Archive for November, 2009

High school: A launching pad or final destination?

Accounting firm Deloitte released a new survey this week on education contrasting the views of parents and teachers on the role of high schools.

According to the Deloitte 2009 Education Survey: “We are failing our low-income students.  Too few are graduating high school.  Too few feel prepared for college. And too few educators seem focused on this situation.”

The survey found:

-  Only 9 percent of high school teachers think that preparing students for college is their primary mission.

- Only 10 percent of high school teachers think that ensuring students graduate is their primary mission.

-  But nearly half of all parents and students believe that college preparation is their high school’s primary mission.

-Sixty percent of teachers said it was important to them personally that the students from their high school attend college. Thirty-six percent said it was “somewhat important.”

In a statement, Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg said:

What parents and students …

Continue reading High school: A launching pad or final destination? »

Obama: “Show young people how cool science can be.”

President Obama called for more acclaim for high achieving students in the STEM disciplines. Doug Mills/New York Times

At an event last week, President Obama called for more acclaim for high achieving students in the STEM disciplines. Doug Mills/New York Times

In a speech last week, President Obama outlined an ambitious plan to ratchet up math and science education.

I thought his speech was provocative, especially his comments about South Korean and China.

Take a look:

You know, we live in a world of unprecedented perils, but also unparalleled potential.

Our medical system holds the promise of unlocking new cures, but it’s attached to a health care system that’s bankrupting families and businesses and our government. The sources of energy that power our economy are also endangering our planet. We confront threats to our security that seek to exploit the very openness that is — is essential to our prosperity.

And we face challenges in a global marketplace that link the trader to Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street to the office worker in America to the factory worker in China; an …

Continue reading Obama: “Show young people how cool science can be.” »

Teacher absences: Are they excessive and do they hurt students?

Most discussions about school attendance focus on students. Now, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to talk about teachers.

Duncan has made teacher attendance one of the measures to determine which low-achieving schools receive federal improvement funds. So, for the first time, the federal government will collect data on how many days teachers miss classes each year.

The reason is simple: Research shows that students suffer a small, but significant decline in academic performance as a result of teacher absences.

In addition, the nation’s public schools pay a big price — as much as $4 billion a year according to the National Center for Education Statistics — to hire substitutes to fill in for absent staff.

When he was CEO of Chicago public schools, Duncan was dismayed to discover that the system was spending more than $10 million a year on substitute teachers. He tangled with the teacher unions when he added teacher attendance data to school scorecards.

“This is …

Continue reading Teacher absences: Are they excessive and do they hurt students? »

Handing out Bibles at a high school: Why do we keep doing this in Georgia?

Too many public schools continue to blur the church-state divide in Georgia

Too many public schools continue to blur the church-state divide in Georgia

The zest with which Georgia schools test the church-state divide never fails to stun me.

I wonder if other states grapple with this issue or is this unique to the Bible Belt?

With the threat of litigation, public schools ought to think very carefully about allowing any religious group access to students and the possible charge of proselytizing on school grounds.

Yet, a north Georgia parent sent me a note that Bibles were handed out at her high school last week. She is a Christian and reveres the Bible, but doesn’t think the high school was the right place to hand it out.

Her concern mirrors my own: Our schools are attended by students of all faiths and traditions. All those faiths and belief deserve respect. We risk making many students feel like outsiders when we elevate one religion above all others.

Consider the 1656 warning by devout Baptist Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, on the …

Continue reading Handing out Bibles at a high school: Why do we keep doing this in Georgia? »

No college degree for overweight students without fitness class

Increasing national concerns over obesity have now spread to college campuses.
Increasing national concerns over obesity have now spread to college campuses.

I thought Thanksgiving was an apt time to discuss a Pennsylvania university’s new requirement that overweight undergraduates take a fitness course to receive their degrees.

An historically black college, Lincoln University said that the school is responding to deadly rates of obesity and diabetes, especially in the African-American community.

Here are excerpts from the Associated Press story on this issue:

“We know we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic,” said James L. DeBoy, chairman of Lincoln’s department of health, physical education and recreation. “We have an obligation to address this head on, knowing full well there’s going to be some fallout.”

The fallout began this week on Lincoln’s campus about 45 miles southwest of Philadelphia, where seniors — the first class affected by the mandate — began realizing their last chance to take the class would be this spring.

Tiana Lawson, a …

Continue reading No college degree for overweight students without fitness class »

Cobb board member defends reversal on balanced calendar

Cobb school board member David Banks answers critics who accuse him of flip-flopping on the school calendar in Cobb, which just adopted a “balanced’ calendar starting next year.

His comments appear in a good AJC story on the trend toward balanced calendars in which students get a shorter summer and two midyear breaks. Many parents worry that it is the first step to a year-round calendar where summer dwindles to only a few weeks. In most balanced calendars, summer remains a good chunk of time, about nine weeks, but all of August is spent back at school.

Here is what Banks said:

But then Banks, one of the newest members of Cobb’s school board, said he started listening to teachers and parents about the downsides of a late start and the potential benefits of a “balanced calendar” with an earlier start and more breaks for students throughout the year.

“If a person really has some integrity, they’ll say they were wrong, and I was wrong,” Banks said, explaining why he …

Continue reading Cobb board member defends reversal on balanced calendar »

Uniform uprising lands 1,500 Clayton teens in hot water

This is why I don’t like uniforms, especially for high school students.

Uniforms are more trouble than they’re worth in light of the research showing no impact on academic performance. It seems to me that uniforms create a policing nightmare for schools with little to no payoff.

As the AJC reported Tuesday:

Tired of school uniforms, more than 1,500 Clayton County high school students came to school on Friday in what school officials called “non-appropriate dress.”

Now the students are facing suspensions, detentions and other punishments.

After questions from the AJC, school officials confirmed on Tuesday that the district was the “target” of an organized protest.

“Based on an incomplete survey of schools, the district has determined that more than 1,500 students arrived at school on Friday in non-appropriate dress,” district spokesman Charles White said in a statement.

White declined to say how many students were suspended, but said they were all disciplined. White …

Continue reading Uniform uprising lands 1,500 Clayton teens in hot water »

Forget Fido: Parents apply ‘Dog Whisperer’ tips to kids

The New York Times has found parents who admit to getting parenting advice from the “Dog Whisperer.”

Parents are borrowing training techniques from dog whisperer Cesar Millan and applying them to child rearing.

Parents are borrowing training techniques from dog whisperer Cesar Millan and applying them to child rearing.

In a fun story, parents explain how they extract valuable parenting lessons from the dog training techniques of Cesar Millan, better known as the “Dog Whisperer.”

This story reflects the new media focus on how today’s modern parents went astray with their kids – trying to be their friends, investing too much in their success, protecting them from every slight rather than teaching them to learn from adversity. (See Time magazine’s cover story this week “The Case Against Over-Parenting.”)

Among the comments in the story:

Allison Pearson, author of the novel “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” which explored the stresses of modern motherhood, explained how parents would naturally envy the authority of dog trainers. “My generation got itself in a muddle about …

Continue reading Forget Fido: Parents apply ‘Dog Whisperer’ tips to kids »

Can teachers sell their lesson plans online or do schools own the material?

Do teachers own the lesson plans they develop or do school systems own them?

Do teachers own the lesson plans they develop or do school systems own them?

There is a growing market for class lesson plans, and teachers are earning extra cash by selling their plans online on such sites as Teachers Pay Teachers and We are Teachers.

The New York Times reports on this thriving new marketplace and the debate over rightful ownership of lessons plans:

Now, thousands of teachers are cashing in on a commodity they used to give away, selling lesson plans online for exercises as simple as M&M sorting and as sophisticated as Shakespeare.

While some of this extra money is going to buy books and classroom supplies in a time of tight budgets, the new teacher-entrepreneurs are also spending it on dinners out, mortgage payments, credit card bills, vacation travel and even home renovation, leading some school officials to raise questions over who owns material developed for public school classrooms.

“To the extent that school district resources are used, then I think …

Continue reading Can teachers sell their lesson plans online or do schools own the material? »

Fat but not so happy: Southern counties lead U.S. obesity rates

I wish we could put health-oriented programs like Girls on the Run at every school.

I wish we could put health-oriented programs like Girls on the Run at every school.

Interesting story in the AJC today on the counties in the U.S. with the greatest obesity problems. It will be no surprise to anyone who has ever attended a county fair in rural areas to learn that the South tops the list.

The story states:

ATLANTA — The first county-by-county survey of obesity reflects past studies that show the rate of obesity is highest in the Southeast and Appalachia. High rates of obesity and diabetes were reported in more than 80 percent of counties in the Appalachian region that includes Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The same problem was seen in about 75 percent of counties in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.

I know that schools are called upon to solve all of society’s problems, but I think obesity is becoming such a large problem – excuse the …

Continue reading Fat but not so happy: Southern counties lead U.S. obesity rates »