Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Knucklehead Of The Day

I guess the name of the alleged perpetrator was withheld to protect the stupid guilty:
PITTSBURGH -- A local mother is outraged after a teacher allegedly gave her 14-year-old daughter a sexually explicit poem.

It's called "How Do You Make Love to a Black Woman?"

The Murray Accelerated Learning Academy teacher reportedly gave the student the poem after class.

The poem includes graphic language.

The student's mother said, "I'm outraged. I'm hurt. She's hurt that this can go on at an elementary school. It’s sad."

The mother, who is not being identified, confronted the teacher and the principal when her daughter showed her the poem.

The teacher is suspended with pay while the district investigates.
Maybe the powers-that-be should add a class in "basic common sense" to the curriculum of America's teacher-education programs.
See our latest EduPosts.



The 108th edition of The Carnival of Education (hosted this week by Dr. Homeslice) has opened-up this week's roundup of exhibits from throughout the EduSphere.

For extra EduCredit, see what the homies are up to over at this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.
See our latest EduPosts.


Today's Non Sequitur

And I thought that only stupid spoiled slutty young would-be American "artistes" such as the lamentable Paris Hilton and that possibly certainly certifiable whackjob Britney Spears boasted of going knickerless in public.

Veteran British actress Helen Mirren
has proven that notion to be incorrect.

Didn't someone once mention that our Transatlantic Cousins were supposed to have better manners if not better tastes?
See our latest EduPosts.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Giving Homework The Heave-Ho

One San Francisco-area elementary is radically re-thinking homework:
A Menlo Park elementary school is saying no to homework for some of its students. The kids, and most parents and teachers like the idea.

First graders spend a good six hours a day doing school work -- what they do after school should not include homework. That's the decision made last October by the principal of Oak Knoll Elementary.

David Ackerman, Oak Knoll Principal: "I had been hearing stories from families about what it was doing to family life, and the kid's schedules being over-scheduled, and we as a staff had been reading the research about homework."

A University of Missouri study found high school students benefit tremendously from homework -- in middle school, the results were half as good. But on the elementary school level, the same study found homework had no effect on students.

Deborah Stipek, Dean Of Stanford University School of Education: "One of the problems I see with homework is that it is often one size fits all. It may be good for three or four kids, and other kids struggle with it, and other kids are bored to death with it, because they already know that stuff."

Not all homework at Oak Knoll has been axed -- for example, third graders will still practice their multiplication tables at home.

Joan von der Lindan is a teacher, at first she questioned the new policy, but now believes less is best.

Joan von der Lindan, teacher: "If we are going to work hard in class, the kids, like teachers need to have downtime as well."

Ackerman says the majority of the parents have been supportive. But Louise Gaffney remembers when her older kids had lots of homework.

Louise Gaffney, parent: "When they graduated from high school they were definitely prepared for college, extremely prepared."

Still, Ackerman says other districts have contacted him and are now rethinking their homework policy.
Oak Knoll principal David Ackerman shares some other thoughts over there.

Our district, which is located in California's so-called "Imperial" Valley, has adopted a "homework policy" which directs that students in grades 1-8 should receive no more than an hour's worth of homework four days per week.

As for the weekend, the assigning of homework is "not recommended."
See our latest EduPosts.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 108th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by Dr. Homeslice) are due today. Please email them to: drhomeslice [at] hotmail [dot] com . (Or, easier yet, use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 9:00 PM (Eastern), 6:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible.

Visit last week's midway, hosted by History is Elementary, right here.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the exhibits should open Wednesday.
See our latest EduPosts.

The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

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

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

Council Member Entries: Right Wing Nut House took first place with A Rock, a Hard Place, and the Deep Blue Sea.

Non-Council Entries: Former Council member Cross-Currents garnered the most votes with Islamist Historiography.
See our latest EduPosts.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Making Motion But Making Little Progress

Joanne Jacobs:
High school seniors’ reading proficiency didn’t improve from 2002 to 2005 and declined from 1992 to 2005, according to the new Nation’s Report Card from NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). In math, less than a quarter of students tested as proficient in 2005. Since 1992, the percentage of 12th graders reading at or above the basic level has slipped from 80 percent to 73 percent; the percentage at or above proficiency declined from 40 to 35 percent.

The 2005 math scores couldn’t be compared to previous years because the exam “includes more questions on algebra, data analysis, and probability to reflect changes in high school mathematics standards and coursework.” In 2005, 61 percent of seniors performed at or above the basic level; 23 percent performed at or above proficient.

Remember that many low achievers have dropped out by 12th grade. These are scores for students who’ve stuck it out. There’s a reason education reformers are focusing on high schools. We’re in trouble.
Read the whole thing.

Why are so many high school students doing so poorly?

Certainly much of the problem lies with under-performing institutions, but how much responsibility for this failure should be borne by those students who not only disdain education but do their level-best to disturb and disrupt their school's learning environment, thereby depriving other students of their opportunity to obtain an education?

And what about government regulations which continue to tie the hands of teachers and school administrators by not allowing them to remove such disruptive students from mainstream classrooms and place them in the more structured classroom environments that they need?

Food for thought as we venture forth into yet another EduWeek.
See our latest EduPosts.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Let's Carnival!

The 107th edition of The Carnival of Education (hosted this week by History Is Elementary) has opened-up the midway with a variety of exhibits and sideshows from across the EduSphere.

Round-out your Educational Experience by seeing what the homies are up to over at this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.
See our latest EduPosts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Observation On Our EduTimes

Why is it that so many would-be EduReformers (who are so quick to criticise our public schools) would never consider going into a classroom and actually work with children themselves?

We weren't
the first one to notice....

Some of us who do serve children on a daily basis continue to be amazed at the horde large number of non-teaching teaching experts that are out there.

Maybe it would do many of 'em some good if these "armchair educators" went down to their local school district, filled-out an application, and, if nothing else, did a little substitute classroom teaching.

We think that
this person might find such an experience to be particularly entertaining for us to watch enlightening.
See our latest EduPosts.

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 107th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week by History Is Elementary) are due today. Please email them to: historyiselementary [at] yahoo [dot] com . (Or, easier yet, use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than Midnight (Eastern), 9:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible.

Visit last week's midway, hosted by us here at The 'Wonks, right here.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the exhibits should open Wednesday.
See our latest EduPosts.

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: Bookworm Room took first place with San Francisco Has Bigger Scandals Than a Debauched Mayor.

Non-Council Entries: Former Council member Gates of Vienna garnered the most votes with Flagrant Evil.
See our latest EduPosts.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Wonkitorial Comment: New York's Santa Spitzer

New York's governor Eliot Spitzer is promising some $1.5 billion in additional funding for that state's troubled school system.

Actually, the $1.5 is the first installment of a projected increase of $7.0 billion over the next four years.

It's just too bad that Santa Governor Spitzer doesn't also address a basic, more fundamental problem that needs to be solved before New York's schools can make the sort of progress that is mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act: the problem of millions that are already being wasted on out-of-control schools which are all-too-often filled with disruptive and defiant students who not only refuse to even attempt to make an effort to learn but do their level best to deny other children their right to a free and appropriate public education.

Not only do such ineffective schools hurt our children, they're a shameful waste of the taxpayers' money.
See our latest EduPosts.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Carnival Of Education: Week 106

Welcome to the 106th edition of The Carnival Of Education! We are delighted that the Midway has returned home.

This Valentine's Day collection of exhibits from around the EduSphere represents a very wide variety of political and educational viewpoints. Unless clearly labeled otherwise, all entries were submitted by the writers themselves.

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 This Week In Eduction. As always, links to the midway are much appreciated while trackbacks are adored. Visit the Carnival's archives here and see our latest EduPosts there.

Next Week's Carnival midway will be hosted by History Is Elementary. Writers are invited to send contributions to: historyiselementary [at] yahoo [dot] com , or use this handy submission form. Submissions should be received them no later than Midnight (Eastern) 9:00 PM (Pacific) Tuesday, February 20, 2007. 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!


The subject of military recruiters visiting public high schools during school hours has become a subject of controversy in a number of areas around the country. Recently, a number of faculty members at the high school where Ms. Cornelius works received an email from local recruiters asking to visit classrooms.... See what Ms. Cornelius
has to say on the subject. Agree or disagree, your thoughts will be provoked!

Have you ever considered what it means to have a right to an education? An easy concept to consider, but not necessarily so easy to articulate. Consider taking a look at this
well-articulated consideration of this basic human right by Principled Discovery.

New York's governor Eliot Spitzer has shaken things up with his plan to reform those schools that have been labeled as underperforming. Edspresso's guest blogger Whitney Tilson
has the skinny on Sptizer's plan.

The AFT's NCLBlog has
its own take on the touchy subject of teacher evaluation. (Don't miss that last paragraph about the individual who nearly took a job teaching migrant children.... and migrating with them between Florida and Maine.)

sounds the clarion call for A Truer Assessment of Success in Education. (Disc. We can't help but agree with HUN on this one.)

How should elementary schools address the topic of homosexuality? Should they even address it at all? Darren over at Right on the Left Coast
takes a look at one recent incident. (Consider checking out what's going on among the commenters.)

What sort of education did founding father and second President of the United States John Adams receive? And what type would he receive now? Even though it is several months old, we believe that this
thought-provoking contribution by Mike Bock of Alone on a Limb is well-worth a look.

Alexander Russo asks
a good question: If Wal-Mart and a major union can come to an arrangement over health insurance, why can't the National Education Association (NEA) be a bit more open-minded regarding School Choice?

While structuring the post around a set of business-related math "story problems," Rightwingprof
makes his case for the need of students to have a thorough grasp of fundamental reasoning ability over the so-called "critical thinking skills" that are emphasized by the proponents of what has been called, "fuzzy math."

Unions and Collective Bargaining:

Would you believe a round-up of EduPosts related to teachers unions and teacher unionism?
Believe it!

Friends of Dave
asserts that a recent deal struck between C.T.A., (California's largest teachers union) State Superintendent Jack O'Conner, and Governator Governor Schwarzeneggar will benefit the union while doing little or nothing to help the kids.

Inside This Teaching Life:

One of U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings' favorite expressions is, "In God we trust, all others bring data." Over at Line 46,
they succinctly show us what that means to the working public school teacher, while I Thought a Think has been toiling away deep down in the Data Mine.

the names of students been getting more.... unusual lately? (It's comforting to know that we weren't the only ones who've been wondering about that.)

With five instructional days now having been lost due to inclement weather and with test-taking time drawing nigh, Thespis Journal reflects upon
the importance of keeping focused amid the euphoria that many feel when yet another "snow day" is announced.

I can't even begin to think about all of the time and money that I've wasted over the years attending worthless workshops masquerading as "professional development." Connecting the Dots
has a few ideas about what makes for good professional development and how EduBlogging can make a positive impact. Meanwhile, the numerous boneheads non-teaching-teaching-experts who infest inhabit the "professional development industry" have caused teacher Aquiram to ask, "Is Professional Development Necessary?"

Peer-coaching is one of the newer professional development methods that are being implemented around the country in order to help both novice and veteran teachers learn about changing curriculum and its delivery.
See what happens when a Washington science teacher visits a colleague and teaches a lesson. Here's a sample:
Her kids and I rolled marbles down meter sticks and measured distances. The chaos of this---excited children, small moving objects all over the floor, different approaches to taking measurements---was almost more than she could bear. I imagine it's just my temperament and background, but the kind of buzz generated by kids working on something doesn't bother me. "Should I stop them and guide them to the right answer?" she asked.
A colleague of IB a Math Teacher has received a letter from the parent of a child who has been recently diagnosed as having ADHD. Read the letter. What's not being said by the parent?

Who's to blame when the education system doesn't serve the very students that it's designed to help? Polski3 points out that failure is a team effort.

How are students like cactus? Check-out this reader-submitted entry and be pleasantly surprised.

Teaching and Learning:

Dana of Huffenglish has
some tips for teaching Shakespeare's immortal "Romeo and Juliet." (I've always wondered about Juliet's nurse myself...)

Se Hace Camino Al Andar has been thinking about students and writing. Here's a taste
I am painfully aware that my students, my freshmen in particular, have not done nearly enough writing, either low-stakes or high-stakes. Part of it has to do with too-short class periods and trying to squeeze in both reading and writing. I'm reading Anthem with both of my freshmen classes, and they are sharing one class set of the book, so I'm unable to assign outside reading, unless I make copies of the book. Note to self: Next time, use two different but thematically related novels and switch off with the classes. In the meantime, I need develop low-stakes and high-stakes writing assignments or exercises. Along with this, I need class time to model or teach the writing lessons. Low stakes writing exercises are relatively easy to do--it can be incorporated into each day's Do Now or as end of period reflection, in the form of journal entries or responding to a prompt. For Anthem, there are three themes I want to touch upon: individuality, identity and conformity.
Get the rest right here.

One teaching technique that is in wide use is that of "Think, Pair, Share, Write." But here is a new application:
using it in a blog! Student blogging is also on the mind of Barry over at Staring at Empty Pages.

Math teacher jd2718 offers a post with a title that says it all:
Puzzles: How to modify problems - an example while Let's Play Math has the latest Math Quotes of the Week.

Reading specialist Carol of The Median Sib went into a classroom recently in order to give a demonstration lesson and
gives us a refresher on the finer points of reading aloud to students.

Anyone who spends anytime at all working in the classroom soon learns about the challenges that are presented by kids who exhibit symptoms of ADD/ADHD. In a recent interview conducted by Alvaro Fernandez over at the Sharp Brains blog, Professor Bradley Gibson of Notre Dame University
has some thoughts about a working memory training program for kids with attention deficits.

"Reaching" the child with autism is a sublime challenge for any teacher. In a
highly-readable submission, see how one homeschooling parent engages her son's interest through his love of ceiling fans!

Mark Montgomery of Textbook Evaluator has
the latest installment of his ongoing review of Belinda Williams' Closing the Achievement Gap: A Vision for Changing Beliefs and Practices. (We'll leave it to the reader to decide whether Montgomery is a fan or not...)

From The Classroom:

College instructor Mamacita of Scheiss Weekly is showing us the high price that her students
have been paying because so many had teachers that cared so much about hurting their students self-esteem while caring so little about their academic abilities.

With possible murder on her mind, History Geek
would like to know why one rude female student even bothers to come to class.

NYC Educator has been saddled with the type of "new" classroom that would cause most teachers to
pull their hair out in clumps. He has our sympathies.

When you were a kid, did teachers who confiscated illicitly passed notes read them aloud to the class? Some teachers do while others do not. See
what happened when Chanman of Buckhorn Road intercepted a note that featured a student's calling him the "N" word...


It appears as though there may have been
some shenanigans going-on during the run-up to test-taking time in one of Dayton, Ohio's public schools. Scott Elliott of the Dayton Daily New's EduBlog Get on the Bus is pouring daylight on the whole episode. (Be sure to follow the links.)

Of Interest To Parents:

Guidance Counselors aren't just for breakfast struggling students any more but
are for all students.

some advice about instructing one's children in the matter of dollars and cents.

The Psychology of Education
has the lowdown on what the goals of a productive parent-teacher conference ought to be and why many parents and teachers are apprehensive about the encounter.


Issues related to the teaching of the fine arts to homeschooled children
are addressed in this contribution by . (We gotta say that is a catchy name for a blog...) While Sprittibee links to a site that features lesson plans for teaching the fine arts.

Higher Education:

Here are five
six little-known ways to save money on textbooks.

Instead of simply using those infamous "Roots of all academic evil," (otherwise known as Wikipedia and Google) College Stylings
offers some tips on better use of other internet research tools.

The importance of prioritizing one's time is the subject of
a post by Maximizing Four Years: A Practical Guide for the Proactive Student.

If you (or your child) still hasn't applied to college, it may not be too late. (But you've got to hurry!)


OnLine Education DataBase
has ranked the top 25 non-Google non-Yahoo search engines.

Here's a chance
to learn a little Chinese right in the comfort of your home.


On the subject of EduPodCasting: Dan asks,

Valentine's Day In The EduSphere:

High school teacher Ms. SuperScience has written
a few timely verses for her students...

College Way has an unorthodox way of commemorating Valentine's Day while at the College of Your Choice:
distribute a pickup-load of those annoying cute little Valentines that we all use to get when we were kids.

Inside The Blogs:

While considering material for a workshop to be delivered at his old school some 20 years later, Arvind Devalia
has written down 10 things that life has taught him. (And, if you were to write 10 things that life has taught you, what would they be?)

Beware the Fake University Degrees that are
based upon "Life Experience."

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 donate their time to help spread the word, and the readers who continue to make it A Free Exchange of Thoughts and Ideas
This midway is registered at TTLB's carnival roundup. See our latest EduPosts here, and the complete Carnival archives (soon to be updated) over there.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 106th 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, easier yet, use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 9:00 PM (Eastern), 6:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible.

Visit last week's midway, hosted by This Week In Education, right here.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the exhibits should open Wednesday.
See our latest EduPosts.

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 Who Is George Soros?

Non-Council Entries: The QandO Blog garnered the most votes with Media Mischaracterizes Senate Resolution Vote.
See our latest EduPosts.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Students Using IM-Speak 4 School Speak

When doing their academic writing more and more students are having difficulty expressing themselves in an appropriate voice, reports the Associated Press:
Middle school teacher Julia Austin is noticing a new generation of errors creeping into her pupils' essays.

Sure, they still commit the classic blunders -- like the commonly used "ain't." But an increasing number of Austin's eighth-graders also submit classwork containing "b4," "ur," "2" and "wata" -- words that may confuse adults but are part of the teens' everyday lives.

This "instant messaging-speak" or "IM-speak" emerged more than a decade ago. Used in e-mail and cell phone text messages, most teens are familiar with this tech talk and use it to flirt, plan dates and gossip.

But junior high and high school teachers nationwide say they see a troubling trend: The words have become so commonplace in children's social lives that the techno spellings are finding their way into essays and other writing assignments.

"The IM-speak is so prevalent now," said Austin, a language arts teacher at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Orlando. "I'm always having to instruct my students against using it."

Vicki A. Davis, a high school teacher at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia, said she even finds the abbreviated words in term papers.

"I'm Southern, but I wouldn't use the sayings, "squeal like a pig" or "kick the bucket," in formal writing (because) some people may not understand," Davis said. "IM-speak should be treated the same way."

Fourteen-year-old Brandi Concepcion, a pupil of Austin's, said wit, da and dat -- used in place of with, the and that -- sometimes creep into her homework.

"I write like that in the rough draft, but I try to catch the mistakes before I turn in the final draft," she said.

Some educators, like David Warlick, 54, of Raleigh, North Carolina, see the young burgeoning band of instant messengers as a phenomenon that should be celebrated. Teachers should credit their students with inventing a new language ideal for communicating in a high-tech world, said Warlick, who has authored three books on technology in the classroom.

And most avoid those pitfalls once they enter college, said Larry Beason, director of freshman composition at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama.

"Some of the same kids that I teach now were probably guilty of techno spellings in high school," Beason said. "But most students realize that they need to put their adolescent spellings behind them by the time they get to college."
As a junior high school history teacher, I see these types of errors in my students' writing all the time.

What can be done to teach students which "voice" to use in their writing?
See our latest EduPosts.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Getting The Grown-ups To Grow-up

Some Florida schools are doing everything in their power to get parents to visit their campuses:
Get a whiff of this: bacon and eggs, grits and toast, at Middleton High School on Monday morning.

Hillsborough County schools are rolling out the red carpets for parents this month. Such invites are out from many schools for parents to join their child for breakfast - including a Sweetheart Breakfast at DeSoto Elementary School on Wednesday.

It's all part of an attempt to lure parents into schools.

Educators and researchers agree that kids with involved parents do better academically.

This makes sense.

Sounds doable.

But is it?

I, for one, am pretty busy these days.

That's true for many of us working parents, says Conchita Canty-Jones, coordinator of the district's Parent Education Center.

She's charged with overseeing the district's Visit Your Child in School Day, which is Monday or any day in February schools choose to recognize it.

She says some parents never come to school.

So their children miss out on opportunities. Such things as advice and even scholarships are there for the taking.

Parents who partner with teachers win, Canty-Jones says.

I've got to say, that's a compelling argument. We all want the best for our kids.

But the truth is, I can get a little nervous in schools. Not so much in elementary schools. When my kids were young, I was kindergarten class mom on Fridays, and my kids relished having me near. But when I signed up to chaperone my son's middle school field trip, he begged me not to come.

Now that he's in high school, I sometimes feel out of place.

Earlier this year, I picked up some fast food delicacies and ventured into the cafeteria to share lunch. In the cacophony of hundreds of voices and teens toting cartoon lunch boxes, I was conspicuously out of place.

Parents often feel that way, says Mary Cunningham, principal at Ballast Point Elementary.

"It can be very confusing to parents," she said. "Each school has its own culture, the lingo, acronyms."

Sometimes parents want to be involved, but worry that if they do too much they'll fit that new stereotype: the interfering, hovering "helicopter parent."

To welcome parents, Cunningham has made communicating a primary focus.

Every Wednesday, parents come for breakfast, one class at a time. Last week 86 parents, grandparents and siblings showed up. It's a chance to find out what's happening in their child's classroom. Cinnamon buns are a bonus.

At Just Elementary School, principal Tricia McManus finds that making a personal connection to parents requires dedication.

Every day several teachers walk home with their students to visit with parents.

"Really, we will do whatever it takes," she says.

Plant High School parents who want to volunteer can work in the guidance resource lab, doling out advice to students on how to fill out college applications.

At Middleton High School, parent volunteers help prepare for the FCAT. [Florida's standardized tests] They'll also make the breakfast Monday that has for the past three years won them recognition for bringing in the most high school parents to Visit Your Child in School Day.
I guess in this Post-NCLB World of Accountability (for schools, not parents or students) things like this have to be done in order to get parents to do their duty interested in their children's schools.

It's just too bad that the schools are forced to "convince" parents of the need to tear themelves away from the TV for a few minutes care enough about their children's education enough to actually make a personal appearance.
See our latest EduPosts.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Changing Times In The School Lunch Line

In an effort to improve lunchline efficiency, some elementary schools in Maryland's Frederick County are resorting to so-called modern methods that would befuddle many adults:
Some can’t find their money, some forget their pin codes and others don’t remember how to say in English what they want for lunch.

Whatever the reason, many Frederick County elementary school students do not move through their lunch lines fast enough, which leaves them with less time to eat, according to food services employees.

Some elementary schools are trying out a new way to speed up the process. Students at Hillcrest, Wolfsville, Middletown, Walkersville and a few other elementary schools can now pay for lunch as soon as they arrive at school in the morning instead of waiting until lunch time.

The idea is to make sure students have ‘‘appropriate time to eat, relax and socialize,” as mandated by Frederick County Public Schools’ wellness policy.

‘‘If this helps, that will be great,” said Cheri Dattoli, food service officer for the school system. ‘‘If it doesn’t, we’ll try something else.”

Most concerns about the lack of adequate time for lunch were raised by the wellness policy, which was adopted by the Board of Education in August.

In response to those concerns, within the last several months, food service managers across the county have been asked to time lunch lines at their school cafeterias, Dattoli said.

According to preliminary data, high schools’ and middle schools’ cafeteria lines tend to meet the national average of serving nine students per minute. But elementary schools tend to fall behind, Dattoli said.

While she would not say which schools had the fastest and the slowest lunch lines, Dattoli said that information will be in a report, which is now being put together by food service employees. The report should help the county food services identify the reasons lunch lines are slow.

One factor may be the more complex computer system, which was introduced to elementary school cafeterias this year.

The system has been crashing and running slow since its installation and it was just updated in the beginning of February, Dattoli said.

‘‘Everybody saw a speed up in the line after that,” she said.

The system allows cafeterias to keep track of every student’s individual account and payments. The county middle and high schools have been using the same system for several years.

Students and parents can put money in each account electronically, through a bank or a credit card transfer or by bringing cash to school. When students get enrolled at school, they receive a three- to five-digit personal identification code, which allows them to access their account.

That, however, creates a number of problems for the elementary school students, who are not used to dealing with cash and remembering codes.

Robin Trout, mother of a first-grader at Hillcrest Elementary, tried giving her son a plastic bag with money for lunch. For about a week he kept returning the money home, untouched. Eventually Trout started coming to the school with him just to make sure the money made it to the account.

‘‘I come twice a week, that way I can keep an accurate account,” she said. ‘‘I don’t want him to be in the red.”

In some schools, language barriers are also a challenge, said Sandy Shankle, food service manager of seven Frederick schools, including Hillcrest Elementary.

‘‘Some kids don’t know their name, some kids don’t speak English,” she said. ‘‘It is not happening everywhere. The bigger ones can do it, the little ones can’t.”

The new morning payment routine could help simplify the process at schools with many non-English speakers and a large percentage of students who eat lunch at school, Shankle said.

Hillcrest Elementary has been offering the morning payment option since Jan. 30. Although few students and parents take advantage of it, their numbers have been growing, Shankle said.

Of the 679 students enrolled in programs at Hillcrest Elementary, 525 eat during one of the six lunch shifts at the school. That is why the school is ready to use every available way to calm down the hectic lunch routine.
I remember when I was a young KidWonk, a hot school lunch (including milk) sold for only 25 cents, while the purchase of a half-pint of milk cost only a dime.

Each day, we would give our lunch money to the teacher, who would dispense tickets that we, in turn, would give to our school's Cafeteria Lady.

It was a simpler, more wholesome time
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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's A Fine Day To Visit A Carnival!

The 105th midway of The Carnival of Education (hosted this week by over at This Week In Education) has opened its turnstiles with a variety of exhibits and sideshows from all over the EduSphere.

Don't forget to check out what the homies are up to over at this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.
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An Observation About The Punctuality-Challenged

Have you ever noticed that it always appears to be the same people who can't seem to get to a staff meeting on time?

And have you ever noticed that these habitually-late individuals always seem to have the most habitually-plausable of excuses for their habitual lateness?

Why is that?
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Carnival Entries Are Due!

Entries for the 105th midway of The Carnival Of Education (hosted this week over at Alexander Russo's This Week In Education) are due today. Please email them to: thisweekineducation (at) gmail (dot) com . (Or, easier yet, use this handy submission form.) Submissions should be received no later than 9:00 PM (Eastern), 6:00 PM (Pacific). Contributions should include your site's name, the title of the post, and the post's URL if possible.

Visit last week's midway, hosted by us here at The Median Sib, right here.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the exhibits should open Wednesday.
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The Watcher's Council Has Spoken!

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

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

Council Member Entries: Right Wing Nut House took first place with 9/11: Just a Real Bad Day.

Non-Council Entries: The Huffington Post garnered the most votes with New Trend on the Rise: The Patriotic Terrorist.
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Monday, February 05, 2007

When Teachers Catch The Chalkboard Flu

Embroiled in a long-running dispute over salaries and working conditions, half of the teachers in Lansing, Michigan, called in sick today:
The debate over Lansing teacher contracts looks like it's far from over. 521 teachers that have already called in sick, that according to a spokesperson for the Lansing school district who spoke with 6 News.

That's approximately half of all Lansing teachers and staff. Classes are not scheduled in Lansing, but teachers are still supposed to report for work. If they don't, the district says they face losing one days' pay or even possible termination. The district believes two more days have been planned for a teachers sickout- Feb. 9th and Feb. 14th, which is student count day.
Earlier, the district informed its employees that any coordinated action could result in termination or other discipline.
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Friday, February 02, 2007

Is Punishing AWOL Parents The Way To Go?

A proposed Texas law would fine parents who waste a teacher's time miss a scheduled parent-teacher conference:
AUSTIN, Texas -- Parents beware: Miss a meeting with your child's teacher and it could cost you a $500 fine and a criminal record.

A Republican state lawmaker from Baytown has filed a bill that would charge parents of public school students with a misdemeanor and fine them for playing hooky from a scheduled parent-teacher conference.

Rep. Wayne Smith said Wednesday he wants to get parents involved in their child's education.

"I think it helps the kids for the parents and teachers to communicate. That's all the intent was," Smith said.

Kathy Carlson, a fifth-grade teacher at Furneaux Elementary School in Carrollton, said she's had a handful of parents who skip meetings with teachers, but she winced at the idea of charging them.

"I don't know if we need to call it criminal. I would rather see accountability brought a different way, rather than fines or punishments," Carlson said.

"On the whole, parents want what's best for their kids," she said. "Sometimes I think they think we're out to get them. When you're talking about fining and pressing criminal charges, it kind of reflects that attitude."

Carlson said she used to teach at a school in Irving with many children of illegal immigrants.

"They were afraid to come to parent-teacher conferences because they were almost afraid of the authority" of the school district, she said.

Under Smith's bill, schools would send parents a notice for a meeting with three proposed dates by certified mail. Parents who don't respond or who schedule a meeting and don't show up without notice could be punished.

Parents could avoid prosecution if they have a "reasonable excuse" for not showing up. State education officials or local school districts would probably be responsible for defining reasonable.

Fines collected would go to the district for teacher pay raises or to buy supplies.

Smith's bill on the missed meetings would seem to face long odds to becoming law. Rep. Rob Eissler, a Republican from The Woodlands who chairs the House Public Education Committee, has said he's concerned about how it would be enforced.

Austin parent Mary Christine Reed has children in third and seventh grades and is involved in her parent-teacher association. She said she knows of some problems teachers have had, but as a parent, wonders if a steep fine or criminal charge would make them worse.

"If the idea is to create communication, to send them into the criminal justice system ... is going to do nothing but have a negative impact," Reed said. "It would make parents more scared of the school."
As a teacher, a part of me says that it would be good to be able to compel parents to attend a conference that has been scheduled for the purpose of discussing their child's academic needs.

After all, the IRS has the power to fine me if I don't show-up at a conference that has been scheduled in order to discuss meeting Uncle Sam's financial needs vis-a-vis my tax liability.

Many doctors, dentists, and other professionals routinely bill clients who miss appointments without notifying them in advance.

Still... as an American... I really don't like being compelled to attend any sort of conference.

But the imposition of the federal No Child Left Behind Act has fundamentally changed the rules.

Since teachers are now being held accountable for the academic progress of every single child in the country regardless of their academic efforts (or lack thereof) maybe a variant of this law might be worth some consideration.

Perhaps... at the very least... those parents who are receiving some sort of government assistance (such as welfare) might be required to meet with their children's teachers when the need arises. Should they decide not to attend, these parents might just find that their next monthly assistance check has gotten smaller as a result of their poor judgement
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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Was This Teacher "Framed" By A Computer Run Amok?

Former substitute teacher Julie Amero has been tried and convicted of allowing seventh graders to view pornographic material in her Connecticut classroom. Amero faces up to 40 years in the slammer.

Proclaiming her innocence, Amero says that it was the popups: (
via Huffington Post)
On October 19, 2004, Julie Amero arrived at Kelly Middle School to teach a 7th grade language arts class. Mr. Matthew Nett, the class's regular teacher, logged Amero into the classroom computer and left, warning her not to turn the machine off.

Amero let the students surf the web for a few minutes. The kids visited several innocuous sites including an innocent-looking page on hair styles. Suddenly, pornographic popups started to fill the screen. Soon, the machine was frozen in an endless porn loop.

Nobody in that classroom clicked on any porn that day. The popups were generated automatically by a piece of malicious code from the hair site. Readers with a technical bent can learn exactly how the malware hijacked Amero's computer from defense expert Herb Horner and security consultant Alex Eckelberry.

Amero immediately got the students away from the computer. She even pushed one student's face away when she caught him looking at the monitor.

Amero had no idea that this computer was full of malicious software (malware). Nor did she realize that the school's content filter license had expired, leaving the computer completely unprotected from malware and obscene content. All she knew was that she'd been told not to turn the computer off. So, she did her best to keep the kids away from the monitor.

A few weeks later, Amero was arrested and charge with multiple felonies.

At trial, a police witness for the prosecution claimed that Amero must have "physically clicked" on porn links to generate the popup storm. In fact the software that the police used to analyze Amero's hard drive cannot distinguish between a user's clicks and automatic redirects caused by malicious software. Under cross-examination the officer admitted that he never even checked for malware.

The defense's expert witness performed an independent forensic analysis of the computer and found that it was infected with multiple pieces of malicious code, including the script from the hairdressing site that spawned all those popups.

The jury didn't get to hear most of the defense expert's testimony because Amero's attorney failed to bring up malware during the discovery phase of the trial.

On January 5, 2007 a Norwich jury found her guilty on four counts of "injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children." Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. It seems unlikely that Amero will get the maximum sentence, jail remains a very real possibility. Felony convictions could also end Amero's career as a teacher. She will be sentenced on March 2.

Amero will appeal her conviction.
Read more from The Washington Post's Brian Krebs here.

So... who, if anyone, should be held accountable? The substitute teacher, or the individual who allowed the school's filter license to expire causing the protective firewall to go down?

Or should the whole thing be considered an awful accident in which punishment should not be sought but lessons should be drawn?

You make the call.
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