Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Conserving Energy In Schools: Teachers Pay To Plug

Should a teacher with a mini fridge or coffee pot in his or her classroom be required to pay for the electricity that is used?

In our junior high here in California's "Imperial" Valley, the office has its own exclusive coffee pot and a refrigerator that is clearly labeled "For Office Staff Use Only." Teachers, of course, are expected to use the 'fridge in the "Teachers Lounge." (The word "Teachers" was removed a few years ago.)

There is no morning coffee for the teachers, and our district banned classroom coffee pots and microwave ovens last year.
See today's edition of The Carnival Of Education right here.

The Question Of The Day

If you could add one course to the curriculum of your local junior or senior high school, what course would that be?

The Carnival Of Education: Week 43

Welcome to this week's edition of The Carnival Of Education. All entries were submitted by the writers except those labeled "Editor's Choice," and are grouped into several categories. As always, one can find a wide selection of posts from a variety of educational and political viewpoints.

A successful carnival is a team effort. Please consider helping spread the word. And as always, your comments and constructive criticism are most welcome.

An Important Announcement: Next Week's Carnival midway will be guest-hosted by The Science Goddess over at What It's Like on the Inside. Please send contributions to: the_science_goddess [at] yahoo [dot] com. They should be received no later than 6:00 PM (Pacific) 9:00 PM (Eastern) Tuesday, December 6th. Please include the title of your post, and its URL, if possible. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the midway of the 44th edition of the Carnival should open next Wednesday morning.

Last week's Carnival is here. See the complete set of archives
there. For our latest posts, please visit our home page.

Let the free exchange of thoughts and ideas begin...

Teaching and Learning:

My goodness. Could you imagine teaching a college-level biology course in only eight meetings? Well, that's what Coturnix over at Science And Politics does, only he has found a sure-fire attention-grabber for his students! (Key vocabulary needed: malaria, SARS, avian flu, Mad Cow disease)

What would you do if your kid
came home from school with an "F" minus on his or her report card?

Over at Teacher Lore, which is written by a group of Montana-based teachers, they describe this week's entry in
much better terms than I can:
Thinking in terms of narrative intelligence, narrative identity and narrative environment can go a long way toward helping teachers stay alert to some of the teaching opportunities that arise serendipitously once classroom learning becomes a story.

By the simple expedient of conceiving of teaching units as projects that students accomplish, learning becomes a story. This means that students become characters with goals who must respond to what they encounter, using what they already know to solve problems, stretching and rearranging what they already know to accommodate new information, and then pulling everything together by articulating a coherent version of what has happened for an audience that matters to them.
Next week's guest host, What It's Like on the Inside, is having to consider new ways of teaching students while keeping all the new terminology straight.

Tim Fredrick is well known for his highly-readable reflective posts on teaching, but now he's written an engaging post
on reflective learning.

Special education teacher Erin works with very young children. She asks whether or not consistency (as practiced in her classroom) is always a good idea as she prepares kids
to function in the real world.

Education Policy:

Should principals be empowered to hire and fire teachers at their school sites? No matter how you feel about this long-running debate, over at Going to the Mat
they have some ideas that you should consider. (In my 14 years in our district here in California's "Imperial" Valley, no administrator has ever been fired or laid-off although plenty of teachers have gotten the axe, both for cause and reduction-in-force.)

Tim at Assorted Stuff
closely examines The Washington Post's Jay Mathews' assertions that A.P. classes and programs such as the International Baccalaureate should be taken by most students, even if they don't do well.

Is education policy being set by the Political Left? Some say yes, others argue no. The need for more balance between the political and right in the formulation of education policy is the clarion call
being sounded by TMH's Bacon Bits. (Watchout for that horse's kick!)

The teaching of Islam in California's public schools continues to be discussed in cyberspace, with CrossBlogging
giving us the latest news from San Francisco's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It is rare to see an honest to goodness essay on teaching methods and education policy, but here
we have a well-crafted one submitted by Letters from Lisa in which she addresses issues that have arisen over how reading should best be taught.

The title of this week's contribution from The Ruminating Dude says it all: "
Should We Be Turning Japanese?"

Editor's Choices: There's been quite a bit of buzz in the EduSphere concerning what we can learn (if anything) from the Japanese education system.
Jenny D, Alexander Russo, Chris Correa, and Jim Horn's Schools Matter all have thoughts on the subject.

Is sex education on the decline? Scott Elliott, of Get on the Bus, asserts that it is. A thought-provoking topic if I ever read one.

I had not heard that the Texas State Board of Education had withdrawn from the National Association of State School Boards. It came as quite a surprise to me, but the reasons why were
even more surprising.

Editor's Choice: Consider reading
this thought-provoking post over at Alexander Russo's This Week in Education. The post is called, "Two Warring Camps in Education: PovRacers vs. SchoolRefs." Here's a taste:
Looked at from afar, there are basically two main factions when it comes to thinking about education these days -- those who think underlying problems of poverty and race need to be addressed before significant improvements can be made in education, and those who believe that schools can get much better at helping children learn within the current reality.

Thus far, at least, it seems to me that it is the former, not the latter, that have won the hearts and minds of most educators and the public, and that all too often school reformers forget or fail to respond to the prevailing view.
Muse teaches in Israel. She has heard all about those bogus high school diplomas for less-than-academically-gifted athletes, and lets her own English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students in on the secret for real academic success. And in this bonus post, consider taking a look her thoughts (from an offshore viewpoint) about America's state-federal system of assessment.

The Secret Lives Of Teachers:

Anyone who has ever taught in any public school for any length of time has experienced at least one parent from hell. Take a look at the
one from down below that plagued Mamacita's school. (Until now, I've never even heard of a parent addressing lecturing the teachers as "kids.")

Would you believe that Little Women author Louisa May Alcott's father Amos Bronson Alcott founded an avant guard school and wrote extensively on education? His idea was that when pupils needed discipline, the teacher should get his or her hand
spanked by a ruler. With the pupil swinging the ruler. This gives an entirely new meaning to the term "child centered" education.

The Headmistress of The Common Room has a post that simply
has to be seen to be believed. She has found a copy of the examination that her great-great grandfather was required to pass in order to obtain his high school teaching certificate. Things really were tough in 1900!

The time is drawing nigh to think about New Year's Resolutions. I've never thought of making any as a teacher, (until now) but over at The Median Sib,
they've done just that!


Why do parents choose to teach their children at home? The reasons are as varied as are the individuals who accept the challenge. At Life in a Shoe, A mother of 7 shares with us
her reasons why.

Editor's Choice: Our friend Spunky is hosting the first-ever
Homeschooling Blogger Awards. Get your nominations submitted!

Testing And Technology:

As you might guess, Dr. Stat is interested in statistics. In this week's entry, the Dr. compares the math scores of a number of countries (including the United States) and alerts us to
an alarming trend.

Survival Guide For Parents And Students:

If your child was assaulted by bully, should he or she be allowed to defend him or herself? Number 2 Pencil
has good commentary on Darren's shocking story of a school principal who administers the same punishment to both assailant and victim. And it gets worse...

Is there ever a time when the handcuffing of an out-of-control 8-year-old is warranted? Not just once, but twice? And the second time in front of an entire class of third-graders. Parents are up in arms, meetings are being held, and the debate rages. A Shrewdness of Apes
has broken this very controversial story into the EduSphere.

After growing-up in rural Mississippi, the parents of Alisse wound-up in, of all places, Syracuse, New York where Alisse's life took some very unexpected turns. This is
the latest in a remarkable set of first-hand interviews transcribed by Jones Blog.

submitted for your consideration from The Education Wonks is our post in which we consider some of the legalities that are involved in the current controversy over The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

Editor's Choice: Joanne Jacobs' new book Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School That Beat the Odds, should now be in a bookstore near you. We've ordered our copy from Amazon and think that it would make an outstanding gift for the educator or student teacher in your life.

Over at Multiple Mentality, Josh is sympathetic to a blogger
who asserts that some college degrees are useless.

Daniel, at Raving Conservative,
has a cautionary tale advising parents to be aware that some colleges seem to be offering courses on, let us say, adult subject matter. College classes have gotten so expensive lately...

Steve Pavlina is reminding everyone that too much Skepticism
may be harmful to one's health. We agree.

As always, we've thoroughly enjoyed this trip around the EduSphere. A special thanks to all who have contributed and continue to make the publication of this midway possible. I'm looking forward to visiting next week's Carnival midway over at What It's Like on the Inside
This midway is registered at TTLB's carnival roundup. See The Education Wonks' latest posts here, and the complete Carnival archives over there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This Just In

Somebody in Anchorage, Alaska needs to get a life.

School Daze: The 220 Day School Year

Korean students will soon be getting two Saturdays off per month:
All students attending elementary, middle and high schools nationwide will have two Saturdays off each month, starting next year.

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development Tuesday announced a plan to expand the five-day school week system from once a month to twice in March.

The ministry has collected various opinions through a survey of students’ parents and a public hearing from educational experts, along with a pilot program.

The plan was designed to keep abreast of social demands as a growing number of workplaces operate the five-day workweek system.

Under the plan, the number of school days will be reduced, on a flexible basis, by an average of 10 percent or 22 out of the 220 days required by the law.

Students attending elementary, middle and high schools nationwide have every fourth Saturday off once a month.

The ministry also plans to extend the period of giving two Saturdays off each month for an additional year, or to give every Saturday off from 2007, when the five-day school week system begins next year.

In line with the extended five-day school week system, the ministry also came up with measures to take care of children whose parents work on Saturdays.

Under the measures, about 2,500 elementary schools will operate the after-school programs by the end of 2008 for poor children and children whose parents work.

Currently, some 639,300 students voluntarily attend more than 13,900 after-school programs at elementary schools nationwide on Saturdays.
Heh. I wonder if this longer school year has anything to do with Korean students scoring well on tests?

It would be interesting to know if Korean public school teachers experience a higher level of job-satisfaction than their American counterparts.
Submissions for The Carnival Of Education are due by 9:00 PM (Pacific) tonight. Get entry instructions here. Visit last week's midway right here. See our latest posts, over there.

Supersizing High Schools

In today's edition of The Washington Post, Diane Ravitch comments on how American high schools went from small to huge in the space of a few decades:
A century ago, the typical American high school was small and reflected its surrounding community.

Public school officials began to build large high schools in the 1920s to accommodate surging enrollments. From the 1940s to 1970s, many school districts and schools were consolidated to create fewer districts and larger schools. The movement for consolidation had several causes:

First, high school enrollments increased dramatically during the first half of the century in response to a changing economy that required higher levels of education.

Second, Americans admired the business model, tended to believe that "bigger was better" and expected economies of scale to result by building bigger high schools.

Third, in 1959, Harvard President James B. Conant wrote an influential study called "The American High School Today," which called for comprehensive high schools. Conant disparaged small schools because they could not offer a broad array of academic, vocational and general programs.

When Conant reviewed the national situation in 1965, he found that about half of all high school students attended schools with an enrollment between 750 and 2,000, about a third were in schools that enrolled 500 or less, and some 15 to 20 percent were in schools with more than 2,000 students.

By 1996, 70 percent of all high school students attended schools with an enrollment greater than 1,000, and nearly half were in schools with more than 1,500 students.

The movement toward large high schools was accelerated by efforts to promote racial integration. Conant and others observed that schools that drew students from large areas were far more likely to be racially integrated, unlike small schools that served relatively homogeneous neighborhoods and towns.

For all these reasons, large high schools were considered to be progressive because they could offer a diverse student body and a broad range of curriculum choices for all sorts of students, while reformers considered small high schools obsolete.

It is ironic that today's reformers now find themselves undoing the reforms of the 20th century.
The WaPo's Jay Mathews has more about large schools here.

I'm not so sure about Ravitch's assertion about the "undoing" of reforms. Some are
putting forth the argument that the present trend toward smaller schools represents an effort to better serve the needs of students in this century.
Submissions for The Carnival Of Education are due by 9:00 PM (Pacific) tonight. Get entry instructions here. Visit last week's midway right here. See our latest posts, over there.

PovRacers -N- SchoolRefs At Alexander Russo's Place

Alexander Russo has reignited the debate on what needs to be addressed first in education reform:
Looked at from afar, there are basically two main factions when it comes to thinking about education these days -- those who think underylying problems of poverty and race need to be addressed before significant improvements can be made in education, and those who believe that schools can get much better at helping children learn within the current reality.

Thus far, at least, it seems to me that it is the former, not the latter, that have won the hearts and minds of most educators and the public, and that all too often school reformers forget or fail to respond to the prevailing view.
And that's just for starters. Be sure to take a look at who's commenting.
Submissions for The Carnival Of Education are due by 9:00 PM (Pacific) tonight. Get entry instructions here. Visit last week's midway right here. See our latest posts, over there.

New Grading Paradigm

Have you ever heard of a student getting an "F-" on his or her report card?

I guess it would send an unmistakable message.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 43rd edition of The Carnival Of Education are due TONIGHT. We should receive them no later than 9:00 PM. (Pacific). Please send all submissions to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. Include the title of your site's post, and URL if possible. View last week's edition (with entry guidelines) right here.

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

Monday, November 28, 2005

The $1500 Social Divide

Joanne Jacobs says that parents are getting soaked by this California school district.

We agree. There's something about this whole thing that runs contrary to the fundamental spirit of American public education.

Boston's Best-Kept Education Secret

The Epiphany School is a private, tuition-free middle school that has a very non-traditional way of doing things in Dorchester, which is one of Boston's most troubled areas: (emphasis added)
Epiphany, with 80 fifth- to eighth-graders, runs nearly 12 hours a day, 11 months a year with one mission: To give students who would otherwise be in public schools what public schools don't. While public schools, operating with less and less money, are limiting extracurricular activities and accepting that they cannot act as social agencies, the Epiphany School says it works because it does.

''The goal is to be everything a family needs," said John Finley IV, Epiphany's head of school and cofounder. He wants to buy more property to create low-cost housing for parents and transitional homes for foster children who attend the school.

Tucked between Codman Square and Fields Corner, the small school takes in children whose worlds can sometimes be filled with chaos, neglect, and violence -- and devoid of role models or even warm meals and housing. Rather than ignore those forces or battle them one by one, the school has tried to create a competing and almost all-encompassing universe where students can not only learn, but grow up.

On weekdays, they spend 7:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. inside the school. They eat breakfasts of scrambled eggs and pancakes and lunches of rice and beans and chicken. At dinner, they use plates, instead of lunch trays, and real silverware. Parents and siblings are encouraged to dine alongside.

The school also provides comprehensive healthcare for students. Once enrolled, all students are screened for vision and dental problems, and the school helps students get prescriptions. Epiphany also sets money aside for students who need counseling or mental health therapy and whose families cannot afford the care. If families don't have health insurance, the school connects them with social service agencies and community healthcare organizations.

The school is also open on Saturdays, providing children with cooking and dance classes and sports. Field trips are also unique. For example, every summer Epiphany takes a group of students on extended sailing trips, teaching them how to work together.

Epiphany accepts only Boston residents, usually about 20 a year picked through a lottery. The school does not advertise, and gets most of its applicants through word of mouth.

The student body is nearly all minorities -- 73 percent black, 19 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian, and 4 percent white. The school also reserves 20 percent of its places for foster children.

But there are two ironclad requirements -- the student's family must be poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and to get parents involved, they must volunteer at least two hours a week at the school on tasks such as preparing meals or answering phones.

Because of all the extra programs and services, Epiphany spends about $20,000 per student each year -- all raised through private donations -- compared with about $10,700 per pupil for Boston public schools.
There is much more to read in this whole informative piece.

Even though Epiphany is a day school, I believe that they are using a tried and true method commonly found in America's elite boarding schools: Put the kids into uniforms, keep 'em busy all day, and dole out free time warily. Students won't have the time or energy to get into much trouble.

Students who complete Epiphany's program regularly go on to some of Boston's most prestigious high schools, with 19 of 20 of the first group eligible being admitted to college, with the 20th enlisting in the army.
See the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education (with entry guidelines) right here, and our latest posts over there.

Censorchimps: The Tennessee Subspecies

Once again, a high school has confiscated copies of a student newspaper. This time, the offending articles were about birthcontrol and tattoos: (emphasis added)
Administrators at Oak Ridge High School went into teachers' classrooms, desks and mailboxes to retrieve all 1,800 copies of the newspaper Tuesday, said teacher Wanda Grooms, who advises the staff, and Brittany Thomas, the student editor.

The Oak Leaf's birth control article listed success rates for different methods and said contraceptives were available from doctors and the local health department. Superintendent Tom Bailey said the article needed to be edited so it would be acceptable for the entire school.

The edition also contained a photo of an unidentified student's tattoo, and the student had not told her parents about the tattoo, said Superintendent Tom Bailey.

"I have a problem with the idea of putting something in the paper that makes us a part of hiding something from the parents," he said.

The paper can be reprinted if the changes are made, he said.

"We have a responsibility to the public to do the right thing," he said. "We've got 14-year-olds that read the newspaper."

Thomas said she wasn't sure about making changes. "I'm not completely OK with reprinting the paper," she said.

First Amendment experts were critical of the seizure.

"This is a terrible lesson in civics," University of Tennessee journalism professor Dwight Teeter said. "This is an issue about the administration wanting to have control. Either the students are going to have a voice, or you're going to have a PR rag for the administration."
Frankly, I don't want anybody going into my desk drawers to retrieve anything. If administrators need to get at something that is in my teacher's desk, I have no problem with them asking me for it. It's not a matter of privacy (Actually, the desk belongs to the district, and as such, may be searched at anytime.) it's a matter of being treated as a professional.

And yes, I know that the Supreme Court is
on the side of Oak Ridge's administration. But that doesn't make it right.
See the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education (with entry guidelines) right here, and our latest posts over there.

The Website Of The Day

Check out this classroom website by Arizona's Chaparral High School biology teacher Mrs. MacColl, the "Head Crustacean." I believe that it's an excellent example of a teacher's positive use of the internet as a tool to inform both parents and students of what is needed to achieve success in her classroom.

You might want to turn the volume down on that "welcome music," however.

And don't forget to visit Mrs. MacColl's menagerie. Pictured above is Milli the Millipede.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Latest Bling?

Educat has seen students wearing electrified belt buckles with scrolling messages walking about the hallways of her school.

I wonder if anyone has yet made any allegations of false advertising.

Heh. It seems as though this is a fashion trend. You can get yours right here.

And Now For Some Gnuz From Maine

Are you a secret member of the Gnu Teacher's revolutionary underground?

Just don't go Gnutz.

The Irony Of The Day

I was poking around over at Polski's place when I saw this: (emphasis added)
I received a mail solicitation the other day from the History Channel Club. As an enticement to get me to join as a "life" member, they included a slender bit of fabric bookmark and a magnetic copy of the US Constitution BILL OF RIGHTS. I believe the Bill of Rights is a remarkable document and has done much to make our nation a better place to live. I just wonder what the folks in the factory in the People's Republic of China think of it.....they manufactured the Bill of Rights magnet. I can only imagine what their government might do should those factory workers or anyone else in that country began to demand anything on the US Bill of Rights ? Another reason to be thankful we live in this US of A.
What irony. A made-for-export copy of the U.S. Bill of rights manufactured within the boundaries of one of the most repressive regimes of all time.

Authoritarian China, the nation that imprisons their own people for their religious beliefs and murdered a large number of students for the "crime" of peacefully demonstrating in support of democratic reform.

It seems as though nearly everything being sold in your local Wal-Mart is made in China while the Chinese government continues to keep its market closed to the few American manufacturers who are still in business.

American zoos even have to pay some pretty steep rents to the regime for use of those cute pandas that everyone likes.

And let's not forget that Authoritarian China committed an act of air piracy upon an American military aircraft, looted the plane's classified electronics, didn't permit the U.S. to fly the aircraft off the island but remove it in pieces instead, and then sent the American Government a bill, which we paid.

Of course, the Communist Chinese Government couldn't resist the tempation to gloat.

The real mystery, of course, is why do we as a nation continue to cozy-up to such an abusive regime at the expense of thousands of American workers who have lost their livelihoods in the name of "free" trade?
See the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education (with entry guidelines) right here, and our latest posts over there.

To Stand, Or Not To Stand, That Is The Question

One of our commenters named "Bab's" is concerned that one of her students isn't standing for The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag:
Advice please! I'm a second career intern. The VP stopped by during 1st period to catch the Pledge of Allegiance. In my class is a goth 9th grader whose brother serves now in Iraq. She did not stand for the Pledge. The VP, who wore sunglasses the whole time, left after 90 seconds with a HRUUMP. I couldn't see if it were me or the students he HRUMMPed about because his eyes were hidden.

I have since researched Ed Code 52720 and realized that the kids at least need to stand. I didn't know that - when I was I high school during the Vietnam War in the Bay Area, we did not do a flag salute.

My question: how do I appease the VP aside from saying I was wrong and uninformed? Your advice will be very helpful.

Thanks, Babs
I'm guessing that you teach here in California, as we are very familiar with the statute that you cited (section 52720) of the California Education Code:
In every public elementary school each day during the school year at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled class or
activity period at which the majority of the pupils of the school
normally begin the schoolday, there shall be conducted appropriate
patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the
Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy the requirements
of this section.

In every public secondary school there shall be conducted daily
appropriate patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of
Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy
such requirement. Such patriotic exercises for secondary schools
shall be conducted in accordance with the regulations which shall be
adopted by the governing board of the district maintaining the
secondary school.
As you teach in a secondary school, the bottom paragraph is applicable to your situation. Not knowing which school district in which you teach, I can't be sure what, if any, policies that your district's governing board may have adopted to augment the state's statute. Generally speaking, board policies cannot be in conflict with either state or federal constitutions and statutes.

Having said that, we can offer you some general guidelines.

The short answer is that students may not be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. This is the result of a 1943 ruling by the United States Supreme Court. (
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette)

In the not-too-distant past, students who chose not to render the pledge could still be expected to stand "respectfully" while the rest of the class recited the pledge. Your board may even have adopted a policy that may require this. (I would be surprised.) However, there is no applicable state (Please see wording of Section 52720) or federal statute that compels students to stand.

Our own school district's current board policies are silent regarding the flag pledge. When I first became a teacher some 14 years ago, the board policy at that time required the teacher to lead his or her class in a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Since then, that policy has been discreetly dropped.

Our district's administration has never had a written policy requiring students to "stand respectfully" during the flag pledge and has quietly stopped supporting any teacher who disciplined students that declined to stand. I believe that the district's thinking is that any student who sued the district would likely prevail, as not standing for the flag pledge could be considered in of itself a political statement.
There's a good illustrative example of what may happen right here. (Follow the link and scroll down to the "Alabama Example.")

I believe that the district is right in this case. Any student who is forced to stand would likely win should he or she file a complaint against the district.

I assume that in your district the V.P. you mentioned conducts teacher evaluations. (This varies from district to district depending on your collective bargaining agreement.) As a practical matter, since you are most likely non-tenured, it would probably be an excellent idea for you to consult that V.P. as to what the rules are regarding The Pledge of Allegiance.

You shouldn't admit that you are wrong, but you should simply ask his advice on what to do in the future. Your vice principal doesn't need to know that you've done a little research.

This whole maneuver is similar to an attorney asking questions of a witness in court. A smart attorney knows what the answers will be.

The benefit to you will derive from simply asking the questions.

This would show that you are aware of the concern and are seeking to address it. The one thing that costs more new teachers their jobs than anything else is failure to maintain classroom control. By seeking advice from the V.P., you are subtly communicating to him that you will follow his or her guidance in order to avoid what could be a potentially disruptive situation.

For many site administrators, an orderly classroom is a good classroom.
See the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education right here, and our latest posts over there.

The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

Each and every week, Watcher of Weasels sponsors a weekly 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 cast their ballots for this week's submitted posts.

Council Member Entries: Gates of Vienna won first place honors with Acute Senatitis.

Non-Council Entries: Done With Mirrors was the winner with Murtha's War

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Diary Of Anne Frank As Anti-U.S. Propaganda

North Korea is one of the most repressive regimes in the world today. In this piece from 2004, take a look at how this dictatorship even uses The Diary of Anne Frank to inflame hatred of The United States:
If you want to hear "hate" coming out of the mouths of school kids, go to the schools of North Korea, as a Dutch television crew did, and you'll hear hate from that country's teenagers directed at the United States.

Western television reporters rarely get into North Korea, but remarkably they let a Dutch television crew in to see how they're using Holland's most famous book, “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

That diary, of her life in hiding during World War II, is now being studied in North Korea's schools. But Anne Frank's plea for peace and freedom got lost in translation.

North Korea is using her diary, not to teach how Anne suffered at the hands of the German Nazis, but to warn the students how they could suffer at the hands of those they call "American Nazis." Correspondent Mike Wallace reports.

”After reading this book, I had a hatred for the American imperialists,” says one student.

“That warmonger Bush is just as bad as Hitler. Because of him we will always live in fear of war,” says another student.

Anne's plea for peace is a curious message for these students, because North Korea is constantly preparing for war. Dictator Kim Jong Il spends the country's meager resources maintaining a powerful military. And it turns out that North Korea is using Anne's diary to tell students they must sacrifice for the military -- because war with America is inevitable.

“The Americans enjoy war. It excites them. It's part of their nature,” says one student.

Here, they teach that today's Nazis are the Americans – and that today's Hitler is George W. Bush. And, to hammer that home, whenever North Korean students refer to President Bush, or to other Americans, they're taught to call them “Nazis,” or “warmongers."

“As long as the warmonger Bush and the Nazi Americans live, who are worse than Hitler's fascists, world peace will be impossible to achieve,” says another student.

These students sympathize with Anne, but according to Bartelsman, they do not respect her.

“She didn't win. She was not a hero, and North Korea, they are learning, the children, we all want to be a hero, and we don't want to be killed,” says Bartelsman.

‘We know that Nazi America is certain to start a war with us, but we will win that war,” says one student.

“Our students will fight with a pen in one hand and a weapon in the other until the last American is dead,” adds another student.

These youngsters parrot the words of North Korea's deputy minister of education, who uses Anne's diary to teach students that North Korea's top priority is to build a stronger military to defeat the Americans.

And to make sure the students give that same answer, Dutch television caught one teacher whispering to her students, telling them just what to say to the Dutch reporter.

Teacher: Say that we don't want war, but that that is impossible as long as our enemy lives. So for us war is inevitable. We are not going to beg for peace. Instead, we must crush our enemy without mercy.

Student: You should not beg for peace. As long as the imperialists live, there will be no end to war.

Another student read from the diary: “Why is there hunger when food rots away elsewhere? Why are people so crazy?”

When Bartelsman asked students if they could answer Anne's question, again their teacher told them just what to say: “Why isn't food distributed everywhere? Because the imperialist bourgeoisie take it -- that's why there is nothing left for the proletariat. Just say that.”

The student’s response: “Food is taken by the imperialist bourgeoisie, which is why there is nothing left for the proletariat.”

“The most shocking thing is their comparison for President Bush with Hitler. that is absolutely disgusting,” says Anne’s cousin, Buddy Elias, who was her playmate and her last living direct relative.

Elias was the one who approved giving North Korea the rights to publish her diary, for a symbolic payment of less than $2,000.

“We were not told that it would be misused in schools. That, we had no idea,” says Elias, who considers today’s Hitler to be Kim Jong-Il, North Korea’s supreme leader. Kim insists that whenever anyone mentions his name, they must first call him respected or beloved.
There is much more to read in the whole piece.

Alarmingly, North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons as well as the missle technology to deliver them.
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Vermont Learning Curve

From our "didn't pay attention in class files," we have the story of a teacher in Bennington, Vermont, who, during one of his Teacher Education courses, must've fallen asleep during the lecture on common sense:
School administrators are investigating whether an English teacher at Mount Anthony Union High School crossed the line when he gave students a quiz laced with a liberal point of view.

But teacher Bret Chenkin said his quizzes are being taken out of context. While he admits he isn't as conservative as some other teachers, he insists that he doesn't inflict his political views on his students.

At issue is whether a vocabulary quiz Chenkin gave students two months ago is appropriate for his high school classroom. The quiz asked students to select the right word for each of 20 sentences.

One said, "It is frightening the way the extreme Right has (balled, arrogated) aspects of the (U.S.) Constitution and warped them for their own agenda."

Another said, "I wish (President George W.) Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes."

And the last question said, "The governor (of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger,) should have been (excoriated, coherent) by the press for calling Democrats 'girlie-men' but instead was invited to speak at the Republican convention; it only goes to show what kind of people they are."

Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Wesley L. Knapp said all teachers have a certain amount of academic freedom in the classroom. But he said he felt the language on this English quiz was "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" and that he wouldn't want his children to be exposed to that kind of teaching.

"It's absolutely unacceptable," he said. "They (teachers) don't have a license to hold forth on a particular standpoint."

Principal Sue Maguire said she wasn't aware there was an issue in Chenkin's classroom. She said she hoped to speak to whoever complained about the quiz, as well as any students who may be concerned. Maguire said she also planned to speak with Chenkin about the context in which he was using the quiz.

"I feel like this needs to be investigated," she said.

Wolfgang Roxon of Shaftsbury is a parent of two children at the high school who have taken courses with Chenkin. He said he has known Chenkin for some time and likes him, but sometimes he can take his teaching methods a little too far.

A former history teacher, Roxon said one of his children took a film class with Chenkin. Roxon's son told him that Chenkin leaned toward the left and rarely, if ever, showed a conservative side.

In a community and school that's largely Democratic or liberal, according to Roxon, teachers need to be aware of the implications of not offering a politically balanced curriculum.

"The kids in the school who tend to lean more conservative can be ostracized," Roxon said. "In a classroom, you have a responsibility as a teacher to not implement your point of view."
The relatively affluent town of Bennington is the home of Bennington College, which is a private Liberal Arts institution.

Joanne Jacobs
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Friday, November 25, 2005


Are you Mathematically Correct?

No Electronic Accessories Required

Disgraced former teacher and "too pretty for prison" convicted child molester Debra Lafave's three-years of house arrest begin today. She won't even have to wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

Look for Larry King, Barbara Walters, and Playboy Magazine, to come calling soon.

Martha Stewart must be envious.

Protecting Kids Down In Bluegrass Country

Lawmakers in Kentucky are studying a proposal that school boards annually publish the names and photos of convicted sex-offenders living in their communities:
Lawmakers will be asked to consider a package of bills expanding notification requirements about convicted sex offenders.

But the legislation would also mean more responsibility for school boards in getting the word out about the felons.

And, there is some question about whether proposed fees would cover the cost of the extra work.

The bills would require registered sex offenders who already must register with the local probation and parole officer to provide information about where they live to the local sheriff's department.

The offender would pay the sheriff's department a one-time 20 dollar fee, half of which would help cover the department's costs to collect, organize and maintain the information.

The other half would go to local school boards, which would be required to publish in the newspaper a list of all registered sex offenders, their photographs, addresses and offenses each school year.
If this proposal survives the lengthy legislative process and becomes law, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for some judge somewhere to declare it unconstitutional and throw it out.
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Seasonal Passage

As the annual feeding frenzy begins once more, CNN has tips on dealing with what it calls the "Gimme Season."

But if your gift-giving plans include something for the teacher in your (or your child's) life, be sure that your present doesn't break the rules.

On the other hand, I believe that it was Oscar Wilde who infamously once said, "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."


Reality-Based Learning?

The celebration of sport continues in American high schools, with one high school in Mr. Vernon, Ohio offering a class called "Sports and Society."

The school refers to the for-credit course as "a class with a sports-focused approach to their learning."

In the spirit of "Rocks for Jocks," (geology) "Stars for Studs," (astronomy) and "Nuts and Sluts," (psychology) I wonder what nickname the students are going to give this one?
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Modern Day Muleskinners?

The school bus driver shortage is so acute in parts of the country that in some districts, such as Fulton, Mo., and Fairfax County, Va., school administrators are getting out from behind their desks to drive a route. long as someone like this guy doesn't show up to take my class on a field trip...

Y'all be careful out there....

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Spellings Report: Criminalities

Over at The House of Spellings, they're simply giddy over a report that says the number of criminal acts committed on America's public school campuses is the lowest since 1992:
Violent crime rates in the nation's schools, unchanged between 2002 and 2003, remained at about half those recorded in 1992, according to a new report released today by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice.

The report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2005, said the rate of violent crime victims in schools declined from 48 per thousand students in 1992 to 28 per thousand in 2003. In 2003, students ages 12 to 18 were victims of about 740,000 violent crimes and 1.2 million crimes of theft at school, according to the report. Seven percent of students in that age range reported that they had been bullied. Twenty-nine percent of high school students reported that drugs were made available to them on school property, and 9 percent of students were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.
I guess this news isn't all that good if it's your kid that has been bullied or "threatened or injured with a weapon" or been the victim of a theft.

According to the report, (Read it
here) 7% of kids indicated that they had been bullied, 9% threatened or injured with a weapon, and 27% report that drugs are available on campus.

As for the above statistics, they're a positive start. But as parents and educators, we should postpone the celebration until each and every child's school campus is made safe and secure for all of America's children.

We can do better...We must do better..
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The Website Of The Day

EduBlogs come in all shapes, sizes, viewpoints.... and content.

Here's one that I've found that deals primarily with one of my favorite aquatic animals... Squids. And as you might expect, it's called the Squidblog.

I've never considered this before, but how could biology teachers use blogs in the classroom? To keep parents posted about the progress of a classroom or student project, perhaps?

Bad News For The NEA

The much-ballyhooed lawsuit (Pontiac v. Spellings) that NEA had filed in order to combat the federal No Child Left Behind Act has been thrown out of court. Apparently, however, the door isn't completely closed to further court action.

Over at their web site, the NEA has this to say: (emphasis added)
Filed on April 20, 2005, by NEA, several NEA affiliates, and nine school districts, the lawsuit is based on a specific provision of the NCLB—Sec. 9527(a)—which states:

“Nothing in this Act [i.e., the NCLB] shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal government to... mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that the federal government is violating this unfunded mandates provision by insisting states and school districts spend their own money to comply with the requirements of NCLB despite the fact that federal funding falls billions of dollars short of covering their costs of doing so.

“Parents in communities where school districts are financially strained were promised that this law would close the achievement gaps,” said Reg Weaver, president of the 2.7 million-member NEA. “Instead, their tax dollars are being used to cover unpaid bills sent from Washington for costly regulations that do not help improve education.”

The Department of Education moved to dismiss the lawsuit on two grounds: that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the lawsuit, and that Section 9527(a) does not mean that there can be no unfunded mandates imposed on states and school districts by the NCLB Act. In granting the Department of Education’s motion to dismiss, the court rejected the standing objection, finding that “standing had been adequately alleged.”

The court concluded, however, that Section 9527(a) does not prohibit Congress from imposing unfunded mandates. According to the court, the section only prohibits “federal officials and employees from imposing additional, unfunded requirements, beyond those provided for in the statute.”
National Education Association President Reg Weaver indicated that the organization intends to appeal the ruling. My guess is that the appeal will be equally unsuccessful.

As of yet, the House of Spellings
has nothing to say on the matter.

Update: (AM) Commenter Darren of Right on the Left Coast lets us know that The Secretary did indeed have something to say to the media.
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Thanksgiving Wishes

To all of friends out there who continue to support our efforts here at The Education Wonks, all of us in the WonkFamily wish you and yours a joyful and relaxing Thanksgiving Day.

And for those of us who will take a pass (sorry) on football but are still in the mood to watch something on television early this evening, The History Channel
is running a program about.... The History Of Thanksgiving.

Read President Bush's Thanksgiving Day proclamation
right here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Tricky Situation In New York City

A 26-year-old teacher who worked in a Catholic preschool was fired from her post because she was both preganant and unmarried. The teacher, Michelle McCusker, has filed a federal discrimination complaint against the Church.

The diocese defends McCusker's firing by saying that was out of compliance with the Employee Handbook which directs that teachers must ''convey the teachings of the Catholic faith by his or her words and actions.''

A tricky situation indeed.
See today's edition of The Carnival Of Education right here.

The Carnival Of Education: Week 42

Welcome to this week's edition of The Carnival Of Education. We think that this roundup of entries represents a wide variety of educational viewpoints that are to be found within the EduSphere. All entries were submitted by the writers except those labeled, "Editor's Choice," and are grouped into several categories.

A successful carnival is a team effort. Please consider helping spread the word. And as always, your comments and constructive criticism are most welcome.

An invitation: Writers of education-related posts are invited to send contributions to next week's Carnival midway. Please send your submissions to: owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. We should receive them no later than 9:00 PM (Pacific) next Tuesday, November 29th. Please include the title of your post, and its URL, if possible. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the midway of the 43rd edition of the carnival should open here next Wednesday.

Last week's Carnival is here. See the complete set of archives
there. For our latest posts, please visit our home page.

Let the free exchange of thoughts and ideas begin...

Education Policy:

Mark Lerner, who is on the Board of Directors of The William E. Doar, Jr. Public Charter School for the Performing Arts in the nation's capital,
takes a hard look at the U.S. Department of Education, as well as the D.C. public school system's continuing lack of support for its own public charter schools. This in spite of the fact that many parents continue to remove their children from traditional academic programs...

The recent Supreme Court ruling (Shaffer v. Weast) affecting special education continues to be discussed in the EduSphere, with California teacher Coach Brown considering
the possible effects of the SCOTUS ruling upon school districts.

You say that you want to know the latest in education policy? But you don't know where to turn? If edupolicy is what you want, then should be one of your regular reads. In this week's entry, Eduwonk
give us the skinny on what direction the politically popular "65% Solution" is now taking and where it will likely end up.

Andrew Coulson, of Washington's Cato institute,
asserts that school choice would be the best way to end all the bickering over Intelligent Design and similar controversies.

Most can agree that our education system is in need of effective reform. At My Short Pencil, Jerry Moore
presents his case for computer-delivered teaching, some outsourced instruction, and the ending of teacher tenure as one remedy for what ails our system of public education.

Editor's Choice: Consider taking a look at Joanne Jacobs
highly informative primer about Charter School Realities.

At Education Matters
they are calling out New York's "Innovative" math program. Matters would like to know why, if this program is so good, are students having to "circumvent" the curriculum.

Teaching And Learning:

Montana is known as Big Sky Country. So when I received this entry from the Montana teachers who write a blog called TeacherLore, I had big expectations.
They didn't let me down. What they have done is posted a series of essays written by high school students from around the state. When you get to the post, be sure to follow the link (where it says the word "essays") over to the writing. Each writer has his or her own comment-enabled "mini-post."

In California, the state's 7th grade content-area standards direct that students should learn about Islam. Over at The Common Room, they consider the proposition that
one teacher went much too far.

As a classroom teacher, I've attended my share of less-than-informative conferences. At Tim Fredrick's place, he has
some excellent thoughts about what makes for an effective and worthwhile conference.

On the other hand, Ms. Cornelius of A Shrewdness of Apes attended one of those conferences that
all of us working teachers simply dread. Here is a sample:
Unfortunately, I am about to scream. Hours of meetings so we can role play and fishbowl about stuff we already knew. We have played cutesy "getting to know you" games and listen to truly abysmal poems read to us by one of the presenters. My heartstrings have been tugged into Gordian knots.

We have dodged an attempt to dump a heaping load of guilt on those of us who have a family and/or who do not spend at least $2000 of our own money on our classrooms (gee, last year I spent $1999-- just missed it!). I must admit I suppressed a giggle when one of the GOB district administrators talked interminably about how he is an "oppressor." Noooooo. Really?
There was quite a bit of buzz generated by Brent Staples' Times piece about the Japanese public school system and what we on this side of the Pacific can learn from a study of their methods and techniques. At Going to the Mat, they take a thorough look at the Times piece and have links to others who are also considering what lessons we can learn from the Japanese Experience.

Muse is a teacher in Israel. After experiencing difficulty with classes that have all ability-levels in one group,
she brings us an interesting idea. Larger class sizes for more advanced students and smaller classes for those in need of more attention. Food for thought or discussion.

The Secret Lives Of Teachers:

Mamacita tells it like it is. And this week, the author of Scheiss Weekly doesn't let us down with her entry about some of the things that students have to go through in their secret lives. Why is it that the kids must always
pay for the sins of the parents? And how about a bonus post in which Mamacita gives us a grammar lesson?

Second-year teacher Janet
has begun to notice some things in her school. Differential education and Gifted Classes for the ungifted, and students biting students are just three of several. And could a contributing factor to some of these oddities be that many students in the school seem to be related to each other?

One of my favorite books has always been George Orwell's Animal Farm. Homeschool teacher Spunky (who teaches six) asks, "
Is the National Education Association the new Animal Farm?" If so, who is Comrade Napoleon? (Heh. I know his identity, but I'm not uttering it here on the Midway.)

Breaking-up fights. Students calling each other obscene names. Playing tag in the middle of class. Disrespectful kids. The preceding wasn't from an old Night Gallery episode but substitute teacher Mr. Lawrence
giving us the lowdown on why 'subs don't want to work in certain schools. (Be sure to take a look at Mr. Lawrence's photo; it's a pic of one of my favorite all-time heroes.)

Inside The EduBlogs:

submitted for your consideration is our entry from The Education Wonks. We report the sad news of a fellow teacher who has been sentenced to 750 lashes and 40 months imprisonment for allegedly "questioning and ridiculing Islam, discussing the Bible and defending Jews."

Editor's Choice: Check out this blog called The Classroom. It's by Clayton Wilcox, Superintendent of Pinellas County (Florida) Public Schools. In these two posts, he uses the site to sample the community's attitudes toward school start times.
Part I has 786 comments, while there were some 267 who chimed-in on Part II. We hope that the Superintendent will begin posting daily!

Survival Guide For Students And Parents:

Dayton Daily News reporter Scott Elliott's Get on the Bus is alerting us to a case where a student attempted to poison his teacher's coffee. Thank goodness the teacher didn't take a sip. Scott asks
an interesting question: With the Columbine High School Massacre six years behind us, have we learned anything?

Much has been written on the subject of the best jobs for those with Bachelor's (or higher) Degrees, but have you ever wondered what the highest-paying jobs are that don't require degrees? Political Calculations has
that most intriguing list.

Sometimes we just never know what that child who we see sitting in our classroom or walking home from school is going through. Continuing her remarkable set of interviews with people from all walks of life, homeschooler Vernice Jones of Jones Blog brings us
the latest installment, this time from a single mom who is doing the best that she can.

Colorado educator Donna reminds us of
a key component of student success. The need for parents to be informed. And a good start would be for parents to have an understanding of what academic literacy is and why oral fluency in reading isn't enough for most students to succeed in school.

In response to a question that
we posed, Erin, over at her new site, The State That I Am, has written a letter of her own to the families of her students. (Keep at it, Erin! I do miss that picture of the Great Audrey Hepburn from your old place.)

Rhymes With Right brings us the statement of Harvard Law student and U.S. Army first-Lieutenant Kate Thornton Buzicky who asks that her fellow liberal-minded students be
a little more tolerant of those who serve in uniform. (Be sure to follow the link to the whole piece.)

Cross Blogging is reporting about
one mother's attempt to "scare her child straight" through unique means. I'm not sure about the long-term effects, but mom's method sure got a lot of attention!

Who would have thought that
Borgs would be interested in public education? Well... Borgs are parents too, and Gullyborg wants a judge who, over the objections of parents, authorized schools to give students surveys with sex-related material, to be held accountable for this erosion of parental rights.

Higher Education:

Any controversy surrounding freedom of expression demands my closest attention. Our stated objective of promoting "The Free Exchange Of Thoughts And Ideas," depends on maintaining that freedom. That's why
I was saddened to learn that a community college instructor in New Jersey is attempting to "persuade" students not to attend a talk by an Iraqi War veteran.

Editor's Choice: If you could be the Dean of a college or university, what would you do with all that power? Ms. Frizzle gives us her
well-reasoned ideas about some changes that many institutions of higher learning could definately use.

Testing And Technology:

J.D. Fisher, of MathandText, gives us
a step-by-step lesson in how to draw circle graphs using MS Word for the purpose of designing math problems for use in the classroom. Consider taking a look at this bonus post which uses Lego pieces to help students understand long division.

Quite a bit of attention been garnered by the $100 laptop computer that is being developed for kids who live in less-developed countries. But the forward-thinking Darren of Right on the Left Coast
asks a question that needs to be asked.

Science Creative Quarterly
has the latest in Scantron technologies for those of us who have access to those machines.... And some folks at the University of British Columbia are announcing "The Terry Project," where science meets the humanities.

As always, we've thoroughly enjoyed this trip around the EduSphere. Thanks to all who have contributed and continue to make this midway possible. I'm looking forward to next week's entries and the announcement of The Carnival's next guest host.
This midway is registered at TTLB's carnival roundup. See The Education Wonks' latest posts here, and the complete Carnival archives over there.