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 »

Dyslexia: The Most Common Learning Disability in the U.S.

December 7th, 2016

Just in case you didn’t know that:

  1. It’s estimated that somewhere between 5% and 17% of the population has dyslexia.
  2. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the U.S.
  3. Some schools don’t acknowledge dyslexia because providing specials services for those so diagnosed is cost-prohibitive.
  4. Many people think dyslexics see letters in the wrong order, as in confusing a b with a d.
  5. Videographer Jonathan Gohrband describes it as “basically looking at a foreign word.”

Indeed…

Says Gabrielle Emanuel, “That’s why dyslexia used to be called ‘word blindness.’ People with dyslexia don’t naturally process process the written word. They don’t easily break it into smaller units that can be turned into sounds and stitched together. This makes reading a laborious–even exhausting–process. Writing, too.”

And while some kids get the help they need and as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in the company of a trained reading specialist or at least some form of tutoring, not all dyslexics are so fortunate. It comes back to money and how much any one district can afford–which is, again, why some schools don’t even say the word.

 

 

America’s Priorities & Who Comes in Last

December 6th, 2016

This crossed my desk the other day and comes under the heading of worth sharing:

  • The salary of retired U.S. Presidents: $180,000 a year for life
  • Salary of House/Senate members: $174,000 a year for life
  • Salary of the Speaker of the House: $223,500 a year for life
  • Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders: $193,000 a year for lifes
  • Average salary of a teacher: $40,065
  • Average salary of a deployed soldier: $38,000

Your tax dollars at work…

Does Equalizing Access to Effective Teachers Affect the Achievement Gap?

December 4th, 2016

Tenure makes firing ineffective teachers expensive and difficult and has sparked controversy for years now, particularly since Vergara v. California started making its way through the courts in May, 2012. Back then, nine public school students took tenure to to task for protecting ineffective teachers at their expense and blaming it for school inequity. Their bottom line: Poor and minority children get stuck with the worst teachers.

The Superior Court asserted that “every child has the constitutional right to learn from effective teachers and have an equal opportunity to succeed in school.” But in 2013, the California Teachers Association and the California  Federation of Teachers added their voices to the State’s and appealed that decision. Ultimately, on April 14, 2016, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal ruled against the nine students, and on August 22, 2016, the California Supreme Court declined to review the case–a win for

So are poor and minority kids really in classrooms with the worst teachers? A team of researchers at Mathematica Policy Research decided to find out by studying  students’ standardized test scores over five years in 26 school districts across the country and found… Read the rest of this entry »

Scholastic’s Survey of Teachers’ Classroom Spending

November 29th, 2016

The education publishing company Scholastic surveyed 3,694 teachers (including 76 school librarians) and 1,027 principals this past summer and found that a majority feel their students, both low- and high-poverty, face barriers to learning outside of the classroom. To help make a difference, the surveyed teachers:

  • On average, spent $530 of their own money on classroom items.
  • On average, spent $672 in high-poverty schools

Moreover,

  • 70% indicated they’d bought food and snacks for their students.
  • 65% purchased cleaning supplies.
  • 26% bought clothing for their students.
  • 56% purchased classroom books.

Plus, on average, the surveyed principals spent $683 for classroom or student supplies over the past year, with those in high-poverty schools averaging $1,014.  79% indicated they’d bought food and snacks for students.

Another interesting finding: While most teachers have classroom libraries, 31% have fewer than 50 books. Those in elementary schools have, on average, 362 books; middle school teachers average 189 books, and those at the high school level have just 93.

And so it goes…

 

Obama’s Race to the Top’s Non-Academic Impact

November 28th, 2016

According to a report by the Institute of Education Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, there’s little evidence that the Obama administration’s initial $4.35 billion Race to the Top (others followed) had much, if any, impact on student achievement or state policy. If you remember, this signature grant program of his and then Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s–in  essence a government bribe–rewarded states for adopting such priorities of theirs as rigorous standards (think Common Core), updated data systems, turnaround policies for “failing” schools, and value added measures to evaluate teachers based on student test scores.

Not surprisingly, just about every state applied and at great expense, but just 11 and D.C. went on to win and receive good-sized shares of those billions; 7 almost-winners got smaller awards…

Your tax dollars at work…

 

 

George Will on Academia

November 28th, 2016

In a USA Today commentary, George Will wrote, “… Campuses create ‘safe spaces’ where students can shelter from discombobulating thoughts and receive spiritual balm for the trauma of microaggressions. Yet the presidential election came without trigger warnings?” He continues to note that on November 7, whether elated or despondent, most “normal” folks got back to the business of their lives, but not so many college students, too traumatized to get on with their studies on campuses that are no longer bastions of free thought and dialogue among those with opposing views. No, not at all.

As Will notes:

  • A Yale professor made the day’s exam optional for students distraught by the election’s result.
  • A University of Colorado student wrote “free speech matters” on 680 posters that warned about politically incorrect speech.
  • Catholic DePaul University decried an “Unborn Lives Matter” poster as bigotry.
  • Bowdoin College offered counseling services to students “traumatized by the cultural appropriation committed by a sombrero-and-tequila party.”
  • Some Oberlin College students suffered breakdowns because schoolwork interfered with their political activism.
  • Cal State University, Los Angeles, provided “healing spaces” to help students handle a speech made 3 months earlier.

And on and on it goes , with esteemed professors Read the rest of this entry »

Pre-K For All Is No Cure-All

November 15th, 2016

fotosearch-kindergarteners-paa186000022So is universal pre-school the great equalizer politicians claim, the silver bullet that ensures academic success for at-risk children? That certainly has been the hope and the justification for schooling our youngest learners and spending a whole lot of money in the process.

Indeed, as reported by Lilliam Mongeau for Education Week, “The 42 states with public preschool programs and the District of Columbia spent $6.2 billion to serve 1.4 million 3- and 4-year-olds in the 2014-15 school year.” And that bears repeating: In just one school year, taxpayers shelled out some $6.2 billion on pre-K education alone.

So, how much bang are we getting for our bucks? Certainly not nearly as much as Obama and his Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. would have us believe.

As pointed out in an article by Esther J. Cepeda, a 2013 study of 3,000 Tennessee children randomly assigned to either attend pre-K or not, found that, short-term, those attending were more prepared for kindergarten, had better work skills, and enjoyed more positive attitudes toward school than the non-attenders. However, 2015 data showed that…

  1. By year’s end, their first grade teachers rated them as possessing “weaker work skills, less prepared for and more negative about school.”
  2. Moreover, at the end of both 2nd and 3rd grade, they did not perform as well on academic tests as those who never attended pre-K.

Concludes Cepeda, “Maybe for the youngsters in question, two extra years of high-stakes education and testing cast school as a drag to be endured rather than experienced happily.”

A better bet, she suggests: effective anti-poverty programs and parenting classes for their moms and dads. Oh, yes, a whole lot less screen time, too. Maybe throw in more book reading and family time, as well.