Monday, July 31, 2006

Combating Child Molesters: A Step Forward

A few days ago, President Bush signed The Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act Of 2006 into law. The new statute has four chief objectives:
Expanding The National Sex Offender Registry. The bill will integrate the information in State sex offender registry systems and ensure that law enforcement has access to the same information across the United States, helping prevent sex offenders from evading detection by moving from State to State. Data drawn from this comprehensive registry will be made available to the public so parents have the information they need to help protect their children from sex offenders.

Strengthening Federal Penalties For Crimes Against Children. The bill imposes tough mandatory minimum penalties for the most serious crimes against children and increases penalties for crimes such as sex trafficking of children and child prostitution. It also provides grants to States to help them institutionalize sex offenders who have shown they cannot change their behavior and are about to be released from prison.

Making It Harder For Sex Predators To Reach Our Children On The Internet. The bill authorizes new regional Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforces that will provide funding and training to help State and local law enforcement combat crimes involving the sexual exploitation of minors on the Internet.

Creating A New National Child Abuse Registry And Requiring Investigators To Do Background Checks Of Adoptive And Foster Parents Before They Are Approved To Take Custody Of A Child. By giving child protective service professionals in all 50 States access to this critical information, we will improve their ability to investigate child abuse cases and help ensure that vulnerable children are not put into situations of abuse or neglect.
Now we'd be taking a giant step forward if we could just get the courts to throw away the key when they do convict somebody for sexually molesting childen.
See our latest EduPosts here.

Wedding Bells!

Today is Joanne Jacobs' wedding day!

Consider going
over to her place and saying "congrats."
See our latest education-related entries.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

On The Shortage Of Male African American Teachers

A number of colleges and universities have developed programs aimed at getting more male African American teachers into our public school classrooms:
Who's all but missing from public schools?

Black men who are teachers.

"It's really a good feeling to be elite," said Roger Walker, 30, a black man teaching high-school reading at Florida A&M University's developmental research school. Walker, who also taught at Nims Middle and Rickards High schools, said: "But it's scary there are so few of us. We can't be everywhere to serve the great population of our youth who need to see black male teachers." In the classroom, he always sports a suit and tie to set a good example.

Black male students are the least likely to graduate from Florida high schools, and with fewer black men showing up at Florida universities last fall, the people most likely to be their educational role models are barely present.

Black men made up only 3.2 percent of Florida teachers last fall, about the same percentage as five years earlier. And they were just 2.4 percent of U.S. teachers in 2003, said Reg Weaver, National Education Association president, who's seen a decline of black teachers like himself since 1971.

"I do find there is a hunger, a drive and an attraction to the African-American men who teach in the schools," said Kenneth Wright, 50, a teacher at PACE secondary school for Leon County at-risk students. "Part of it is the young males are able to see themselves in us."

Florida could be an ideal incubator to turn around the troubling trend.

In 2003, it had both the highest number of black male students in public schools of any state - 320,962 - and the worst high-school graduation rate - 31 percent - for black male students, said researcher Michael Holzman, who wrote the just-released Schott Foundation report on public education and black males.

There also is a huge appetite for teachers in Florida, which must hire 30,000 new ones this year.

"We've authorized our recruiter, if she comes across a qualified minority male ... to give them a contract on the spot," said Jim Croteau, acting Leon County Schools superintendent. "The numbers are miniscule," said Croteau, a former elementary schoolteacher. Of Leon County teachers, 4.1 percent are black men.

Why is the absence of black men in education so little talked about? Weaver said, "Once you recognize a problem exists, then you've got to do something about it."

It may be an issue of which comes first - the struggling black male students or the shortage of black male teachers.

How do you get more black male students through high school and college so they become teachers or otherwise well-educated, if there aren't enough black male teachers to inspire them?

Start by raising the high-school graduation rate for black male students, Holzman said.

"You have twice the chance of getting (black male) kids into college if the schools in Florida were at least as good as in Boston," Holzman said. "It's tragic."

Rafael Robinson, who graduated from Florida A&M University last December, is a black man who took the challenge of teaching.

"I love it," said Robinson, who returned to the St. Petersburg neighborhood where he grew up to teach first grade at Douglas Jamerson Elementary School. That's in Pinellas County, the urban county in Florida with the worst 2003 high-school graduation rate - 21 percent - for black male students.

"The kids really want to learn and especially really want to learn from someone they can relate to. (Because) I'm a male and most teachers are female, the kids get excited," Robinson said. "I can go home with a smile on my face because I taught someone something beneficial."

Also coming back to his roots is Micheal Franklin, a math teacher at St. John Elementary School in Gadsden County.

"When I was in the public school system in Gadsden, I was fortunate enough to run into black male teachers who helped inspire me and gave me a purpose to being in school. I wanted to give that back to other kids," said Franklin, who turned down offers to teach elsewhere for more money.

Meanwhile, the number of black men receiving bachelor's degrees in education is declining at Florida universities. The 61 black men earning teaching degrees in 2004-2005 from state universities was the lowest figure since 1992-1993.

Florida A&M University and Florida State University have the best records among Florida universities of graduating black men with teaching degrees: 18 from FAMU and 15 from FSU in 2004-2005. But their numbers are in a slump: FAMU had 65 black men graduating with teaching degrees in 1998-1999; FSU had 24 in 2003-2004.

"Call Me Mister" is a Clemson University program that reaches out to educationally at-risk communities to recruit black men to college and to teaching careers. It provides tuition assistance at Clemson and other colleges and a support system for participants. No similar program exists at FSU, said Barbara Edwards, associate dean of the College of Education.

"We typically get young men who are truly interested in making a difference and who truly love children," said FAMU professor of education Mary Newell, who taught Robinson.

Low starting salary in teaching, compared with professions like business or medicine that have opened their arms to black men since the civil-rights era, is the most frequently cited reason for the scarcity.

Raising teachers' salaries may work magic, teacher Ben Nelson said, noting that higher nurses' salaries have led more men into a female-dominated profession. Nelson runs and wrote a 2002 survey on why there are so few male teachers of young children.

But for men, the turnoffs to teaching are "a combination of sexism, fear of accusation, and status, as well as pay," Nelson said. Women are the stereotypical teachers, men are afraid of being accused of sexual abuse if they teach, and the profession of teaching is less respected than in the past, he said.

Just changing the education curriculum in college to get students teaching in their freshman year would help get men hooked, Nelson said.

"When kids have a guy in a classroom, you (the teacher) feel like a rock star," he said.

"More respect, more support, more money, more schools that are safe and orderly, more ability to be part of the decision-making process," was Weaver's advice on attracting black men to teaching.
For Walker, there are no doubts. "I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything," he said. "It gives (students) a great outlook that there's hope in society for black men."
I have to agree with Ben Nelson's assertion that teachers, "the profession of teaching is less respected than in the past."

But how do we go about raising the public's level of respect for the profession of teaching so that we may recruit more able teachers of all races and ethnicities?

Food for thought.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Jimmy McCain: Here's A Positive Role Model!

This story isn't really education-related, but in this, the fifth year of the "war" on terror, it is unusual, maybe even unique: The 18-year-old son of a United States Senator has actually enlisted in the Marine Corps.
This September, Senator John McCain's youngest son, Jimmy, 18, will report to a U.S. Marine Corps depot near Camp Pendleton in San Diego. After three months of boot camp and a month of specialized training, he will be ready to deploy. Depending on the unit he joins, he could be in Iraq as early as this time next year, and his chances of seeing combat at some point are high. Of the 178,000 active-duty Marines in the world, some 80,000 have seen a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, and there are 25,000 bearing the brunt of some of the worst fighting in Iraq now. About 6,000 Marines have been wounded there, and about 650 have been killed. "I'm obviously very proud of my son," says the elder McCain, "but also understandably a little nervous."

At 70 years old, McCain might have thought his days of living in the shadow of family military men were behind him. His grandfather, Admiral John S. McCain Sr., served in the Pacific in World War II and was present at the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. His father, Admiral John S. McCain Jr., commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific during Vietnam, when the young McCain was a prisoner of war in Hanoi. But if the old men cast long shadows, McCain is about to learn that the young ones can too.

Jimmy McCain's deployment will affect more than his family. His father is a leading contender for the White House in 2008. If Jimmy deploys to combat, it appears McCain will join F.D.R. to become one of the very few American presidential candidates ever to have had a son at war. And even the prospect of Jimmy's service will shade the race. Iraq is the most important strategic and political issue facing the U.S. Many Democrats are calling for troop withdrawal to begin immediately, and the Bush Administration is struggling to reduce troop strength by the end of the year. McCain, for his part, is the leading voice calling for increasing the number of U.S. troops there.

In the way that happens more frequently in fiction than in life, a McCain family drama is replaying itself here. As a prisoner of war, Senator McCain voluntarily declined an offer of early release by his Vietnamese captors, extending his stay at the Hanoi Hilton by almost four years and nine months. During that time, his father continued to approve air strikes against Hanoi, knowing his son was there. Now comes Jimmy McCain, putting himself in the line of fire even as his father calls for more troops to be sent to war.

Named after McCain's father-in-law, James Hensley, Jimmy is the lively, happy-go-lucky member of the clan, friends say. During the 2000 campaign, a Boston Globe reporter spotted Jimmy, then 11, chasing his older brother Jack around the house calling him a "pork-barrel spender" — a deep cut in the McCain home. During the same year, when McCain was on the road in New Hampshire, the candidate proudly read aloud from a school report on General George S. Patton by Jimmy that he had faxed to him: "The Tanks Will Roll On."

McCain's personal influences on Jimmy appear to have outweighed the privileges that came with being his son. McCain is rock-star famous, and his wife Cindy came to the marriage with money as the daughter of a Budweiser distributor. While others have signed up for duty — the sons of both Senator Kit Bond of Missouri and Tim Johnson of South Dakota have served combat missions in Iraq — it is nonetheless unusual for children of that background to enlist. By comparison, a recent study by Public Citizen's Congress Watch found at least 32 examples of congressional family members who were lobbyists.

Jimmy knows the risks of war from his father's descriptions of battle, imprisonment and torture in Vietnam. The Senator's book, Faith of My Fathers, dryly relates the experience of "small pieces of hot shrapnel" tearing "into my legs and chest," and of how, in solitary confinement, "the first few weeks are the hardest," as "the onset of despair is immediate" and "formidable." Not exactly a prime recruiting tool for your kids. Still, McCain the elder is phlegmatic. "I don't think there's anything unusual about Jimmy," he says. "There are, thank God, lots of young men and women like him."

In some ways, though, Jimmy is breaking with tradition, rather than following it. His brother Jack, now 20, has just finished his plebe year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather went before him. And McCain, the Naval aviator and keen interservice competitor, has been known to crack more than a few jokes at the Marines' expense. McCain says he doesn't read much into Jimmy's decision. "I know that he's aware of his family's service background," he says, "but I think the main motivator was, he had friends who were in the Marine Corps, and he'd known Marines, and he'd read about them, and he just wanted to join up."

McCain says his son's service won't change his position on the war; he claims it won't even affect how he feels about it. "Like every parent who has a son or daughter serving that way, you will have great concern, but you'll also have great pride," McCain says. But it will be hard to ignore. If Republicans retain control of the Senate after November's midterm elections, McCain is due to ascend to the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee in January, a position he has long aimed for. There he will have day-to-day responsibility for the oversight of the war.

And then there's 2008. McCain already has strong national-security credentials. His son's service only strengthens his position. It will neutralize the assertions of the left that Republicans are "chicken hawks," pursuing the war for ideological reasons without any connection to the pain of it. And it will likely have a broader affect on McCain's credibility. Critics have accused McCain of pandering to the right in order to solidify his front-runner status, but the power of that argument is diminished if McCain is seen steadfastly supporting a war even as it endangers his youngest son.

More than anything else, though, the country may find itself viewing Iraq through McCain's eyes as it follows his son's progress. And nothing is more powerful for a candidate than sympathy. Nothing, too, is more irritating to McCain: he seems annoyed by the interest in his son's enlistment. In mid-June, he requested that TIME not run this story and only relented when it appeared other organizations might break the news. In response to most of the heavier questions about Jimmy's motivation and the influence he may have felt from his family, McCain doesn't want to play. "He's an 18-year-old kid," McCain says, and he no doubt remembers what that means. The Senator was such a hell-raiser as a plebe and a pilot that he was nearly forced out of the academy.

Whatever Jimmy's enrollment says about him, his father or the country, candidate McCain is letting it speak for itself, for the most part. Often the clan gathers for a popular July 4 barbeque at McCain's cabin in Arizona. But this year, instead, McCain canceled the picnic, and the Senator, his wife Cindy and Jimmy went to the Quinault Indian reservation in Washington State. "We went fishing and hiking and enjoyed the rain forest there as well as the salmon fishing, although we didn't catch any salmon," he says. "Cindy and I were able to spend a weekend with him. And it was fine."
At a time when the sons and daughters of America's privileged elite (of both political parties) have nearly completely exempted themselves from any participation in the "war" on terror, Jimmy McCain's willingness to put his own college plans on hold while he serves in in the ranks as an enlisted private soldier (as opposed to attending a service academy and becoming an "officer and gentleman," which is usually the case for those who are the offspring of the powerful and well-connected) is an example to the nation that harkens back to the days of World Wars I and II, during which millions of young people from all socio-economic backgrounds actively volunteered to serve their country in its time of need.

We wish young Mr. McCain well and fervantly hope that the comes safely home upon the completion of his service.
See our latest EduPosts right here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

It's A Group Thing!

Several California school teachers have gotten together and started a collective EduBlog.

Say "hello" to California Live Wire, where they give us a few definitions from The Universal Dictionary of EduSpeak:
Accountability-based learning: &-"kaun-t&-'bi-l&-tE 'bAsd 'l&rni[ng] [n] when teachers are blamed for poor student performance, but involved parents are lauded for outstanding student performance.

Achievement gap: &-'chEv-m&nt 'gap [n] the area between the teacher's planned student acheivement and what students actually learned.

De-centered classrooms: dE-'sen-t&rd 'klas-"rüm [n] [1] when you are notified a week before school starts that the classroom you planned to have is no longer available, leaving you to scrounge and replan [2] misguided policies by administrators in an attempt to save money, in which teachers are required to change classrooms multiple times in a day.
I wonder how one says "summer vacation is running out," in EduSpeak?
See our latest education-related entries.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Spellings Report: N.C.L.B. and L.E.P.s

Once again, those helpful Washington EduCrats of The Royal House of Spellings are promising to do something to "assist" those of us who actually do work with children in the classroom. This time around, the targets students that have drawn of the attention of Washington's ivory-tower-wouldn't-go-near-a-real-classroom-on-a-bet-non-teaching-teaching-experts are limited English-proficient students. (L.E.P.s)
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced a partnership with states to improve and develop fair and accurate testing designed for limited English proficient (LEP) students.

"The goal of No Child Left Behind is to give every child in America a great education and a successful start in life. This new initiative will increase the visibility of limited English proficient students and enable schools to more accurately measure their progress," Spellings said. "The 5.4 million LEP students in U.S. schools are our fastest-growing student population and are expected to make up one out of every four students by 2025. Our schools must be prepared to measure what English language learners know and teach them effectively."

Testing is the lynchpin of the No Child Left Behind Act, created to bring every child to grade level in reading and math by 2014. The best tools for this effort are valid and reliable content-based assessments in every state. The U.S. Department of Education will bring together experts from around the country to help states address the challenges of developing high-quality assessments for LEP students. The LEP Partnership with states will improve accommodations and content assessments in reading and mathematics for LEP students.

The Department is immediately inviting approximately 20 states to participate in intensive work on these assessments, but all states are welcome to participate in the LEP Partnership. These states submitted evidence for the Department's 2005-06 peer review of state assessment systems, focused on tests tailored to LEP students. In most cases the tests designed for LEP students have not yet met with full approval under NCLB.
Get the government-issued fact sheet about this program here.

Frankly, what has always bothered me about NCLB and limited English-proficient students is how the Dept. of Education begins factoring-in these students' standardized test scores after they've been in American schools one year. (That's a total of one year in any public school or combination of public schools.)

This is true even for children who have recently immigrated to this country and know no English whatsoever.

How can schools, (Which have their hands full getting 100% of native English-speakers to grade-level proficiency as mandated by the federal government.) possibly have a realistic chance to get any (much less 100%) given limited-English student to grade-level proficiency in reading English and working Math problems in English after only one year?

And yet Washington has saddled those schools that serve large populations of L.E.P. students with this unrealistic expectation.

But then again, it's easy for distant EduCrats to hold those of us who work in classrooms accountable for student performance when they themselves would never go near a public school classroom on a bet.
See our latest eduposts right here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Let's Carnival!

This week's Carnival of Education has opened its midway for your reading pleasure. (We're up to number 77; where has all the time gone?)

And for extra credit, take a look at what the homies are up to over at the Carnival of Homeschooling.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Redefining Parental Rights: The Latest Battle

The latest battle over parental rights involves a 16 year-old Virginia cancer patient who wants to stop chemotherapy. Even though his parents are supportive, a judge is not and has ordered a resumption of treatment, stripped the parents of full custody, and charged them with neglect:
Starchild Abraham Cherrix, 16, wants to continue treating his Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes, with an organic diet and herbal supplements under advisement from a clinic in Mexico.

A judge last week ordered him to be at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk by today at 1 p.m. and accept treatment prescribed by doctors.

But a hearing is scheduled for today at noon in Accomack County Circuit Court to consider Cherrix's request to stay the judge's order.

Attorney General Bob McDonnell yesterday filed a brief supporting the teen's request to delay the judge's order until the appeals process is complete, a spokesman for McDonnell confirmed.

An appeal yesterday in Accomack Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court was denied, but the hearing in the circuit court gives the teen another chance to delay the original ruling.

"I'll fight until I do die. I'm not going to let it go," Cherrix told The Associated Press yesterday by phone from his home on Virginia's Eastern Shore. He said he was so weakened by three months of chemotherapy last year that at times he could barely walk. "I would rather die healthy and strong and in my house than die in a hospital bed, bedridden and unable to even open my eyes."

When Cherrix's cancer came back in February, he decided to pursue an alternative remedy.

After urging from the state Department of Social Services that Cherrix get traditional treatment, Judge Jesse E. Demps of Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court ruled Friday that the teen's parents were neglectful for allowing him to use the alternative therapy and ordered them to share custody with social services, as he had in a previous ruling. The parents must also give written consent to the hospital care.

Cherrix's story has appeared on CNN, "Today" and in USA Today, and it has raised questions about parents' and children's rights to make decisions about medical treatment.

"Anybody who has a child living within the commonwealth of Virginia should be extremely fearful of this case," said Barry Taylor, one of the attorneys representing Cherrix.

Taylor said they were appealing on the grounds that the hospital care would do irreparable harm to the treatment he is undergoing, and that mandating the hospital care only a few days after the ruling gives no chance for an appeal.

Cherrix and his parents, Jay and Rose Cherrix, plan to appear in court with their lawyers, the AP reported.

Taylor declined to comment on whether the teen would comply and go to the hospital if the circuit court upheld the earlier ruling but said after the noon hearing that "we're going to have to carefully consider whether we're going to disobey the court's order or whether we're going to submit to it."

He said it would be impossible to get to Norfolk by 1 p.m. in any event.

An official with the state Department of Social Services said the agency agrees with the original judge's ruling.

"The responsibility of Virginia's Child Protective Services program is to ensure the safety and well-being of all children in the commonwealth," Anthony Conyers Jr., commissioner of the department, said in a statement.

"One of the most difficult decisions of the CPS program requires balancing the rights of the parents with the health of the child," Conyers said. "In this case, the Department of Social Services agrees with the final decision to order treatment made by the Accomack County Juvenile and Domestic Relations [District] Court."

Taylor said the Cherrix family is prepared to continue filing appeals, pending the outcome of today's hearing.
I think that the judge's ruling will likely be upheld on appeal. Even so, I can't help but wonder if Judge Jesse Demps is prepared to send officers over to the Cherrix home and physically remove Starchild and restrain him while administering the medication?
Entries to this week's edition of The Carnival of Education are due today. Get submission details here and see our latest eduposts over there.

Remedial Summer Camp

If you know a kid who needs extra help in reading and math but attending traditional summer school isn't possible, why not suggest sending the youngster to one of these non-traditional summer camps?
When she's reading, Shelby Lins sometimes trips over words and gets confused.

But this summer, the 10-year-old is getting help with her reading problems in the Neshaminy School District's [Pennsylvania] special math and reading tutorial camps, which are being held at Maple Point Middle School in Middletown.

“I'm doing better, taking it step by step,” said Shelby, a fifth-grader at Oliver Heckman Elementary in Middletown.

More than 80 elementary children and about 35 middle school students are enrolled in the five-week Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tutorial program, which wraps up at the end of this month, said Jacqueline Rattigan, director of elementary education.

The PSSA program was also incorporated at the high school level in the district's Summer PASS camp, which is for teens with emotional, social and behavioral problems.

Classes were paired in each grade level with no more than 10 kids per room, Rattigan said. The individualized attention is building the kids' confidence, said Kristy McDonough, a first-grade teacher at Joseph Ferderbar Elementary.

“They're going to be ahead of the game next school year,” said Randy Nesbitt, a special education teacher at Lower Southampton Elementary.

The kids have been tested before and after each weeklong lesson to track progress, Rattigan said.

It's the district's first time holding the PSSA camps in the summer. Officials tried tutoring throughout the school year, but found that the days were too long and lessons taught to the test, not necessarily the curriculum, Rattigan said.

This reinforcement summer program is a combination of PSSA requirements and in-the-classroom needs, she said. Similar programs are also offered in Council Rock and Bensalem school districts.

“We think this is the best so far,” Rattigan said. “Each year, more and more students need to be proficient. We're trying to jump ahead and be proactive.”

Emily Leipziger, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Neshaminy Middle School, said she's learning how to deal with her math problems.

“I'm getting the hang of it because [the teachers] are giving me ideas for how to memorize formulas,” Emily said.

Students were asked to volunteer based on academic need and at no cost to parents, Rattigan said. The camps are being funded by a state educational assistance grant and accountability block grant totaling $35,000, according to district spokeswoman Sandra Costanzo.

Officials will follow the kids throughout the school year and survey students, parents and teachers to rate the camps' success, before deciding to run it again next year, Rattigan said.
This whole thing reminds me of a song that I heard when I was a little KidWonk. It was a cute little ditty about a "spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down."
Entries to this week's edition of The Carnival of Education are due today. Get submission details here and see our latest eduposts over there.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 77th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by Text Savvy ) are due TODAY. Please email them to: . (Or use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 11:00 PM (Eastern), 8:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible. View last week's edition, hosted by Education in Texas, here and the Carnival's archives over there.

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

Monday, July 24, 2006

Math Monday: Bringing Home The Gold

It's nice to see an American kid win an international math competition:
Arnav Tripathy (16) is Orissa’s “beautiful mind”. The teenager, who lives with his parents in the US, took home the gold in the 47th Maths Olympiad held recently in Slovenia, beating off competition from 90 countries.

In an e-mail to HT, Arizona State University’s Prof Chitta Baral said: “While students from China, eastern Europe and Russia performed extremely well, Arnav topped the US merit list with 30 points. He fared better than his Indian counterparts. India managed a bronze with 16 points.”

Arnav and five other students were selected to represent the US from an initial pool of 2,30,000. His father, Ashutosh Tripathy, migrated to the US in 1986. They hail from Bilaspur village in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district. Arnav has taken part in several math competitions — including the US Math Olympiad and Harvard-MIT Math Tournament.
I'm looking forward to the day when academic competitions receive the same amount of MSM coverage as does school sports here in the United States.

Well... it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?
See our latest education-related entries right here.

The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

Each and every week, Watcher of Weasels sponsors a contest among posts from the Conservative side of the 'Sphere. The winning entries are determined by a jury of 12 writers (and The Watcher) known as "The Watchers Council."

The Council has met and cast their ballots for last week's submitted posts.

Council Member Entries: Joshuapundit took first place honors with When History Bites Back.

Non-Council Entries: TigerHawk garnered the most votes with Wither the 'Democratization Strategy'?

Get instructions for submitting a post (from your own site) to this competition right here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Texas Testing Two-Step: Their Cheating Hearts

It looks as though there have been even more testing shenanigans down in the Lone Star State:
More schools may have cheated on the state's standardized test than Texas education officials have reported after a newspaper analysis found at least 167 additional campuses flagged with suspicious results.

The newest batch of possible cheaters were identified by Caveon, the test security firm the state hired to examine student's scores from last year's Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Caveon is the same firm that found suspicious TAKS patterns in about one in 12 Texas schools, prompting the Texas Education Agency to list 442 suspect schools.

But The Dallas Morning News found another 167 unidentified schools flagged as potential cheaters by Caveon that didn't get on the list. The additional schools were flagged based on the number of suspicious scores throughout an entire campuses.

The TEA's list only includes schools that had individual classrooms flagged.

The state didn't obtain the list of schools Caveron considered suspicious because "the list based on the classrooms seemed to be the most useful for districts to use in following up the results," Lisa Chandler, the state's director of assessment, told the newspaper.

Last month, TEA officials said they would investigate 14 schools on the Caveon list that were also due cash bonuses from the state for their outstanding test scores.

"The only list of schools we have is the list that has been made public," TEA spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman said. "That's the list we plan to work with. The schools that TEA intends to address would be the ones where classrooms were flagged in the list that's been provided."

The missing schools were discovered in an appendix of Caveon's May report to the TEA. The appendix outlines what it found in one high school where cheating on the math portion of TAKS was suspected.

The report doesn't identify the school by name and lists its students only as anonymous ID numbers. Caveon, a Utah-based data-analysis company, flagged 609 of the 7,112 schools it analyzed — more than 8 percent.
My guess is that as Washington continues to increase pressure on states (who in turn increase the pressure on local districts) to continually increase the percentage of students who pass standardized tests in order to reach federally-mandated benchmarks that also continually increase, we'll see a substantial increase in the number of test-cheating incidents as districts struggle to satisfy Washingtons dictate that 100% of American students achieve grade-level proficiency in reading, math, and science.

Isn't it a wee-bit peculiar that this unhappy incident ocurred in Texas, of all places?

And yes, for some unknown reason, we couldn't get the word increase out of our head.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

A Milestone For The EduSphere!

Joanne Jacobs, one of the EduSphere's original founders, has now surpassed 2 million page views over at her place.

Here's to the continued success of the First Lady of the EduSphere!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Private Vs. Public Schools: A New Study

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Education compared student achievement in public and private schools. Star Parker, President of CURE, (Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education) has some strong thoughts about the study's findings:
The National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education, has just released a study comparing the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders in public and private schools. As important as this research may sound, I think it is more a symptom of our education problems than a useful tool in solving them.

Generally, studies show students in private schools outperforming students in public schools. However, in this research, statistical adjustment was made to account for differences in socioeconomic background.

The result: Whereas the raw data shows superior performance in private schools, much of that differential is eradicated after the statistical massaging. Public-school fourth-graders did better; however, the reading advantage at the eighth-grade level remained with the private-school kids.

Predictably, the National Education Association wasted no time to use this study to affirm the unqualified success of the public-school system and to use it as ammo to further load up in its endless and tireless attack on vouchers and school choice.

But there are many things the study doesn't say.

One, as John Tierney of The New York Times points out, is that, on average, private-school tuition is about half of what the average public school spends per student (no, most private schools are not fancy New England prep schools). So, even after going through statistical gymnastics to account for differences in kids' backgrounds, public schools spend far more to get not much better results.

Tierney goes on to point out that studies specifically designed to test results for providing a choice option in a district under controlled circumstances show that kids with vouchers do better.

But, frankly, with limited taxpayer dollars available, and 3 million kids nationwide in failing schools, is funding more research what we need?

Let's keep in mind that this is work funded by the Department of Education. The department was established in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to improve education in our country. The department's budget then was $14.5 billion. Today, its budget has grown sixfold. Yet over the same period of time there has been virtually zero change, on average, in test scores.

Now I have no doubt that many of the bureaucrats walking the halls of the Department of Education are very fine people. But my common sense is violated to think that a parent in Los Angeles, where my organization CURE is headquartered, needs a single one of these folks in Washington to get his or her child educated. I certainly question that parents need much, or indeed any, of the reams of research and studies the department conducts to get their child educated.

The Department of Education may report that, on average, after filtering out socioeconomic differences, fourth-graders in public schools did better on tests than fourth-graders in private schools. But what are black and Latino parents with kids in Los Angeles Unified School District schools supposed to do with this information? Nine out of 10 black and Latino fourth-graders in L.A. public schools score below proficiency in reading and math.

What are the parents of the 250,000 kids in Los Angeles who are in schools that are failing by No Child Left Behind standards supposed to do with this information?

Can anyone still in touch with their common sense doubt that these parents would prefer having a choice where to send their kids to school? Anyone who does doubt this should talk to these parents. My staff does. We're working with them and trying to get at least the school choice that No Child Left Behind guarantees them.

We, along with the Alliance for School Choice, have filed complaints with the school districts in Los Angeles that they are not in compliance with NCLB because they are not informing parents that they have the option to transfer their child. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has given the districts until Aug. 15 to respond to our complaint or have their Title I funds from the federal government jeopardized.

Choice, competition and freedom are core values that define what we are about as a nation. It is troubling to think that we have gotten to the point where these truths are no longer obvious and we have to do research to try and figure out if they are a good idea.

The Bush administration proposal to appropriate $100 million in opportunity scholarships for poor kids in failing schools is a needed program. Let's use our limited taxpayer dollars to enhance education freedom for poor families and not on superfluous research and bureaucracy.
Interestingly, the United States Department of Education is not publicizing the study. In fact, there is no mention of it at all over at their website. As there was no press release by the folks over at the Dept. of Ed, the report received little attention in the MSM.

I wonder why the kind folks over at The House of Spellings didn't care to announce their own study?

See the actual study for yourself over at The National Center for Education Statistics and draw your own conclusions

Related: Columnist Richard Ruelas of the Arizona Republic has a very different take.
See our latest education-related entries here.

Holiday Madness

When I was a young KidWonk, the only religious holiday that the schools worried about was Christmas. Things have changed quite a bit:
Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, and Christian -- each faith has its holy days. Schools across the country are asking how to respect them all.

Consider the University at Albany, [New York] which canceled classes on major Muslim holidays. Faculty wanted the move out of concern for Muslim students after the September 11 attacks. But then came the questions: What about Hindus? Buddhists?

President Kermit Hall last fall decided to return to the original calendar.

"Can you operate a university and give each religious group an accommodation? I think the answer is, 'No,"' he said.

Make that "maybe." School administrators across the country are rethinking their calendars as their student bodies become more diverse.

In May, Muslim parents asked New York City's education department for days off on two major Muslim holidays, which some districts in Michigan and New Jersey already have granted. In January, a Long Island mosque petitioned New York Gov. George Pataki to consider the holidays when scheduling mandatory statewide testing. Last month, the state Legislature passed a bill that would take all religious holidays into account when scheduling the mandatory tests. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called it the first step toward recognizing Muslim holidays in public schools.

But also last month, despite a Muslim group's lobbying at every board meeting, the Baltimore County district in Maryland approved a calendar with a day off for the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashana, but none for Muslim holidays. The group had hoped the district's growing diversity -- 47.8 percent of students last year were minorities -- would be persuasive.

"Either I go against my faith, or I miss my schoolwork and have imperfect attendance," said 15-year-old Kanwal Rehman, who will enter 10th grade in Baltimore this fall. In January, her midterm exams fell during Eid al-Adha, one of the two most important holidays in Islam.

It can get complicated. When Muslims in the Tampa Bay region of Florida asked for a day off to celebrate the end of Ramadan, another local religious group perked up.

"There was discussion in the Hindu community if we should also push for a holiday," said Nikhil Joshi, a board member of the national Hindu American Foundation.

The Hillsborough County school board responded by ending days off for all religious holidays. The move inspired more than 3,500 e-mails. Christian leaders pleaded for the Muslim holiday. Finally, the district restored this fall's original calendar, with days off for Good Friday, Easter Monday and the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.

The Muslim community was relieved it hadn't hurt other faiths. The Hindu community decided not to ask for days off.

"You would hope in a country of religious freedom all would be recognized, but we know that's not practical," Joshi said.

School districts say they can't take days off for purely religious reasons, but they can act if they think operations are affected by students or staff taking the day off.

That practice gives school holidays a certain regional flair. Some schools close for the beginning of hunting season. San Francisco schools have Cesar Chavez Day on March 30 to celebrate farmworkers, and Chicago schools have March 5 to honor Casimir Pulaski, a Polish count who helped the American side in the Revolutionary War.

Religion is more sensitive. Some districts mark "special observance days" when no test or exam can be scheduled. Other districts find inspiration in the business world -- each student gets a number of "floating" days to celebrate his or her own holidays with an excused absence.

"'Choose your own holiday' has become more popular," said Kathryn Lohre, assistant director of Harvard University's Pluralism Project, which studies diversity in religion. "It takes pressure off the school boards."

New Jersey's board of education now lists 76 excused religious holidays, from Russian Orthodox to Sikh. New York City schools are even more flexible. Students with a letter from parents get an excused absence for a holiday in any religion.

Some have tried the traditional route of schoolwide holidays, and failed. In Ohio, the Sycamore Community School District once canceled classes on the Jewish High Holy Days after some parents asked why schools closed on Good Friday. Muslim and Hindu parents then asked why they didn't get days off. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the district.

The case was settled in 2000, and the High Holy Days became school days again.
Heh. I wonder if it is possible for a teacher to be excused from his or her teaching duties based upon the need to attend religious services that just happen to fall on every other Monday.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sex Ed: Is Less More?

Here's the latest spin on Sex Ed in public school classrooms:
After participating in a two-week sexual education program designed and implemented by an academic medical center, more middle-school students said they would hold off on having sex for the first time, Texas researchers report.

"Involvement by the medical profession can assure medically correct content, appropriate research outcomes, and enhanced quality of medical information in this important area of adolescent health," Dr. Patricia J. Sulak of the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple and colleagues note in a report.

School officials in Temple had approached health care professionals at the medical school for assistance in developing a sex education program for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Parents and school officials wanted to emphasize postponing sexual activity, so the program focused in consequences of teen sex, as well as "skill building, character building, and refusal skills," Sulak and her team point out in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Students who were considering having sex were "encouraged" to meet with a health care professional.

A total of 26,125 students completed surveys before the program, while 24,550 filled out identical surveys afterwards. Students in all grades showed an improvement in their knowledge, on average, after the course.

Before the sex ed program, 84 percent of students said they would delay having sex until after high school. This figure rose to nearly 87 percent after the program.

The biggest effect was seen in the percentage of kids who said they wouldn't have sex until after marriage; before the program, about 60 percent said they planned to remain virgins until they married, while nearly 71 percent said they would after the program.

Other factors associated with planning to delay sex included attending religious services and watching two hours or less of television on school nights. Students whose original parents were still married were also more likely to report that they would wait to have sex.

Students who rated themselves as "less than C" students were more likely to think that teens should "have sex whenever they want," and also fared worse on knowledge tests after the program.

Kids who start having sex earlier are at greater risk of sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy, Sulak and her colleagues note. "By placing medical emphasis on risk avoidance and primary prevention of disease," they conclude, "encouraging adolescents to delay sexual onset can lead to significant health benefits."
Speaking from a purely personal viewpoint, I'm delighted that I've never had to teach Sex Ed to our junior high's 7th and 8th graders.

In California, sex education is a requirement. Unless the parents sign a waiver exempting their child from the requirement.

I wonder how many sex-related questions will appear on California's federally-mandated-and-soon-to-be implemented standardized science test that our 8th graders will soon be taking?

And isn't it interesting that those students whose parents do sign those waivers will still have their child's test scores included so that the school will be held accountable by the federal government for that missed instruction?
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Spellings Report: Live From South Bend, Indiana

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings gave a commencement speech the other day to graduates of a Master's program at Notre Dame University. This particular quote caught my eye:
When I hear people say they don't think it's possible to have every student reading and doing math on grade level, I always wonder... does that mean they're volunteering their child to be left behind? I certainly don't want that for my daughters, and I'm pretty sure most parents agree. I know you do, too.

In public education, it used to be acceptable to let some kids fall through the cracks. If a school wasn't living up to its responsibilities, parents had no other options.

But with No Child Left Behind, President Bush and the Congress led our nation in a commitment to have every child learning on grade level by 2014.

This law is holding States and schools accountable for achieving that goal ― and when they don't, it gives parents more choices ― like free tutoring, or the ability to transfer their child to a better-performing school. In Washington, DC, we've given almost 1,700 low-income students the chance to attend the private or parochial school of their choice... and we're working to provide similar options for students elsewhere.
As usual, Washington's EduCrat-in-Chief lays responsibility solely on the nation's public schools for getting every single child in America at or above grade level proficiency in reading, math, and science.

And, as is always the case, Spellings makes no mention whatsoever of the parents' responsibility to ensure that their children are properly fed, rested, and at least put-forth some effort to do their assigned school and home work.

In the World of Spellings and her other Ivory-tower-never-have-or-never-would-work-with-children-in-a-classroom-non-teaching-teaching-experts, whenever a child doesn't achieve the mandated level of proficiency, it's automatically the school's (translation: people who work in schools) fault.

Even though many of the factors that may contribute to a particular child's failure are beyond the control, (or even the influence) of the school.

In the surreal post-NCLB world of the Washington EduCrat, parents who don't parent and students who don't even attempt to do their school work are never held accountable for their counterproductive behaviors.

Only those who actually work with children each and every school day are ever "held accountable" when children don't achieve the level of mastery mandated by Washington's distant-from-the-reality-of-today's-classroom politicians and ivory-tower educrats.

Is it any wonder that so many dedicated young people who enter the teaching profession abandon it within five years, never to return?

Why doesn't Spellings and the rest of the Washington EduCracy address the much more difficult challenge of getting great people to devote themselves to classroom teaching and staying there?

But then again, that would involve actually making teaching an attractive career choice for our best and most talented young (and not-so-young) people.

And making a job better isn't the sort of thing that Washington does nowadays.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

This Is Terrible News!

Our good friend and fellow teacher, Mr. Babylon, has lost his job in the New York City public school system:
I've been excessed from Shitty High School. I found out via a letter in my box a few weeks before the end of the year. About half the staff was cut along with me (based on seniority or lack thereof) to make way for expanding mini-schools, but it's still kind of a kick in the nuts.

Believe it or not I'd grown sort of attached to the place. Yeah, it was a disorganized, ineffectual, frustrating mess of idiocy, beuraucratic red-tape, and gang-flags. But it was my disorganized, ineffectual, frustrating mess. Its chaos afforded a anoymity and freedom I was only just beginning to learn to negotiate and exploit.

And, despite everything that's happened and anything I might have written here, I love the kids.
Consider going over to Mr. Babylon's place and reading the whole thing.

We hope that Mr. Babylon gets something lined up real soon.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


From deep in the heart of Texas, The Carnival of Education has opened its midway for your reading pleasure.

And don't forget to check out what the homies are up to over at the Carnival of Homeschooling.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

South Carolina's "Parents" From Hell

People who do this type of thing to children make my blood boil:
Neighbors say the four children had not been seen outside Dennis and Molly McCurry's mobile home in several weeks. And relatives say the couple had not allowed them to see Molly McCurry's three nephews, whom the couple adopted, in months.

As authorities in a Spartanburg courtroom detailed Monday how the boys were found Thursday night - malnourished and neglected, sometimes tied to a bed post - Beverly Roberts, the boys' great-aunt, wept.

The children, ages 8, 7 and 5, each weighed less than 40 pounds when they were taken to a hospital Thursday night. The youngest boy weighed 19.8 pounds.

They all had burns, scratches and bruises on their backs and legs.

"The children said they were tied to a bed post to keep them from being able to eat," said Department of Social Services investigator Brenda Sparks, in a hearing in which a judge ruled the children would remain in state custody for the time being.

Authorities said their hands had been bound with plastic zip ties.

The couple's 10-year-old daughter was not malnourished.

Molly McCurry had offered to raise the boys for their biological mother, 23-year-old Nina West, until the woman "got back on her feet," said Freddy Justice, the boys' grandfather. West had gotten into legal trouble, said Justice, her father. And the boys' father was killed when a car struck him while he was riding a bicycle in July 2004, he said. West was supposed to be at Monday's hearing, Justice said, but she did not show up.

"At first I thought (the McCurrys) were wonderful parents," Justice said. "Then, all of a sudden, we were stopped from seeing them."

A sheriff's deputy arrived at the home Thursday night after a worried neighbor called authorities. A plastic pool, basketball hoop and swing set dot the back yard of the couple's Lyman mobile home, where an American flag flies out front.

A minute later, the McCurrys drove up and the four children filed out of the car. The deputy called an ambulance, because the children looked "extremely thin and very weak," according to an incident report. "The smallest male's face resembled a skeleton, with the skin withdrawn tight against his face," according to the report.

The McCurrys claimed the family had been dealing with a stomach virus, according to the incident report. But doctors at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center discounted that, saying the boys were malnourished and neglected.

The McCurrys were arrested Friday, and a judge denied bond later that night.

They said little in the Family Court hearing Monday. But they poured over photos of the boys that were presented as evidence by the Department of Social Services.

Several family members who attended the custody hearing Monday, said they were shocked at the boys' condition, though they have not been allowed to see them.

"We are a close-knit family," said Beverly Roberts, Justice's sister.

Two relatives are seeking custody of the 10-year-old girl. Family Court Judge Wesley Brown said the children would remain in state custody until background checks could be run on family members who wanted custody.

Justice said he hoped his daughter would be able take parenting classes and regain custody of the boys.

"Maybe they can be a family again, something they don't have now," he said.

But Monday, no one had filed for custody the boys.
It's incidents like this that make me wish that we would bring back corporal punishment and apply it to these people monsters.
Carnival entries are due today. Get submission instructions right here and see our latest education-related posts over there.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 76th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by Education in Texas ) are due TODAY. Please email them to: . (Or use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 10:00 PM (Eastern), 7:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible. View last week's edition, hosted by the L.A. Times' EduBlog School Me!, here and the Carnival archives over there.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Carnival's midway should open Wednesday.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

Each and every week, Watcher of Weasels sponsors a contest among posts from the Conservative side of the 'Sphere. The winning entries are determined by a jury of 12 writers (and The Watcher) known as "The Watchers Council."

The Council has met and cast their ballots for last week's submitted posts.

Council Member Entries: Right Wing Nut House won first place with Bleeding Iraq.

Non-Council Entries: Iraq the Model garnered the most votes with Singing Out of the Flock.

Get instructions for submitting a post (from your own site) to this competition right here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Color Of Money ISN'T Always The Color Of Success

From Joanne Jacobs:
Sausalito Marin City School District spends more than $22,000 per student -- three times the California average -- and pays teachers an average of $71,000 a year. Classes are small. Yet students -- three-quarters come from low-income black and Hispanic families -- post mediocre results. Bill Evers and Paul Clopton, writing in the Marin Independent Journal, blame progressive fads and long-term incompetence.
There's much more to read in the whole thing.

Agree or disagree, I think that lots-O-money doesn't necessarily mean lots-O-education.

Heh. Maybe Washington's globe-trotting EduCrat-In-Chief Margaret Spellings (
bio here) will take a break from her endless overseas sight-seeing junkets travels and personally visit the Sausalito Marin City School District, take a look at how (and on what) the taxpayers' money is being spent, and straighten things out.

We won't get our hopes up...
See our latest education-related entries right here.

The Knucklehead Of The Day: Pamela Rogers

Ex-teacher Pamela Rogers was recently released from jail after serving 198 days for the crime of sexually molesting one of her 13-year-old students.

Unwilling to comply with the court's order to not have any contact whatsoever with her former victim, Rogers sent the now 14-year-old boy sexually explicit photos and videos through the internet.

She was caught.

Rogers will now be doing
7 years hard time in a Tennessee prison.

I think that this lady monstrous predator looks good in her fashionably classic prison stripes.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Disappearing Middle School

A number of larger school systems have been abandoning the traditional middle school in favor of an even more traditional two-school (elementary/high) configuration. In Denver, Colorado, parents are leading the exodus:
Increasing numbers of Denver parents are rejecting middle schools, taking their children instead to kindergarten-through- eighth-grade buildings, or leaving the city altogether, according to enrollment numbers.

This has left many of the existing middle schools poorer, emptier and lower-performing than the K-8 schools.

The parents of almost 2,000 sixth-graders decided against sending their kids to traditional middle schools - which have sixth-, seventh- and eighth- graders - last year, according to a Denver Post analysis of Denver Public Schools numbers.

About 1,000 went to "K-8" or "K-6" schools, and 500 others went to charters. And between 400 and 500 disappeared from DPS altogether.

"You're afraid to let go of your baby," said Karla Loaiza, whose son, Raul, will be a sixth-grader at a K-6 school. "I don't think he's mature enough to go somewhere that has such big kids."

The numbers suggest that Denver parents increasingly share that sentiment. In 2001, 4,887 children were enrolled in sixth grade in DPS at traditional middle schools. Four years later, that number had fallen to 3,739. In that same period, the sixth- grade population in K-6 and K-8 schools rose from 406 to 964.

Although parents seem to be moving away from traditional middle schools, education experts say good teaching and sensitivity to this age group are more important.

Children in these so-called "middle years" tend to lack maturity; they may not be ready to handle the responsibility needed at a middle school where they'd have several teachers and classrooms, experts say.

"The reality is grade configuration alone does not affect student achievement," said Sue Swaim, executive director of the National Middle School Association.

Nationally, school districts struggle with students when they hit adolescence. Test scores fall in reading and writing during the middle years.

And Denver is no exception. In 2004, 46 percent of the city's fifth-graders were proficient readers. That next year, when they were a year older, only 38 percent of sixth-graders were proficient in reading.

This fall, DPS will have 17 K-6, K-7 and K-8 schools. Almost all the K-8 schools are "schools of choice," which means students must apply to attend.

K-8 schools usually have no lockers and fewer separate classes in a day, and small children still run around on the playground.

Parents and teachers often treat middle schools as miniaturized high schools, giving the kids too much independence, said Gary Sulley, a veteran Denver middle school teacher. "And that doesn't work because they're still little kids."

DPS Superintendent Michael Bennet's reform document, "The Denver Plan," urges all schools to improve student performance, but there is little about what to do with middle-year children.

"The former regime had no plan for middle-aged kids, and the current regime needs to get a really good plan for middle-aged kids fast," said Van Schoales, a program officer at the Piton Foundation.

Brad Jupp, a senior DPS administrator, said he worries about so many Denver students leaving the district, either before middle school starts - or after the sixth grade.

At Kunsmiller Middle, for example, the sixth-grade class in 2003 had 309 kids. By 2005, when most of them should have been eighth-graders, only 178 kids were in that grade.

"The wrong-headed response to this trend would be to limit choice," Jupp said. "The right- headed response would be to investigate that choice and try and meet high academic options."
To try to improve student performance, all Denver middle school students who are below grade level will have double classes in reading and math this fall.

Other districts in the metro area aren't facing such drastic shifts out of middle schools. But superintendents elsewhere say they, too, see that parents are nervous about mixing sixth- graders with predominantly older kids.

Both Douglas and Jefferson counties have created "seventh- and eighth-grade" middle schools, in order to keep 11-year- olds in elementaries.

"Parents, I believe, really like the sixth grade in the elementary," said Jim Christensen, superintendent of Douglas County Schools, which has mostly seventh- and eighth-grade middle schools.

Jefferson County has only two traditional K-8 schools, though Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said she thinks the fewer transitions, the better for kids.

"We would rather have more continuity," she said.

For Denver mother Karen Ray, the decision on where to send her oldest daughter, Lucy, in her middle years was trying.

The girl went to a Denver charter for elementary school. Ray checked out Morey and Hamilton middle schools in Denver, but neither school tried to woo her family in the door, and "they just seemed way too big."

Ray chose St. Mary's Academy, a private school, where, she said, expectations seemed higher.

Colorado is one of only six states in the country that does not require middle school teachers to have specific middle- years training.

"I think the reality is we don't have a national middle-years policy. We focus on elementary, and that's critical, and we look at high schools," said Swaim. "The success we want in high school reform isn't going to occur unless we start paying attention to middle schools."

Parents' wariness of middle schools is also costly to districts.

From 2003 through 2005, DPS lost more than 800 students between fifth and sixth grade. Each student is worth about $6,600 in funding to the district. And all but one of Denver's 17 middle school buildings are only half-full - and three middle schools were closed in the past five years. If every school were at capacity, the district would be pulling in $26 million more each year.

Ann Greenfield, the principal at Merrill Middle School, is trying to win over cautious parents by making her school safe and the classes academically solid.

She recognizes that parents have strong feelings about middle schools and their children.

"It is an individual decision for each family," she said.
Personally, I'm somewhat leery of having 8th graders on the same campus as 1st graders. But then again, in this post-NCLB world, reality requires that school districts be willing to try new solutions in order to comply with Congressional mandates and those of Washington's ivory tower EduCracy.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Mother Nature Takes A Hand

One of the pleasant (or not, depending on one's point of view) things about spending one's summers in the the Blue Ridge Mountains are the afternoon thunderstorms that we experience several times each week.

The Good: The rain brings delightfully cooler temperatures.

The Bad: The wind and lightening often cause unpleasant surprises.

Wednesday afternoon, we had "one of those severe storms" that, for reasons known only to Southern Bell, caused the loss of our telephone communications and, consequently, the loss of our mind numbingly slow dial-up service. (Here in the deep woods, there's nothing else.)

By Saturday evening, phone service had been restored.

It's great to be back.

We appreciate the kind thoughts that have been sent our way via your emails.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Let's Carnival!

From the West Coast, The Los Angeles Times' EduBlog School Me! brings us The Jukebox Edition of The Carnival of Education.

Don't forget to bring your dancing shoes!
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Woman Obeys "Unwanted Baby Law," Is Arrested Anyway

All too many times we've read about those tragic incidents where newborn babies have been abandoned by their "mothers" in trash dumpsters, roadside ditches, landfills, and even under the front porch of a home.

Oftentimes, the baby is found too late.

Why any person would do such an awful thing to a helpless child has been the subject of debate and discussion for years.

To address this, several states have ennacted legislation permitting women to abandon their unwanted newborns at hospitals, places of worship, and other designated places without fear of prosecution.

In South Carolina, this legislation is called Daniel's Law, after a newborn that was found alive after being buried in a landfill and subsequently named Daniel by hospital staff. (More about this law

And now, Hannah Jolly, who is one of the first women in South Carolina to actually take advantage of the law's provisions, brought her newborn to a hospital in the city of Gaffney, left the baby, and
was arrested anyway:
A mother who left her newborn child at a Gaffney hospital last week has been charged with neglect after the baby tested positive for marijuana and cocaine.

Hannah Lauren Jolly, 20, of Gaffney took her newborn baby girl to Upstate Carolina Medical Center on Thursday morning and told nurses a friend had given birth to the child, Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton said Monday.

The child was relinquished under a state law known as Daniel's Law that grants prosecutorial immunity from abandonment charges to those who leave babies younger than 30 days old at a hospital, church, synagogue, fire department or outpatient medical facility.

After the baby tested positive for drugs last week, officers tracked down Jolly, who turned herself in Monday and was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond.

Blanton said Jolly was not charged because she left the baby at the hospital.

"But you can't use drugs while you're pregnant -- that's a crime -- and you can't use Daniel's Law to circumvent the law," he said.

The child has been released to the Department of Social Services. A hearing to determine where the child should be placed will be held at Aug. 9.

The child neglect charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
With the publicity surrounding the arrest of Hannah Jolly, what lessons will other pregnant "crack mothers" draw from this incident?

Considering that the intent of Daniel's Law is to protect infants by offering women the option of leaving their unwanted babies in a safe place, did the authorities really serve the interests of these children by arresting Hannah Jolly for her drug use?

Or did the state protect unborn children by putting her behind bars and sending this unmistakable message to other pregnant drug users?

You make the call.
Entries for the next Carnival of Education are due today. See details here and our latest EduPosts there.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 75th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by the L.A. Times' edublog School Me! ) are due TODAY. Please email them to: . (Or use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 10:00 PM (Eastern), 7:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible. View last week's edition, hosted by NYC Educator, here and the Carnival archives over there.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Carnival's midway should open Wednesday.
See our latest education-related entries right here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Reality Check?

Reality means different things to different people in different times and in different places.

Have you checked with lately to see what they may be saying about you or your school?

Food for thought.

Or maybe not.
See our latest eduction-related entries right here.

The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

Each and every week, Watcher of Weasels sponsors a contest among posts from the Conservative side of the 'Sphere. The winning entries are determined by a jury of 12 writers (and The Watcher) known as "The Watchers Council."

The Council has met and cast their ballots for last week's submitted posts.

Council Member Entries: Gates of Vienna took first place with The Wild, Wild West(ern Europe).

Non-Council Entries: Outside the Beltway garnered the most votes with Declaration of Independence: A Fisking.