Charter Schools: Part of the Problem or the Solution and 19+ Should-Know Facts

March 18th, 2017

As you read on, keep these facts in mind:

  • The 2015 Kids Count report found that children living in poverty jumped from 18% to 22% between 2008 and 2013.
  • According to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau, the child poverty rate among African-Americans was 39%.
  • In 2103, 48% of African-American children and 37% of Latino children had no parent working a full-time, year-round job.
  • The Economic Policy Institute finds that, by age of 14, 25% of African-American children have had a parent—typically a dad—imprisoned; on any given day, 10% of them have had a parent in jail or prison, and that’s 4 times more than in 1980.

Making schools better with national standardsNow on to the charter vs. traditional public school controversy…

By the 1960s and 70s, innovative schools were opening in such cities as Philadelphia and Chicago. Then in 1988, Albert Shanker, as president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke about the meager 20% of students benefiting from a traditional public education. His solution: charter schools, “where teachers would be given the opportunity to draw upon their expertise to create high-performing educational laboratories from which the traditional public schools could learn.”

That was the intent, the promise, and, in 1992, the first true charter school, City Academy High School, opened its doors in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In the following years, charter schools found advocates in both Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush, but it took Obama to make it a federal school reform priority and included it as an application incentive in his $4.35 billion Race to the Top grant program.

Now, Donald Trump is at the helm, and his controversial Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is  a vocal charter school champion.

Indeed, her resume includes serving as chairman of the American Federation for Children (AFC). Describing itself as “the nation’s leading school choice advocacy group,” it boasts that it’s “a national leader in the fight to boldly reform America’s broken education system.”

Nevertheless and as an aside, a 2016 Gallup survey found that 76% of parents are “broadly satisfied with the education their oldest child receives;” 36% are “completely satisfied.”

Meanwhile, the AFC site further states, “The American Federation for Children is breaking down barriers to educational choice by creating an education revolution that empowers parents to choose the best educational environment for their children, so all children, especially low-income children, have access to a quality education.”

And that, say charter advocates, is the whole point—the ability to offer parents alternative school settings for their children, ones that are innovative, competitive, and accountable. Moreover, unlike traditional public schools, if performance standards are not met, the charter is revoked, said school is shut down.

What’s not to like? It all sounds so good, so promising, and yet Read the rest of this entry »

12 Things To Know about ADD and ADHD

February 27th, 2017
  1. ADD is no longer an acceptable medical term, replaced solely now by ADHD.
  2. Per the CDC, ADHD affects 11% of our 14- to 17-year-olds; that adds up to some 6.4 million children, and the numbers are rising.
  3. There are three different categories of ADHD:ADHD Cloud
  • Those with INATTENTIVE ADHD struggle to stay on task and concentrate on just one thing. They also often make careless mistakes, have trouble paying attention, fail to follow through on directions, homework, and/or chores. Moreover, they are also often unorganized, seem not to listen when being spoken to, and likely to lose things.
  • Those with HYPERACTIVE-IMPULSIVE ADHD have trouble sitting still, needing to get out of their seats on occasion and even wander about the classroom. Symptoms include fidgeting, tapping hands and/or feet, and feeling restless. Talking excessively and Interrupting others is common as are having trouble waiting their turn and quietly engaging in leisurely activities.
  • Those with COMBINATION ADHD show signs of both Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD.
  1. Only physicians or other health care professionals can diagnose ADHD.
  2. For some, symptoms resolve themselves over the years; if not, symptoms can become less noticeable and bothersome.
  3. Symptoms can also change over time, such as excessive running about morphing into fidgeting and feelings of restlessness in teens.
  4. According to parent surveys, about 50% of children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms as adults.
  5. ADHD can manifest itself even in adults.
  6. The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1975 (IDEA) covers ADHD under the “other health impairment” category and ensures that students with a disability are provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that meets their individual needs.

In fact, IDEA ensures that the more than 6.5 million infants, toddlers, and kids of all ages with disabilities receive the services they need and “governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services” to them.

Meanwhile, an appropriate education as defined by FAPE can mean enrollment in a regular education class, a regular ed setting with special aids and services, or special education in a separate classroom for part or all of the day

  1. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects children with disabilities that, for the most part, limit “one or more major life activities,” such as learning in the case of ADHD and safeguards them against discrimination. It also requires public school districts to provide that free and appropriate education to all students with a disability regardless of its nature or severity.
  2. Whenever a school district suspects a student has a disability that may require special education and/or related services, it must conduct an evaluation.
  3. Parents can also request an evaluation when ADHD is suspected.

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Did you know…

February 10th, 2017

That “about 10 million prime-age men aren’t in the labor force–a lingering casualty of the Great Recession,” write USA Today‘s Paul Davidson and Roger Yu. Moreover, they note that, in the meantime, wage increases didn’t budge much at all during the Obama years; indeed, they were stagnant at about 2% for most of the “recovery.”

“Talking back” to California liberals

February 9th, 2017

USA Today reader Noah Peterson recently wrote a letter to the editors in which he said, “I live in California… and I wear a bright, red hat that really infuriates people. My hat has a patriotic phrase on the front, ‘Make America Great Again,’ but, from the looks I get, you’d think it was some sort of communist propaganda. Contrary to the belief of those who see me wear it, I am not a racist, sexist, or bigot…

The truth is, I’m sick of the politically correct nonsense. I’m sick of seeing people shamed into silence. My hat is my counterattack. It’s my refusing to change my wardrobe because people are offended. I love American values and the freedom we enjoy–to say what I want to say, believe what I want to believe, and wear what I want to wear–and I won’t let the ill-feelings of others scare me into submission.

Are you offended by the hat I wear? Your answer might say more about you than it does about me.”

Did you know that…

February 9th, 2017

According to a recent National Review study, 47% of Detroit charter schools significantly outperformed traditional public schools in reading and 49% of charter schools outperformed them in math. Not too shabby, but that, of course, begs the question, why…

Quotable

February 6th, 2017

“They’ve become easy targets. Every year, when the latest test scores are revealed, they get blasted for the most recent decrease. Whatever problems plague our public schools–and there are many–often get placed at the feet of conventional scapegoats. We’re talking, of course, about public school teachers. Decades ago, teachers were among the most respected members od our community. Today, they are the most vilified.” ~ from a New York Post editorial

Quotable

February 5th, 2017

“Lessons from Finland:

  • Students spend less time in class and doing homework than do their American counterparts…

  • In Finland, teaching is a highly respected, coveted, and comparatively well-paid profession. Only 10% of students who apply to college teaching programs are accepted. Preparation is rigorous; no teacher steps in front of a class without a master’s degree…

  • In Finland, it seems as though they stick to the basics of education, and it’s working. Finnish schools are well-built and practical and not overly reliant on technology. Classrooms are basic, with traditional chairs, tables, and chalkboards instead of interactive white boards…” ~ Ray Bendici

Quotable

February 4th, 2017

“America faces many problems today. The current economic recovery has been the slowest since the Great Depression, the national debt has surpassed $18 trillion, and the federal government continues to spend more than it collects. While it’s not unusual, unethical, or unconstitutional for the federal government to operate with a deficit at times, the question is why does Washington continue to overspend? Is there a legitimate reason or is it neo-politics?” ~ Mike Patton, Forbes contributor

Quotable

February 3rd, 2017

“I used to say that the greatest gift you could ever give anyone is a book, but I don’t say that anymore because I no longer think it’s true. I now say that a book is the second-greatest gift. I’ve come to believe that the greatest gift you can give someone is to take the time to talk with someone about a book you’ve shared.” ~ Will Schwalbe, author of Books for Living

Sexually Explicit Lyrics’ Impact on Young People

January 24th, 2017

Back in 1949, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” won an Academy Award; in 2016, it made it big again, this time because Minneapolis singer-songwriter Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski found the lyrics to Frank Loesser’s 1944 classic song provocative–and, apparently, they  weren’t alone.

While The Huffington Post‘s Jenna Amatulli called it ” a really screwed-up tune,” The Daily Beast went so far as to describe it as “Everyone’s Favorite Date-Rape Holiday Classic.” Along those same lines, Urban Dictionary lists it under the “Christmas Date-Rape Song” heading.

And so, while many just mindlessly sing along when it pops up on Christmastime radio, Liza and Lemanski dissected its lyrics and then wrote their own version. It put them on the map, so to speak, and earned them the regard of like-minded folks.

But perhaps it would be more effective to target today’s music than a 72-year-old classic. After all, the airwaves are filled nowadays with with songs titlled “F*ck and Run,” “How Many Licks,” and the like.” Along those same lines is the first stanza of Ciara’s “Body Party” which goes like this:

“My body is your party, baby
Nobody’s invited but you baby
I can do it slow now, tell me what you want
Baby put your phone down, you should turn it off
Cause tonight is going down, tell your boys is going down
We in the zone now, don’t stop…”

And those words are actually comparatively tame.

Indeed,”A Feminist Analysis of Popular Music: Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s Costly Education Legacy

January 18th, 2017

Writes Education Week’s Alyson Klein, “Obama swept into office in an enviable position for pushing his school agenda. His education secretary, Arne Duncan, had fans on both sides of the partisan aisle. The Democrats had hefty majorities in both chambers of Congress, where lawmakers were itching to update the No Child Left Behind Act. Obama hadn’t gotten the teachers unions’ endorsements, but won the Democratic nomination anyway, freeing him to push for policies the unions opposed, such as evaluations tied to test scores.”

Dreamstime ObamaShe goes on to remind readers that, thanks to his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to jump start the sluggish economy, he started with $100 billion to spend just on education–and that included $4.35 billion for his Race to the Top grant program. The initial one offered up to $700 million each to states if, in their applications, they went along with Obama’s education priorities: standardized tests, teacher evaluations based on student performance, turnaround policies for dealing with struggling schools, expanding data systems, and the Common Core Standards, too. Oh, yes, to win, states’ applications also had to be deemed praise-worthy all around by the powers that be.

Not surprisingly, hungry for money, just about every state Read the rest of this entry »

Some But Not All Hopeful Signs for 2017

January 17th, 2017

A recent New Year’s poll conducted by Associated Press-Times Square Alliance made some fascinating discoveries. Among them:Fotosearch cop hat k2064916

  • Just 18% said things got better for the country in 2016; 33% said things got worse; and 47% said nothing had changed since 2015.
  • 55% believe things will be better for them in 2017–a 12-point improvement from 2016.

Bottom line: Despite all the hysteria and hypothetical scenarios of disastrous outcomes being bandied about on the airwaves, the Internet, and in print about when Mr. Trump moves into the White House, a majority of Americans are hopeful about the way forward in 2017.

As for what happened that didn’t particularly matter according to the poll, 50% indicated Muhammad Ali’s death, 43% said the approval of recreational marijuana use in 4 states, and 40% said Fidel Castro’s death. Take from that what you will.

What did affect respondents in some significant way? For 51% of them, it was news stories about those who’d died at the hands of police officers and/or about ambush attacks on police in three states.

Meanwhile, a recent national Pew survey of 8,000 police officers found that:

  • “93 percent of officers say they’ve grown more concerned about their safety.
  •  76 percent are more now reluctant to use force when necessary.
  •  75 percent believe interactions between police and blacks have become more tense.
  • 72 percent say they’re more reluctant to stop and question suspicious-looking people.
  •  67 percent report being verbally abused.”

It’s the law of unintended consequences and worthy of attention.

Pennsylvania Changes Course on Grading School Performance

December 22nd, 2016

This just out: Called “The Future Ready PA Index,” state education officials have proposed a whole new school accountability system that will eventually go into effect and impact the commonwealth’s 500 school districts. It will replace the School Performance Profile in place since 2013, where up to 90% of a school’s score–every traditional public school, brick-and-mortar and cyber charters, and career & technology centers–is based on student performance on standardized math, reading, science, and English. In other words some 1.7 million students.

With the new grading system, based on input by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and others, school performance based on student test performance will stay in force but won’t carry as much weight. It will also…

  • Place greater emphasis on all students’ academic growth;
  • Credit schools for offering AP and other challenging courses;
  • Reward career awareness programs;
  • Allow local reading assessments for 3rd graders and math assessments for 7th graders.

Now we wait and see…

Common Core’s Shaky Success: Quotes to Consider

December 21st, 2016

With thanks to Naomi Nix and her article, “Student Test Scores Are on the Rise. Does That Mean Common Core is Working,” a few quoted differences of opinion:

  • The trend in our state and across the country is clear: Higher standards are translating into meaningful and measurable progress for our students. As we enter a new era in education policy, obviously ushered in by the new federal law, our focus should not be on starting from scratch but rather on building on the hard work of students and educators that has taken place over the last few years.” ~ Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware
  • Critics of the Common Core will continue to push states to get rid of the standards. But their push has less and less credibility as scores go up and students see more and more success. And it’s probably not a coincidence that the one state so far where scores have gone down–Indiana–is a state that dropped Common Core and has since changed its standards and tests multiple times. It’s time for these critics to accept that under the standards, students are making progress.” ~ Scott Sargrad & Coleton Whitaker, Center for American Progress
  • Answering the question, “Are this year’s test results a cause for celebration?: “We need to have a little more patience until we can get some other data to do these analyses. I think it’s a little shortsighted… You just set yourself up for, when the data don’t look great, for people to torpedo the policies.” ~ Morgan Polikoff, University of Southern California
  • from the Brookings Institute: “Implementation of the Common Core State Standards has resulted in not more than a single point in either direction on fourth-graders’ reading scores and eighth-graders’ math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress [the nation’s report card] over a period of six years.”
  • “If student test scores rise at a modest rate, they are more likely to reflect actual learning gains, but if there is a rapid increase, it can indicate that the scores have been artificially inflated. Generally speaking, test scores can become inflated in a number of ways. Some research suggests that when high stakes are attached to a student assessment, teachers tailor their instruction to emphasize concepts of types of questions most likely to appear on the exam. Teachers can also coach students by teaching test-taking tricks…” ~ Daniel Koretz, Harvard University
  • The students who are in the third grade have basically had their entire K-12 career under Common Core. Those are the students who are showing the strongest improvement. ” ~ Scott Sargrad, Center for American Progress

Ed Secretary John King Weighs in on ADHD Services

December 20th, 2016

kings-adhd-letterThe U.S, Department of Education is “on it” as they say, this time taking on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly referred to simply as ADHD. One reason: Per the CDC, it affects 11% of our 4- to 17-year-olds, and that not only adds up to some 6.4 million children, the numbers are on the rise.

Know, too, though, that two federal laws are already in place to protect them:

  • Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which covers ADHD under the category of “other health impairment.” Originally passed in 1975, it “ensures students with a disability are provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs.” As stated, it’s designed “to provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as those students who do not have a disability.”

    Says disability.gov, “IDEA requires that special education services be made available to every eligible child with a disability.”

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 addresses children with “a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities”—in this case, learning. This is a “civil rights law that protects children with disabilities from discrimination for reasons related to their disability.”

    Here FAPE means special education placement or regular education classes with aids and services that meet a student’s individual needs. However, says the National Education Association, “It does not ensure a child with a disability will receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)…”

However, to clarify a school district’s obligations and responsibilities under the law and to avoid further discrimination, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) first issued its guidelines and then went one step further by posting a “Know Your Rights” document for parents on its website.

Included is Read the rest of this entry »