools Superintendent Frank Till said the early start date also allowed students more time for other tests, like Advanced Placement. Despite that, Till said he would have ''no big objection'' if the state set a later date.

''I would support them giving us a [uniform] start date, regardless of when it was,'' Till said. He said he'd also like to see all districts use the same holidays.

District leaders in Miami-Dade -- one of the last counties to adopt an early-August start -- favored the changes, as long as they are applied statewide.

''For many reasons, [starting in early August] is just completely wrong: hot weather, hurricanes, family reunions, opportunities to have a real summer as it is traditionally considered in the United States,'' said Miami-Dade School Board member Evelyn Greer. "We're now almost a month earlier than other parts of the country.''
I'm amazed by the audacity of Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher's statement that the early start had "nothing" to do with testing.

I grew-up in Florida, so I've experienced the heat and humidity that is the Florida Summer first-hand. If there was ever a place that needed to have a later school start-date, then this is it.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here.

Main Page/Latest Posts

Let's Get Ready To Ruuuumble!!!

It looks like Boston Public is trying to put the Smackdown on Roxbury Charter's rebellion against The Machine: (emphasis added)
Attorney General Thomas Reilly filed a complaint Thursday against a Boston school that has refused to shut its doors despite an order from the state Board of Education, which revoked its charter license.

The former Roxbury Charter High Public School was ordered closed last week in a vote by the state Board of Education that upheld a December 2004 decision which said the school wasn't performing and must close. The move marked the first time the board had voted to revoke a charter school's license.

But in defiance of the board's order, the school opened earlier this month and has remained in session despite warnings from Reilly's office and the state Department of Education. The organization representing charter schools in Massachusetts also has appealed for Roxbury to shut its doors.

"They need to follow the same rules of accountability as everyone else. If the state says you must close, you must," said Dominic Slowey, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association.

Reilly's complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, asks a judge to order school leaders to abide by the board's ruling and close the school. It also demands the school turn over to state education officials a list of the names, addresses and state assigned student identification numbers of the students presently attending the charter school.

"The school administrators and its trustees have had ample time to prepare for this," Reilly said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we now have kids and parents caught in the middle and that is why we have had to take action."

A school trustee said Roxbury is operating as a private school, not a charter school, and that it has every right to continue operating despite the action of the board.

Cornelius Chapman also said the school would be happy to seek the approval of the Boston School Committee to operate as a private school with private funding while the school waits to see whether the Superior Court will reinstate the revoked charter.

The school plans to appeal the board's decision in Suffolk Superior Court, Chapman said.

Education Department spokeswoman Heidi Perlman said the school is currently not operating as a private school and school leaders have not spoken to the Boston School Committee about becoming one.

"You can't just hang a shingle on the door and decide you're a school," Perlman said.

Charter schools are meant to be an alternative to regular public schools and are given more freedom to spend their money and teach students the way they want. The schools' charters are up for renewal every five years, but the state may revoke the charter at any time.

There are 57 charter schools in the state and two more have been approved, Slowey said.

Five charter schools have closed in Massachusetts. The state board refused to renew two charters, while the other three shut down on their own. Roxbury is the first to defy an order to close.

The state board had initially voted in December to revoke the school's charter, citing numerous problems including the school's near bankruptcy. It allowed the school to stay open the rest of the school year, pending an appeal to a hearing officer, which it lost.
This time around, I'm going to have to put our money on The Establishment.

Stay tuned, sports fans.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education as well as entry instructions for next week's edition right here.

Main Page/Latest Posts

Worldwide Concern

I'm saddened to discover that even in The Land Down Under school-place violence is a major problem that needs to be addressed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Motivational Sticking

Principal Sandye Simon of Lebanon, Connecticut, has certainly found one way of rewarding students for making their reading goals:
When students left Lebanon Elementary School in June for summer vacation, a masking tape outline of Principal Sandye Simon was affixed to the gym wall.

Simon had challenged students and teachers to read during the summer, promising that each book they finished would equal an inch of duct tape they could use to tape her to the wall.

The outline of Simon's slight figure hovered a few feet above the gym floor for months, motivating 334 students and teachers to hit the books.

During a recent school day, the principal upheld her promise. Students used more than 8,000 inches of duct tape to stick Simon to the wall for nearly three hours.

Students and teachers took turns slapping varying lengths of multicolored duct tape onto the principal. They cheered wildly at a school assembly when the footing Simon was standing on was pulled away.

Samantha Jeannotte, 7, sat on the gym floor, giddy with excitement.

"I don't usually read that much during the summer, but did a lot more because I couldn't stop thinking about taping Principal Simon to the wall," Samantha said.

First-grade teacher Gloria Kimball called the challenge "reverse psychology at its best."

"She'd tell the kids: 'Don't read any books! Don't read any books!' And of course, they did just the opposite," Kimball said.

Barbara Strielkauskas, a reading teacher at the pre-kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words, "principal for the day." She held a walkie-talkie and called a steady stream of students and teachers to the gymnasium.

"The outcome is tremendous," Strielkauskas said. "I haven't seen school spirit like this in a long time."

Sergey Bibeau, 7, said he plodded his way through "The Magic School Bus" series this summer and was very amused by the duct taping.

"Principal Simon on the wall is so funny," he said, covering his face. "We should do this a lot."
Any school principal or teacher willing to undergo this type of good-natured ordeal on behalf of his or her students certainly merits our respect. It is for that reason that we offer Principal Simon our Red Apple Salute.
View the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education, hosted here at The Wonks, as well as entry instructions for next week's midway, right here.

Main Page/Latest Posts