Saturday, September 30, 2006

Spank-You For The Memories!

Paddling students is still practiced in school districts around the country, reports the New York Times:
EVERMAN, Tex. — Anthony Price does not mince words when talking about corporal punishment — which he refers to as taking pops — a practice he recently reinstated at the suburban Fort Worth middle school where he is principal.

“I’m a big fan,” Mr. Price said. “I know it can be abused. But if used properly, along with other punishments, a few pops can help turn a school around. It’s had a huge effect here.”

Tina Morgan, who works on a highway crew in rural North Carolina, gave permission for her son to be paddled in his North Carolina middle school. But she said she was unprepared for Travis, now 12, to come home with a backside that was a florid kaleidoscope of plums and lemons and blood oranges.

“This boy might need a blistering now and then, with his knucklehead,” Ms. Morgan said, swatting at him playfully, but she added that she never wanted him to be beaten like that. “I’ve decided, we’ve got to get corporal punishment out of the schools.”

Over most of the country and in all but a few major metropolitan areas, corporal punishment has been on a gradual but steady decline since the 1970’s, and 28 states have banned it. But the practice remains alive, particularly in rural parts of the South and the lower Midwest, where it is not only legal, but also widely practiced.

In a handful of districts, like the one here in Everman, there have been recent moves to reinstate it, some successful, more not. In Delaware, a bill to rescind that state’s ban on paddling never got through the legislature. But in Pike County, Ohio, corporal punishment was reinstated last year. And in southeast Mississippi, the Laurel school board voted in August to reinstate a corporal punishment policy, passing one that bars men from paddling women, but does not require parental consent, as many other policies do.

The most recent federal statistics show that during the 2002-3 school year, more than 300,000 American schoolchildren were disciplined with corporal punishment, usually one or more blows with a thick wooden paddle. Sometimes holes were cut in the paddle to make the beating more painful. Of those students, 70 percent were in five Southern states: Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas.

Often the battle over corporal punishment is being fought on the edges of Southern cities, where suburban growth pushes newcomers from across the country into rural and religiously conservative communities. In these areas, educators say, corporal punishment is far more accepted, resulting in clashing attitudes about child-rearing and using the rod.

“I couldn’t believe it when I learned about it,” said Peggy Dean, a mother of three students in Union County, N.C., a rapidly growing suburb south of Charlotte. “If I’d known, I’d never have moved into this school district.”

As views of child-rearing have changed, groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Medical and Bar Associations have come out against corporal punishment.

“I believe we have reached the point in our social evolution where this is no longer acceptable, just as we reached a point in the last half of the 19th century where husbands using corporal punishment on their wives was no longer acceptable,” said Murray Straus, a director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire.

Among adherents of the practice is James C. Dobson, the child psychologist who founded Focus on the Family and is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most influential evangelical leaders.

DuBose Ravenel, a North Carolina pediatrician who is the in-house expert on the subject for Mr. Dobson’s group, said, “I believe the whole country would be better off if corporal punishment was allowed in schools by parents who wish it.”

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed around the country, including as recently as August in a case involving a student and a baseball coach in Cameron County, Okla., but thus far, courts have tended to side with school districts in cases where a corporal punishment policy is on the books, said Nadine Block, the director of the Center for Effective Discipline, a group opposed to the practice.

In North Carolina, paddling is banned in the largest cities, like Charlotte. It remains legal in 70 percent of the state’s districts, although since they tend to be small and rural, fewer than half of the state’s students are covered.

Union County is one of the nation’s fastest-growing, with dozens of new suburban developments, often populated with transplants from the Northeast and elsewhere.

Ms. Dean, one of those transplants, came across the corporal punishment provisions while reading through her new district’s school policies and, shocked, decided to mount a campaign to have it outlawed that has made her the bane of local officials.

“They don’t like outsiders coming in and telling them how to run their schools,” Ms. Dean said.

She rallied others to the cause, finally forcing a vote on the issue last year.

School board members voted 5 to 3 to ban the practice, but under the district’s rules, a supermajority of six votes was needed, so the policy remains on the books.

“Some of our school board members felt that, if it were used correctly, as it would be, corporal punishment would be yet another deterrent to keep students from misbehaving,” said Luan Ingram, the chief communications officer for the district.

Still, Ms. Ingram said, “none of our 41 principals have chosen to use it, and none of them plan to use it.”

One of those who joined Ms. Dean’s crusade was John Erker, who retired from the New York City Police Department and relocated his family to North Carolina.

“We thought it would be a lifestyle for the whole family down here, a little more laid-back, a little more country,” Mr. Erker said. “But we’re in the middle of the Bible Belt, and a lot of these old-school people really believe that this is the right thing to do with children.”

In more rural Robeson County, Ms. Morgan said her son, Travis, was punished last year for taking part in a punching game called flinching. She complained that it was too severe, but district officials ruled that the paddling had been justified.

Al Kahn, a spokesman for the district, said he understood that corporal punishment was not embraced everywhere. “I guess every part of the country has a different way of looking at things,” Mr. Kahn said, “and down here we’re pretty unique.”

Mr. Price, the middle school principal, also said corporal punishment worked. He arrived at the school two years ago, hired, he said, to turn around an institution that was rife with fights, students cursing teachers and gang activity.

Not until months after he arrived, Mr. Price said, did a parent tell him that corporal punishment was used at the high school. He got permission to reinstate it in the middle school, too, and began with the 2005-6 school year, during which 150 of the school’s 685 students were paddled.

The Everman district is not unique in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in allowing corporal punishment. A study by The Dallas Morning News in August placed it fifth among area districts in instances of corporal punishment, far behind schools in Prosper, north of Dallas, for instance, where nearly 15 percent of the students were paddled in the 2005-6 school year.

But, in two of Dallas’s largest suburban districts, Plano and Frisco, paddling was banned this year, as it was in Memphis last year.

Mr. Price said he initially encountered resistance. “I was cursed out so much, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “And I’m talking about the parents.”

But gradually, the tenor of the school turned around, he said, for the better. He designed what he called the school’s “discipline ladder,” beginning with a warning for a first offense and escalating through push-ups, detentions and isolation from the other students during the school day.

Finally, there is the fifth rung. At that level, in consultation with parents, students can choose among corporal punishment, having their parents “shadow” them through a full school day, night school or outright suspension. In 8 cases out of 10, Mr. Price said, the students choose the paddling, although this is allowed only a few times.

“If it’s not changing their behavior, then we figure the pops aren’t working and we try something else,” Mr. Price said.

Mr. Price said he definitely believed there was a “cultural factor” behind the persistence of corporal punishment in some parts of the country after it has disappeared elsewhere.

“You hear people say, Well, you know, it’s in the Bible, don’t spare the rod and spoil the child,” he said.

He uses it, he said, because he believes it works.

“The rule is, never hit in anger,” Mr. Price said. “We always talk to the child before the punishment, make sure they understand why it’s happening, and then talk to them again afterward. None of it is cold or harsh. We try to treat the kids like they’re our own.”
Here in California, any type of corporal punishment has been prohibited for years. In fact, P.E. coaches aren't even permitted to require errant students to perform "push-ups" as a consequence for negative behaviors.
See our latest EduPosts.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Is Teaching A "Profession" Or Is It "Something Else?"

Jenny D:
I'm helping to teach a course for first-year doctoral students, a required course actually. I do less teaching than the master professor at the helm. Actually, I take care of the mechanics.

Yesterday the class discussed what would make teaching more of a profession. It's too long to get into every nuance here.

But one of the conclusions was that teaching is measured (for whatever reason) by outcomes. Whereas other professions are not measured in only that way.

For example, physicians worry about process first. The correct process leads to the best outcome, so process is first. Physicians share a common language for discussing process and procedure.

Doctors who work with the sickest patients are often the most skilled doctors, and their outcomes are probably not as good as doctors who work with less sick patients. So measuring a doctor's skill might not be best done using outcomes.

Another example, physicians dissect their failures in Morbidity and Mortality meetings. They go over their failures not so much to point blame, but to examine the procedures and processes, and look for ways to improve and learn. Clearly, a physician who makes an error or doesn't follow the best procedure is not going to look good in an M&M meeting. But that doesn't change the focus of the meeting away from examining process.

The students and professor in the class concluded that educational practitioners (teacher, principals, etc.) spend far less time examining procedure and process in school. The students mentioned parts of a book called the Teaching Gap, that emphasized the Japanese emphasis on lesson study. This is a process-oriented approach to teaching, looking at what teachers do and how lessons actually work to build learning.
I'm afraid that I'm going to have to say that public school classroom teaching will soon be "Something Else" rather than a "profession."

There are multiple reasons, but one of the chief ones is that by the year 2014, (as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act) classroom teachers must get all 100 per cent of their students at or above grade-level proficiency in reading, math, and science.

Anything less, and that teacher will be labeled as "underperforming" by Washington's ivory-tower-wouldn't-go-near-a-teaching-job-themselves-on-a-bet EduCracy.

In real professions, 100% effectiveness isn't required in order to avoid being termed "underperforming."

I could not imagine a physician who would need to save 100% of his or her patients from death in order to avoid being labeled an "underperforming" physician.

I could not imagine an attorney who would need to obtain an acquittal for 100% of his or her clients in order to avoid being labeled an "underperforming" lawyer.

I could not imagine a dentist who would need to painlessly save 100% of the teeth of 100% of his or her patients in order to avoid being labeled an "underperforming" dentist.

As for those who still serve in our public school classrooms...

Any teacher who, by 2014, could achieve the level of 100% perfection that NCLB demands of each and every classroom teacher in the country shouldn't be termed as a "professional," but should be called "miracle-worker" instead.

And such beings are not of this earth.
See our latest EduPosts and today's Extra Credit Reading.

The Spellings Report: NCLB For All!

In an op/ed just published in The Houston Chronicle, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings gives us her thoughts regarding higher education. Mixed-in with the Secretary's rhetoric was this little quote regarding the Administration's plans for an expanded No Child Left Behind Act:
The No Child Left Behind Act has brought high standards and accountability to our elementary and middle schools, ensuring that a student in fifth grade actually receives a fifth-grade education. We propose expanding those principles to our high schools.

We will work with states and school districts to align high school standards with college-level expectations. And we will work with Congress to enact President Bush's proposal to train 70,000 additional teachers to lead Advanced Placement-International Baccalaureate math, science and critical-need foreign language courses over the next five years. These are the courses that ensure success in college.
Read the whole thing.

Should the Republicans maintain control of the House and the Senate, my guess is that the passage of an expanded NCLB is highly likely.
See our latest EduPosts and today's Extra Credit Reading.

Friday's Extra Credit Reading

Our kids need to know history. It's a shame that so many know so little about so much.

In news from The Great White North, we have
this little blurb about a Catholic bishop in Calgary who has threatened to strip schools of their "Catholic" designation if they do not stop using casino gambling in their fundraising efforts.

Is the study of military history on the decline in our institutions of higher education? Some say "yes," while others say "no." Decide for yourself.

Today's Knucklehead has got to be Arizona teacher Tammie Liberty Lee, who has been
arrested for the second time for possession of methamphetamine. Already on administrative leave for the first charge, our guess is that this arrest will finish-off her teaching career.

Who would have thought that the women of the Army National Guard would dare to be bare? (I guess this might give new meaning to the term "weekend pass.")
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading over there.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Knucklehead Of The Day: Edward Forbes Smiley III

Edward Forbes Smiley III, a rare-map dealer with a patrician-sounding name, has earned our Knucklehead Of The Day Award for the plebeian crime of taking things that don't belong to him:
A map dealer who stole nearly 100 rare maps valued at $3 million from Yale and other institutions was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Wednesday after a federal judge credited him for helping the authorities retrieve most of the items taken.

Representatives of the institutions that were looted, who had traveled long distances to lobby for a stiff sentence, left the court saying they were deeply disappointed with the punishment given the map dealer, Edward Forbes Smiley III. Federal sentencing guidelines suggested that Mr. Smiley was looking at a term of 57 to 71 months, although the maximum penalty was 10 years.

Mr. Smiley, 50, told the court he was “deeply ashamed” and was eager to make restitution to the institutions and dealers who lost money. Some of the stolen maps have not been retrieved, and dealers who bought maps from Mr. Smiley and then resold them often had to reimburse their clients so that the maps could be returned.

He stood within 20 feet of three cartons containing dozens of the stolen maps that had been retrieved, which had been brought into court to allow the judge to inspect them.

“I have hurt many people,” he said, his hands clasped behind him. He said he had read the many victim-impact letters sent to the court and said, “I find them very powerful. I believe they were written by a group of people who have love for these materials and who have devoted their lives to making them public.”

Mr. Smiley said he understood the sense of betrayal felt by the curators and library staff members who had helped him when he came to examine their collections.

Mr. Smiley, 50, was arrested by the Yale police in June 2005, shortly after leaving Yale’s rare-book library with seven maps stashed in his briefcase and tweed jacket.

After a year of cooperating with the authorities, he pleaded guilty in federal court in June this year to the theft of a major artwork. As part of the plea agreement, he admitted to removing maps from collections at Harvard, Yale, the New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, the Newberry Library in Chicago and the British Library in London.

All of those institutions sent representatives to Wednesday’s hearing to press for a stiff sentence. Robert Karrow, the map curator at the Newberry, said he wanted a sentence that would tell “Smiley’s successors that the stakes in this game of cultural hijacking have been raised.”

Several also expressed outrage that Mr. Smiley’s lawyer, Richard A. Reeve, wanted his client to be rewarded for helping retrieve what he had stolen.

“That cooperation, of course, occurred only after he was caught in the very act of mutilating books and stealing maps” at Yale, said Professor Frank M. Turner on behalf of the university’s libraries.

The judge, Janet Bond Arterton of the United States District Court, said “this is anything but an easy sentence to impose” given Mr. Smiley’s many contradictions.

She said she was awed earlier that day when she inspected the maps that Mr. Smiley had taken.

But she said Mr. Smiley’s decision to cooperate when he could have told federal agents to “have a nice investigation,” as Mr. Reeve had put it earlier, made her feel Mr. Smiley deserved to get less than the sentence suggested by federal guidelines.
Our guess is that this Knucklehead will be doing his time at some variant of the Federal government's notoriously-easy "prison," Club Fed.
See our latest EduPosts and today's Extra Credit Reading.

Thursday's Extra Credit Reading

When it comes to the punishment that is metted-out to female teachers who sexually molest their male students, we think that there's little doubt that a double standard exists when compared to those punishments given to male teachers who commit the same crime against female students. The case of 27 year-old San Diego teacher child rapist Danielle Walls further supports that assertion. (Story here, photo there.)

A just-released poll of Iraqis makes the disturbing assertion that over 60 percent of Iraq's people favor attacks on US-led forces and slightly more want their government to ask US troops to leave the country within a year.

Another senseless school shooting, this time in Bailey, Colorado:
A gunman holding students hostage at a high school in the small mountain community of Bailey southwest of Denver fatally shot a teenage girl, then killed himself as SWAT members burst into the room where he was holed up, Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said.

The student, identified by a friend of the family as 16-year-old Emily Keyes, was taken hostage by the gunman at Platte Canyon High School just before noon on Wednesday.

Bev Lilly, a spokeswoman for St. Anthony Hospital Central, confirmed that the student died in late afternoon shortly after arriving by helicopter at the Denver hospital. Lilly said the girl had been shot in the head.

The gunman had not yet been identified and a reason for the takeover wasn't known.

Lynn Bigham, a friend of the dead student, described the girl as "sweet and affectionate."

Initially, six students were taken hostage in a second-floor classroom, but four were released before the standoff came to an end about 3:45 p.m. local time. There were reports of multiple gunshots being fired early in the standoff.

Wegener said negotiations with the man were initiated shortly after he walked into the school carrying a handgun. The sheriff said he did not know if the intruder targeted the classroom on purpose or at random.
The demand for classroom teachers is so high in Georgia that they're raiding the state of Tennesse in order to get a teacher into each classroom. (When one sees what Tennessee pays their teachers, it's little wonder why they all don't leave that state...)

There's an interesting
back-and-forth going on between Alexander Russo's This Week in Education and Education Sector's over the Reading First Scandal. (See the scandal's backstory here.)

Another teacher, (this time in a private school for Gifted students)
has been arrested on charges of allegedly possessing child pornography on his home computer. (What can we do to run these alleged rascals out of our profession once and for all?)

If you're looking to make some easy money and just happen to know someone over at the National Education Association, there just might be a job waiting for you. (And the fringe benefits for those who are hired to "work" are tough to beat.)

See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's edition of The Carnival of Education over there.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Carnival Of Education: Week 86

Welcome to the 86th edition of The Carnival Of Education! We are delighted that after an extended "road trip," the Midway has returned to its home.

This collection of submissions from around the EduSphere represents a very wide variety of political and educational viewpoints. U
nless they are labeled otherwise, all entries were submitted by the writers.

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

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about last week's midway. Links are much appreciated, trackbacks are, as always, adored. Visit the Carnival's archives here and see our latest EduPosts there.

Next Week's Carnival midway will be hosted by The Current Events In Education. Please send contributions to: ap [at] Pass-Ed [dot] com, or use this handy submission form. Current Events should receive them no later than 5:00 PM (Eastern) 2:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, October 3rd. Please include the title of your post, and its URL, if possible. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the midway should open next Wednesday morning.

Let the free exchange of thoughts and ideas begin!


In this post-NCLB world of standards and accountability, political conservatives continue to debate what role, if any, the federal government should have in the formulation of education policy. The Upside Down World
stakes its position.

What would you do if a classroom teacher forced your child to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag against your child's religious objections? That's
just what happened to the son of one North Carolina man.

The recent "Reading First Scandal" (backstory
here) at the U.S. Department of Education is the subject of a post over at Alexander Russo's This Week in Education. (We agree with Russo's assessment regarding the scandal's possible impact on renewal of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.) On a related note, Edspresso wonders if the whole thing is less of a scandal and more like a tempest in a coffee cup.

Ken DeRosa's D-Ed Reckoning has
an exhaustive review of Vicki Snider's book, Myth and Misconceptions about Teaching. Here's a sample:
Myth #3: The myth of eclectic instruction refers to the practice of drawing on a variety of teaching methods and materials. Teachers believe that designing patchwork lessons is creative and makes learning more interesting. This haphazard approach, however, ignores the complexity of curriculum and restricts teachers' practice to what is intuitive.
While echoing a statement by the National Academies, HunBlog sounds the clarion call for major changes in the way science is taught and learned in order to boost K-8 student achievement.

Didn't somebody once say
something about lies, damn lies, and statistics? District 299 Chicago Public Schools Blog warns us yet again about misleading data.

In a jointly published post over at Edspresso, Ken DeRosa (of D-EdReckoning) and Right Wing Prof (of Right Wing Nation) take
a hard look at Philadelphia's High Tech High. (Disc. We think of technology as just one more implement in our teaching tool belt. It's only as effective as the craftsman (or craftswoman) who wields it.)

The American Federation of Teachers' NCLBlog
introduces us to an EduTerm that we've never heard of before but which we're likely to hear a lot more of in this post-NCLB era: the E.M.O. or Educational Management Organization. (Wasn't there an '70s-'80s band that went by a very similar name?)

Inside This Teaching Life:

It seems as though students nearly everywhere are cheating on nearly everything. Ms. Cornelius of A Shrewdness of Apes explores cheating techniques and the reasoning behind the latest excuse that students have for why they cheat: "
My parents made me do it."

First-year classroom teacher (and former University of Virginia student) EdWahoo has discovered the insanity
that often drives the planning of lessons.

The Science Goddess has been teaching for a few years now and has seen substantial changes in just about everything. Now, she's wondering if it's time
for a paradigm shift in the assigning of student grades.

Some parent-sent emails are more annoying than others, and IB a Math Teacher has reached into his mailbag and
is sharing with us three emails that would certainly bother us. (Heh. Babysitters actually get paid more on a per hour per kid basis than most teachers...)

Mr. McNamar of The Daily Grind has brought us
the second installment of his popular "Whaddaya wanna bet" posts. (And we agree 100% on that one about the student dress code!)

If you want to see what really goes on in the classroom when the "regular" classroom teacher is away, you should make substitute teacher Kauai Mark one of your daily reads. Check out
what happened when Mark spent a few days in an elementary school.

The Secret Lives of Students and Teachers:

Mamacita of Schiess Weekly
let's us know that it's Banned Books Week! (Who would have ever thought that one of those cute Waldo books has actually been banned from some schools?)

a gripping post submitted by The Los Angeles Times' edublog School Me!, the lid gets blown-off of author Jeremy Iversen's new book, High School Confidential. According to School Me! this so-called "tell all" book may not be what it seems. A must read post.

Those of us who are in the classroom know first-hand what a waste so-called "professional development" workshops often are. But not always. Last week's Carnival host, The Median Sib, attended
one of the good ones.

If you liked William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, then you'll love the Reflective Teacher's
dramatic production of A Normal School Day: A Play in Five Parts. (Comedy of tragedy? You make the call...)

What's does a young New York City science teacher who's spending a year teaching in Turkey see when she goes to the beach for a little peace and quiet? Why...she sees everything from used syringes to
twisting tornadoes! (For a little relaxation at the beach, we prefer petting the whales down in Baja California.)

wonders aloud about those teachers who make a big show of shaking hands with their students but then make a beeline for the sink...

Writing over at The Colossus of Rhodey, teacher "Hube" points out some of
the word games that are being pulled by the National Education Association in its publications.

Teaching and Learning:

Australian teacher Elias
has some thoughts on the best way to approach the teaching of math to girls. (We like his use of "The Simpsons" to illustrate his point.)

ABC's evening news broadcast recently did a segment on "the middle school slump," and inadvertently showed what many think is
the wrong approach to the teaching of math.

Sometimes when a high school kid wants to do something good, it's best if the adults just stay
out of the way.

Recently, Columbia University extended an invitation for Iran's controversial president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak on that school's campus. The invitation was then revoked due to "security concerns." Next week's Carnival host, Andrew Pass of Current Events in Education, has
some timely ideas for classroom lessons on the controversy stirred-up by Columbia's decision.

California Live Wire
gives us the skinny on "average" students that can (and do) A.P. classes.

The title of this post by the Let's play math! EduBlog says it all:
Solving Complex Story Problems II.

Thespis Journal
argues forcefully that students should be taken to see the Broadway revival of "A Chorus Line." (I like the idea of students watching live theatre, with certain exceptions.)

School Governance:

See what happened to the El Paso middle school principal who
hoarded textbooks for a month before being found-out by his superiors. (Don't forget to cast your ballot!)

In a cry that's bound to be echoed from thousands of classrooms around the country, La Maestra pleads for
An Extreme Makeover.

Follow the links and you'll see why schools wind-up having so many lawsuits
on their hands.

submitted for your consideration is our take on the knuckleheaded middle school principal who was dismissed from his post because he couldn't find a clerk to distribute the textbooks that he was hoarding.

The Parent Perspective:

In this age of NCLB-driven accountability and anti-obesity campaigns, The Essential Blog is seeking readers' opinions on
whether or not it's a good idea for kids to have cupcakes and other treats at school on their birthdays.

Personal Personnel Matters:

New York City Educator gives us a good reminder about how some of the things that we do our first year in the classroom
can haunt us for as long as we are at that school. (Ask me sometime about the math teacher at our school who was known as "Seymour Spacely" for 35 years!)

What counts more when it comes to hiring decisions: teaching experience and expertise or the possession of a degree? The
answer can sometimes be an exercise in frustration for the truly qualified.


One of the many hurdles that homeschoolers must overcome when applying for college entry is demonstrating high school level proficiency. "
Work Keys" provides that certification. But there is a problem, and Spunkyhomeschooler has the scoop.

Higher Education:

If you haven't already talked the college student in your life into going to graduate school, you might want to take a look at this listing of the
Top 10 Reasons to Go To Graduate School In The Modern World. Well said.

First Harvard stopped accepting early admissions. And then Princeton University followed suit. And now Scott Elliott over at the Dayton Daily News' edublog Get on the Bus predicts that if Harvard also drops the S.A.T. requirement, then
the admission dominos will fall.

What is the purpose of a college education? What should a college education provide? These are two questions addressed in a book by Derek Bok called Our Underachieving Colleges
and reviewed by Matt Johnson.

A campaign to eliminate term papers in college? Now I wonder who would want to do that and why? Find out for yourself over at
this week's submission by The Anonymous Educator.

Here's some good
common-sense advice for those who are studying for the GMAT exam.

Inside The EduBlogs:

Education in Texas
gave us a chuckle with this submission about how the title of an innocent-sounding web page can generate a less-than flattering acronym.

The Poor, Starving, College Student presents
a roundup of EdWriter Julia Steiny's most recent op/ed pieces.

Teaching in the Twenty-First Century has what must be an EduSphere first:
A Teaching Meme!

Evolving Education links to, and comments on, the story about
the Kansas science teacher who had some 50 students use the same lancet to draw blood. (And now, the district is having to pick-up the tab for all that blood work...)

Here's how
to contact a variety of elected officials.

And finally: This particular journey around the EduSphere has been both enjoyable and informative. Our continued thanks to all the contributors whose submissions make the midway's continuing success possible, the folks who find the time to help spread the word, and the readers who continue to make it rewarding.

This midway is registered at TTLB's carnival roundup. See our latest posts here, and the complete Carnival archives over there.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dr. Bill Cosby Ed.D. On Education

Students should practice math like some practice sports, urges actor-comedian Bill Cosby:
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- Why can't students practice algebra for hours like teams practice sports?

That's what Bill Cosby asked a group of students at the Roger Putnam Vocational Technical High School yesterday.

And when freshman Kimya Thompson shouted that the subject was boring, Cosby, from Shelburne, brought her on stage.

He told her that if she and her peers didn't sharpen their academic skills, they'd be earning minimum wage.

Cosby told the 450 students that they couldn't go to jail for getting straight As, but they could get shot for selling drugs.

The 69-year-old earned his doctorate in education from U-Mass in 1977.
This isn't the first time that Cosby has spoken out on the need for strudents to work harder in order to achieve success.
Carnival of Education entries are due tonight! See our latest EduPosts here and today's Extra Credit Reading over there.

Tuesday's Extra Credit Reading

In New Orleans, many schools are still shuttered due to their utter destruction by Hurricane Katrina, and many poorer neighborhoods don't have water, garbage collection and other essential city services, but New Orleans does have football! Incredibly, some 62% of the Superdome's rebuilding costs were paid for with $116 millions of taxpayer-provided F.E.M.A. money... It kinda shows the rest of the world what our priorities are.

The achievement levels of many students tends to fall off during the middle school years. This disturbing tendency has been well documented. Yesterday evening, I saw a pretty good video explaining the trend over at ABC News. You too can view the video
right here.

The level of alleged corruption in various public school systems throughout New York State is so grave that one grand jury is now urging the
appointment of an inspector general in order to oversee that state's 4000 public schools.

Today's Knuckleheads have to be the two Alabama students who thought that it would be cute to set-off firecrackers outside of classrooms only six months after two other teens were arrested for planning a Columbine-type massacre. The alleged malefactors are getting their just desserts...

When schools are out of control in New Zealand, one begins to wonder if there's any place where they are not.

Here's something we like: With tornadoes and other severe weather an ongoing threat to schools, the federal government will be supplying
free hazard warning radios to every public school in the country. (There are some 97,000!) We are convinced that this will save lives...
Carnival of Education entries are due tonight! See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading over there.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 86th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by us here at The Education Wonks) are due today. Please email them to: owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net . (Or, better yet, use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 8:00 PM (Eastern), 5:00 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 Median Sib, here and the Carnival's archives over there.

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

The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

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

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

Council Member Entries: Done With Mirrors took first place honors with ‘You'll Never Know What We Did’.

Non-Council Entries: Joee Blogs -- A Catholic Londoner garnered the most votes with Just Outside Westminster Cathedral Today...
See our latest EduPosts.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Texas Textbook Hoarder

A middle school principal in El Paso, Texas was removed from his post recently for not distributing texts to students even though school has been in session for some weeks:
El Paso Independent School District Superintendent Lorenzo García removed the principal of Bassett Middle School on Tuesday -- just days after it was learned that students at the Northeast campus had not been given textbooks for nearly a month.

Principal Oscar Santaella was reassigned to another position in the EPISD and today will be replaced by Steven Lane, who will be interim principal until a permanent one is named.

"I believe in servant leadership," García said. "The administration at that school needs to do all that's in their hands to make it successful."

Bassett administrators had kept all texts in the book room for nearly a month because the campus did not have a book clerk who could distribute them.

EPISD spokesman Luis Villalobos said the last round of textbooks were issued to Bassett students on Tuesday.

Originally, teachers were given classroom sets of books to use during instructional time, but for nearly a month students were not allowed to take those texts home for homework or review.

Last week, Alexandra Villanueva, 47, whose son attends alternative classes at Bassett, said that although her son doesn't get textbooks, she has had problems with textbooks in the past.

"This school is very disorganized," Villanueva said.

"Last year I had to pay for three books my son left in his friend's locker, and I found out that the school has been losing a lot of books. It's terrible."

García said he met with teachers at Bassett on Tuesday and began creating a committee that will report to central office on any needs at the school.

"We're empowering that team to give us suggestions. Not just on books -- on anything that is happening there," he said.

Bassett is one of 22 schools that the district has labeled as a priority because of low or failing test scores. The school is one of two in the district facing severe state and federal sanctions.

Damon Murphy, the associate superintendent for priority schools in the district, said the changes at Bassett will help it perform better.

"We're trying to systematically evaluate these schools," he said.

"Dr. Lane is a very experienced principal that is highly respected," he added. "He'll be able to make a difference there."

Lane, who formerly was the principal of Kohlberg Elementary School, had until Tuesday been the interim principal of Magoffin Elementary School.
Out here in California's notoriously corrupt "Imperial" Valley, the removal of public school administrators from their jobs is very rare.

Here in our mid-sized elementary school district, (+6000 students) not one administrator has ever been fired or reassigned to the classroom in over 14 years, even though numerous classroom teachers have been fired from their jobs due to their (supposed) ineffectiveness.

Update:(PM) Ms. Cornelius of A Shrewdness of Apes asks an interesting question in our commenting thread:
"Did he think by keeping 'em locked up together in the dark they might breed and create more?"
See our latest EduPosts and today's Extra Credit Reading.

Monday's Extra Credit Reading

The Special Education Law Blog offers a timely reminder about why it's a good idea for educators to avoid actionable gossip when talking about students with others in the community.

Some kids are just plain smart. But this hard-working 18-year-old graduate from The University of Virginia is in a
league all of his own.

Did you hear the one about the cop who
lied to his superiors about needing time off to serve a tour of duty in Iraq as a naval reservist? He collected some $8,700 in "gap pay" before being busted!

It's not often that we hear of a principal being fired, but that's
just what happened when the boss of one overcrowded Chicago-area high school refused to enroll more students without the hiring of additional teaching staff. (This one saddens us...)

The battle over the teaching of "Intelligent Design" in public school science class continues to be fought, with one pro-I.D. Michigan gubernatorial candidate
taking a public stand.
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading over there.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Another Method For Raising The Standard?

Columnist Jerry Large of the Seattle Times has some interesting thoughts about classes that that consist of students with differing academic abilities:
Last year, eighth-grade teachers at McClure Middle School did something radical. They mixed honors students with students who hadn't been in the advanced programs — and they found that most of the kids rose to the challenge.

Math-and-science teacher Michael Sparks says that in the four years before the experiment he had recommended only one African-American student for high-school honors math. Last year, he recommended five.

You already know that the demographics of the honors programs is different from that of the rest of the school. That's a given when a school has a mix of races and incomes. But it doesn't have to be that way.

McClure, like a lot of schools, has been discussing ways to diversify its advanced programs classes. Sparks and some of his colleagues thought it was time to stop talking and try something.

Sparks has been teaching for only five years and didn't come to it straight out of college. He has graduate degrees in cultural psychology, and developed a reading program before he decided to try teaching math.

"I was always terrible in math," he says, but he thinks that helps him understand students who struggle with it.

Sparks teaches in both the Spectrum/Achieve and regular programs. Spectrum students test into the program. There is also a MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) program at McClure for minority students who show promise in math and science.

The MESA teacher would sometimes tell Sparks her students could match his Spectrum kids. Someone asked him once whether there might be African-American students from the MESA or regular programs who deserved to be in honors math and he said no.

He hadn't thought much about the process that sorted students into various levels. He just assumed it worked, until he placed two students from his regular class into his honors class.

They hadn't been filtered into the program, but they showed promise. They finished the year one and two in the class, so Sparks thought again about the process.

The next time the MESA teacher said her kids were just as capable as his, he was ready for the challenge.

A group of teachers got approval to merge MESA and Spectrum eighth-grade classes and add a few students from the regular program too.

Kids were wary of each other until they began having real conversations. That started one day when a black girl burst into tears because Sparks changed the due date on an assignment her mother had made her stay up until 4 a.m. to finish.

He said he'd talk to her mother, but the student said her mother wouldn't understand. The class got into a discussion of unreasonable moms and found they had something in common.

Then they started talking about differences. Each group had stereotypes about the other, and they talked openly about them. The MESA kids didn't like people thinking they were dumb. The Spectrum kids didn't like being seen as rich and pampered.

One white girl described MESA as where they put the black kids to keep them away from white kids.

It got interesting and stayed interesting. The kids had better discussions over the year than grown-ups do, Sparks said.

When Sparks first started teaching, most of what he knew about race came from books. He wasn't prepared for the attitudes and behaviors of black kids he encountered in school.

Teachers are confronted with students they are not prepared for and come to their own conclusions about them, often thinking that they can't or don't want to learn.

"Both teachers and students bring ideas and behaviors grounded in personal and cultural experience into the classroom," he says.

He says the district's race programs concentrate on teacher attitudes, but don't discuss student attitudes and behavior. White teachers like Sparks know something is missing from the district's program, he said, but they don't want to say anything for fear of being labeled racist.

Sparks is not politically polished. Though it can rub people the wrong way, frankness is necessary if we're going to make progress. Racism is real, but so is behavior that holds kids back from their best efforts and gets them labeled in negative ways. People have to be free to talk about all of that so they can learn how to make things better.

After one semester, students from the two groups were performing at virtually the same level. In both of the two blocks, 11 of the top 20 students had been in honors the previous year and nine had not.

Sparks says people noticed the hallways were friendlier. In class, students worked together and as one group. "More than any class in my memory, we had become a family," he wrote in a report on the year.

It's not time for the sappy music yet. That was a one-year experiment. This year things are back to normal and Sparks says he's not as challenged. "It was a difficult year, but it was so interesting and rewarding. This year is kind of too easy."

He calls the kids who are usually in honors classes teacher-proof. They get much of what they need from home. "If I succeed with this group, well ho-hum.

"After you've done that program, how can you go back to the way it was?"

Good question.

Principal Kathy Bledsoe is on health leave, but she told me she got lots of information from Sparks about how the kids were getting along, but not enough formal data to prove this was or was not the way to go.

"There were some very good outcomes," she said, but not enough to disrupt the system in place without more data. They are continuing their search for ways to give each student what he needs.

Sparks is impatient, and we should be too.

"This is just one school," he says. "Just think. What if every school in the district did that? Multiply the numbers and you practically have the end of disproportionality."

At the core, what he discovered is that if you understand the kids and have high expectations you'll get better results. Everybody knows that, but sometimes you have to be a little different to act on it.
I like the idea of mixed-ability grouping, as long as the students have positive attitudes toward effort and getting the work done and turned in on time.
See our latest EduPosts and today's Extra Credit Reading.

Sunday's Extra Credit Reading

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is giving props to the 250 public and private schools that were the first to be selected in the 2006 No Child Left Behind - Blue Ribbon Schools Program. See if a school near you was one of the lucky ones which received the award here.

The long-running teachers strike down in the Mexican state of Oaxaca looks as though its about to take a nasty turn for the worse with that state's governor threatening to get tough with the strikers. (Informative backstory here.)

Most public schools in America nowadays answer to a variety of non-teaching teaching experts political masters, which spawns quite a bit of confusion of both educators and the public. But the mandate to meet or exceed two different standards of what constitutes educational testing success is
particularly frustrating.

News Flash! California's Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger,
has sworn-off Hummers! But wait! Someone else says that he can't give-up his gas-guzzling addiction expensive thrill-ride... Our chief concern with Schwarzenegger is that he has done absolutely nothing to slow-down the runaway expansion of California's wasteful education bureaucracy, an example of which can be seen here. (The number of EduCrats has more than doubled in ten years, while the number of students and teachers has been about the same.)

firestorm of controversy has broken out over certain inscriptions that have been carved into Arizona's memorial to victims of the September 11th terror attacks.

Gangs are so out of control in some British schools that administrators are closing the doors and sending students home early. (And one of them was a girls school!)
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading over there.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Beyond His Limit

While doing his job, a Michigan custodian was tormented by several middle school students. After being pushed beyond his limit, the custodian "snapped:"
SOUTH BOARDMAN — A school custodian was fired "on the spot" and may face criminal assault charges after he became involved in a physical altercation with a 13-year-old male middle school student.

"We take the safety of our students very seriously and we will not condone or accept this type of behavior," said Forest Area Community Schools Superintendent Matt Cairy. "The physical altercation was very avoidable; this was not a case of self-defense."

The altercation took place Tuesday night as four middle school students allegedly harassed the custodian while he worked in the middle school during a basketball game in the adjoining high school gym, the Kalkaska County Sheriff's Department reported.

"The kids threw pop on a carpet and then they kept sneaking up and turning his vacuum off and apparently he just lost it," Kalkaska Undersheriff Bruce Gualtiere said. "He saw them hiding in the bushes and he went and got them. It looks like he punched and kicked (the student)."

The student received some scrapes, and his mother filed a complaint with the sheriff's department.

Sheriff's officials completed their investigation and will be requesting an arrest warrant for simple assault, a misdemeanor, from the prosecuting attorney's office.

Cairy said the students involved were disciplined for their roles in the altercation.

"We have high expectations for our students, and any time there is inappropriate behavior toward faculty or staff there is discipline involved," he said.

He declined to detail the discipline.

Neither the sheriff's department nor Cairy would release the names of those involved until the suspect is arraigned. Cairy said the custodian had worked for the school less than a year.
While not excusing the custodian's lashing out at the students little thugs who were harassing him, I believe that pupils who verbally torment or otherwise prevent staff from performing their duties should be subject to suspension or expulsion.

Guessing, I would say that didn't happen in this case.
See our latest EduPosts and today's Extra Credit Reading.

Saturday's Extra Credit Reading

Just when I thought that I had seen everything, I saw competitive eating at the professional level.

I remember the hue and cry from the mainstream media when the then men-only Virginia Military Institute and South Carolina's Citidal both resisted the admission of women, but when it's the students of a women-only college who want to bar men at the door, the treatment from the MSM is
altogether very different.

The endless battle against plagiarism continues. In
the latest dispatch from the front, the Mercury News is telling us about how some schools have enlisted technology in the fight.

JoanneJacobs has
an additional report from the frontlines of the anti-plagiarism campaign.

"Dirty Dancing" isn't just the name of an '80 movie but also the reason why one New Hampshire high school
has canceled all remaining dances for this year. I supposed that "bumping and grinding" has ground to a halt for the time being...
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading over there.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Receding Recess

With pressure to raise test scores on the increase, more schools are cutting recess:
The focus on academics and test scores is yielding a new formula for grade school play breaks: less time and more supervision.

Remember when recess was a welcome release in the school day when kids could bounce like pinballs from swings to slides to games with a big rubber ball? Or maybe a time to steer clear of class bullies?

These days it's a cause célèbre for those who worry that time reserved for letting off steam is losing out to time spent on academics.

"Recess is definitely shorter than we would like it to be," said Nancy Stachel, principal of Como Park Elementary School in St. Paul. [Minnesota]

Her students used to play outside for 30 minutes a day. Now they get a combined lunch and recess period of 15 to 20 minutes inside and 10 to 15 outside.

The pressure to squeeze more academic lessons into the typical curriculum -- and compress nonacademic activities -- led some Minnesota educators to revive a lobbying push last winter for a longer school year. But, Stachel said, "I was thinking I need the school day extended."

A federal survey of 1,198 public elementary schools last year found that 83 to 88 percent provided daily recess. Those providing no recess ranged from 7 percent in first and second grades to 13 percent in sixth grade.

Mary Thissen-Milder, academic-standards specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, said the state has no recess requirements and that school districts set their own daily schedules. Some schools let teachers insert an occasional recess in their schedule if a class gets too squirrelly.

Dominic Duenas, a fifth-grade teacher at Edward D. Neill Elementary School in Crystal, said he remembers 20- to 30-minute recesses when he was growing up in California. Now he sometimes takes his class outside in good weather when kids' energy levels seem particularly high. On the first day of school this year, he adopted the alter-ego name of "Zoltan," took the kids outdoors, and directed 10 minutes of games and drills to keep them moving and developing "abs of steel." Then it was back to class.

At Jordan Elementary School, a kindergarten-through-fourth grade school south of the Twin Cities, Principal Stacy DeCorsey said she's maintained a single 25-minute recess period each day -- a sharp cut from the three daily play times she remembers as a kid.

But she said her teachers can order 10-minute ad hoc recesses if they see the need. Most of Jordan's elementary teachers also have been trained in a program called SMART, which blends customized physical exercises with academic lessons.

"The reason we went into it was for academic achievement," she said, based on research that suggests certain kinds of physical exertion can stimulate learning.

Academics aren't the only pressure on recess. Health and safety concerns have prompted some schools to assign adults to organize recess by devising games and enforcing rules.

But unstructured playtime is valuable as well, DeCorsey said: "There are some advantages to letting kids make decisions."

In the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district, a 17-member committee is studying how to change several noncore activities, including recess. Sandi Novak, assistant superintendent, said curriculum change must be done carefully. "We're on overload as it is."

Schools can do their part to increase physical activity, she said, but responsibility should be shared by families and other institutions.

The district's committee findings are expected early next year.

The Education Department's Thissen-Milder said the federal No Child Left Behind law, which aimed to increase academic test scores, had the "unintentional consequence" of cutting time for recess and physical education.

But another federal law, passed in July, could boost recess time, she said, because its goal is to improve student nutrition, increase physical activity and slow a trend toward childhood obesity.

A report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in May said the number of overweight children from ages 6 to 11 has more than tripled in the past 30 years. It noted that 60 minutes of daily physical activity for that age group was recommended in a 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

State Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, a former hockey player, said the obesity numbers for children "are frightening." He said physical education classes often are a target of school boards that face budget cuts while feeling pressure to meet academic standards.

"It's scaring districts to death if they don't pass the tests," he said.

Meanwhile, school fees for sports are rising, providing a disincentive to play.

"We need to do a better job of funding," he said.
According to the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, 100% of the nation's children must pass standardized tests by 2014 or else.

School personnel alone are being held accountable for accomplishing that goal.

I believe that it's highly likely that more schools will be curtailing recess in the years to come.
See our latest EduPosts and today's Extra Credit Reading.

Friday's Extra Credit Reading

A Columbine-style high school massacre/suicide has been prevented in Greenbay, Wisconsin. The plot had been in the works two years and was close to being implemented. Three teens have been arrested.

There's more bad news for New York City's State's public school system:
reading scores drop after fifth grade. I guess there's going to be quite a bit of navel-gazing among Big Apple Educators...

The World Bank (translation: U.S. taxpayers)
is building 20 new schools in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Didn't somebody say that their was no such thing as foreign aid, only foreign contracts?) I can't help but wonder if those schools will be held accountable for student progress under the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act...

Who would have thought that high school kids were becoming more aware of
their First Amendment rights? I must say that I'm surprised!

Our friends over at Education Sector's
have the skinny on the latest push toward National Standards and National Tests. (But whenever I hear that conservative moralist William Bennett has involved himself in anything, I can't help but remember that little difficulty he had with those slot machines and casino I.O.U.s)

The Knucklehead Of The Day Award goes to forty-seven-year-old teacher Carolyn Sue Shave of Norman, Oklahoma, who probably self-terminated her teaching career by allegedly
growing and smoking her own.

Today's Trivia Question: What famous rock star and ex-policeman once served time in front of the chalkboard as a teacher in a Catholic elementary school? Stumped? Get your answer

Have you been over to lately and taken a look at what students and parents are saying about you or the educator in your life?
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading over there.