Here's my version of babyblogging - my newest "family member," my nephew's lab puppy, Roxie:
Awwww. Everyone in my family has always kept a lab or three around, since they're such great Southern dogs (love to hunt, love to fish, love to swim, love to play, love to chase cars). One of my stepfather's labs, in fact, is named Bubba. Don't get much more Southern than that.
Reader BBeeman sent a link my way about a pretty horrifying example of one university's opposition to free speech. It seems that LeMoyne College has rescinded their acceptance of a masters-level student in education for a paper that he wrote. No, it wasn't plagiarized - it just expressed a viewpoint with which they disagreed (free reg required):
LeMoyne College expelled Scott McConnell, a student from its Masters of Education program, for writing a paper in which he advocated the use of corporal punishment in schools, he said. The paper, written for a class on classroom management, originally earned McConnell an A-. However, when he attempted to enroll in classes for the spring semester, he found he couldn't.
"LeMoyne doesn't believe students should be able to express their own views," McConnell said. "If you differ from our philosophical ideal you will be expelled from our college."
McConnell, who hopes to become an elementary school teacher, was informed last Tuesday that he couldn't continue at the school. "LeMoyne has handled the situation poorly," he said.
McConnell was raised in Oklahoma, where corporal punishment was used when he was a student, he said. In the fourth grade he was paddled by a teacher for being unruly.
"It worked. I never talked out of turn again," he said.
Let's count all the things wrong with this story, if in fact it is accurate:
(1) Arguing for corporal punishment in the classroom - not putting it into practice, just reporting that it might be useful (and legal in 22 states, if not in New York), presumably in the context of a research paper - is grounds for expulsion.
(2) The punishment for making such an argument isn't made clear in advance, otherwise it's doubtful that McConnell would have written the paper.
(3) The punishment for such an argument is not in fact even clear to the faculty, or the paper would not have originally garnered an A-.
The mysteries remain. When did paddlings in school become not only wrong, but evil, with those who dare even think about it cast out from the crowd? Who made the decision to expel McConnell? What other transgressions of thought are unacceptable at LeMoyne? If you ask me, McConnell should put the paper on the web and let the rest of us read it. I'm not a fan of corporal punishment, but I'd really like to see if it's a well-done paper that addresses the multitude of anti-corporal-punishment research that's out there. I can't find anything else out about this story via Google, so if you know of any related links, let me know.
Update: Incorrect references to Syracuse U fixed. The Education Wonks also have a roundup of other responses to this story. Captain's Quarters notes that LeMoyne is a Catholic college that follows the Jesuit tradition and found this additional news article that has much more about the decision to refuse McConnell and the details in his paper:
Dr. Cathy Leogrande, director of the Graduate Education Program, told McConnell in the letter that she had reviewed his grades and talked to his professors. "I have grave concerns regarding the mismatch between your personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals," leading to the decision not to admit him, Leogrande wrote...
[McConnell] said he's also been trying to find out what Leogrande meant by "mismatch." College administrators have told him, he said, that it stems from the four-page "Classroom Management Plan" he submitted Nov. 2 for his Planning, Assessing and Managing Inclusive Classrooms class.
In the opening paragraph of his essay, McConnell wrote: "I do not feel that multicultural education has a philosophical place or standing in an American classroom, especially one that I will teach. I also feel that corporal punishment has a place in the classroom and should be implemented when needed." He got an A for the course.
In general terms, he said, the college's teacher training includes evaluating students' teaching philosophy and approach and the way they follow state guidelines. It also looks at how the student adheres to Le Moyne's mission, he said, "one of a caring community, one that strives for diversity."
Hoo boy. So McConnell didn't fit in because he refused to toe the diversity line, eh? Interesting, because one of CQ's commenters notes that the college's mission also says that "every student needs to grow as an independent learner." Just not too independent, I suppose.
To be honest, it doesn't look like LeMoyne would have been a good match for him, not if they're unwilling to tolerate any discussion of the "diversity" principle.
McConnell said he knew he was stating a view that contradicted the curriculum when he wrote his paper. The essay stresses "strong discipline, hard work," teaching respect for adults and heavy parental involvement. Students would have basic rights in his classroom, and individual needs and abilities would be dealt with as they appear, he wrote. But all children are special, and none should get special rights, he said...
Rewards and praise would be used to build a strong work ethic. Rule breakers would have to write rules 100 times and apologize in writing to teacher and classmates. More consistent troublemakers also may get their parents called and be isolated from all but instructional activities. "The classroom environment would revolve strictly around the American culture and the state culture, not multicultural learning," he wrote. He defined multicultural learning in an interview as the notion that a student's native culture should take precedence over American culture.
Sounds like an edublogger to me.
The part that interests me is - had LeMoyne left out the more controversial aspect of corporal punishment, would he still have gotten booted out? I think he might have. In that case, the school's rigid adherence to politically-correct ideologically would have been even more evident. However, thanks to the paddling aspect, any public debate on this story will probably focus more on McConnell's alleged "pro-violent" beliefs than on the school's insistence on conformity of vision.
This shows that far from striving to provide students the ability to debate and discuss all points of view, colleges and their administrations have developed a thought police of almost Orwellian proportions to defend their last bastion of Utopian thought.
This is pretty frightening:
One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today. The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.
Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.
The survey of First Amendment rights was commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted last spring by the University of Connecticut. It also questioned 327 principals and 7,889 teachers. The survey "confirms what a lot of people who are interested in this area have known for a long time"...Kids aren't learning enough about the First Amendment in history, civics or English classes.
Yes, but don't these kids read blogs? If nothing else, the blogosphere is about as fine a lesson in free speech as one can get. Or even LiveJournal.
I'm being facetious, of course, but only partially. What's more, it's very hard to believe that mere ignorance of the particulars of the First Amendment leads to not only the assumption that the government can interfere with journalism, but that it should. That second assumption smacks more to me of a an overfamiliarity with speech codes and politcally-correct educrats who spend far too much time demonizing those who don't the party lines.
Editor and Publisher also covered this story:
The study also revealed that the more students were exposed to First Amendment and new media courses in the classroom, the more involved they were in student journalism. For example, among those students who had taken First Amendment or other press-related courses, 87% believed people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions, while only 68% of those who had not taken such classes shared the belief.
Again, I say: Blogs. The wave of the future. Hope HTML programming is included in those student journalism classes; if it isn't, students should branch out from the "school newspaper" model. One of the reasons those newspapers might be biting the dust in such numbers is because many people, young or old, get their news from alternative sources nowadays.
Not a lot of time to post today, so I thought I'd add a few updates to previous popular posts:
* Great comments for the post about the spelling bee. My two favorites are the suggestion that some educators must believe in No Child Gets Ahead (by Alessandra), and the theory that spelling bees are necessary because in addition to learning to be winners, kids need to learn how to be graceful losers (by ricki).
Also, the bee might not be extinct after all. But who knew that spelling bees took "several months" of preparation? Think there's a bit of inefficiency in there?
* My comments filter out the words "sports" because I was hit by spammers who had that in their URLs. I'll see if I can go back and un-ban that URL now.
* Reader Alice E noted in the post about the immodest prom dress that one solution is to hold a pre-prom fashion show featuring pretty yet modest gowns, so that young girls do have a choice. Not surprisingly, the Mormons have some experience in dealing with this problem. Of course, for all you parents on a budget, you should know that while modest can mean "pretty," it can also still mean "expensive."
* I discovered last weekend that certain of my coworkers have been sneaking in my office after hours and breaking off hunks of my Ghirardelli bar by slamming the bar down on my desk (it's in a plastic bag). I had already used up about 4 pounds of it for a fondue party and thus didn't notice that more had disappeared. Work is going to continue to get more stressful, so I guess I don't have to worry about what to do with all that chocolate.
First catblogging, then babyblogging makes the big time:
The world's most thankless occupation, parenthood, has never inspired so much copy. For the generation that begat reality television it seems that there is not a tale from the crib (no matter how mundane or scatological) that is unworthy of narration. Approximately 8,500 people are writing Web logs about their children, said David L. Sifry, the chief executive of Technorati, a San Francisco company that tracks Web logs. That's more than twice as many baby blogs as last year...
With a new blog popping up every 4.7 seconds, according to Technorati, it is no surprise that there would be parent blogs, along with those for dating, politics and office life. But what makes them interesting is the way that blogging about parenthood seems to have become part of parenthood itself...
The anxiety and uncertainty so commonly expressed in the baby blogs definitely make for good reading. ("He likes cars and tutus with equal passion," Melissa Summers writes of her 2-year-old, Max, on Suburbanbliss.net. "I think he might be gay.") But it also shines a spotlight on a generation of parents ever more in need of validation, an insecurity that doesn't necessarily serve the cause.
What the blogs show is that "parents today are focused on taking their children's emotional, social and academic temperature every four or five seconds," said Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and the author of "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee." "It deprives us of having a long view of development. Kids do fine. The paradox is that the way to have them not do fine is to worry about them too much."
Maybe that is so. But perhaps all the online venting and hand-wringing is actually helping the bloggers become better parents and better human beings...
I confess that, despite the fact that many of my Devoted Readers are parents, I haven't read many baby blogs, save for those run by bloggers whose children are an integral yet peripheral element (like James Lileks). Except for a two-year stretch of being married with stepchildren when I was in my 20's, I have no parenting experience that could result in useful advice for others. And my life - which revolves around 12-hour-workdays, my fiance, psychometrics, music, cats, eyeshadow, black velvet clothing, Court TV, and chatting on the phone - probably doesn't have much in common with those who are minutely detailing early-morning feedings and first steps.
But I say the baby blogging is a great thing. There's no better feeling than realizing that others out there are in the same (frustrated, overworked, sleep-deprived) boat as you, and I agree entirely that sharing experiences through blogging will be extremely helpful to parents.
OK, I'm still scratching my head over this one:
The Lincoln [RI] district has decided to eliminate this year’s spelling bee -- a competition involving pupils in grades 4 through 8, with each school district winner advancing to the state competition and a chance to proceed to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C....Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Newman said the decision to scuttle the event was reached shortly after the January 2004 bee in a unanimous decision by herself and the district’s elementary school principals.
The administrators decided to eliminate the spelling bee, because they feel it runs afoul of the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. "No Child Left Behind says all kids must reach high standards," Newman said. "It’s our responsibility to find as many ways as possible to accomplish this."
The administrators agreed, Newman said, that a spelling bee doesn’t meet the criteria of all children reaching high standards -- because there can only be one winner, leaving all other students behind.
"It’s about one kid winning, several making it to the top and leaving all others behind. That’s contrary to No Child Left Behind," Newman said. A spelling bee, she continued, is about "some kids being winners, some kids being losers." As a result, the spelling bee "sends a message that this isn’t an all-kids movement," Newman said.
Furthermore, professional organizations now frown on competition at the elementary school level and are urging participation in activities that avoid winners, Newman said. That’s why there are no sports teams at the elementary level, she said as an example. The emphasis today, she said, is on building self-esteem in all students.
"You have to build positive self-esteem for all kids, so they believe they’re all winners," she said. "You want to build positive self-esteem so that all kids can get to where they want to go." A spelling bee only benefits a few, not all, students, the elementary principals and Newman agreed, so it was canceled.
You know, my first thought here was that perhaps Newman and the school principals actually oppose NCLB and are being craftily sarcastic in their opposition to it, by coming up with a ridiculous position and insisting that it follows the letter of the law. Certainly, anyone who knows little of NCLB won't think much of it if they believe it prohibits any and all competition.
But on second thought, I doubt the thought processes here are that complex. It's probably just another simple-minded case of an educrat assuming that competion is evil and winning on any scholastic front is a zero-sum game. So much for the self-esteem of those who had hoped to win the spelling bee this year - or even those who would have been quite happy to make the top 10.
Hey Newman, are you making sure that all of your students learn to spell perfectly? If so, then we'll be quite happy to call them all "winners." If not, then those kids are most definitely going to realize their shortcomings when they graduate from your overprotective environment and learn that it's up to them to keep from being left behind.
Oh, and these school principals might want to take a look at this month's Scientific American, which contains the article "Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth." Key grafs:
At the outset, we had every reason to hope that boosting self-esteem would be a potent tool for helping students. Logic suggests that having a good dollop of self-esteem would enhance striving and persistence in school, while making a student less likely to succumb to paralyzing feelings of incompetence or self-doubt. Early work showed positive correlations between self-esteem and academic performance, lending credence to this notion. Modern efforts have, however, cast doubt on the idea that higher self-esteem actually induces students to do better.
Such inferences about causality are possible when the subjects are examined at two different times, as was the case in 1986 when Sheila M. Pottebaum, Timothy Z. Keith and Stewart W. Ehly, all then at the University of Iowa, tested more than 23,000 high school students, first in the 10th and again in the 12th grade. They found that self-esteem in 10th grade is only weakly predictive of academic achievement in 12th grade. Academic achievement in 10th grade correlates with self-esteem in 12th grade only trivially better. Such results, which are now available from multiple studies, certainly do not indicate that raising self-esteem offers students much benefit. Some findings even suggest that artificially boosting self-esteem may lower subsequent performance.
Emphasis mine, with "artificially" being the key word there. If Newman's kids aren't taught to relish the art of spelling - and relish academic competition in general - it's quite possible that any boost in "self-esteem" they recieve from not having to watching others win at spelling bees will be pretty artificial.
Remember the hapless yet litigious Wisconsin student that I mentioned last week? The one who is suing over having had to do homework assignments over the summer for an (honors, elective) course in the fall?
Well, he may not have learned any pre-calculus last summer, but he's learning a valuable lesson now:
On Thursday, Wisconsin Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager released the state's reply in which she asked the court not only to dismiss the suit but suggested Larson and his father may need their knuckles rapped for bringing a no-merit lawsuit.
Her filing in county court in Milwaukee said the state had "no authority to implement any policy regarding course assignments" and that local school districts had the power to abolish summer vacation completely and hold classes all year long.
She also said that because the Larsons had been advised of the same thing informally beforehand, and sued anyway, the state schools superintendent "should be reimbursed for costs and attorney fees incurred in responding to the ... unmeritorious complaint," to be assessed against the Larsons.
That lesson being: The squeaky wheel might get the grease, but the tallest blade of grass often gets cut first. Will Larson win and be hailed a hero by his fellow students? Or will he be spending even more time working outside of school to pay the court costs? Be interesting to see what ruling the court hands down.
Over at The Education Wonks, they've been keeping a close eye on those who would sully the good name of education - and those who seem unable to fire teachers deserving of censure:
Here at the 'Wonks, we like to keep an eye on those whose wrong-doing is a detriment to the Education Craft. We will continue to do so. As we profiled before, The City of New York has a great deal of trouble getting rid of many of its teachers that have had....er...um...problems.
This is due to a combination of union rules, and government statutes. The allegations of bad behavior run the gamut from being drunk in the classroom, to being arrested with crack cocaine and other forms of criminal behavior.
So, when I saw this article in The New York Post titled "Class Clowns," I just knew that the news was not going to be good.
Nearly half of all public-school educators that have been brought up on disciplinary charges over the last five years---allegations ranging from drug use to corporal punishment--are still in the school system and earning full salaries. In some 37% of cases, the educator kept his or her job by order of an independent arbitrator of by settling their cases with the Department of Education.
Only 74 of the 555 educators charged with wrong-doing have been fired since the year 2000.
In a move allowing them to keep their pensions, more than 180 resigned under pressure.
There are currently 68 educators who have disciplinary cases pending.
I used to live in a town near Niagara Falls, New York. So I know a little something about The Post. It is a tabloid. And like many tabloids, it has an axe to grind. The use of "shock headlines" are The Post's stock-in-trade. But I think that in this case, they may be right.
Usually, where there is smoke, there is fire.
Assuming this isn't another "dress-on-backwards" take on the truth, The EduWonks are quite right to be concerned about this type of track record.
The Moebius Stripper at Tall Dark & Handsome made me laugh out loud with this tale:
The Student Who REALLY doesn’t get math: As in, the one who asked me last week, in all earnestness, “to what extent” she would “have to use equations” in my class. I managed, in a feat that should surely mark me as a force to be reckoned with in the domain of improvisational theatre, to eke out a coherent yet tactful reply in which I succedeed (I think) in gently pointing out that this is a math class and that it we would do math things in it, and math things tend to involve equations of some form. (At least, math things at this level do. I’m sure that she didn’t want to hear “Oh, no, this class is ALL PROOFS.") Worried that she would break if I in any way made light of the situation, I did not add that if she could come up with equation-free means of solving for unknowns then she was certainly welcome to use them. She seemed disppointed and scared.
Mmmphghgh BWAh haha ha! I don't think I could have managed coherent yet tactful in that situation, much less a straight face. Then again, I was never tested to that level; despite springing stats 101 on several classes' worth of math-shy psychology majors, none of my charges was ever dense enough to admit to my face that they were hoping for a lack of equations in the class.
And had anyone been rash enough to bring in an entire jar of peanut butter when I was a graduate TA, they would have seen it rapidly confiscated, as I greatly enjoy peanut butter but couldn't afford to buy it on my tiny stipend.
Most parents would be thrilled just for their child to read the encyclopedia, never mind to be correcting mistakes in one:
A schoolboy has uncovered several mistakes in the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica - regarded by readers as an authority on everything. Lucian George, 12, from north London, found five errors on two of his favourite subjects - central Europe and wildlife - and wrote to complain.
The book's editor wrote back thanking him for "pointing out several errors and misleading statements". A Britannica spokesman said the company was "grateful".
Lucian, who attends Highgate Junior School, spends several hours a week reading through the encyclopaedia's 32 volumes. One evening, he discovered a reference stating that the town of Chotyn, in which two battles between the Poles and the Ottoman Empire were fought, lies in Moldova. Lucian, whose mother is Polish, disagreed, saying it was in Ukraine.
He was right.
His father, Gabriel George, told BBC News: "Lucian told me he had found a mistake. Then, a few days later, he found another. Then there was another.
"By the time he had found five, I said to him that he should write to the editors to complain about it."
Father George hastens to add that his son is perfectly normal, interspersing bouts of reading the 32-volume encyclopedia with Playstation and Eastenders. But why should he protest? Any kid who not only devours the Encyclopaedia Britannica but catches errors in it should be proud to not be just like all the other kids.
Orange County (FL) may shock some parents this spring, as the movement to end social promotion gains steam:
Educators are prepared to hold back more than double the usual number of students as the district launches a policy tying promotions in grades three to eight to scores on the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The new policy puts Florida's fifth-largest school district in the middle of one of the most contentious debates in public education: Should struggling students be moved along with youngsters their own age or be made to repeat the grade they didn't master the first time?
School systems across the nation have cracked down on social promotion in recent years, making standardized-test scores the key to advancement to higher grades. Florida joined those ranks two years ago when it made passing FCAT reading a requirement to move to fourth grade.
At least one recent study claims that retaining students (and giving them extensive lessons) helps them perform better within a year.
Some researchers think, however, that these retention rules do little to help children and can harm them academically and emotionally. Orange's new rule already has some parents worried.
"I don't think they should keep them back because of that one test. I really think that's unfair," said Dennis Hamilton, whose two daughters attend Pine Hills Elementary in Orlando. Hamilton's girls, now in fourth and fifth grades, have passed the FCAT previously, he said, so he would be "highly upset" if they falter this year and anyone mentions holding them back.
Understandable. On the other hand, it sounds like he's happy with the fact that they passed in the past, which suggests that he believes the exam measures something worthwhile. If, all of a sudden, his daughters failed, couldn't one reason be that their current teachers aren't cutting the mustard? Wouldn't he want to know that?
It sounds like Florida education officials certainly want to know that:
In the view of Florida's education officials, who have been rallying against social promotion, the 17,151 students who failed but moved on were socially promoted and, perhaps, doomed to failure.
"Nobody wants 15-year-olds in a third-grade classroom," but struggling children have no chance if they're moved on, said Mary Laura Openshaw, a former high-school teacher in Texas and Mississippi who oversees Just Read, Florida!, Gov. Jeb Bush's statewide reading initiative. "Even the best-trained reading teacher cannot move a ninth-grader who is reading at a sixth-grade level up to proficiency," she said. "I taught too many kids in high school who had no chance of success."
Live in Norfolk, VA? Bothered by obnoxious teenagers? One persnickety lawmaker is trying to regulate the most ridiculous behavior out of existence:
Heads up to all the front-seat leaners and thong-barers. A Norfolk legislator wants you to pull up your low-riding pants and to sit your butt up while driving. While you are at it, turn down the blasting car stereo, and do not try to watch movies on your in-car video player while driving.
"If you want to show your underwear in your private home, I don't have any objections," said Del. Algie T. Howell Jr., a Norfolk Democrat who has filed legislation that would levy a $50 fine on anyone who "exposes his below-waist undergarments in an offensive manner."
Howell also has filed bills dealing with drivers who lean way back and people who play their car stereos obnoxiously loud. Howell said he's seen enough and heard from enough folks to know they are as bothered as he is by folks who expose their undergarments.
I can understand his annoyance. On the other hand, the local police might have enough to do without spending time giving out tickets for baggy pants.
N2P reader and math guru Mike McKeown mentioned this WaPo article to me, entitled, "Why Johnny Won't Read." That's Johnny, as opposed to Jane; between 1992 and 2002, the gender gap in reading by young adults widened from a 8% difference to a 16% gulf:
Placed in historical perspective, these findings fit with a gap that has existed in the United States since the spread of mass publishing in the mid-19th century. But for the gap to have grown so much in so short a time suggests that what was formerly a moderate difference is fast becoming a decided marker of gender identity: Girls read; boys don't...
Although one might expect the schools to be trying hard to make reading appealing to boys, the K-12 literature curriculum may in fact be contributing to the problem. It has long been known that there are strong differences between boys and girls in their literary preferences. According to reading interest surveys...boys prefer adventure tales, war, sports and historical nonfiction, while girls prefer stories about personal relationships and fantasy. Moreover, when given choices, boys do not choose stories that feature girls, while girls frequently select stories that appeal to boys.
Ooo, yeah, I can see where this is going. War? Sports? Historical non-fiction? Stories that do not feature girls? Something tells me those types of books aren't considered appropriate reading material for the more PC types of educrats.
...Gone are the inspiring biographies of the most important American presidents, inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs. No military valor, no high adventure. On the other hand, stories about adventurous and brave women abound. Publishers seem to be more interested in avoiding "masculine" perspectives or "stereotypes" than in getting boys to like what they are assigned to read.
The "girls rule, boys drool" type of social engineering does seem to be the prevailing theory in education today. Given the antipathy with which educators regard the "masculine" (horrors!) perspective, is it any wonder that boys refuse to read?
...the evidence is accumulating that by the time they go on to high school, boys have lost their interest in reading about the fictional lives, thoughts and feelings of mature individuals in works written in high-quality prose, and they are no longer motivated by an exciting plot to persist in the struggle they will have with the vocabulary that goes with it.
When will educators get the picture? You'd think even the gynocentric ones would notice that the overall reading rates for young adult women have also slipped, which suggests that the overbearing focus on sob story books aren't doing much for the girls, either.
I think if I had been forced in middle school to read "short novels about teenagers and problems such as drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, domestic violence, divorced parents and bullying," as opposed to the classic novels, biographies, and sci-fi that I devoured, I too would have lost my taste for reading.
I feel for the young man who could benefit from The Hobbit or Old Yeller but instead is forced to deal with books chosen from, for example, this list. And then there's this list of suggestions, ostensibly from the American Library Association. Does anything on there look the least bit challenging, or any different from an after-school special?
The Senate Education committee approved a plan to create the Georgia Virtual School - giving students in small school systems computer access to advanced placement classes and other courses that may not be available to them locally.
The classes would be funded by state tax dollars based on the number of courses students were taking. A change introduced by Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, would open up to six online courses a year to students not enrolled in public school.
"I want to be fair to every student," Thomas said. "Their parents are paying a lot of taxes."
Incidentally, Jim apologizes for the profanity in his response to those who complain that this plan somehow "weakens public schools"; he was feeling a bit cheeky this morning. Entirely justified, in my mind.
N2P Devoted Reader Darren has a new blog, Right On the Left Coast. Some of his initial posts include letters that he has written to the NEA and the California Teachers Association (he's a math teacher in Sacramento, CA).
Welcome to the blogosphere, Darren!
Well, I'm officially old. I was already feeling sort of old this evening, because I'm eBay shopping for black concert t-shirts. My beloved Thrill Kill Kult and NIN and Alice in Chains t-shirts have literally disintegrated, and I need more of them.
Then I read this article, and now I feel really old, because my first reaction was, "No way in HELL would a daughter of mine wear this." And I don't even have a daughter.
This prom dress is so skimpy, even the designer's CEO wouldn't let his teenage daughter wear it. But the dangerously revealing gown, prominently advertised in Seventeen Prom, YM Prom and Teen Prom, and on sale in a Midtown shop, is a top seller for the company this season.
"I was shocked when I first saw it, but now it's one of our top 20 dresses nationwide," says Nick Yeh, the CEO of Xcite, the Stafford, Texas, company that designed the dress and some 200 other styles this season. "I have a 15-year-old daughter and, no, I would not recommend she wear this dress. As a businessman," he adds, "I'm not judging what a teenager should wear or not wear. It's up to the parents to decide for their own children."
Nice cop-out, dude. Just admit that you're making clothes so scanty that double-sided tape and parental permission slips are required (pepper spray would come in handy, too). So what if your own daughter doesn't wear them? Obviously, you think it's just fine if someone else's daughter does.
It's too early to tell how many girls in New York City will buy the dress, but those who do may have a hard time getting through the prom door. While it's up to individual school administrators to rule on prom fashions, the Board of Education maintains a disciplinary dress code that prohibits "wearing clothing or other items that are unsafe or disruptive to the educational process."
Lisa Maffei-Fuentes, principal of Christopher Columbus High School in The Bronx, bans "anything that resembles the famous [green Versace] J.Lo dress. I personally have to check every dress," says Maffei-Fuentes. "Breasts must be entirely covered and there should not be any cutouts in the bodice.
"On the night of the prom, we have chaperones at the entry looking at every dress. We also provide needle, thread and pins to close up holes and fix dresses to the appropriate length," she says.
Good for them. I'd back 'em all the way if they went even further and sewed several yards of muslin onto any girl who had parents dumb enough to pay $495 for this ridiculous dress. They ought to send the bill for the thread and muslin to the parents while they're at it.
What's so very sad is that this sends a message to teenage girls, and that is: This is what is sexy, desirable, classy, and "grown-up." Unfortunately, some of them will have parents clueless enough to second that notion. When a prom dress advertisement has to use a model over 18 years of age - otherwise, the photographer would be skirting the edge of child pornography laws - something is very, very wrong.
(Hat tip: Right Thinking From The Left Coast.)
Update: Reader John Stark notes that the Post photo in fact features the dress being worn backwards. According to the link he provides, he's right about the reversal, and probably right with the theory that this was done just to drum up publicity about the dress. The possibility remains that the dress isn't very clearly marked as to front vs. back, though, and perhaps some stores were marketing the reversed version.
That much said, the true frontal design isn't exactly modest, especially if a young girl is well-endowed. When the dress is worn correctly, it doesn't make my jaw drop - but it's still inappropriate for the prom.
Wizbang also caught the trick. His comment section features a discussion about whether or not the dress is actually on backwards, by some readers who have obviously been (ahem) studying the photos of the models far too long, and far too closely.
Do you live in Arizona? Wonder about per-pupil spending in your school district? Want to know where your tax money goes?
A new analysis of Arizona public school financing shows average total spending for an Arizona public school student is between $8,500 and $9,000. The report, co-published by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation and the Goldwater Institute, presents information from the Arizona Department of Education’s multiple accounting systems in a clear, straightforward way that is readily accessible to parents, taxpayers, and policymakers.
The report compiles data from the Arizona Department of Education for all 218 regular Arizona public school districts to determine how much funding is tied to students when they enter the public school system or change districts, and shows fixed and variable expenditures. An accompanying online interactive database allows anyone to easily access per-student funding figures.
Sweet. Summary graf from the pro-vouchers report here:
Under Arizona’s current education finance system, the state has determined how much education funding is tied to students when they enter the public school system, when they leave it, or when they change districts within the state. However, despite attempts to equalize student funding, expenditures do not reflect the true costs of educating children. Funding is still based on the values of their parents’ homes, and in many cases the districts’ non-equalized portions of local, county, state, and federal non-equalized funding exceeds the students’ equalized base funding.
Allowing parents to control their children’s education dollars would help improve transparency, simplicity, and accountability in Arizona education finance. Most important, letting parents control their children’s education dollars arms them with the knowledge they need to make informed educational decisions and gives them the buying power to act on that information.
Yesterday, I got out and spent an hour shoveling my car out from in front of my house. I live at the end of a one-way street with parking on both sides, and once I was cleared out I realized that the once-plowed street was quickly becoming impassable from neighbors digging their cars out. So I moved my car a quarter-mile away to the Blockbuster parking lot, which was the closest spot that was relatively clear.
This morning, I got up, put my ski bib on over my workout clothes, hiked all the way to my car, and on to work. It was pretty tricky, because it was still dark, many sidewalks weren't plowed, etc. I figured I could get by with just my snow boots coming home, though, because some snow would have been cleared away, right?
Wrong. This was the last thing I wanted to see at 5:00 today, but it's what I saw:
In case it's not clear from the photo, it started snowing again at 4 pm. That's my car in the parking lot. It took me an hour to get home, and then I had to clomp home in my ski bib, roads nice and wet again, and the street on which I live darn near impassible/imparkable once again.
Despite the howls of protest over retaining Florida's third-graders who didn't pass the FCAT, the retained students appear to be doing better:
The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research's study encourages the use of standardized tests to end social promotions, which allow students to advance to the next grade level to keep up with their peers...the state Board of Education last week decided it would ask lawmakers to end social promotions at all grade levels...
The Manhattan Institute, a think tank that researches public-policy issues, released a study in December that showed Florida third-graders who were retained did better on the FCAT than those who were socially promoted. Researchers presented testimony about the study earlier this month at a meeting conducted by the House of Representatives' PreK-12 Committee.
The study compared the third-grade class of 2002-03, the first to fall under the retention policy, to the previous class. Low-performing students who were retained made higher gains - 4.10 percentile points - than similar performing students who were promoted.
Researchers acknowledged that their results only show one year and that they hope to conduct a long-term study to learn more about the impact of the policy.
The study is here; Devoted Readers will not be surprised to learn Jay Greene is the author (in fact, you probably got around to reading it before I did).
In Spring of 2008, the state of North Carolina is going to begin testing fifth- and eighth-graders in science. The trick now is in deciding just where to squeeze science classes into the elementary and middle school curricula:
Science has continued to be taught, of course. But with schools struggling to find enough time in busy days, top priority often goes to reading and math. Test results in those crucial subjects help establish a school's reputation and determine teacher bonuses.
A Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board committee is scheduled to discuss Tuesday whether to lengthen its six-hour and 15-minute elementary school days, which are shorter than in many other N.C. districts. The extra push on science is helping spur the idea, which some board members and district officials have already endorsed...
Some fear tests will prompt school districts to rely solely on textbooks instead of also including the experiments that help science come alive. But state and local education leaders say they must do more hands-on learning.
"If they are actually manipulating the materials, they are going to understand the concept better, instead of just memorizing a definition," said Marty McGinn, Fort Mill, S.C.'s testing coordinator.
In South Carolina, teachers combine science with reading and math to save time and help students learn, McGinn said. One Fort Mill class, for example, read about earthquakes, then worked with partners to write books about them.
That kind of so-called integrated instruction helps kids truly grasp what's taught, said Colleen Sain, Cabarrus County's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "We have to decide what we're about as far as education," Sain said. "Do we have a list of 100 facts that we want every child to memorize and spit out by the end of high school? Or do we want them do see the connectiveness?"
I'd've said "connectivity," but I see her point. However, it's good to see that schools are considering lengthening the school day in order to respond to an increased push for science education.
Many middle schools are observing a time-out from name-calling this week:
Middle schools across the United States will observe "No Name-Calling Week" starting Monday. The program, now in its second year, takes aim at insults of all kinds, whether they are based on a child's appearance, background or behavior.
It has the backing of the Girl Scouts of America and Amnesty International, but a handful of conservative critics have zeroed in on references to harassment based on sexual orientation. "No Name-Calling Week" was developed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which is seeking to ensure that schools safely accommodate students of all sexual orientations.
The group said it's unsure how many schools will participate in this week's event, but says 5,100 educators from 36 states have registered, up from 4,000 last year.
My first thoughts:
(1) Why just middle schools?
(2) Does this mean names are just dandy next week?
(3) What business does Amnesty International have getting involved in a domestic education issue?
(4) What conservative critics?
Well, this conservative critic, for one, who notes that the national spokesperson for the event has no problem with using nasty names for those who disagree with him (Dr. Throckmorton has more to say about hypocrisy, here.) And much of the ire seems to be coming from the fact that the movement has been centered around a book entitled The Misfits (when I first read that title, I thought it was the Arthur Miller play; yes, I'm old), in which there are four "much-taunted" middle-school students, one of whom is gay. Hence the involvement of groups such as GLSEN in the movement.
I've disagreed with GLSEN before (without calling them names), but I can't honestly disagree with an no-names policy. Lord knows we had one in my household growing up. My caveats: it has to be an across-the-board and round-the-clock policy on school grounds, that is, with the list of "bad names" well-defined - and that goes for teachers too. This means no nasty names against straights, whites, Republicans, or anyone else perceived to be the majority.
Of course, defining that list is apt to be tricky.
You've probably all heard about Harvard President Lawrence Summer's provocative statement that innate differences may help explain why women lag behind men in succeeding in math- and science-based careers. The NYT takes a closer look at the research:
Researchers who have explored the subject of sex differences from every conceivable angle and organ say that yes, there are a host of discrepancies between men and women - in their average scores on tests of quantitative skills, in their attitudes toward math and science, in the architecture of their brains, in the way they metabolize medications, including those that affect the brain.
Yet despite the desire for tidy and definitive answers to complex questions, researchers warn that the mere finding of a difference in form does not mean a difference in function or output inevitably follows...
To further complicate the portrait of cerebral diversity, new brain imaging studies from the University of California, Irvine, suggest that men and women with equal I.Q. scores use different proportions of their gray and white matter when solving problems like those on intelligence tests. Men, they said, appear to devote 6.5 times as much of their gray matter to intelligence-related tasks as do women, while women rely far more heavily on white matter to pull them through a ponder.
What such discrepancies may or may not mean is anyone's conjecture.
I have to admit, what I find fascinating about the whole thing is not so much the science behind it as the public reaction to any mention of this topic. Summers was essentially vilified for speaking about an area that has some solid research behind it. Meanwhile, we were treated to the spectacle of female audience members having to leave lest they "throw up" at his remarks, which doesn't exactly support the image of women being tough enough to handle intellectual debate.
I tend to agree with Linda Chavez on the topic:
...as uncomfortable as it might make feminists, the empirical evidence points to small but important differences in scientific and mathematical abilities between men and women.
On average, women perform better on verbal tests, while men demonstrate greater visual-spatial capabilities, and these differences are more striking at both the lower and upper extremes of intellectual ability. Boys outnumber girls in remedial reading classes — by large ratios, in most studies — but they are even likelier to outnumber girls among the most gifted in math and science. In one Johns Hopkins University study of gifted pre-adolescent students, boys outperformed girls among the top scoring students on math by 13-to-1.
One thing the media tends to downplay whenever discussions of intellectual ability arise is the fact that men tend to be further out on both tails of the intelligence spectrum. It's silly to complain about the "unfairness" of the relative proponderance of male geniuses when developmentally-delayed children are more likely to be males.
For example (from the NYT article):
Among college-bound seniors who took the math portion of the SAT in 2001, for example, nearly twice as many boys as girls scored over 700, and the ratio skews ever more male the closer one gets to 800, the top tally. Boys are also likelier than girls to get nearly all the answers wrong.
Something you don't often hear when people are whining about the "unfairness" SAT score disparities.
Back to Chavez:
For years, feminists have tried to explain away these achievement differences by suggesting girls are not encouraged properly to pursue math and science. Lately, some have even started blaming how these subjects are taught: too much emphasis on competition and being "right," too little on collaborative learning and nurturing self-esteem.
A strategy, by the way, that's guaranteed to get women who make it to the math programs laughed out of them. If there's one thing that any person, male or female, needs to succeed in the hard sciences, it's a burning desire to get things "right."
I do believe socialization can play a big part in the effort to guide more women towards math- and science-based careers; it's just that those "feminists" who believe in dumbing down the topics and focusing on "nurturing" are going about it all wrong. Any child, male or female, who is interested in science should be encouraged to be a tough, competitive, confident little know-it-all, and should be required to not only understand the importance of research but also to know how to use it to back up their claims.
When I was 4, my parents bought me the full set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica's Young Children's Encyclopedia - and encouraged me to be a total smartass with it. I still remember with glee the day I won a bet with my sister - who was then in high school - because I knew that a chicken's eyes were on the sides of its head, not the front.
Hey, it wasn't much, but it was a start. Without that encouragement, I daresay my career - and this blog - might not have ever gotten off the ground.
Princeton U. is experimenting with a norm-referenced standard as a means to combat grade inflation:
For students at Princeton University, final exams are even more stressful this year: The Ivy League school decided to make it harder to earn an A. The crackdown on high grades, part of a national battle against grade inflation at elite schools, has increased anxiety, and in some cases, made friendly students wonder whether they should offer study help to their competitors, er, classmates...
In a move students protested last year, Princeton became the first elite college to cap the number of A's that can be awarded. Previously, there was no official limit to the number of A's handed out, and nearly half the grades in an average Princeton class have been A-pluses, A's or A-minuses. Now, each department can give A's to no more than 35 percent of its students each semester.
Princeton's effort is being monitored closely by other hallowed halls, and some expect to see a ripple effect in coming years.
At other Ivy League schools, the percentages of A's in undergraduates courses ranges from 44 percent to 55 percent, according to Princeton's Web site. At Harvard University, 91 percent of seniors graduated with some kind of honors in 2001.
At that point, do the honors really mean anything? The Princeton plan does have its downside (especially in classes and departments with small numbers of students), but I agree that something needs to be done about the easy A. The proposal doesn't just limit the number of A's, but also provides guidelines for professors about what constitutes A-level work. And for those who worry that this system will frighten students away from "challenging" courses, I wonder if any student who avoids hard work just because the A isn't guaranteed needs to be in those classes anyway.
While the nation's public schools are busily devising ways to get parents more involved in education, colleges are seeing a boom in parents who are too involved, and dubbing them, "helicopter parents:"
Some people say the phenomenon is related to a baby-boom generation of involved parents who have been organizing their children's lives since infancy. And when their babies go off to college, some parents are unable to deal with the empty nest.
One of the names applied to them is "helicopter parents," who hover over campus and their children - mostly during their freshman year.
"I've talked to some students in this community whose parents moved here to be close to their child," said Mike Rollo, UF's associate vice president for student affairs....He said privacy laws that generally prevent parents from seeing their college students' grades also may contribute to more parental involvement....Rollo said he has seen cases in which parents demand a student's PIN so they can access their grades.
...perhaps most significant to the boom in parental involvement, some say, is technology. Cell phones, instant-messaging and other technological advances allow parents and students to be in almost constant touch.
"I have friends whose moms call them two and three times a day to check on them and see what they're doing," said Anthony Huereca, 21, a UF senior from Tampa who plans to graduate in May with a degree in computer engineering. "Sometimes when they see it's their mom, they ignore the call."
While any educator would be happy to see parents who obviously care how their children do in school, college administrators also want to point out that there can be too much of a good thing:
Resnick said some parents are reluctant to let their college students learn how to make their own choices, and mistakes. They feel that as parents they need to have a strong say in their children's academic and other decisions, she said.
"That can interfere with a student's development," she said. "Running a student's life and making all the decisions does not allow the student to develop good judgment and learn to manage and transition to young adulthood."
Blansett, who also is an appeals officer for UF's housing division, said they have had to ask students to turn off their cell phones during petition meetings. "A student comes in to talk to us, and a parent calls during the meeting and wants to be part of the appeal," she said. "We welcome parental involvement, but our challenge is to take that force and make it a positive force good for the parent and student."
I went to an undergrad university in my hometown; my freshman dorm was within walking distance of my mom's office, my stepfather's office, and my sister's office. While this arrangement was spiffy whenever I needed money or a trip to the doctor's office, I never felt I was being "hovered over," and my parents did their level best to leave me alone and let me get on with my life.
Caveon's biweekly Cheating In the News feature is up, and it features some doozies.
I particularly like this article, in which teachers blamed that dratted Internet for a rise in student cheating:
The Roosevelt High School literature assignment, an analysis of three works by American authors, was composed of awkward sentences full of clumsy grammar — except for the occasional flawless paragraph with complex syntax and striking observation.
The teacher, David Ehrich, suspected an Internet cut-and-paste job. When he confronted the student, the boy broke down and admitted to copying whole sections of his essay from the Web.
The widespread use of the Internet as a research tool has given rise to another phenomenon — widespread cheating among high-school students.
Hmm. Think the fact that high schooler haven't been taught anything past clunky grammar and awkward sentences also might have something to do with it?
Educators say a generation of tech-savvy students, raised on the hacker's mantra that "information wants to be free" and accustomed to downloading copyrighted music, may not realize that copying even a few sentences from the Web and weaving them into their papers, without crediting the original source, constitutes plagiarism and is grounds for suspension from many schools.
Isn't that where the teachers come in? Don't they make this clear to the students in each and every class? And do they really believe all these cheaters who claim that, "Gee, I just didn't know that copying someone else's work was wrong"?
Last year, an editor of the Roosevelt student newspaper touched off a firestorm when she wrote that cheating was a way of life for many high-school students.
"Cheating is certainly an art and once you get good at it, you begin to feel proud of some of the genius cheating plans you have developed. Why would you waste your time working when you can spend it coming up with 20 different ways to cheat?" asked Hanna Lirman, who is now in college.
Lirman's article was accompanied by a poll of 460 students. Ninety percent said they'd cheated within the past several years; 71 percent admitted to copying material from the Internet to complete assignments.
Yes, the Internet makes it easy. But if the Internet were to disappear tomorrow, somehow, I doubt all the cheating would disappear, too.
Of course, the Internet also makes it easier to catch cheaters, but some teachers believe the solution lies beyond better technology:
Some educators, however, say detection services only inspire more ingenious cheaters. They argue that carefully crafted assignments and more creative teaching is a better deterrent to plagiarism.
"Students often resort to cheating because they can, not because they have to," said Greg Van Belle, an English instructor at Edmonds Community College. Van Belle said assigning an essay on the same topic year after year invites cheating. Better to vary assignments, link classic texts to current events, ask students to work in groups or to write about how a work of literature relates to their own lives, he said.
UK comprehensive school St. John's has apparently decided to abdicate most of its responsibilities and put the pressure for teaching students completely on the parents:
All 12-year-olds at a comprehensive will be told today that homework is being scrapped because teachers have better things to do than mark it.
Dr Patrick Hazlewood, the head teacher of St John's in Marlborough, Wilts, who has already scrapped subject teaching, will not put it quite like that, of course. He will tell them that, to make their schooling more "relevant to life in the 21st century", they are to be given responsibility for "managing their own learning".
Parents, who were told on Monday, are confused because, according to school policy, "regular homework is an essential element of learning and contributes to the development of sound study habits". They are also asked to say if they think their child has been given too little.
St John's sees itself as at the forefront of radical educational change and Dr Hazlewood is testing a futuristic project devised by the Royal Society for the Arts which rejects the notion that a teacher's job is to transmit a body of knowledge to pupils.
The project aims instead to encourage pupils to "love learning for its own sake" and the project is intended to replace the "information-led, subject-driven" national curriculum with one based on "competences for learning, citizenship, relating to people, managing situations and managing information".
The point of schooling, the RSA says, is to acquire competence not subject knowledge. It believes that exams only impede pupils' progress.
Hoo boy. It's hard to imagine a more complete stew of inane "educational" theories. I'd say it's amusing to contemplate how St. John's will teach students to "manage information" when they're retreating from an "information-led" curriculum, but I imagine the parents of kids there don't think it's very funny. And it's absolutely horrifying to realize that a group of "educators" consider themselves radical, futuristic, and ground-breaking because they've trashed "the notion that a teacher's job is to transmit a body of knowledge to pupils."
I'm sure the kids are thrilled, though. No subjects, no homework, and they get to grade each others' work! All in the interest of giving students "responsibility" for their own learning, and in forcing parents to teach their children.
Captain Ed has the right response:
...what St. John's proposes is to switch places with the parents. St. John's said that teaching the national curriculum "grinds teachers into the ground," but what good are the schools if they don't teach any specific subjects? They want to teach values and how to get along with others in the sandbox while parents have to force their children to follow a curriculum in the hope that they won't give up like their teachers did.
I have a better idea for the parents of St. John's pupils. Pull them out of the school entirely and home-school them. The administration of St. John's proposes to transform itself into a day-care center for adolescents instead of an educational facility, a pointless exercise except for indoctrination. Parents will find it no more difficult to school their children directly and honestly, and this way they don't have to expose their kids to St. John's surrender ethics.
Update: Uh-oh, now the American students are getting ideas. And silly ideas, at that. How big of wanker do you have to be to bitch about summer homework for a presumably-voluntary honors pre-calculus class? Presumably, this kid knew that the fall class required summer homework when he signed up for it.
And do you even deserve to take the class when three "complex" assignments over the summer push you to the point of litigation?
The teacher gave Larson and his classmates three complex math assignments to do over the summer. Larson said it just wasn't right to get such difficult work over the summer. 'I had no energy at the end of the day to actually do it during my week. I only had one day off each week when I actually came home, and I could not do it then because I was catching up on sleep or just enjoying myself because that's what I should be able to do during the summer,' Larson said.
Excuse me, I just rolled my eyes so hard that I lost a contact lens.
Things I've been meaning to link to, and would have earlier if life weren't so insane:
Eduwonk asks a good question. Did Susan O'hanian really call them "thugs?" How lovely.
The Education Wonks have a fantastic regular round-up of education-related news from around the blogosphere. Go read this blog regularly (and no, I'm not saying that just because they link to me often in their "extra credit" posts).
Daryl Cobranchi has uncovered a hysterically-illogical statement by a lawyer fighting to keep unruly kids in school. Be sure to cite this guy any time you hear people picking on homeschoolers because their kids missed out on the vaunted public school "socialization" experience.
Our Horrible Children: Best frontpage image. I think I posed for a photo like that at her age...
My Short Pencil is unimpressed with the argument that red, white, and blue beads are gang colors.
Teachers using web technology in education: Weblogg-Ed.
Heathen Jenny D. starts a ruckus in the classroom.
Finally, do not get hooked on this game. I tend to play things like this in the downtime between stressful hours at work. One time I played this right before I drove home, and as I was changing lanes in rush-hour traffic I realized I was mentally lining up cars of similar colors to see if I could spot three in a row. Unfortunately, even when I did, they didn't disappear.
Update: Cat lovers with dirty computer monitors, click here! (It wasn't loading when I created this link, but I had gotten it to load before; hopefully, it will again.)
Indiana has a mandatory exit exam, and a panel recently voted to up the standard for passing - apparently for the sole purpose of keeping the percentage of students passing the same from year to year:
An advisory panel voted Tuesday to recommend that the state raise the score required to pass Indiana's mandatory graduation exam...Officials expect about 32 percent to fail the English portion of the test. About 36 percent are expected to fail the math portion, which included algebra for the first time last fall.
The state agency adjusted the pass-fail scores recommended by a panel of teachers to achieve those percentages, which are about the same as last year's failure rate, said Wes Bruce, who heads student assessment at the Indiana Department of Education.
You don't see many attempts at norm-referencing in exit exams, for the simple reason that an exit exam should represent material mastered, not location on the curve. There's no reason why 100% of students can't pass a high school exit exam, and no reason why 32% failing should be a number that Indiana hopes to see year-to-year. I think this is an attempt at equating the exam across years, but it's not a useful attempt.
The percentage of students who pass or fail is a more important number than the score, an expert said. "With all the games we play, we're just deciding the percentage of kids that are going to fail," said Lowell Rose, a former Kokomo school superintendent and consultant with the Indiana Urban Schools Association.
I have no idea what that quote is supposed to tell us. Yes, percent failing is important, but there's no reason to tweak standards to keep that constant year-to-year.
Raising the passing score on the GQE is the latest move to make the earning of a high school diploma more demanding. The panel in October unanimously approved a plan that by 2011 would make college aid and admissions contingent on students earning a Core 40 diploma — a much more stringent academic path.
That, I have no quarrel with.
Education officials say such measures are necessary to ensure that Hoosiers have the skills needed to get into college and get good jobs. Critics say the tougher standards will make it impossible for some students to graduate regardless of their college plans and doom their chances of making a decent living.
Do the critics stop to think that students who don't master high-school-level material (and the stuff on exit exams tends to be VERY easy) won't have many college plans, or much hope for a decent income? That it's not the test that will hold students back, but their educational deficits?
That much said, the test should only be made more difficult if the curriculum is well-aligned to it. Increasing the difficulty of test items while not focusing on the teaching of those items in school would miss the point entirely, which is to intensify the curriculum, not the items.
The GQE is the cap of a series of annual standardized tests Indiana students must take beginning in third grade. Sophomores who do not pass both sections on the first try are given four more chances to pass before they finish high school. Students also can apply for waivers to graduate despite failing the exam, and people who do not pass the test can retake it after they leave high school, though they might have to take remedial classes at their own expense or take free televised courses.
Remember what I said about how easy exit exams are?
The Dover school district (PA) is making national (and probably international) news with the teaching of "intelligent design:"
Administrators in the Dover Area School District read a statement to three biology classes yesterday and were expected to read it to other classes today...The district is believed to be the only one in the nation to require students to hear about intelligent design — a concept that holds that the universe is so complex, it had to be created by an unspecified guiding force...
Biology teacher Jennifer Miller said although she was able to make a smooth transition to her evolution lesson after the statement was read, some students were upset that administrators would not entertain any questions about intelligent design.
"They were told that if you have any questions, to take it home," Miller said.
The district allowed students whose parents objected to the policy to be excused from hearing the statement at the beginning of class and science teachers who opposed the requirement to be exempted from reading the statement.
So, it's not an iron-clad requirement. And the lawsuits have begun. Some say that teaching evolution as fact is censoring debate. Others claim that requiring such a statement in schools is a violation of church and state.
Meanwhile, down in Georgia, a judge has ordered that stickers affixed to high school bio books that read, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" be removed:
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the immediate removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks that call evolution "a theory, not a fact," saying they were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The disclaimers were put in the books by school officials in suburban Cobb County in 2002...
School board members said in a written statement that they were disappointed by the ruling and were reviewing it to determine whether to appeal. A board spokesman said no decision had been made on when, or if, the stickers will be removed...Schools in the suburban district just north of Atlanta placed the stickers after more than 2,000 parents complained the textbooks presented evolution as fact, without mentioning rival ideas about the beginnings of life...
"Science and religion are related and they're not mutually exclusive," school district attorney Linwood Gunn had argued. "This sticker was an effort to get past that conflict and to teach good science."
The stickers read, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
I'm not only not an expert in this area, I didn't even know pandas had thumbs.
I recently saw a commercial encouraging Americans to stand up for more arts education in schools. It's not one of the Americans for the Arts commercials, and I can't find it online. I wish I could find a link to it, though.
In the ad, you see a man (suspiciously preppy-looking and well-dressed) playing violin on a tree-lined suburban street. A soccer mom walks by with her well-fed and well-dressed young son. As they pass the "street musician" (who looks right out of Eddie Bauer), the mom smiles - and the kid sneers, stares at the violinists, and says, "Get a job!"
The music comes to a screeching halt as both violinist and mom stare in horror at the kid.
What you're supposed to take away from the ad: If children don't have art classes in school, they won't respect the arts in real life.
What I actually took away from the ad: I don't know, because I was laughing too hard to think about it. Had I seen this little scenario transpire in real life, I would have laughed even harder.
You know, I hear a lot of complaints from educators about standardized exams and how they "reduce children to a number." The idea of computing one score, one result, one piece of data, and attaching that to a student as a measure carrying consequences fills them with horror.
Not surprisingly, I think they'll also react negatively to the idea of reducing a child to a BMI:
Texas school districts would be required to include the body mass index of students as part of their regular report cards under a bill introduced Tuesday by a lawmaker seeking to link healthy minds with healthy bodies. When the measurement, which calculates body fat based on height and weight, indicates a student is overweight, the school would provide parents with information about links between increased body fat and health problems, said Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.
More than a third of school-age children in Texas are overweight or obese, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Eric Allen, a spokesman for the Association for Texas Professional Educators, said most parents don't need to be told their child is overweight. "It doesn't have a place on a report card," he said.
This article contains quotes from the senator which will frighten the pants off of every libertarian and small-government supporter:
"We should be just as concerned with students' physical health and performance as we are with their academic performance," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.
"Just as concerned"? Let's see, what usually happens when the government decides to become "concerned" about something? Fines, fees, regulations, red tape....if teachers and parents are having a hard enough time dealing with NCLB, what's it going to be like when No Child Fattened Up gets implemented?
Please, Sen. Van de Putte. We have a hard enough time getting schools to focus on things that should be on report cards (reading, writing, 'rithmatic). Sure, send all the health information home to parents (or teach it during health class), but it's hard to imagine the rationale for preserving for all eternity one's BMI during elementary school.
Tom Mountain of the Newton Tab believes he's uncovered the reason for the sudden drop in local MCAS math scores:
The school department was recently forced to publicly admit that the sixth-grade MCAS math scores have steadily declined over the past three years to the point where 32 percent of sixth-graders are now in the "warning" or "needs improvement" category. This means that if we were to attach a letter grade to these sixth-grade MCAS math results it would be a D-plus, with only 68 percent of the students passing...
Since the school department has neither an explanation nor a solution to the problem, and since it's likely that these same highly paid administrators will still be in their positions overseeing this problem for which they have neither an explanation nor a solution, there is every reason to assume that this downward trend will continue....why have the sixth-grade MCAS scores plummeted in just three years? What mitigating circumstances, such as demographic or economic factors, could have contributed to this downward spiral?
Since Newton has been curiously alone in this decline, surely we can't blame the MCAS itself, especially since the test has hardly changed in just three years. The demographics of the city haven't shifted in so short a period. The socioeconomic level of the population has risen steadily. The school budget has dramatically increased...
The only logical and remaining explanation is change that occurred in the Newton math curriculum itself...In short, what has changed in the elementary and middle school math curriculum to have affected such a dramatic decline in the MCAS scores?
Answer: the new math curriculum, otherwise known as anti-racist multicultural math.
In 2001 Mr. Young, Mrs. Wyatt and an assortment of other well-paid school administrators, defined the new number-one priority for teaching mathematics, as documented in the curriculum benchmarks, "Respect for Human Differences - students will live out the system wide core of 'Respect for Human Differences' by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors." It continues, "Students will: Consistently analyze their experiences and the curriculum for bias and discrimination; Take effective anti-bias action when bias or discrimination is identified; Work with people of different backgrounds and tell how the experience affected them; Demonstrate how their membership in different groups has advantages and disadvantages that affect how they see the world and the way they are perceived by others..." It goes on and on.
Here are the core values for Newton Public Schools:
to provide--and be self-reflective about--authentic, effective, challenging and
creative instruction that is responsive to different learning styles and improves
student achievement. Respect for human differences places the learner at the
center of the teaching and learning and fashions instruction that builds upon the
learner's unique strengths and addresses his/her needs.
to encourage the broadest understanding and acceptance of human differences
(including differences in socio-economic class, gender, race, ethnicity, culture,
language, learning styles, special needs, physical appearance, sexual orientation, etc.) while affirming fundamental similarities of the human community
Can anyone translate that into plain English for me? And can anyone see in there, anywhere, a commitment to educating Newton's youth to their fullest potential by increasing their literacy, numeracy, scientific understanding, self-discipline, motivation, and all that other stuff that is so crucial to genuine education?
I also note that Newton makes sure to define any sort of standardized test as an assessment that is not "authentic," whereas their definition of an "authentic" assessment is so vague as to be laughable.
It's not a wonder that MCAS math scores have precipitously declined; it's only a wonder that every other MCAS scores hasn't declined as much.
When visiting England, American tourists should remember that a gallon of water is 160 ounces, not 128; the hood of a car is the roof, not the front cover of the engine; and a 17% correct response on an exam is a B, not an F:
Pupils have been awarded a B grade in a maths GCSE exam despite scoring only 17 per cent, The Telegraph can reveal. The pass marks for the new exam, which was taken last summer by 7,500 children from 65 schools and is due to be introduced nationwide next year, were an all-time low.
Pupils sitting GCSE maths last year had to achieve about 40 per cent to get a B grade. But with the new exam, designed by the Cambridge-based exam board OCR, those who got as little as 17 per cent were given a B, while those scoring 45 per cent were awarded an A.
The move, revealed just days after Government ministers hailed "record" achievements at GCSE, was condemned yesterday by examiners and teachers, who said it would invite ridicule...
The new exam has been designed to replace the "three-tier" GCSE, where teenagers sit a higher, intermediate or foundation paper depending on their ability. Pupils taking the lowest paper cannot achieve the all-important grade C. Candidates will instead take a "two-tier" GCSE. The more difficult paper allows pupils to get A* to B grades, while a less difficult one covers grades C and D.
If the difficulties of the papers differ by that much, then yes, it's possible that a 17% on the higher-level paper really is B work. Not something that looks good to the public - especially if the observation is that those who get those B's and A's really aren't capable of doing that well later on - but it is possible. However, it doesn't seem very useful to have an exam in which even the A scorers get half the questions wrong, because all those additional items go to waste. It would make far more sense to assemble the exam to have many more of the B level items, which would both raise the percent-passing level for a B (thus satisfying the public) and better discriminate among B and A level students. There can still be a few impossible items on there to sort out the A from the A* kids, but there don't need to be many of such items, if they're well-chosen.
(Hat tip to Captain's Quarter's for the link.)
Update: Tall, Dark, & Mysterious has much more on the topic of grade inflation (especially in Canada, where she's based). Well worth your time to go read it all.
Well, I've worked 48 hours already this week, and I'll be working tomorrow as well. I'm at the computer checking email, and keeping my cell phone nearby, tonight, because one of my co-worker's is still plugging away on something and needs to call me later.
Yeah, I know - great life, ain't it?
But hey, here's what I get to look at as I sit hunched over a computer for the nth time this week.
Mama's Boy: Pippin keeps me company as I blog.
An angel and a dragon protect some very strange books.
Alice and the Cheshire Cat ponder their escape from the birdcage.
A little brouhaha in Maine over new scholarship requirements:
For the last seven years, the University of Maine has offered scholarships to the two top students of every Maine state-approved high school in an effort to recognize the state's "best and brightest." In October, however, staff at Richmond High School were informed that its top two scholars — as well as those at other Maine high Schools — would no longer automatically qualify for full scholarships to the state university.
Instead they will now join all other Maine students in a competitive selection process that will include performance on standardized tests.
Uh-oh. Cue the "Oh no, our students are now oppressed by this heinous new requirement!" refrain. But first, the man who changed the rules valiantly tries to defend his decision:
[Assistant provost and dean of enrollment manager for the University of Maine John] Beacon said the university made the change to address what he believes is an inherent flaw in the selection process. "My personal concerns is that we're setting students up for potential failure," he said.
Beacon estimates that about one in four eligible top scholars enroll at the University of Maine each year through the program, but data shows that many fail to maintain the 3.0 grade-point average needed to keep the scholarship. Many of those students leave UMO because they can't afford to continue their education without the scholarship, Beacon said.
Instead of using each school's ranking methods to predict success at the university, Beacon suggests that standardized tests provide a better measure. He cites a statistical correlation between high standardized test scores and student success — and between lower test scores and academic unpreparedness — at the university.
Nice try, but no cigar for the anti-testing, anti-empirical-data crowd:
[Richmond's superintendent of schools Denison] Gallaudet argues that the SAT is merely a "mild predictor of a kid's ability to succeed as a freshman," and referred to a report by Bates College last year that said comparisons showed no difference in academic performance or graduation rates in their students since the Lewiston college started making the SAT exam optional 20 years ago.
"I just worry at what is a very inspiring award... it's going to turn into an award that gives disproportionately to higher socio-economic standards," said Gallaudet. "I think it's a shame."
As to Beacon's data, Gallaudet said "correlation is not causality." He worries this is a case of "blame the victim" that could create a barrier for good students from families with lower income to get scholarships.
Holding students to an objective standard in the process of deciding whether to fork over free money to them is now considered "blaming the victim?" Talk about a sense of entitlement. Gee, why wasn't kicking the third-ranked student out of the running for the scholarship in the past also considered "blaming the victim?" Isn't that a standard? Might not class rank also positively correlate with SES?
I agree, it could suck for those for whom the rule has just changed. But it would have also sucked for those kids had they admitted to a school that was beyond their capabilities. Now they can take the standardized test and see how they do on that; as Beacon points out, top students shouldn't exactly be afraid of such a test. Not unless they believe the hype about tests being inherently biased against students who are first in their class.
A test-prep author makes the news:
...Because of the changes [in the SAT], previously used methods to taking the exam were cast aside, opening the door for Christopher Black, an independent education author in Greenwich, who has since revolutionized the way students approach the SATs.
In June, he published McGraw-Hill's SAT I, which is currently the No. 1 best-selling SAT I preparation book, surpassing the Barron's version...which takes the "buckshot" approach by trying to categorize questions on the test. Black, sole proprietor of College Hill Coaching, takes a different approach. He developed the College Hill Method, which "uses systematic lessons to reinforce the fundamental academic reasoning skills that lead to success in college as well as on the SAT I," he said.
"I did it because students, teachers and parents need a serious and smart guide to the SAT," said Black, 39...
It took Black more than a decade to develop the materials for the books. He received help from his business partner Mark Anestis and various high school teachers. "(The teachers) have told me that there is a real dearth of good materials to use in class to help students with the SAT," said Black of his SAT I book. Black feels that the loss of analogies from the SAT exam will render the "crack-the-test" approach, used by such companies as Princeton Review, "utterly worthless." The "crack-the-test" approach was created in the early 1980s by Ivy League business school graduates who viewed the SAT as somewhat of a joke that could be aced by anyone that knew the "insider's tricks," according to Black.
"Of course they were wrong," said Black, who used to substitute teach at Greenwich High School and Central Park East before receiving his master's in education from Columbia University. "But their approach sold a lot of books and prep tests"...
Yes, it certainly did. But Black's approach, so far, seems to be showing results, not just profits. Not surprising, considering that it focuses not on tricks and insider tips, but on "reinforc[ing] the fundamental academic reasoning skills" used on the exam. In other words, by actually teaching would-be test takers something useful.
An ardent foe of Colorado's Student Assessment Program (CSAP) has begun running "Just Say No" ads, with money raised from bake sales:
Don Purl is so determined to voice his displeasure about the Colorado Student Assessment Program, he did it one cupcake at a time. For his latest campaign, advertising on bus benches and on posters that will be posted in two Denver-area malls, he and his CSAP Resistance Movement raised $1,950 through bumper stickers, donations and bake sales.
"It was beyond a grass-roots movement," said Greeley resident and part-time lecturer in Spanish at the University of Northern Colorado. "It was underneath the roots."
For years, Purl has attempted to get the CSAP test abolished. His past protests against the CSAP test have recently included a ballot initiative that fell far short of the 68,000 signatures he needed to get it listed. Even so, Purl said he was happy with the 12,485 signatures collected, and the failure inspired his group to raise money for his next move...
Purl timed the advertising campaign to begin on Martin Luther King Jr. Day because he said, generally, students who do well on the test come from affluent neighborhoods and those who don't do well tend to live in areas stricken by poverty.
"Standardized testing doesn't honor those differences," Purl said, "and so the test is blatant desegregation. We can hear him applauding."
"Doesn't honor those differences?" Funny, but I don't recall MLK fighting for the right to hold minority students to different educational standards than other students, or for minority children to be regarded as ever-different from others. Perhaps that's a speech of MLK's that I missed.
Of course, no test is perfect, but go check out the test, and ask yourself if, for example, we should respect the "differences" of minority third- and fourth-students who can't answer these math items.
(Note: I'm well aware that Purl is misspelled, and is supposed to have an "e" in it, not a "u". However, for reasons beyond my comprehension - other than the fact that the universe is against me tonight - this post kept generating a server error if I spelled Purl's name correctly. Swear to dog, it did. So this was my solution.)
By 2009, high school students in Milford, Connecticut will be able to graduate only after passing the very high hurdle of...knowing how to read:
The Board of Education signed off Tuesday on a much-heralded plan to make reading the next graduation requirement for the city's high school students, designating the Class of 2009 the first to be subject to the new rules...
Board Chairwoman Joan Politi, R-1, said the majority of the board members felt the new requirement would improve learning while helping the district deliver on its "performance promises," a set of educational goals that serves as a mission statement for Milford Public Schools.
"The board understands that reading is essential to lifelong learning and is in conformance with our performance promises," Politi said.
Reading? Essential to learning? Why, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
The only official of the 10-member board who declined to vote on the proposal was Ronald Funaro, D-2. Attempts Wednesday to contact Funaro were unsuccessful. Last month, Funaro was one of at least two board members who questioned why the district was focusing on high school reading when such learning problems existed in the middle schools, too.
"We are talking about teaching reading in high school. When did we miss it in elementary school? When did we miss it in middle school?" Funaro asked at the Dec. 14 meeting.
Thank God. Someone with sense. If the district doesn't focus on reading until students are past puberty, there's a problem. And why would such a focus be"much-heralded" unless the district is pretty much admitting that they haven't much paid attention to such things in the past...which is what they do admit:
David Larson, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents, said more districts have increased reading standards since the creation a decade ago of the 10th-grade reading exam on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test.
Overall, high school educators statewide have been placing more emphasis on the fundamentals of learning. "There is more and more interest in reading, writing and arithmetic in the high school level than there has been in the past," Larson said.
He said mastering such skills can only help students succeed in the real world.
Does that mean we can all agree that schools that once focused, or continued to focus, on things other than the 3R's are not living in the real world?
Another day, another state (Michigan), another round of debate on the topic of grading diverse schools based on how their subgroups perform:
Large school districts say their diversity is their strength, but it became the Achilles heel of some local schools Thursday when federal No Child Left Behind rankings were issued. Seven of the region's 10 biggest school districts -- representing 46 percent of West Michigan's students -- failed to meet federal guidelines in math and English tests...
While the system is intended to hold districts accountable for the education of all students, leaders of large and diverse districts say the odds are stacked against them because they will have more subgroups -- giving them more chances to fail.
Superintendents said forcing special education students to take tests designed for mainstream students is particularly unfair. Of the nine area districts that missed the AYP mark, eight were tagged partially because of scores from special education students.
...Kentwood Superintendent Mary Leiker said it's unfair to test to students just learning English or who are in most special education programs. "These are children we set up with individualized educational programs because they have special needs," she said. "Now, is it fair to tell them they have special needs on every day except testing day? If a child is autistic, God bless them. But they're still autistic on test day"...
But advocates for special education students say that's exactly the kind of thinking No Child Left Behind is intended to stamp out.
...[ Richard J. Robinson, executive director of the Boston-based Federation for Children with Special Needs said] "Too often, schools label students as 'special education' and steer them into a track of low-level courses with low expectations. No Child has forced them to shed light on students who have historically been put in the background."
President Bush began a second-term drive yesterday that he said would improve the American high school, urging the same testing and consequences he used to shake up earlier grades.
In his first major education speech since winning reelection, Bush touted his plan to demand state reading and math tests in grades three through 11. That would broaden his No Child Left Behind law, which requires one year of state testing during grades 10 to 12.
"Testing in high schools will make sure that our children are employable for the jobs of the 21st century," Bush said at J.E.B. Stuart High School. "Testing will allow teachers to improve their classes. Testing will enable schools to track. Testing will make sure that the diploma is not merely a sign of endurance, but the mark of a young person ready to succeed."
Leave No Teenager (or Potential Employee) Behind, I suppose.
Next entry in the "It's ridiculous what's acceptable in public schools today" contest:
Students at a Palo Alto middle school learned more than school officials ever expected when a recent "career day" speaker extolled the merits of stripping and expounded on the financial benefits of a larger bust.
The hubbub began Tuesday at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School's third annual career day when a student asked Foster City salesman William Fried to explain why he listed "exotic dancer" and "stripper" on a handout of potential careers. Fried, who spoke to about 45 eighth-grade students during two separate 55-minute sessions, spent about a minute explaining that the profession is viable and potentially lucrative for those blessed with the physique and talent for the job.
According to Fried and students who attended the talk, Fried told one group of about 16 students that strippers can earn as much as $250,000 a year and that a larger bust -- whether natural or augmented -- has a direct relationship to a dancer's salary.
He told the students, "For every two inches up there, it's another $50,000," according to Jason Garcia, 14.
Yeeks. The school admins insist the only problem here was that the substitute teacher who was present didn't stop Fried from speaking on these topics, although Captain's Quarters would beg to disagree:
Parents demanded an explanation from the school, who blamed the episode on a substitute teacher not cutting off Fried when he went off on his tangent. Left unanswered is why a 64-year-old man thought that such a topic fit within the confines of a middle-school discussion. He had listed the topic on his handouts, so the subject didn't come from the students in the class. It seems that Fried has a little problem and probably lacks the judgment to be around minors.
Yes, as in, eighth-graders. Would you like to hear that your eighth-grade daughter had been told that it would be a good idea to start saving up for breast implants? Didn't think so. Nor would you have wanted your early-developing daughter to have felt self-conscious in class. (The refreshingly obscene Right Thinking From The Left Coast says Fried's comments could have been worse, had he wanted to spread equal-opportunity job tips.)
Reached at his home, Fried said he understands that some may have felt he crossed the line, but he stood by his overall conduct. His remarks were part of a larger presentation entitled, "The Secret of a Happy Life," which he's given at the last two career days. The talk is aimed at inspiring kids to find happiness by settling on careers that they love to do and are especially equipped to perform.
Given what Fried thinks is appropriate career advice for eighth-graders, that last phrase could be interpreted a few different ways, don't you think?
I'm sure my Devoted Readers would consider the best insanely-restrictive Zero Tolerance policy out there to be one that doesn't exist. I'd agree, except that apparently doesn't stop some schools from applying such policies:
Suspension records will be expunged for a 14-year-old girl who was removed from Mustang Middle School for possession of prescription drugs.
Chloe Smith was suspended for a year after a drug-sniffing dog found prescription hormones in her locker on Dec. 3. School officials later reduced the suspension to five days.
The American Civil Liberties Union appealed her suspension to school administrators and were preparing to appeal to the school board when the settlement was offered.
"The school has been implementing a zero-tolerance policy, but doesn't have a zero-tolerance policy," ACLU attorney Tina Izadi said Tuesday.
Emphasis mine. I suppose we can applaud the school for not actually having such a policy forbidding students to take legal, prescribed medication on campus - but not when school administrators use their "discretion" to try to suspend such students and force them into "drug counseling." Zero Intelligence has the whole sordid tale.
At what point does bullying a kid become bullying a "category of kid," i.e., a hate crime?
Ever since he was 12, Daniel Romano has cut a noticeable figure around Middle Village, a working class part of Queens. Mr. Romano, 20, who calls himself a Satanist, stands out, with his blue-tinted bouffant hairdo, his black clothing and fingernails, and the prominent crucifix, worn upside down. Mr. Romano has long been teased for dressing like a "gothic kid" or simply a "goth"...
But in recent weeks, two local teenagers began fixating on Mr. Romano, calling him names including "Satan worshiper," "baby sacrificer" and "hooker killer," the authorities say. On Sunday the verbal harassment turned into violence.
Violence that included blunt objects as weapons, and resulted in 12 stitches for Mr. Romano. The Queens DA has decided to prosecute this as a hate crime:
Prosecutors say they attacked Mr. Romano because of his religious beliefs: They thought he worshiped Satan. They were arraigned yesterday on charges of second-degree assault as a hate crime, possession of a weapon and aggravated harassment. The charges could carry prison terms of up to 15 years...
...An assistant district attorney, George J. Farrugia, said the defendants believed that Mr. Romano worshiped Satan and "over the last month and a half, they have had it in for this kid, and have been abusive."
Mr. Scarpinito's lawyer, Richard Leff, called the charges "an abuse of the hate crime status," and said his client had never been in trouble. Mr. Rotondi's lawyer, Sean A. McNicholas, said prosecutors were calling this a hate crime because of "politics and press."
"The kid is gothic with blue hair: He falls into a category of kid," Mr. McNicholas said. "At worst, this is a simple dispute between kids, not an attack on a minority. If the accusation was that he was black or Asian or Latino or Jewish, it's one thing...They see this as a religious practice. It's a dispute between kids, the same way you have the nerds, the jocks, the artsy kids and the teacher's pets. What's next? Someone being accused of attacking a preppie, or a nerd?"
This type of argument underscores the problem with "hate crime" legislation, I think, and that is: Where do you draw the line? Certainly, other hate crimes have involved religious practices; an attack on a synagogue would certainly fall under current hate crime boundaries.
I'm certainly not in favor of anyone attacking goths (or Satanists, for that matter). But I'm not in favor of hate crime legislation either, for three reasons. One, because of the difficulty in trying to establish state of mind at the time of the crime. Two, because of the preposterousness of focusing on whether the attackers were viewing the victim as a member of a hated group, rather than focusing on whether the attackers premeditated their crime and expected to cause as much harm as they did. And three, because of the potential abuse of such laws to ultimately punish people who only display hatred of a certain group, but who break no laws in doing so (I'm thinking of oppressive campus speech codes here).
Good to see some parents putting their foot down over the potential invasion of a particularly nasty "cultural" event at their local public school:
The Fox TV reality series "The Simple Life" will not be using a South Jersey school as the setting for one of its episodes. "The show will not come to Cleary School," Buena Regional School District Superintendent Diane DeGiacomo said Monday night...
The proposed filming had provoked heated opposition from parents who felt it was not appropriate and feared that it would hold their community up to ridicule.
Producers of the hit show starring racy heiress Paris Hilton had approached school officials in December, offering to pay $5,000 to film an episode at a school in the mostly rural community 30 miles west of Atlantic City...The idea for the Buena episode was to have Hilton and Richie work as substitute teachers and cafeteria monitors at the J.P. Cleary Middle School.
School district officials initially were amenable to the idea, and permission forms and a letter from the show's production company were sent home to parents last week. But some responded angrily, saying that Hilton, whose celebrity was fueled by an X-rated home video that made the rounds of the Internet, was not a fit role model for middle school students.
What does it say that school district officials were originally amenable to the idea of letting a porn star and an ex-heroin addict, both famous for nothing other than being rich and wearing very little, teach the local students, on camera, for a sleazy reality show? Thank God at least 34 parents had the nerve to protest this attempted farce (sadly, they were in vast minority). I suppose that letting Paris Hilton substitute-teach is what homeschooling opponents have in mind as the vaunted "socialization" that homeschooled kids miss out on.
And, uh, I suppose that means the district is amenable to letting other porn stars, and women with past convictions for heroin possession, into the classroom? You know, to be consistent.
Things like this don't help the public's perceptions of standardized tests:
Students at the Maryland School for the Deaf were asked on a standardized test to match words containing similar sounds, and state education officials promised to adjust the scores after acknowledging the problem.
The state Department of Education also will ensure that questions in this year's version of the Maryland School Assessment are appropriate for hearing-impaired students, spokesman Bill Reinhard said Monday.
The changes follow complaints by James E. Tucker, superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf, that the reading section of the test asked third- and fourth-grade students to match pairs of words with similar sounds, such as the vowel sound in "castle" and "manner."
"As a deaf person, I'm not familiar with sounds," Tucker told The Frederick News-Post. "I have a problem answering these questions myself, and I'm an education man."
More grist for the one-size-doesn't-fit-all mill, I suppose. Makes me wonder, too, how many of those I'd've gotten wrong as a kid, with my pronounced Southern accent. I still don't rhyme "route" with "boot", for example, although I suppose the test developers were canny enough to bypass those words with extreme regional variance in pronounciation.
Whenever someone emails me to tell me my comments aren't working, or that I got something wrong, or that one of my links is dead/evil/requires registration, or that (God forbid) that my page isn't loading, I feel a strange sense of guilt and bewilderment, like I've become responsible for something that is not only surreal but somewhat beyond my control, letting people down today who I didn't know existed yesterday. Today, James Lileks sums up this bewildered-blogger sensation perfectly:
I am sorry I linked to a page that tried to run some Active X voodoo last week; I had no idea. I can’t say “get a Mac!” or “get Firefox!” because many of you are at work, and in the thrall to IT guys who have job security patching the shambling undead gibbering monsters belched out by Microsoft. I apologize. I did get one letter that was signed “former daily reader,” which made me weary beyond belief. I understand, but jeez. This is an odd hobby. It’s like having a train set, a gigantic train set in the basement, and in the morning you not only find a derailment you find people streaming out of the tiny houses yelling at you.
I decided to shake things up and slip the photos in now. Given my new diet and work schedule, I expect to be comatose by Friday.
At least SOMEONE around my house is drinking enough water:
My penchant for big, soft, plum-toned bedding leads to snuggling staredowns, i.e., "Showdown at the Purple Corral":
Ah, for spring to come again...
How are we going to convince kids that it's fair for us to take away all the sweets from their school vending machines when Mom is downing one of these every morning?
Um, honey, we may want to keep the kids away from the "bunny trails" this week.
Dan Flynn says, "Return the money!" It won't make everything OK again, but it would be a start.
What's wrong with American high schools, you ask? Erin O'Connor and her commenters answer.
Daryl C - like, fer sure, dude! - finds a homeschooling article that's not only positive but reveals that homeschooled kids actually appear normal, too. And can you believe that a recent study suggests over a third of college admin officers still think that homeschooled kids aren't "socialized" enough for college? Yeeks.
Well, this is one way to stop the freakers:
Fed up with students' racy moves, a principal at a California high school has taken the unusual step of canceling the rest of this year's school dances. Principal Jim Bennett of Lemoore Union High School said he warned students at a winter formal dance last month to either quit dirty dancing or face the possibility of not dancing at all.
But he said the students continued "freak dancing," a form of sexually suggestive dancing that involves grinding the hips and pelvic area.
The ban on dances includes the school's Sadie Hawkins dance in February and the junior and senior proms in the spring, but Bennett said they could be rescheduled if students modify their behavior.
"It's really up to the kids at this point. They have to take some responsibility," Bennett said.
How 'bout Bennett sponsors a dance class during lunch, or has the students learn steps in gym? I mean, it's entirely possible that these kids really don't know any other moves that are fun yet un-dorky. Bennett could attempt to make un-freaky dancing "cool" again, which would show that he's doing his part to help solve the problem. I agree that there should be scary chaperones and tough peers to enforce the no-freak rules at dances - but it would be fair to enable kids to learn some other way to dance as well.
The sad tale of a dedicated-yet-unhighly-qualified teacher with bells on her tap shoes but no test to take:
Though her superiors will tell you otherwise, dance teacher Jennifer McClung at Homewood High School isn't considered "highly qualified" under federal guidelines imposed under President Bush's No Child Left Behind act. The designation is required for teachers in core teaching areas such as English and math and other disciplines including foreign languages and fine arts.
Dance falls under fine arts.
McClung graduated from Auburn University with a music education degree. While touring with a show choir in Alaska, she was asked to take over Homewood High's program. After seven years of teaching dance, including coaching the Star Spangled Girls dance group of the school's marching unit, McClung and her administrators are seeking a way to get her highly qualified status.
To become highly qualified, McClung has two options.
One would send her back to school to get about 30 credits of dance classes by May 2006, when all public school systems must have their teachers highly qualified. The other option would be to take a Praxis standardized test that passes state muster and would evaluate her teaching ability.
But for now, no such test exists for dance.
"There is no way that I would be able to get a bachelor's in dance in the time that they're requiring me to do so," McClung said. "For me to stay highly qualified in dance, the Praxis is the only way for me to stay in fine arts."
The state education agency is launching an effort to catch cheating on standardized tests, officials announced Monday. Officials will hire an outside expert to review security measures and build a tracking system to monitor test scoring irregularities that could signal cheating...
The changes are in response to a Dallas Morning News investigation that found strong evidence that educators at nearly 400 schools statewide helped students cheat on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. The newspaper study identified schools whose test scores swung wildly from poor to stellar.
TEA's announcement breaks with a previous policy of trusting districts to police themselves. TEA officials had said they investigated cheating allegations only when a district requested it or when they received credible eyewitness evidence of cheating.
The Dallas Morning News, not surprisingly, has more:
Dr. Neeley said the agency had not yet decided how exactly it would analyze test scores to search for cheaters. The News methodology examined the average scale scores of students in each grade at every school. TEA officials have access to more detailed data on individual students, which could allow for more precise detecting of unusual gains.
...a Dallas Morning News investigation has found strong evidence that at least some of the success at Wesley and two affiliated schools come from cheating.
"You're expected to cheat there," said Donna Garner, a former teacher at Wesley who said her fellow teachers instructed her on how to give students answers while administering tests. "There's no way those scores are real."
The News ' analysis found troubling gaps in test scores at Wesley, Highland Heights, and Osborne elementaries, which are all in the Acres Homes neighborhood in Houston. Scores swung wildly from year to year. Schools made jarring test-score leaps from mediocre to stellar in a year's time...
In 2003, fifth-graders in the three elementaries fared extremely well on the reading Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Collectively, they ranked in the top 10 percent of all Texas schools – outscoring high-performing suburban schools in places such as Grapevine, Lewisville and Allen. The fifth-graders' math scores were less spectacular but still slightly above the state average.
But a year later, the scores of those same students came crashing down. When they were sixth-graders at M.C. Williams Middle School, they finished in the bottom 10 percent of the state in both reading and math.
Emphasis mine. Sheesh. It's hard to understand why it took the district this long to consider a tracking system and external review.
The blogosphere is all agog over the recently-released report on the disputed CBS story about President Bush’s National Guard service, which details rampant dishonesty, bias, and unprofessional behavior at the network. While the poli-bloggers focus on such petty, unimportant things, ZeroIntelligence.Net has the scoop on the real travesty facing our country today - the "ghettoization" of PB&J-eaters:
Savannah Dowling is a typical 8-year-old girl; much of her protein comes from peanut butter sandwiches. However, if she wants to bring one to Central Indiana's Pleasant View Elementary School, she has to eat it at a special table in the cafeteria to accommodate one first grader with a severe allergy. Soon she'll have to take her lunch to an area the school is calling the "peanut gallery" so the one child with the peanut allergy isn't affected.
"I don't think everybody should have to suffer because of one kid," said Mike Raper, a critic of the idea and fiancé of Savannah's mother. "I think it's a terrible precedent. Basically, because there's nowhere to draw the line. You've got people allergic to milk, wheat. My own son's diabetic. There's just no where to draw that line."
The "one kid" in question is the line, apparently - or at least, that's what his parents claim:
The boy's parents refused to be interviewed but said their child's allergy warrants extraordinary safeguards.
"He does not have to ingest it for his air to constrict and he loses the ability to breathe," the parents wrote in a statement. "We have the medical evidence that shows that our son has one of the worst allergies on record for this food."
I guess it would politically incorrect to suggest that it might be safer, you know, for this kid to sit apart from everyone else. ZeroIntelligence's response is nicer than mine:
That's a genuine shame, but so what? Reasonable measures might include notifying the teachers so they can keep an eye on what the kid tries to put in his mouth and making sure the school nurse understands the problem and has emergency treatment available. It is most definitely not reasonable to restrict the entire student body for the special needs of one student.
Be sure to read his comments, too. Many question why the child's parents are sending him to a public school in the first place. Another commenters points out that the school first banned peanut products entirely, which was not what the parents had requested be done:
The ban was started at the school of about 450 students just west of Muncie after an administrative hearing in November that involved the child's parents, state education officials and an attorney for the Mount Pleasant school district's special education cooperative...
"The compromise is what we asked for in the first place because of all the issues that go along with the peanut ban," said the father, whom the newspaper did not name. "We never asked for a complete ban."
The Lawrence Journal-World (KS) notes that the closing of Lawrence Alternative High School may be bad news for students who attend it, but good news for test-score bean-counters:
Some students at the alternative school are saying they will drop out if they don't like the new alternative programs being designed for use in the district's other schools. And their absence could boost the district's overall test scores -- a key component of the act's requirements.
"If a significant number of kids drop out, then they won't bring the scores down," said Dick Wedel, a former social studies teacher at LAHS, adding that he hopes they don't drop out. "That's one way to get better scores."
Whether that comes to pass is anyone's guess.
Ironically, test scores within LAHS are one of the reasons that the school is being closed. With only about 10% of students deemed "proficient," scores were too low to justify the school's $1 million operating costs. The scores aren't surprising, considering that these kids were referred to LAHS after having problems at other schools (and anecdotal evidence suggests these kids hated standardized tests as well). But if LAHS didn't seem to help these kids do any better in school than they had before, I can see why the district made this decision (even though the district claims the school would have been closed regardless, based on other factors).
About 80 students will get to see what they think of the new alternative programs at the other schools in the district, which may included mentoring and personalized learning. Some of them don't particularly like big schools; others feel that "regular" schools don't care too much for them. It remains to be seen if the new programs will be more effective than LAHS was, or whether the drop-out rate increases.
The Scotsman is all aflutter over a new poll that shows UK youngsters hopelessly stumbling through life, bewildered by potatoes and shampoo bottles:
A new generation of children is growing up as "life incompetents", unable to sew, care for their clothes, or even realise that potatoes are boiled before being mashed. Research published yesterday, after a three-year study by Stirling University, revealed youngsters today fail miserably in "Mrs Beeton’s skills" - the basics of cookery, cleaning, repairing and money management, which their grandparents took for granted.
A combination of a cosseted lifestyle and being raised by parents who are barely more competent than the children is to blame. It has left a generation unable to care for itself...
The team, led by Suzanne Horne, a senior lecturer in the department of marketing, investigated the lifestyle of nearly 1,200 Scottish schoolchildren. They were "stunned" by what they found.
She said: "Some did not know that you mash potatoes only after boiling them - and they were ‘educated’. Some children could not interpret wash care instructions on clothes labels and one girl took everything to a dry cleaner. Others discarded perfectly good clothing because they did not have the skills or the inclination to effect small repairs, such as replacing a button.
One could argue that some of these skills aren't as necessary as they were in Grandpa's day. Yes, it's good to know how to sew on buttons, but one can get through life nowadays without ever wearing a shirt with buttons on it, and clothing isn't quite as pricey and precious as it was back then.
On the other hand, I don't think home ec is at the heart of the issue for kids who can't understand labels on households goods. Especially we when meet this hapless chick:
It is a situation known only too well by young people such as Margaret Dyer, 20, who comes from a middle class home in Clarkston, near Glasgow.
"I was a ‘life incompetent’," said the student.
She added: "To a degree I still am, but I’m not nearly so bad as I once was. I was a whisker away from phoning helpline numbers on shampoo bottles.
Helpline numbers on shampoo bottles? That's not so much a failure of childrearing as personal hygiene and basic smarts, if someone can reach the age of 20 without knowing how to use a shampoo bottle. Something tells me that more than new home ec classes are required here.
Yes, I'm finally back. Not as exciting news as the Brad-and-Jen split, I know, but hopefully I still have some readers out there. Archives have been moved closer to the bottom of the page, in case any of you can't find the list of them.
New Year's Rez's, in no particular order:
1. Blog more consistently.
2. Lose 25 pounds.
3. Learn to at least fake enthusiasm when yet another co-worker stops by to request the impossible, with a side order of the merely difficult, due yesterday.
4. Learn to actually provide the impossible/difficult combo for my co-workers. Must always remember to ask them if they want to supersize it.
5. Eat less chocolate.
6. Drink less beer.
7. Exercise more.
8. Save money for the wedding.
9. Force detente among the fiance and the two cats, and make all three of them move over at night so I regain at least half my pillow and one-third of the queen-sized bed.
2, 5, and 6, are compatible, but 5 and 6 are completely at odds with 3. 7 and 1 are diametrically opposed. 5 is, in fact, impossible. Achieving 6 will also help with 8, but buying the good food necessary for 2 will keep me from reaching the 8 goal. 9 will be attainable only through brute force and will probably result in hurt feelings and hisses, but the sleep it provides is imperative for 4.
So which ones should I really focus on? Nothing like starting the New Year off with a little brain-teaser.
Also, this poll, if correct, is absolutely astounding. But, thankfully, not surprising.
Eduwonk's concise takedown of FairTest's NCLB snit is priceless. Nice to know all the qualitative problems with the program can be easily solved with an infusion of some very quantitive dollars.
Boston residents and/or supporters of charter schools should be reading a list of very interesting statistics compiled by MATCH School founder Michael Goldstein It's apparently not online; Eduwonk has the full list, and here are a few choice ones:
1. You knew that there continues to be an achievement gap, with race and income as the big predictors. You probably didn't know, however, black and Hispanic students in some suburban districts do better than in others. Framingham and Brookline have 57% and 55% of their African-American kids earning "proficiency" on Grade 10 MCAS math, whereas Newton and Lincoln-Sudbury have just 39%.
2. You're used to Boston Public Schools getting constant criticism. On the same test, black sophomores in Boston earned "proficiency" at a 30% rate, beating the Lexington mark of 25%. Would you say Lexington High's math department is failing? No Child Left Behind was designed, in part, precisely to do this: identify struggling kids in well-regarded suburban schools...
7. When charters started a decade ago, you heard Boston charters would "cream off the white kids", because their parents are more motivated. The DOE 2003 data shows Boston charters serving 70% black students - more than the 47% in the district as a whole.
Recently, a particularly Devoted Reader sent along a link to this story:
The Pennsylvania attorney general's office Monday sued an online university for allegedly selling bogus academic degrees -- including an MBA awarded to a cat. Trinity Southern University in Texas, a cellular company and the two brothers who ran them are accused of misappropriating Internet addresses of the state Senate and more than 60 Pennsylvania businesses to sell fake degrees and prescription drugs by spam e-mail, according to the lawsuit.
Investigators paid $299 for a bachelor's degree for Colby Nolan -- a deputy attorney general's 6-year-old black cat -- claiming he had experience including baby-sitting and retail management. The school, which offers no classes, allegedly determined Colby Nolan's resume entitled him to a master of business administration degree; a transcript listed the cat's course work and 3.5 grade-point average.
What caught my eye was the subject line of the email sent to me: "Good News, Pippin and Alice can get their MBAs!" What's weirder - that a cat can now obtain an MBA, or that a complete stranger (in the face-to-face sense) knows the names of both my cats and thought of them when he read about this on CNN?
Here, Pippin studies his textbook on capitalism and the arts:
Arnold Schwarzenegger may be the ultimate tough guy, capable of slaying dragons or gunning down a building full of armed men without breaking a sweat - but I'm betting even he's not ready for the battle over merit pay for teachers:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's controversial proposal to tie teachers' salaries to performance is not widely practiced and is likely to face fierce resistance.
Detractors question how the governor will pay for such a program when education may face further state cuts. They also want to know what criteria will be used to evaluate teachers. Will it be standardized test scores? Principal evaluations?
The governor was short on details, but he said the state must buck the practice of paying teachers for their length of service and educational level and instead reward them for their ability to impart knowledge and turn out top- notch students.
...some California education analysts consider Schwarzenegger's proposal a tactic to distract people from the real problems they see with education in the state -- chronic under-funding.
"Rather than saying, 'Our schools are hurting because we have a terrible deficit and can't fully finance the schools,' he appears to be blaming teachers for the state of public education," said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy and co-director of Policy Analysis for California Education.
Arnie vs. Berkeley. Who's your money on?
Oh, and Arnie's also battling the NEA on this, although that should surprise no one. Already, the NEA wins the "stupefyingly-dumb sound bite" award on the topic:
...[the proposal for merit pay] will most likely be a tough sell. The National Education Association in Washington, D.C., does not support performance-based pay. Teachers do not function well in an unsupportive environment, said Reg Weaver, NEA president.
Oh the poor dears. Me, I plan to charge into my office Monday and inform my (new) boss that I would consider any objective judgments of my work, and any association of my pay with those judgements, to be awfully "unsupportive," and it hurts my feelings to boot.
I think I'd get about 12 seconds to clean out my desk, as should anyone who opposes merit pay on the grounds that teachers, unlike every other professional, should expect to forever teach consequence-free. There are reasons to oppose merit pay (Eduwonk, in particular, is unimpressed by the Governator's plans), but to say that it's "unsupportive" to judge teachers is just plain silly. Any opposition which claims that California's schools are just fine the way they are should be mocked as well.
This is disheartening:
The Bush administration paid a prominent commentator to promote the No Child Left Behind schools law to fellow blacks and to give the education secretary media time, records show.
A company run by Armstrong Williams, the syndicated commentator, was paid $240,000 by the Education Department. The goal was to deliver positive messages about President Bush's education overhaul, using Williams' broad reach with minorities.
The deal, which drew a fast rebuke from Democrats on Capitol Hill, is the latest to put the department on the defensive for the way it has promoted Bush's signature domestic policy...
The Education Department defended its decision as a "permissible use of taxpayer funds under legal government contracting procedures." The point was to help parents, particularly in poor and minority communities, understand the law's benefits, the department said.
Williams called criticism of his relationship with the department "legitimate."
"It's a fine line," he said Friday. "Even though I'm not a journalist — I'm a commentator — I feel I should be held to the media ethics standard. My judgment was not the best. I wouldn't do it again, and I learned from it."
My first thought? "Well, crap. More ammunition for the test-haters."
My second thought? "Hey, how come no one offered to pay ME?"
Tribune Media Services has dropped William's columns, four of which in the last year were about NCLB:
In a statement, TMS said: "[A]ccepting compensation in any form from an entity that serves as a subject of his weekly newspaper columns creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest. Under these circumstances, readers may well ask themselves if the views expressed in his columns are his own, or whether they have been purchased by a third party."
Joanne Jacobs and Instapundit good round-ups of reactions. The consensus - with which I agree - seems to be that the problem wasn't so much the acceptance of cash as the cover-up of it. What bothers me the most, though, is that I'm expecting a flood of anti-NCLB coverage, as though the concept of the program itself is now fundamentally flawed because one person was not honest about being paid to promote it. Williams seems willing to throw himself on our mercy and beg forgiveness, but I'm betting it's NCLB itself that people will be more critical of in the future.
Oh, and Instapundit reader Rick? Sorry, dude, I'm already engaged. But I do have some gorgeous single female friends...
Arizona state senator Thayer Verschoor emerged as an unlikely hero to many Arizona high schoolers this week, announcing his intention to dismantle the state’s AIMS test, an accountability measure that essentially acts as an exit exam for potential graduates...According to The Arizona Republic, Sen. Verschoor believes that graduation requirements “should be a local control issue,” stating, “This should not be mandated by big government and a state school board. To me, we are saying that we don't trust our teachers."
Sen. Verschoor is correct, inasmuch as our responsibility for providing public education should not fall under the auspices of the federal government...But the senator’s claim that administering high school exit exams implies that we don’t trust our teachers misses the point. Tests such as the AIMS exam are implemented by many states precisely because we often cannot trust many of our public school teachers and administrators, who have methodically dumbed down academic standards over the past few decades through their condemnation of fact-based instructional methods and student discipline.
Indeed. It's silly to see anyone outside the field of education suggesting, with a straight face, that assessment means we don't "trust" teachers to do their jobs. Does this mean that any college that requires entrance exams doesn't "trust" their applicants to represent themselves fairly on their application forms? Or does it just mean that in college admissions, as in just about every other part of real life, assessment is par for the course, and if you're good, you should be able to demonstrate that? Funny how educators keep assuming that what they do cannot possibly be measured, and in fact, shouldn't be measured.
Bothwell doesn't mince words at the end of the article:
...most importantly, our schools can’t continue to neglect to teach kids rote skills such as spelling, writing, multiplication and division tables, and geography in the early grades, and then expect them to pass an exit exam in high school that likely tests such cumulative competence. Parents and educrats in Arizona are rallying around Sen. Verschoor because he too believes the AIMS test to be unfair. But it isn’t so much the exam itself that is unfair as it is the poor preparation many of these students have received from the beginning of elementary school.
The AIMS has been under attack for quite some time. Back in 2002, ASU researchers concluded that the AIMS math portion was too difficult, and was seemingly measuring college-entry-level skills as opposed to exit-exam-level skills. Even if that were so, it's hard to understand why a 97% failure rate for non-white, non-Asian examinees is supposed to be an indictment of only the exam. Do the researchers think it's reasonable that only 3% of these youths are prepared for college? (And some of you might remember that ASU seems to have a track record of anti-testing publications).
The district reported that 75 percent of juniors passed the writing portion of the test, 59 percent passed the reading part of the test and a mere 36 percent passed the math section.
These juniors will be the seniors who must pass AIMS or not graduate next year....But it is very likely some seniors — the number of them is the only debatable issue at this point — will not get diplomas after four years of schooling because they were unable to pass one test.
All of this kerfuffle is revolving around the idea of whether or not the test is fair, and as usual, most everyone is talking past one another. In any discussion of this, answers to the following questions are crucial:
1. What should the AIMS measure?
2. If the AIMS actually does measure college-entry-level math skills, as some claim, is that what the state of Arizona wants? And if not, why not?
3. Are students being taught AIMS material in classrooms? Is the high failure rate because there's a mismatch between test content and curriculum content? If so, why is that happening?
I'm sure I could think or more, but these are the basics that have to be clarified. Without them, we'll either see lots of AZ students flunking the exam and being held back - or NOT being held back and subsequently finding out that their math skills aren't worth a damn in academia or the real world.
The bar keeps getting set lower as the kids who make perfect SAT scores keep getting younger:
A 13-year-old boy has scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT, a standardized test usually given to college-bound high school seniors.
"I was pretty surprised and happy," said Lee Kennedy-Shaffer, an eighth-grader at Mechanicsburg Middle School. "I did not think I would score that high."
He got the perfect score for a test he took in December as part of a program for gifted children. He wasn't the first in his family to get a perfect score, but he was the first to do so at such a young age.
In June 2003 his brother Ross scored 1600 on the SAT as a junior at Mechanicsburg High School. The oldest brother, Alan, had 1520 on the exam.
Oh, I get it. This kid was just NOT going to let his older siblings show him up. Good for him. And why wasn't he chosen to play Harry Potter? (He already owns a magic wand - his pencil.)
On a related note, I wonder if anyone (other than ETS/College Board) has kept track of the number of students who achieve perfect scores each year? And what would it mean if that number has, for example, drastically increased as of late? The result of "dumbing down the test?" The result of those who might do poorly being more likely to bypass the exam for schools that no longer require it? Or the natural by-product of an across-the-board increased focus on standardized testing?
Quite a bombshell story shaping up in Houston this week:
A Houston teacher's union official says school district officials ignored a middle school teacher who tried to report cheating on standardized tests last spring. The Houston Federation of Teachers says the teacher told union representatives last year that a school administrator gave her advance copies of the 2004 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
The teacher's school is one of 25 Houston Independent School District campuses under investigation because of uncharacteristically high scores on the TAKS.
Union president Gayle Fallon says the union offered to have the teacher give a statement in return for immunity. She says the district's attorney declined and — as far as she knows — nothing was done.
HISD spokesman Terry Abbott declined to comment.
So what's going on here? It seems that teachers in Houston schools, as is their custom, used last year's exam sheets to prep for this year's exams - which is perfectly kosher on exams that don't re-use items. Only, somehow, in certain schools, what got used for this year's prep was this year's exam, and all the hullaballoo has to do with WHO got ahold of those test forms ahead of time. Teachers aren't too happy that the finger of suspicion is now pointed their way:
There are now 23 schools in the Houston School District suspected of having problems with test scores. Those problems may be tied to cheating on the statewide TAKS test...
Some Houston teachers say they are being targeted in the HISD cheating investigation. There is anger and frustration as the publicity keeps pointing to teachers as the ones helping kids cheat. The local teachers union says it has files of complaints that prove otherwise.
Key Middle School is one of the schools targeted as having huge gaps in test performance. The union describes a complaint last fall involving TAKS review sheets. "Last year's test is this year's review sheet, and that's perfectly legal," says Gail Fallon, Houston Federation of Teachers president.
Only, the practice sheet was not last year's test.
"Someone at Key handed out the sheets that the teachers were led to believe were the review sheets from last year's test. Then they realized when they gave the test they were this year's," says Fallon.
The union complained to the district, but Fallon says the investigation went nowhere when she asked for the teachers to be protected.
"Here we now have members that are in possession of the test they didn't know it to be the test, but they still, you know, it's like having the stolen money in your hand when the police arrive," says Fallon.
The union says it also received complaints last year by minimum wage office clerks, claiming principals were asking them to change grades.
SOMEBODY's been very bad here. Be interesting to see how that press conference on Monday turns out.
I know some of my Devoted Readers out there are quite protective parents. Some of you homeschool because you don't trust crappy public schools and the pervasive negative social influences therein. Some of you are quite watchful and insist that even teenagers should be chaperoned away from home. Some of you wouldn't dream of letting your child watch TV at all hours or surf the web without filters in place.
But I bet I'm safe in assuming that even the most protective of you wouldn't strap this dorky helmet on your kid's head - while he's learning to walk:
The 'Thudguard' protective safety hat will cushion a child's head against bumps, bruising and laceration, whilst developing and exploring newfound mobility. Between the ages 7 to 20 months the fontanelle, temples and back of head are particularly vulnerable when an infant is learning to walk. It also protects adventurous toddlers up to the age of 3 years old who are already walking but who may benefit from extra safety in play parks and other environments.
As protective parent Michelle Malkin puts it:
You think any toddler forced to wear that silly helmet on the street or playground swing is going to have "confidence?" Look at them: These poor munchkins are wearing helmets just to walk on the sidewalk. As blogger Cerberus' wife asks: "What kind of loser would put that thing on their kid’s head?" Exactly.
I'm on board with car seats. And booster seats. And stairway gates. And plastic outlet covers. And door-knob covers. And spill-proof cups. And ouch-less Band-Aids.
But Thudguard? Somebody please tell me this is a joke. If the California legislature hears about this, we're doomed.
Michelle sees the Nanny State rearing its ugly head. Me, I'm just cheeved that Mamamontezz thought of this title first.