Thursday, November 30, 2006

Americans Going Out For Chinese

More American children than ever before are studying Chinese, reports The New York Times:
SAN FRANCISCO — With its booming economy and aspirations to expand its global influence, China may have achieved a victory in American classrooms.

Take the private Chinese-American International School here, which runs from prekindergarten through eighth grade and offers instruction in all subjects — from math to music — half in Mandarin and half in English. The curriculum also includes Chinese history, culture and language studies, and in the 25 years since the school was founded, it has attracted mainly Asian-American children. But in the past few years, it has seen rapid growth in the enrollment of non-Asians.

For example, five years ago, the school was 57 percent Asian-American, but this year it is only 49 percent Asian-American, said Sharline Chiang, its spokeswoman, adding that more non-Asian-Americans have been applying in recent years. Andrew Corcoran, the head of the school, said that in the last three to four years, applications from white and Indian-American families have more than doubled, though he declined to give exact figures.

Ms. Chiang also said that this was the first year in which the prekindergarten class had more white children, 36 percent, than Asian-Americans, 32 percent.

School officials attribute the changes largely to a growing awareness of China as a global economic force, and to a strong sense among parents that learning Chinese could help their children professionally. As Mr. Corcoran said, studying Chinese “is looked at as a long-term benefit.”

For similar reasons, Chinese language classes are increasingly popular across the country in public schools. Shuhan Wang, executive director of the Asia Society’s Chinese Language Initiative, who has written about the growth of Chinese language studies in the United States, said several states — including Kentucky, Minnesota, Washington, Ohio, Kansas and West Virginia — were developing curriculums for public schools.

Even so-called heritage schools, which have historically provided immigrant children with Chinese language and culture instruction on weekends and after public school, are gaining non-Asian students. For example, until three years ago, all but five or six of the roughly 120 students at the Chinese School of Delaware were Chinese-Americans who spoke Chinese at home, said Tommy Lu, the school’s principal. This year, nearly 30 students are non-Chinese, he said.

At the Lansing Chinese School in Michigan, also a heritage school, officials saw a wave of new interest about five years ago from American couples adopting babies from China, said Dennie Hoopingarner, the principal, so the school opened a preschool and created a curriculum for children who do not speak Chinese at home. Today, a third of the students, half of them non-Asian, take those classes, he said.

Mr. Hoopingarner said some non-Asian children attended the school because of “an ambitious feeling on the part of the parents” who are “interested in China’s playing an important role in the world.”

Parents are also starting new Mandarin programs when they cannot find them in their communities. Last year, in Livingston, N.J., Sharon Huang, a former marketing executive, founded Bilingual Buds, a Mandarin-immersion preschool, for her twin sons, who are now 3. Ms. Huang, whose husband is not Chinese, started the school in her home with 10 pupils and has since expanded it to 72 pupils and 7 teachers in a rented space in a church. The school is considering adding a kindergarten class next fall, she said.

Judith Carlson, 41, a software consultant who lives in Verona, N.J., pays about $400 a month to send her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Victoria, to Bilingual Buds. Mrs. Carlson’s older children, Ryan, 15, and Sarah, 13, have been studying Mandarin at their public school since first grade. The children are now teaching their parents to count to 10 and speak basic words in Mandarin.

“It’s going to be a big advantage for them,” Mrs. Carlson said. “I think no matter what you do in life, if you have some kind of specialty that sets you apart from other people, that makes you more marketable.”

When Mandarin, the official language of China, was first offered in Chicago public schools in 1999, about 250 students enrolled, said Bob Davis, director of the Chicago school system’s Chinese Connections Program. Today, nearly 6,000 public school students, out of roughly 421,000, study Mandarin, he said, the majority black or Hispanic.

“I get calls every day from parents asking how they can get their students in the program, or how their local schools can offer such a program,” Mr. Davis said, pointing out that “the bulk of our students have no background or exposure to Chinese language and culture.”

In Connecticut this year, about 3,000 students, most non-Asian, are studying Mandarin in about 16 public schools, said Mary Ann Hansen of the state’s Department of Education, a 10-fold increase from 300 students in 2004. Another half-dozen schools are considering offering Mandarin for the first time next fall, she said.

About half the teachers for the program come through a partnership with the Chinese government, Ms. Hansen added. Their salaries are paid by their own government, but school districts cover living expenses. “We don’t have enough Chinese teachers locally,” she said.

Michael Patterson, a high school chemistry teacher, has four children — ages 6 to 13 — at the Chinese-American school here. He said the academic program attracted him, but he also noted that “people say Chinese is going to be a pay-off.”

Still, having children at this kind of school can be a challenge for a parent. “We can’t help with homework,” Mr. Patterson said.

Ms. Chiang, the school’s spokeswoman, said parents like Mr. Patterson gamely participated in celebrations like the Mandarin speech festival, public speaking contests in which students read in Mandarin something they have written or an excerpt from a book. “The parents sit and patiently listen,” she said, “supporting their children even though they don’t understand a word.”
Somehow, I find the mental picture of parents sitting through their children's recital "even though they don't understand a word," disturbingly humerous.

Nevertheless, I can't help but like it when American kids are learning to speak foreign languages.
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Sergeant Old School

Substitute teacher Mr. Lawrence, of Get Lost, Mr. Chips, happened to take a look at what was on top of the teacher's desk the other day and ran into Sergeant Old School:
So, I was in a science class and snooping around (I know, I know), looking through the grade books conveniently left on the desk (it's so tempting, I swear), and tucked inside the one grade book was a print-out of all the grades for the kids in this teacher's classes. This, however, really caught my attention: out of 23 students in the one science class, fifteen were given "F"s. That means there were eight in the entire class that actually were passing, and their grades ranged from "A" to "C." This wasn't a class full of IEP kids or Special Ed. or anything like that - no "low functioning" students.
Go over to Mr. Lawrence's place and read the whole thing for yourself.
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Extra Credit Reading: Thursday, November 30, 2006

As today is Writing Thursday, we humbly present The 25 Funniest Analogies (Collected by High School English Teachers) as well as Ten Ways to Become a Better Writer. (Tipped by the UK's Dodgeblogium)

Even though the federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates that school personnel will be held accountable for the progress of 100% of America's public school students regardless of their willingness to put-forth even minimal effort, the federal law says nothing about holding negligent parents responsible for at least getting their offspring to school well-rested and on time. It's great to see that somebody in Philadelphia is holding parents accountable as well as the schools.

Today's Non Sequitur: Over at Watcher of Weasels, The Watcher takes a whimsical look inside the real Iraq Study Group.
See our latest EduPosts and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The NCLB Chronicles: There They Go Again!

The National Education Association and several school districts are once again tilting at windmills suing the federal government in an attempt to overturn the No Child Left Behind Act:
CINCINNATI --School districts in three states and the nation's largest teachers union asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to revive a lawsuit challenging the way a government education program is funded.

The 2.7 million-member National Education Association, its affiliates in Connecticut and nine other states, and school districts in Michigan, Vermont and Texas had sued to block the No Child Left Behind law, President Bush's signature education policy.

They argued that schools should not have to comply with requirements that aren't paid for by the federal government, and that the government is imposing unfunded mandates even though the act itself prohibits unfunded mandates.

Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman in Detroit dismissed the lawsuit in November 2005, saying the plaintiffs failed to support their claim.

NEA general counsel Robert Chanin, representing the Pontiac, Mich., school district and the other plaintiffs, told the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel Tuesday that states submitted compliance plans and requests for funding based on their understanding of the level of government support that would be provided.

But Congress appropriated far less than needed, leaving local school districts to make up the difference, he said.

"School districts would have no alternative but to divert money from other programs to fund No Child Left Behind," Chanin said.

Government attorney Alisa Klein argued that the intent of the law was never to fully fund the provisions laid out in the act, designed to make sure that children in poorer school districts have the same chance to become proficient in basic skills as students in wealthy districts.

"A state's commitment to making academic progress under the standards set out in its plan is the cornerstone of the act," the government said in its brief. "It cannot seriously be urged that a state could refuse to spend its own money to help its elementary and secondary schoolchildren become proficient in reading, science and math."

The law requires states to revise academic standards and develop tests to measure students' progress annually. If students fail to make progress, the law requires states to take action against school districts.

"No one disputes that the primary responsibility to educate children rests with the states," Chanin said.

Appeals Judge David McKeague asked Chanin why a school that did not like participating in No Child Left Behind could not simply walk away from it.

"We don't want to opt out," Chanin said. "This is a good program. We just want to participate on the terms Congress told us would apply."

Although the Pontiac school district is the plaintiff named in the lawsuit, the NEA is paying the costs of the appeal. Plaintiffs include nine school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont, and NEA affiliates in those states and in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah.

A nationwide association of school administrators also supports the suit.

The three-judge appeals court panel took the case under advisement and did not say when it will rule. The outcome would apply directly to the districts in the case, but could affect how the law is enforced in schools across the country.
Readers who have spent any time at all around this site know that we're no fans of the National Education Association, NCLB, or The Queen of All Testing U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and her minions the United States Department of Education.

But we call 'em like we see 'em.

Last time the NEA and its patsies allies sued the federal government in order to get NCLB thrown-out, the courts handed them their collective talking heads.

This time around will be no different
See our latest EduPosts, this date's Extra Credit Reading, and today's Carnival of Education.

Extra Credit Reading: Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Wanker of the Day Award has got to go to school bus driver David Stack, who was pulled-over by the police and arrested for drunk driving while on the job. Stack allegedly had just one request to make before the cops ran him in: "Can I finish my run, at least to drop these kids off?" (TipWonk'd by KauaiMark of Just a Substitute Teacher Blog.....)

From The T.F.A. Trenches, we have
a reflexive post that shows us what teacher-blogging should be all about. Here's a sample:
Yet B---‘s story is a cautionary tale of how willing even a very idealistic teacher can be to perform educational triage and how false our diagnoses can be. With all of the focus and time I pour into thinking about them, with all of the importance that we ascribe to their success, and with all of the gravity of their problems, our kids can swell in my minds. They become characters titanic enough to share a stage with their poverty, their prior miseducation, and their untapped potential and in that enormity, they develop personalities that seem too huge to reform. It might seem silly, but I think I must remember that they are just kids. And I must remember that, even when I'm not helping and sometimes even when I'm not watching, kids can change.
Read the whole thing.

For Reading Wednesday,
we have this timely story about the California-based charity that uses technology in order to enable parents serving in our military overseas to read aloud works of literature to their children here at home. (Be prepared to have your heartstings well-tugged...)

If it's Wednesday, it's Carnival of Education Day! Check-out the 95th midway, hosted by A History Teacher.

For those teachers who really like putting in long hours but would like to get well paid to do so, (unlike classroom teaching) we have someone we'd like you to meet: say "hello" to
the Extreme Job.

Today's Non Sequitur: As fanatically frantic fans of the 70s-80s supergroup ABBA, we here at the 'Wonks simply had to make this
our website of the day! Be sure to check out the free video which changes daily... (And yes, we've seen Mamma Mia! over in Las Vegas; we loved it.)
See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading there.

Let's Carnival!

The 95th midway of The Carnival of Education (hosted this week by A History Teacher,) is now open for your perusal with a variety of exhibits and sideshows from across the EduSphere.

For extra credit, consider checking-out what the homies are up to over The Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted this week by The Common Room.
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Supreme Court Says "No" To Vouchers.... For Now

The United States Supreme Court has just delt a blow to those in favor of school vouchers:
The Supreme Court refused Monday to take up the issue of school choice in Maine, where a state law bars the use of public funds to send students to private religious schools.

The case could have provided a platform for a court battle over school choice and the separation of church and state.

In Maine, school districts in 145 small towns with no high schools provide tuition for 17,000 students to attend high schools of their choice, public or private, in-state or out-of-state. But religious schools are not on the list.

No one involved in the case expressed surprise at the Supreme Court's refusal to consider the issue.

"At least we can say we tried everything possible to fight for the right of school choice," said Jill Guay of Minot, one of the eight parents who joined the lawsuit. Guay's oldest daughter graduated from St. Dominic Regional High School in Auburn, where her younger daughter is now a freshman.

She said Maine's tuition statute does not make sense because the tuition at her daughters' Catholic high school is less than at Poland Regional High School, which many Minot students attend with taxpayer money.

Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe said this was the third time the Supreme Court refused to take up a case challenging Maine's tuition statute.

"The Supreme Court's refusal to take the case today leaves the law courts and the Anderson case standing," said Rowe, referring to the original case, Kevin and Julia Anderson v. Durham School Department.

The conservative Institute for Justice, which represented the Maine families, asked the Supreme Court to take the case after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the controversial tuition law last spring.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and President Bush's home state of Texas weighed in, saying in filings with the Supreme Court that the state of Maine is unconstitutionally discriminating against religion.

Vouchers are championed by the president. Many conservatives call them a ticket out of dismal and dangerous public schools, while champions of public education say vouchers divert already scarce resources from a system badly in need of repair.

Last April, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that restrictions on tuition vouchers are a valid, constitutional enactment. The Maine court relied on a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a Washington state college scholarship program prohibiting the use of scholarship funds for pursuit of a devotional theology degree.

In asking the Supreme Court to take the case, the Maine families cited the court's 2002 decision allowing the use of public funds in inner-city Cleveland to underwrite tuition at private or parochial schools.

The state of Maine's tuition system goes back to 1879 when nearly all private schools in the state were religious.

But in 1980, the state attorney general said the program violated the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause. The Maine Legislature made that view law in 1983. Since then, Maine families have contested the restriction several times.

The Supreme Court's latest decision puts an end to further court cases, both sides agreed.

Clark Neily, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, said although there is no further legal recourse for the Maine families, the issue is being played out across the country and another similar case could wind up before the Supreme Court in the next several years.
We disagree with the newspaper's assessment that the Supreme Court's refusal to review the case "puts an end to further court cases" regarding school vouchers.

To the contrary.

By not reviewing the case and issuing a definitive opinion one way or the other, the Court has left open the door to further litigation for years to come
Carnival of Education submissions are due today. See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Extra Credit Reading: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

As it's Science Tuesday, we humbly submit for your approval Diane Ravitch's in-depth look at our students' disappointing performance in science on standardized assessments as well as her call for improved access to better science instruction for all students but more especially from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Is controversial California
school board member Steve Rocco a realist who cuts to the chase or is he simply a certifiable whack job? (See certifiable backstory here and there.)

Three "counter-recruiters" (people who actively discourage enlistment by young people in the military) dropped in on a high school campus in Homer, Alaska, earlier this year to pass-out anti-recruiting flyers. Asked to leave, they declined and were subsequently arrested and charged with trespassing. It looks as though the case of the "Homer Three" has now reached its conclusion.

Ouch! For every 100 ninth-graders, only 18 will enter college and finish within six years. Two-thirds of college students must now borrow money to pay for their education while the average student-loan debt for those attending public colleges has jumped to $17,250...
See our latest EduPosts and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 95th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by A History Teacher) are due today. Please email them to: danmcdowell [at] gmail [dot] com . (Or 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 us here at The 'Wonks, 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: American Future took first place with Our Rules of Engagement in Iraq.

Non-Council Entries: Daled Amos got the most votes with Congressman Conyers and Islam.
See our latest EduPosts here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Suspending Disbelief In Oregon

The Art Institute of Portland has apparently expelled student Bob Averill for telling another student that leprechauns and other beings that "live on another energy layer," don't exist:
"I jokingly asked her if she believed in leprechauns. It turns out, she does. They live on another energy layer," Averill wrote in notes to himself later that day. "In the interest of bringing my own view to the discussion, I began to ask her how she knew these things. Again I know all too well that people can be sensitive about their spiritual beliefs, so I was pretty much walking on glass as I did so."

Averill says he wasn't trying to disprove the other student's religious beliefs, but "to convince her not to insist that they were scientifically proven."

The student, apparently offended, complained to the teacher. Averill was called into a meeting that evening, he says, with the Art Institute's dean of education, associate dean, and the dean of student affairs.

According to Averill, he was told the meeting was "because of my altercation with [the other student]." Averill says he pointed out that he'd "only offered a different viewpoint in a discussion that [my classmate] had started."

"They didn't respond well," Averill told the Mercury. "Their mantra was 'no discussing religion in school,' which is fine except that I did not initiate the conversation, she had."
Averill was suspended and then expelled after a judicial hearing that, the school says, focused more on Averill's "belligerent behavior" than on the initial classroom discussion.

According to Averill, school administrators informed him that atheists were not "a protected class of people."

The school has offered to re-admit Averill if he will undergo "psychiatric evaluation."

As for the leprechauns, I'll keep chasing the one who lives over on the next block until I catch him and get 'em to give me his pot 'O gold.
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Extra Credit Reading: Monday, November 27, 2006

Would you believe that there are high school students who don't know any better than to use internet slang in their academic writing? Believe it!

Since today is Math Monday,
we have the skinny on the New Jersey district that issues each and every middle schooler their very own P.D.A. to use in math class.

The battle over the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools has gone international, with dozens of state-run schools in Britain
now incorporating I.D. into their curricula.

Here's an EduShock: when it comes to Chicago's schools, the institutions that earn the highest test scores are those with the largest class sizes.

While size may not matter in Chicago, how on earth can those office-dwelling trolls EduCrats in Los Angeles possibly justify imposing student-to-teacher ratios as high as 60-to-1 in that district's physical education classes? (Ooops! We nearly forgot. NCLB doesn't mandate testing in P.E.-- yet.)
See our latest EduPosts and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The New College Major: "Fat Studies"

Some college students are concentrating on Studying Large:
ASK Sheana Director for a detailed description of herself, and chances are the word fat will come up. It is not uttered with shame or ire or any sense of embarrassment; it’s simply one of the things she is, fat.

“Why should I be ashamed?” said Ms. Director, 22, a graduate student in women’s studies at San Diego State University, who wields the word with both defiance and pride, the way the gay community uses queer. “I’m fat. So what?”

During her sophomore year at Smith College, Ms. Director attended a discussion on fat discrimination: the way the super-sized are marginalized, the way excessive girth is seen as a moral failing rather than the result of complicated factors. But the academic community, she felt, didn’t really give the topic proper consideration. She decided to do something about it.

In December 2004, she helped found the organization Size Matters, whose goal was to promote size acceptance and positive body image. In April, the group sponsored a conference called Fat and the Academy, a three-day event at Smith of panel discussions and performances by academics, researchers, activists and artists. Nearly 150 people attended.

Even as science, medicine and government have defined obesity as a threat to the nation’s health and treasury, fat studies is emerging as a new interdisciplinary area of study on campuses across the country and is gaining interest in Australia and Britain. Nestled within the humanities and social sciences fields, fat studies explores the social and political consequences of being fat.
For most scholars of fat, though, it is not an objective pursuit. Proponents of fat studies see it as the sister subject — and it is most often women promoting the study, many of whom are lesbian activists — to women’s studies, queer studies, disability studies and ethnic studies. In many of its permutations, then, it is the study of a people its supporters believe are victims of prejudice, stereotypes and oppression by mainstream society.

Read the
whole meaty thing.

I wonder if some EduCrat someplace will invent a new requirement that all students in teacher-training programs must take one or more courses in Obesity Science?
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Talking Military Matters To Fifth Graders

Michigan fifth grade teacher Jack Bauer invited his friend U.S. Army Sergeant Bob Wentworth to the classroom to discuss with students the military's role in today's current affairs:
Chapelle Elementary School teacher Jack Bauer hopes his fifth-graders aren't burdened with worries about the war in Iraq, because after all, they are kids.

At the same time, Bauer wants to ensure that his students are aware of the world around them and have an understanding of events that impact Americans.

That's why Bauer asked family friend and serviceman Bob Wentworth to visit fifth-graders from his class and another one Nov. 16. Wentworth, a sergeant in the 303rd Company of the 783rd Military Police Battalion, served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and has volunteered to serve in Iraq.

Current events are a part of Bauer's class curriculum, but while reading youth news magazines with his students, Bauer got the impression they didn't know that much about the war in Iraq.

"I thought I would bring (Wentworth) in and let them meet somebody so they could make a connection between what's going on here and what's going on over there,'' Bauer said. "I just thought it would be a really good thing for them to talk to him.''

Wentworth answered questions for about an hour, ranging from what was going on in Iraq and why he had chosen to volunteer, to how heavy his armor is and how the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay treated him.

Bauer said his students were excited by the presentation.

"Different kids were excited about different things. Some liked his uniform, some liked his tattoos. Some liked his message and some of them liked to hear him talk about the size of the guns he shoots and stuff like that,'' Bauer said.

Wentworth was one of 14 friends who served together and volunteered for a tour in Iraq.

"We became real close friends and decided that if one of us was going, we weren't going to let him go without everybody else,'' Wentworth said. "We'll all be together. In fact, 90 percent of us will be in the same platoon. My two best friends in the Army are in my squad.''

Wentworth pursued a career in law enforcement before joining the Army Reserves, and said while he is unsure about what he'll do upon leaving the Army, he's in no hurry to quit his job.

"I enjoy what I do right now,'' Wentworth said. "I enjoy defending the country and fighting for it. As messed as things are in our own country, and as much as we like to police the world, it's a great place to work. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.''

Wentworth's main points to the children were about the Army's role in defending the freedom of Americans, which he told the children was his favorite part about the job, and the fact that even though it can be fun to talk about weapons, guns should never be treated as toys.

The class prepared questions for Wentworth so each student could pose a different one, and they provided many relevant topics for discussion.

"We talked about where Iraq is in the world, and also Afghanistan,'' Bauer said. "We talked about how it wasn't a war where we had to talk about being attacked here, but it was more of a war to help their government start up a democracy.''

To continue the connection established during the visit, Bauer has arranged for the class to send letters and e-mail to Wentworth while he serves in Iraq. Although he warned the kids about his busy schedule and the likely delay in his responses, Wentworth promised to return as many e-mails as possible, and to share the letters with fellow soldiers who might also write back.

"I think now when they see a news report on the TV and they see the soldiers walking through the streets, they're going to say, 'Wow, that guy that was in my class is there,''' Bauer said. "They will make that connection.''
Down here in California's rural "Imperial" Valley, there is a strong military presence that stems from a nereby naval air facility. The base hosts the navy's elite Blue Angels precision flying group each winter.

Large numbers of our young people here in the "Valley" choose to enlist in the military following high school
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Extra Credit Reading: Sunday, November 26, 2006

Desirous of restoring civility to America's classrooms, Iowa Professor Delaney Kirk offers some sound common-sense advice that students, parents, teachers, and especially school administrators, would do very well to make a study of. (It would be interesting to get a hold of a copy of her book, Taking Back the Classroom.)

In an effort to avoid "boring" assignments, middle and high school teachers are often encouraged mandated by school administrators to give "creative assignments" that foster "critical thinking" by students who often have less-than positive attitudes toward school and school work. Check out the
three stages of student unaccountability even though teachers are now held (by NCLB) wholly accountable for student effort and performance. (Via Joanne Jacobs)

We here at The 'Wonks
like to keep an eye on U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. It's been brought to our attention that we're not the only ones in the EduSphere, as the L.A. Time's EduBlog School Me! has also been keeping close track of The Queen of All Testing the globe-trotting (and lately here) Ms. Spellings.

Our Red Apple Salute goes to San Francisco's Dr. Martin Holland, who
quit his prestigious job with the University of California in order volunteer for service as a U.S. Navy surgeon.

From our "Truth is Stranger Than Fiction Department" we have the weird case of the Florida woman who apparently died due to a fatal encounter with a bookcase
See our latest EduPosts and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Parenthood In America: Daddies Optional?

Some 4 in 10 babies in the United States are now born out-of-wedlock, setting a new record:
Out-of-wedlock births in the United States have climbed to a record, accounting for nearly 4 in 10 babies born last year, government health officials said yesterday.

While out-of-wedlock births have long been associated with teen mothers, the teenage birth rate in fact dropped last year, to the lowest level on record.

Instead, births among unwed mothers rose most dramatically among women in their 20s.

The overall rise reflected the burgeoning number of people who are putting off marriage or are living together without getting married.

The increase in births to unwed mothers was seen in all racial groups, but it rose most sharply among Hispanics. It was up among all age groups, except for those aged 10 to 17.

"A lot of people think of teenagers and unmarried mothers synonymously, but they are not driving this," said Stephanie Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics, a coauthor of the report.

The government also reported that the rate of births by caesarean delivery continued to climb in 2005, to a record high -- despite efforts by public health authorities to bring down that number.

About 4.1 million babies were born in the United States last year, up slightly from 2004. More than 1.5 million of those were to unmarried women, about 37 percent of the total. In 2004, about 36 percent of births were out of wedlock.

Out-of-wedlock births have been rising since the late 1990s.

Dr. Yolanda Wimberly of Atlanta's Morehouse School of Medicine said "it's more acceptable in society."
We think that when folks choose to have babies without daddies, it does the children a terrible disservice.

All children really need two parents, but the absence of good male role-models in the home is particularly damaging to inner-city boys from lower socio-economic households
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Extra Credit Reading: Saturday, November 25, 2006

An Indiana school district has been forced by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop allowing its buildings to be used for during-school-hours Bible classes.

After what happened with this bonehead, the Redwood City, California Unified School District needs to really take a hard look at the people who they employ as substitute teachers.

When it comes to financial aid for college, are the children of the rich squeezing-out students from middle class and working families?
See our latest EduPosts and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Merit Pay Chronicles: A Model For The Office Set?

When it comes to merit pay in public schools, they're going to try something new in Chicago: performance-based compensation for school administrators:
Cost-of-living increases are a thing of the past for more than 1,300 administrative employees at the Chicago Public Schools because of a new merit pay system that is virtually unheard of for public employees.

Starting next year, all non-union employees in the district's central and area offices will receive raises based solely on annual reviews and whether they met performance goals.

Typically, central office staff piggyback on the union contracts and get the same annual raises and benefits as teachers. But this year, administrative employees paid more than $40,000 had their salaries frozen to shave $4.5 million off the district's deficit.

"You shouldn't get a raise just because you've been around another year. I don't think that makes sense," said schools chief Arne Duncan. "What we're really trying to do is reward people for doing a great job."

The move is about creating accountability, officials say, but won't necessarily save the district money. In fact, an administrative reorganization triggered pay hikes for some 88 employees downtown that will cost the district about $558,000 this year.

That's because the district created salary ranges for every category of non-union employees working in central office and area offices, based on their job responsibilities rather than their titles. The raises went to 88 employees considered underpaid, and ranged from $474 extra for a sports coordinator to $28,500 more for a data analyst. Seventeen administrative employees, many of them middle managers or technology employees, received raises of more than $10,000.

On the flip side, 85 district employees were considered overpaid based on their responsibilities. Their salaries will not be lowered, but will be frozen indefinitely. They include a secretary being paid $91,000 and nine "attendance coordinators" getting more than $80,000 annually.

The approval of the merit compensation program comes just weeks after the district was awarded a $27.5 million federal grant to create a performance pay system for teachers in 40 schools during the next five years. The grant money will be spent to reward teachers in hard-to-staff schools and those whose students show big gains on state tests.

Also in line for sizable bonuses this year are the district's 22 area instructional officers, who act as regional superintendents directly overseeing 20 to 30 schools each. These administrators could qualify for bonuses of $10,000 or more if their schools improve and if they are successful in grooming top-notch principals to succeed those who retire.

A number of urban school districts have created merit pay programs, but none thus far has eliminated automatic raises for non-union employees, said Henry Duvall, a spokesman for the Council of Great City Schools, which represents 66 of the nation's largest urban districts.

"This would be new, as far as being the first merit-only plan," Duvall said. "But this seems to be the wave of the future. This is something the big-city districts are working toward, accountability on the business side as well as the academic side."
In the over twelve years that I've taught in our mid-sized school district here in California's "Imperial" Valley, classroom teachers have never received any sort or "cost-of-living" increase even though the district's revenues are automatically increased each year to keep pace with inflation.

Whenever there has been an increase (and there has been no increase in take-home pay in over 5 years) it's always referred to by the district's administrators as a "pay raise" and is always tied to increased duties and performance expectations.

As for Chicago's administrative merit-pay scheme, we can't help but wonder if in a city that is notorious for its political corruption, will this end-up being merit pay for Those of Merit or simply subjectively-given windfalls for the Sinecured Set?
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Extra Credit Reading: Friday, November 24, 2006

Under the mandates of the federally-imposed No Child Left Behind Act, schools and their staffs are held 100% accountable for student performance even though parents and students share none of the responsibility for their own success. From Austin, Texas, we have grim confirmation of the preceeding statement: 98% of students who need tutoring won't show-up for it, even though this extra help costs the parents nothing.

Here's an interesting concept that's going to be closely scrutinized across the EduWorld: In Chicago's public school system, school administrators will receive pay increases based upon their performance. (In a city notorious for its political corruption, will this end-up being merit pay for Those of Merit or subjectively-given windfalls for the Sinecured Set?)

"How has NCLB negatively affected your school or district?" That's the question posed by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in a poll. They are also looking for your comments concerning this landmark federal mandate. (Via Education Sector)

In the British school system, bullies are now out-of-control. Even the teachers are now being sexually harassed and bullied by these students vicious thugs-in-training. (As is the case here in the U.S., we bet that if law makers sent their children to the very school system that they oversee, the quality of the education would improve. Instead, many of the politically powerful in Britain send their offspring to exclusive high schools (called "colleges") such as this, while many of the American elite send theirs to institutions such as this and that. The result is that politicos on both sides of the Atlantic exempt their own from the disastrous policies that they impose on an unsuspecting public.)
See our latest EduPosts and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Students Making A Mockery Of Racial Preferences

A group of Boston Univesity students wanted to stir things up by offering a scholarship for "whites only." They succeeded:
Boston University's Republican students group has started a scholarship for white students, to spark debate about race-based programs.

"We are trying to convey the absurdity of any race-based scholarship," said Joseph Mroszczyk, a senior from Danvers who is president of the university's College Republicans. "I don't think race should be part of any scholarship. It should be based on merit or economic need."

The $250 scholarship, which will be funded by the chapter and will do little to meet the university's base tuition of $33,330, has ignited a debate on campus about whether it is the right way to address views on race-based scholarships and affirmative action.

Kenneth Elmore, BU's dean of students, said in a statement that the scholarship goes against the university's goal of increasing diversity on campus. He agreed the issue of race-based programs is worthy of debate, but questioned the group's approach.

"It appears to me that they're trying to push a debate as it relates to affirmative action and American society," Elmore said. "I want students to know that I encourage debate and will help students foster creative debate around the university. I hope the College Republicans and other students will try to do the same."

The scholarship requires the recipient to be at least one quarter white and to have at least a 3.2 grade point average. Applicants have to submit a photo of themselves and write two short essays about their race. The first question asks applicants to describe their ancestry and the other, what it means to be a Caucasian-American today.

A note in the three-page application explains that the scholarship has been created to shine a spotlight on racial preferences, calling it one of the worst forms of bigotry in America. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in the fall of 2005, among BU students, 2.6 percent were black, non-Hispanic; 5.3 percent were Hispanic; 11.9 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander; 0.3 percent were American Indian or Alaskan native; and 53.4 percent were white, non-Hispanic. Of the university's students, 67 percent received financial aid.

The note also says race-based scholarships and other affirmative action policies send a message to members of minority groups that they are inferior and require special accommodations to be raised to the same level as others.

"Did we do this to give a scholarship to white kids?" the note concludes. "Of course not. Did we do it to trigger a discussion on what we believe to be a morally wrong practice of basing decisions in our schools and our jobs on racial preferences rather than merit? Absolutely."

Brian Dodge, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said the state party did not endorse the scholarship. "Their actions are misguided and offensive," he said.
Read page two here.

The students may have accomplished their goal to "trigger a discussion," but what ideas do they offer to make first-tier schools (such as Boston University) more accessable to folks from all races and socio-economic backgrounds?
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Extra Credit Reading: Thursday, November 23, 2006

Now this is one smart kid: He's gone nuclear in his basement.

Since today is Thanksgiving, we couldn't help but wonder how our favorite holiday is being taught in Today's Forward-Thinking Classroom: Was it all about the Pilgrims and the Indians? Or t'was it the other way around?

In a major showdown involving an episode of "voting until they get it right," the Boston teachers union and their employers are at loggerheads over the conversion of a traditional elementary campus into a public charter school.

The Wanker of the Day Award is shared by...Susan Ross and her husband John. These two people have been charged with stealing millions of dollars from kids in Utah with a scheme to sell illegally photocopied textbooks to students. (In one case, they were billing a school district $93.00 for a book that was selling at stores for $13.22.)

A group of Florida teenagers got together over at a friend's house. One thing led to another and one of them ended-up being stuffed into the trunk of a car. The police were called, and they responded with guns drawn... and now there's red-faces all 'round the town.

Some 96 schools have been closed due to arson and insurgent attacks.... in Thailand.
See our latest EduPosts and yesterday's Carnival of Education.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Carnival Of Education: Week 94

Welcome to the 94th edition of The Carnival Of Education! We are delighted that the Midway has returned home.

This week's collection of exhibits from around the EduSphere represents a very wide variety of political and educational viewpoints.

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 over at What It's Like on the Inside. Links are much appreciated and never-to-be-forgotten. Visit the Carnival's archives here and see our latest EduPosts there.

Next Week's Carnival midway will be hosted by Dan over at A History Teacher. Please send contributions to: danmcdowell [at] gmail [dot] com , or use this handy submission form. History Teacher should receive them no later than 8:00 PM (Eastern) 5:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, November 28th. 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 a submission that's sure to provoke thought and fierce debate, The Voltage Gate considers methods that may be employed
in order to introduce Darwin's Theory of Evolution to students at the elementary level.

Next week's Carnival host A History Teacher asks
a great question: In our rush to fulfill the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, are teachers leaving Great Lessons behind as well?

Joanne Jacobs
has the news that EduDonors are looking to increase their support of community colleges. But so far, performance hasn't matched expectations when it comes to the percentage of community college students who are able to transfer to four-year schools in order to earn an advanced degree. What can be done to improve the C.C.s effectiveness?

The victory of the Democrats in the recent Congressional elections continues to be the source of much navel-gazing across the political spectrum. It will also soon begin to influence EduPolicy. Alexander Russo's This Week in Education
has the scoop on the makeup of the Senate's Education Committee, which features three of the heaviest hitters of the Political Left.

Closing campuses is almost always controversial. But The Essential Blog, which is the EduSphere voice of The Coalition of Essential Schools, wonders why the City of New York
wants to close six of it's more successful schools... On a related note, check-out NYC Educator's "transcript" of a recent press conference by New York City's mayor Michael Bloomberg as he "explains" the need to close some of that city's schools.

Adrian Fenty, the newly-elected mayor of Washington D.C,
has already run amok into multiple EduControversies. Among the bones of contention: mayoral power-grab control and accountability for D.C.'s public schools.

The title of this entry by Friends of Dave says it all:
Talking Alone Won't Close Achievement Gaps.

In Texas, it appears as though the powers-that-be are about to require that high school students take more math and science in order to graduate. Presumably, it's to increase the percentage of students who pass that state's "high stakes" test. But, as is so often the case in the EduWorld,
appearances can be deceiving....

Public education in Texas is the subject yet again in this entry from District 299 that illustrates some of the "creative" techniques that are used in order to
exempt students from that state's testing requirements.

Humbly submitted for your consideration is
our entry, which is about school districts that have money to spend but no students to teach.

From The Classroom:

I don't think that there is a teacher out there who hasn't had a kid come up to him or her and ask, "How can I improve my grade?" Ms. Cornelius of A Shrewdness of Apes
gives us the skinny on what students should and should not ask of their teachers.

As Israeli teacher Muse
demonstrates, American teachers aren't the only educators who've had to deal with cell phones in the classroom.

Teaching in the Twenty-First Century
lets us take a peek inside the classroom during a high school history lesson. Even though the topic of the lesson may have been the presidential election of 1800, the methods used to debate and discuss the event were thoroughly modern.

3σ → Left has the latest in
a long-line of excuses offered by irresponsible parents who only hurt their kids by rationalizing the irrational.

Teaching and Learning:

Would it be logical to teach logic to second graders? We think that it would, and so does Ken DeRosa's D-Ed Reckoning, who shows us
one logical technique.

What role should student projects play in a child's overall school experience? This
highly readable entry from What It's Like on the Inside sure gives both parents and teachers some meaty food for thought.

As one might guess from the name of the site, Text Savvy is very concerned about the effectiveness of student texts. In a
recent entry, Savvy cautions textbook writers and users about making the learning path for students too "trouble free" does not increase readers' recall of the material. (Some may need to scroll down in order to view the post.)

Here's a cute poem that'll
help students of all ages remember how to divide fractions.

Anyone who has ever spent any time at all in the classroom already know that children are
a lot more perceptive than many adults think.

The Secret Lives of Teachers:

Prepare to have your heart stings pulled. Then read
this gripping post by Mamacita of Scheiss Weekly. Next, read that post. (Background: Melpomene was the Greek Muse of Tragedy.) Take a look at this sample:
In schools, there have always been tornado drills. As with the fire drills, intruder drills, atomic attack drills (put your history book in front of your face and get under your desk and you’ll be all right), tornado drills have become a joke with many students. Whenever the alarm for any kind of drill sounded, the teacher had to grab his/her gradebook and march the students to wherever they were supposed to go, depending on what kind of drill it was, that day. Sometimes the firemen grabbed a student and hid him, to see if the teacher was really keeping track of who was there and who wasn’t.

Tornado drills sent our students out into the halls, to get down on their elbows and knees, heads against the lockers, hands clasped on the backs of their heads, asses raised high. The teachers’ job was to keep the giggling down and to keep the students from raising their heads and getting a good look at this admittedly giggle-inducing sight. Oh, and to stand between the huge plate-glass window and the students.

As a teacher, I must confess that I never took tornado drills very seriously. My mindset was as juvenile as any 8th grader’s mindset: tornadoes occurred far away, and affected strangers. We read about them in the paper the next day, felt sorry for the people, and the Beta club sent shoeboxes of stuff to the Red Cross in that area. Far away. Strangers. Asses in the air. A long, long row of multi-sized asses raised high in the air and wiggling. It was hilarious.

One day, in 1991, my entire attitude changed.

All that day at school, the weather outside had been strange. It alternated between pouring rain, blinding sunshine, a little hail, and some more rain. Springtime hail is a bad, bad sign, by the way. The sky was streaked with black and white and red, and the very air seemed orange. We had a tornado drill, just to remind us all that it was spring in southern Indiana, and the weather outside was frightful, and to be inside was so delightful...
With all the hubbub of Thanksgiving now in full swing, Carol of The Median Sib gives us a good reminder of why it is exactly that YOUNG women are the ones who are best suited to have babies and keep up with 'em. (Disc. We think that "young" is a relative term that depends on when, where, and with WHO...)

Mister Teacher has an idea that we wish that we had thought of: A teacher's
top-ten listing of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

International Viewpoints:

It was surprising to learn that in Canada, the
costs of a college education are as nearly out-of-control as they are for us down here in the states.

There has been much debate recently over students wearing uniforms in public schools. Over in England, where just about every student wears some sort of uniform, the Britishers blogging over at The Sharpener take
a surprising viewpoint.


Trivium Pursuit
comments on and links to an effort to break a world record for the number of people reading aloud the same passage at the same time in multiple locations. (Disc. The effort seems to be related to the release of the upcoming movie based upon Charlotte's Web.)

Higher Education:

What's to be done when a university cancels a course and is slow about returning the money? Parent Joh
is learning all about how slow the EduCracy can move when it comes to cash.

The Collegiate Way
is announcing that there is a new take on those electronic "book recommenders." It's called the "book UnSuggester."

And finally: This, like most of our journeys 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, yesterday's Extra Credit Reading here, and the complete Carnival archives over there.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is This How EduCorruption Smells?

If true, this story will likely end the careers of several employees of one large southern California school district and may blow the lid off of even larger levels of corruption:
To get proper schooling for their severely autistic son, an Irvine couple say they were forced to shower employees at his elementary school with diamond jewelry, Coach bags, Chanel perfume and other lavish gifts worth a total of $100,000, according to a legal claim filed this month.

Thomas Lin, a pediatrician, and his wife, Liya, a homemaker, also bought and furnished a condo that a teacher's newlywed daughter and husband lived in rent-free for a year before moving out with the furniture, according to the claim filed Nov. 2 against the Irvine Unified School District and the Orange County Department of Education.

"It was a nightmare for a long time," said Liya Lin, who, on her attorney's advice, declined to comment further.

County Supt. of Education William M. Habermehl said he was told the Lins were not pressured to give gifts in exchange for educating their now 7-year-old son, who could not speak and was not toilet-trained, but said county education officials had launched an investigation.

Teachers can't accept gifts more lavish than the typical flowers, candy or Starbucks gift cards, Habermehl said. "There should never be a situation where parents feel like they have to give."

Irvine Unified officials declined to comment.

In fall 2004, at least 15 private schools rejected the Lins' son, Jonathan, who was briefly enrolled in a county-run classroom, said Lynne Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Lins' attorney, Paul M. Roberts.

Arnold said Liya Lin gave Nancy Melgares, the district's special-education director, a $875 Gucci purse in hopes of getting her son into special-education classes at Canyon View Elementary School in Irvine.

The Lins, immigrants from Taiwan, contend that what began as gestures of goodwill common in their native country soon spiraled out of control.

According to their claim, school and district faculty coerced them into buying extravagant presents, including St. John outfits, $1,000 gift certificates from Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's, a $700 dinner at the Four Seasons hotel, $500 a month in pastries for the school, and a "priceless" jade bracelet considered a family heirloom.

Arnold said that when Liya Lin's gift-giving waned, their son's care appeared to deteriorate. School employees "started getting more aggressive with her — calling her, telling her what they wanted" for gifts, Arnold said.

Those who received gifts sent the Lins thank-you cards, a dozen of which are included in their claim. One, from Jonathan's special-education teacher, Nancy Wilson, reads: "I love the jacket and coat! Wow!!" The coat and pearl necklace "will look so wonderful together! The gift card was such a wonderful surprise! You are so amazingly generous."

On the card's front is a heart and the phrase "The best things in the world aren't things."

Wilson, the claim says, also persuaded the Lins to buy an Irvine condo for her daughter and new husband, who lived there for a year without paying rent.

Another of Wilson's adult children asked the Lins for a $100,000 business loan, suggesting that they drum up the money by borrowing against their home, the claim says. Though the Lins refused that and another request for $1 million to start a business, the claim says, they tried to patch up their relationship with the teacher by giving her $2,000 in gift certificates.

Wilson said Thursday that the district had told her not to comment. The other employees named in the complaint didn't return phone calls. They are Melgares; Jan Benner, a program specialist; and therapists Laura Biggerstaff and Darla Bethke.

The gifts stopped when the Lins confided in a friend, who guided them to an attorney, Arnold said. The couple pulled Jonathan out of Canyon View in June to educate him at home.

"I can't think of a parent who wouldn't sell their right arm to help their child," said National Autism Assn. spokesman Scott Bono. "If this is true, to have parents put over the barrel and take advantage of them, it's just despicable."
Get a comprehensive list of the alleged loot on the second page.

If true, this type of behavior on the part of public school employees anywhere is simply inexcusable. It's the sort of thing that should earn the perpetrators a nearly-automatic Darwin Award in Education.

Interestingly, County Superintendent Habel said, "Teachers can't accept gifts more lavish than the typical flowers, candy or Starbucks gift cards."

Heh. We can't help but wonder why Habel chose to say "teachers" rather than "employees." Could he be leaving the door open for some other hidden and possibly nefarious purpose?

Mortarboard Tip: Venemous Kate's Electric Venom
Carnival of Education entries are due today. See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Your Participation Is Both Invited And Rewarded!

The University of California (Santa Barbara campus) is actively seeking K-12 teachers and school administrators who are willing to take a few minutes online to evaluate an "instructional module" designed to show how "to use test results effectively and explain them to students, parents, the school board, and the press."

Participants will view a Web-based presentation (25 minutes) and take a short background survey (about 5-10 minutes) and an anonymous Web-based assessment literacy quiz (about 15-20 minutes).

Participants will receive a $15 (electronic) gift certificate. For additional information, please contact Liz Alix at or 805-893-2502 or go and visit the project
See our latest EduPosts and this date's Extra Credit Reading.

Extra Credit Reading: Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is it EduFraud or a horrible case of Fuzzy Math Gone Wild? In Florida, 1000s of students have gone missing!

The recent electoral defeat sustained by the G.O.P. continues to be the inspiration for quite of bit of navel-gazing on both sides of the aisle. Democrat Martin Frost, who is a former U.S. Congressman and is current Fox News Channel contributor, represents his party's view on the proposed renewal of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Meanwhile, America's EduCrat-in-Chief Margaret Spellings and Friends continue their taxpayer-funded sight-seeing junket goodwill tour of China, Korea, Japan, and other points in the Far East.

In the nation's capital, superintendent of schools Clifford B. Janey wants to relocate his administrative headquarters in order to actually save money. Instead of being on the receiving end of praise, he finds himself in a controversy.

Edspresso presents a roundup which shows us why those who favor school choice have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Heh. Did you know that childhood obesity begins in the womb?

From the people who brought us those numismatic failures the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollar coins, we'll soon have an entire set of dollar coins that won't circulate either. (When will those boneheads bureaucrats over at the U.S. mint finally learn that when it comes to coins, size does matter: folks don't want dollar coins that are the size of quarters! They're just too easy to spend by mistake...)

With a new movie about the assassination of Robert Kennedy to be released on Thursday, I thought it somewhat odd to learn that construction has just started on a school that is to be built on the site of the Ambassador Hotel, where the crime was committed.
Carnival of Education entries are due today. See our latest EduPosts here and yesterday's Extra Credit Reading there.