Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

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

Saturday, 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 (more…)

12 Things To Know about ADD and ADHD

Monday, 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.

Click here for more information.

 

Did you know…

Friday, 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

Thursday, 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…

Thursday, 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

Sunday, 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

Sexually Explicit Lyrics’ Impact on Young People

Tuesday, 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: (more…)

Obama’s Costly Education Legacy

Wednesday, 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 (more…)

Common Core’s Shaky Success: Quotes to Consider

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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 (more…)

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

Wednesday, 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.

 

 

Does Equalizing Access to Effective Teachers Affect the Achievement Gap?

Sunday, 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… (more…)

Scholastic’s Survey of Teachers’ Classroom Spending

Tuesday, 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…

 

Pre-K For All Is No Cure-All

Tuesday, 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.

School Backpack Alert: Risks, Recommendation, & Tips

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

bookbag2September 20th slipped by pretty much unnoted by most of us, as we settled into the post-back-to-school rush. With recently purchased supplies, paper, pencils and tech devices firmly secured in our kids’ backpacks-right there along with textbooks, lunch bags, and probably water bottles, too-by then we’d we all gotten back to the business of our lives.

But, in truth, we parents should have paused that day and taken a better look at the loads our kids haul back and forth to school; better late than never, though, for sure. It matters so much that the American Occupational Therapy Association actually set aside a National School Backpack Day-September 20..

Have your doubts? The next time you’re stuck behind a school bus, watch the kids as they either get on or off. You’re quite likely to see too-heavy backpacks slung over just one shoulder or hanging low down on backs. The posture effect: Kids listing to one side or with head and back pressed forward, nothing upright about it…

As for that weight factor, Simmons College professor Shelly Goodgold explains that, “When you carry something that is really heavy, your head goes forward, and you lean forward. This can produce strains in the neck and strains in the back… ”

The problem, Karen Jacobs, a clinical professor in occupational therapy at Boston University, says is that, “Backpacks become a portable life support system, filled with supplies and goodies students probably won’t need that day but feel they must carry.”

Or as one eighth grader put it, “Everything that matters to me is in my bag; you never know when you’re gonna need something, and this way I’ve it’s right there with me, not stuck in my locker or at home.”

No wonder, then, that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission finds that some 14,000 kids are treated with related injuries every year. That, in turn, should be sending out all sorts of warning bells, but what’s a parent to do?

For starters, take heed if you hear your child grunt when either shouldering or removing the backpack. Ditto for complaints of tingling shoulders, arms and/or fingers; another red flag is shoulder redness or “dents.”

Then follow the American Academy of Pediatrics warning that a backpack, at most, should weigh between 10% and 20% of your child’s body weight; better yet, says the organization, aim for between 10% and 15%. In other words, put it on a scale.

For that matter, the American Occupational Therapy Association goes one better recommending 15% max!

Makes sense, and yet, according to University of Michigan researchers, the average middle schooler lugs around a backpack weighing in close to 14 pounds, thus easily hitting that 15% mark. More alarming is that for 23% of the kids, that figure came in at least 20%.

And all that can end up as aches, pains, and injury from the neck down to the hips and knees.

And don’t think a rolling pack is the perfect solution. Not only are they unwieldy on stairs, ice, and snow, they constitute a tripping hazard both in classroom aisles and school hallways, so many districts ban them.

So, if your kid weighs…

50 pounds go for no more than 7.5 pounds;
80 pounds go for no more than 12 pounds;
100 pounds go for no more than 15 pounds, and so on.

And then, check to make sure your child’s backpack: (more…)