schools


The United States has been at war in Afghanistan since the fall of my second grade year, and in Iraq for half of the years I have been in school. In all that time, and in all of the years that we watched Channel One News in the mornings, we never saw a casket, never heard about the war dead or the loss of limbs, and only heard about veterans one day a year.

That changed last Tuesday.

Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all been President of the United States during my schooling, and all three have addressed the nation’s students in the first weeks of school. Clips of these addresses were shown on Channel One, or the existence of the speeches was mentioned in news stories. There was never any controversy.

That changed this September.

This August, we were warned that the President was scheduled to speak to students across the nation, and the news media was full of dire predictions of this unprecedented address. We were originally asked to have our parents sign a form saying that we could listen to the fifteen minute national pep rally for paying attention and focusing on our studies, with the option of spending that time in another room. Then the speech was canceled except in U.S. government classes. Our infantile minds were apparently not prepared to absorb such concepts as hard work and setting goals.

image via Fort Hood Sentinel

image via Fort Hood Sentinel

And yet, we were apparently sufficiently mature to watch last week’s memorial service from Fort Hood. Without warning and without parental permission, this solemn service and the words of the President and several reverends were shown school-wide, in class.
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about sex? And teen pregnancy? And what you are worth?

I’ve had different talks with different people, and virtually no information at all from school, but I really like the message in this article. It’s directed to moms and not kids, but that has never stopped me before.

As news of Bristol Palin’s breakup with fiancé Levi Johnston fans the flames of the never-ending debate about sex education, my thoughts keep turning to Sarah. I wonder if she wishes she could go back and do things differently. Would she offer something in addition to abstinence education? Will she change what she says to Willow and Piper?

As a mother, I think about what I will tell my young daughter about the millions of teenagers like Bristol Palin who get pregnant before they’re ready. What will I be able to say to prevent her from joining the statistics?

And when I start imagining “the talk” we’ll have, I realize that very little of it will actually have to do with sex. It will be more about the need for self confidence, an inner strength and the ability to say no to things she isn’t ready to do, to not want to please someone so badly that she’ll do something she knows is risky to earn or keep their love – whether that’s to have unsafe sex, to take drugs or to stay with someone who demeans or abuses her.

The author also talks about relationship violence and manipulation when she speculates:

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and no one will know anything.

TAKS spells prizes for achievers

Austinn-American Statesman

Over the past two years, a growing number of Texas school districts have used a state education program to reward students who perform well on – or, in some cases, simply pass – the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills with excused absences.

In my opinion, everyone should be able to go to the same prom.  Gay couples, straight couples, singles, groups of friends, anyone who knows how to wear nice clothes.  Requiring that girls wear gowns instead of tuxedos is discrimination.

17 Year Old Girl Sues, Changes School Policy, And Will Wear Her Tuxedo To Prom

from Jezebel, By hortense

A 17-year-old lesbian in Lebanon, Indiana was all set to go to prom until her principal informed her that the dress code restricted girls from wearing tuxedos, forcing them to wear gowns instead.

The girl, who is not identified due to her age, decided to fight back, suing the school with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, on the grounds that the school’s restrictive dress code was a case of gender discrimination and a denial of the girl’s right to free speech. At first, the school attempted to placate the girl by discussing pantsuit options, but that was soon dismissed, as school officials reversed their dress code standards just four days after the suit was filed, releasing this statement: “School policy for this year’s prom will be that all attendees shall wear appropriate formal attire with no gender-based attire requirements imposed. Female students will be permitted to wear tuxedos if they choose.”

If you click on the article, you can see all the sources that Hortense linked to.

I have always loved school and am glad that I have always been around other kids. I am not sure how I feel about this court ruling, but I wonder if the judge asked the kids.

I like the questions that Nate asks.  My only other addition is to ask if the judge would make a parent stop sending kids to an evolution-hating  school run by fundamentalists.

Home-Schooling

Home-Schooling

Recently, a judge in Raleigh, N.C. ordered three kids who were being home-schooled to attend public school instead.  The issue arose in a divorce proceeding where the father wanted the kids to go to public school, and the mother wanted to continue home-schooling her children.  I have not had the opportunity to read the case itself, but if you’re interested in reading more, click here.

Apparently the problem was that the kids were receiving a creationist focused education when it came to science.  However, the kids were also testing two years above their grade level.  So that begs the question, why were they forced to go to public school?  I don’t believe in creationism, but it does seem to me that no matter what they are learning, if they are testing two years above their grade level, then home-schooling seems to be working out.

My greater concern, though, is: when is it okay to home-school?  The lesson here is that if a judge disagrees with the curriculum, then he can order the kids to public school.  Not enough math?  Too much math?  Not enough structure?  Not reading the right books?  Cases like these can be slippery slopes.

What do you think?  Did the judge make the right decision?  Is it okay for parents to home-school their children?

from Nate at  The Young Writers Blog: The Only Writing Blog For Young Writers And Everyone Else

A friend sent this to me, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how it can be legal.  Or constitutional.

Internet Free Speech Ruling Favors Burlington School Administrators

In a key ruling on Internet free speech, a federal judge has found that school officials were within their rights when they disciplined a Burlington high school student over an insulting blog post she wrote off school grounds.

Avery Doninger’s case has drawn national attention and raised questions about how far schools’ power to regulate student speech extends in the Internet age.

But in a ruling on several motions for summary judgment Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz rejected Doninger’s claims that administrators at Lewis S. Mills High School violated her rights to free speech and equal protection and intentionally inflicted emotional distress when they barred her from serving as class secretary because of an Internet post she wrote at home.

Does he think they didn’t harm her? Or that the school didn’t violate her rights? Read on.

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Dear Governor Palin,

I understand that you want to be the VP of a party that thinks no one should ever be able have an abortion no matter what. And you don’t believe in teaching kids about sex and STD’s and birth control. AND your 17 year old daughter is pregnant, still in high school and not married. AND you don’t want us to talk about it because it is your family.

Well Mrs Governor, it doesn’t work that way.

You see, your policies and your republican platform are terrible! They don’t work! Here are some examples:

Abstinence-only sex ed defies common sense. Education policy spreads ignorance, sends confusing message to teens

“One in eight youth are sexually experienced, having engaged in intercourse, oral sex or both before the age of 14,” the Journal of Adolescent Health reported in 2006. According to the Project Connect study, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: * “9 percent reported ever having sexual intercourse…and 8 percent ever had oral sex (active or receptive).” * “Of those who reported intercourse, 36 percent were age 11 or younger at first sex, 27 percent were 12, 28 percent were 13, and 9 percent were 14 or older.” * “Alarmingly, 43 percent of sexually experienced participants reported multiple sex partners.”

Kate Walsh: Abstinence-Only “Not Working.” Cites One-In-Four Teen Girl STDs Rate In U.S. As Proof Fed-Sponsored Sex Ed Needs Broadening

So we do get to talk about your policies. And we do get to talk about hypocrisy. You asked us to repect your family’s privacy, but you won’t respect my family’s privacy to make our own decisions!

“Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that, as parents, we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned,” said Palin, 44, and her husband. “We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents.” They asked the media to respect their child’s privacy.

How come she gets to make a decision but the rest of the girls and women in America don’t! You won’t even let me learn in school about all the decisions I might need to make!

Governor Palin, when I had my first boyfriend, my brother talked to me and to him about why we shouldn’t have sex. Actually, we had to sit down in my boyfriend’s living room with his parents and my brother and hear all about STD’s and love and all the reasons we were too young for sex. AND they told us about condoms and other ways of preventing pregnancy even though we promised to keep all hands above the waist until at least 16.

Did you have a talk like that with Bristol and her boyfriend? Did anyone show him how to use a condom? These are fair questions because of the policies you advocate for.

I am glad that Bristol decided to have her baby. Will she and her boyfriend raise it? Will they give it up for adoption? Who is going to pay for her to give birth? And for all the other doctor visits?

If you want your family life to stay private, the please don’t bring your family on stage with you when you campaign, and please stop being a hypocrite.

Sincerely,

Cassie

girl suspended for highlights in her hair

One of the very first posts I ever wrote for this blog was about dress codes. At the time, in Dress codes at school and at work, I asked people’s opinions about dress codes and was fairly comfortable with my school’s policy. I wrote about it again when a student (and her family) sued her school about Tigger and Winnie the Pooh socks.

Now I am glad that my school isn’t as restrictive as Desert Wind School in Socorro, TX. There, an 8th grader is missing prom and graduation because of highlights in her hair. Not purple highlights. Not 5 foot long extensions. Just highlights. And I think she looks pretty cute!

This is from a TV station in El Paso:

Desert Wind School student Denise Guerrero, 14, knew it was against school policy to highlight her hair and she also knew the consequences: if she didn’t remove the highlights, she would miss out on her prom, class field trip, graduation ceremony and soccer games.

“Because I couldn’t be with my friends. I missed out on a lot of things,” said Guerrero.As KFOX reported, Guerrero was assigned to in-school suspension or SAC a month before the end of the school year because she has blond highlights in her hair. She was also told she couldn’t participate in any school activities.Her parents filed a grievance with the Socorro Independent School District. They disagree with the school’s policy and they state other students and teachers color or highlight their hair at Desert Wind School.

But her family disagrees:

“According to their policy, highlights are a distraction. Why isn’t it a distraction by teachers, only by the students,” said Rafael Magallanes, Guerrero’s stepfather.

The principal responded to the grievance and echoed what district officials had told KFOX before. They say the dress code only applies to students and it is applied equally, fairly and thoroughly for all students.Just one week before the end of year activities at Desert Wind, Guerrero discovered the school would not amend the policy. She was told her hair had to go back to her natural color if she wanted to participate in school events. Guerrero said she stood her ground because she felt the policy is not fair. She knew she would be sacrificing events and memories she will never relive.”Soccer, my favorite sport, which I couldn’t get in because of a policy which couldn’t be changed, that’s what hurt me the most,” said Guerrero.Guerrero’s parents could have continued with the grievance process but this year was Denise’s last. Previous Stories:

Slideshow: Eighth Grader Suspended For Hair Color

But the point is, what’s too much restriction for a public school? Banning profanity is one thing. Banning blond is just stupid.  It could be worse.  She could have hair like THIS:

I wish my friends and I had thought of this! Maybe next year. Time to kill the tests from the grassroots, and that means us in our classrooms. And I hope that the teacher gets OUT of trouble.

New York 8th-Graders Boycott Practice Exam But Teacher May Get Ax

by Juan Gonzalez

Students at a South Bronx middle school have pulled off a stunning boycott against standardized testing.

More than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx – virtually the entire eighth grade – refused to take last Wednesday’s three-hour practice exam for next month’s statewide social studies test.

Instead, the students handed in blank exams.

Then they submitted signed petitions with a list of grievances to school Principal Maria Lopez and the Department of Education.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year,” Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders, said Tuesday outside the school. “They don’t even count toward our grades. The school system’s just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams.”

According to the petition, they are sick and tired of the “constant, excessive and stressful testing” that causes them to “lose valuable instructional time with our teachers.”

School administrators blamed the boycott on a 30-year-old probationary social studies teacher, Douglas Avella.

The afternoon of the protest, the principal ordered Avella out of the classroom, reassigned him to an empty room in the school and ordered him to have no further contact with students.

A few days later, in a reprimand letter, Lopez accused Avella of initiating the boycott and taking “actions [that] caused a riot at the school.”

The students say their protest was entirely peaceful. In only one class, they say, was there some loud clapping after one exam proctor reacted angrily to their boycott.

This week, Lopez notified Avella in writing that he was to attend a meeting today for “your end of the year rating and my possible recommendation for the discontinuance of your probationary service.”

“They’re saying Mr. Avella made us do this,” said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. “They don’t think we have brains of our own, like we’re robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests.”

Two days after the boycott, the students say, the principal held a meeting with all the students to find out how their protest was organized.

Avella on Tuesday denied that he urged the students to boycott tests.

Yes, he holds liberal views and is critical of the school system’s increased emphasis on standardized tests, Avella said, but the students decided to organize the protest after weeks of complaining about all the diagnostic tests the school was making them take.

“My students know they are welcome in my class to have open discussions,” Avella said. “I teach them critical thinking.”

“Some teachers implied our graduation ceremony would be in danger, that we didn’t have the right to protest against the test,” said Tia Rivera, 14. “Well, we did it.”

Lopez did not return calls for comment.

“This guy was far over the line in a lot of the ways he was running his classroom,” said Department of Education spokesman David Cantor. “He was pulled because he was inappropriate with the kids. He was giving them messages that were inappropriate.”

Several students defended Avella. They say he had made social studies an exciting subject for them.

“Now they’ve taken away the teacher we love only a few weeks before our real state exam for social studies,” Tatiana Nelson said. “How does that help us?”

jgonzalez@nydailynews.com

0522 03 1

to cheat at writing an honor code?

Students Plagiarized Honor Code

800px-cheating.jpg

This is just funny:

Their goal was an honor code that discouraged cheating and plagiarizing.

However, the wording in a draft by students at the University of Texas at San Antonio appears to match another school’s code — without proper attribution.

The student currently in charge of the honor code project said it was an oversight, but cheating experts say it illustrates a sloppiness among Internet-era students who don’t know how to cite sources properly and think of their computers as cut-and-paste machines.

Link

This is TAKS week here in the Texas schools. As a 10th grader, I take four tests this year. Some years we take two and other years three or four, but this is the big year that determines how well our school does compared to other schools. For us as students, every year matters because certain classes are open or closed for the following year depending on whether we pass or fail the tests. But for the school, 10th grade test scores are the ones that decide how well the whole school does. Some schools can even close if their scores are still low.

The Texas Education Agency has told the Austin school district that it needs to use the word “probable” — not “possible” — when referring to the closure of Johnston High School, district officials said.

The shift in verbiage was made at the suggestion of state officials who are part of Johnston’s oversight team because they wanted to underscore the urgency of the situation at the school in East Austin.

Agency officials have said the school, which has received “unacceptable” ratings for the past four years, will be closed or put under alternative management if it fails to achieve an acceptable rating this year.

Under the state’s accountability system, schools are rated “academically unacceptable” if they don’t meet target graduation rates and goals on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Are we being deliberately undereducated or miseducated? Is our whole generation being purposefully denied essential elements of a meaningful education as a byproduct of spending all of our schooling preparing for tests? Is that an accident?

Here’s the disturbing part. The bureaucrats don’t care if WE improve individually from year to year. They don’t care if our CLASS improves. They only care that we do better than last year’s 10th grade, even if they were a bunch of idiots or a bunch of screw-ups or a bunch of genii. By extension, BETTER doesn’t mean that our average is higher than last year’s class. It means that a larger percent of white kids pass (70%) than last year; a larger percent of black kids, a larger percent of immigrants, a larger percent of girls, a larger percent of poor kids, a larger percent of left-handed kids, and a larger percent of soccer players who only eat ice cream for breakfast.

This means that kids like me who get 90% or 99% every time only spend a THIRD of our school time learning how to answer the test questions and regurgitate essays. The poor kids, meanwhile, who got ONLY 60%-80% spend ALL their time on nothing but test practice. Kids in honors or pre-AP or advanced classes learn some other material and get interesting projects from time to time, like in-class debates, short story assignments and geometry construction projects, but the kids in academic or regular classes have every single test look like a TAKS question. That is not an exaggeration.

Last year, my test scores were all above 92%. I could go down by 10 points in every single subject and no one would care. If I went down 20 points, my brother would wring my neck and I’d probably have to drop some honors classes and possibly lose the chance for AP US History, but the state and the government STILL wouldn’t care. I would be within acceptable parameters.

Our school would still show improvement even if every single kid in honors right now dropped to 71% as long as one kid whose older sibling failed last year passed this year. That’s crazy!

Clearly they don’t care whether we as individuals pass as long as the scenario I have presented makes my high school look good. What’s the point? Could it be that the point really is to dumb down yet another generation; to keep us from learning about the Constitution and our rights. Only in understanding them both may we learn when our republic is at its BEST.

Good grief! Didn’t these kids ever learn to write for different audiences? We learned that in the second grade. You use a different style text messaging your BFF or your BF than you do writing an important letter or even a blog post. Duh! And you don’t use smileys on school essays. Jeez people, grow up!

Survey finds two-thirds of teens use chat symbols in class assignments

Some teenagers are stupid! And some are just uninformed. They NEED to start giving us the real facts or kids will be killing themselves trying to stay healthy. I wrote about teen pregnancy and sex education previously here and here and here.

Nobody Could Have Predicted…

And on and on…

ORLANDO, Fla. — A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.The survey showed that Florida teens also believe that smoking marijuana will prevent a person from getting pregnant.

State lawmakers said the myths are spreading because of Florida’s abstinence-only sex education, Local 6 reported.

The kids I know have a lot of opinions about race, but I’d say that in my HS, only about 30% of the kids care at all about politics, and most of them don’t know a lot about the issues. Most opinions are no more complicated that “Dude, that ain’t right.” or “Well he’s a Christian so I agree with him.” But Feministing has this great video up about HS kids in NY talking about Barack Obama, politics and race. The video is kinda long, but really worth watching.

I’ve written before about prison camps for teenagers and the abuse that happens there, but this one’s the worst I have seen described INSIDE the U.S. Nothing, NOTHING these girls did could justify this. Never!

AP: 13,000 abuse claims in juvie centers (AP)

ADVANCE FOR MARCH 3; graphic shows state by state statistics on juvenile abuse; two sizes; 1c x 2 1/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 54 mm; 3c x 5 7/8 inches; 146 mm x 149.2 mmAP – The Columbia Training School — pleasant on the outside, austere on the inside — has been home to 37 of the most troubled young women in Mississippi.

If some of those girls and their advocates are to be believed, it is also a cruel and frightening place.

The school has been sued twice in the past four years. One suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department, which the state settled in 2005, claimed detainees were thrown naked in to cells and forced to eat their own vomit. The second one, brought by eight girls last year, said they were subjected to “horrendous physical and sexual abuse.” Several of the detainees said they were shackled for 12 hours a day.

These are harsh and disturbing charges — and, in the end, they were among the reasons why state officials announced in February that they will close Columbia. But they aren’t uncommon.

Across the country, in state after state, child advocates have deplored the conditions under which young offenders are housed — conditions that include sexual and physical abuse and even deaths in restraints. The U.S. Justice Department has filed lawsuits against facilities in 11 states for supervision that is either abusive or harmfully lax and shoddy.

Still, a lack of oversight and nationally accepted standards of tracking abuse make it difficult to know exactly how many youngsters have been assaulted or neglected.

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I write about prisons and prisoners a lot, so you might never know that it’s a really hard subject for me to write about, but it is. It’s not just numbers and statistics and information; it’s family. My mom is in prison, on drug charges, and would be much better off in a drug treatment program or in a psych hospital. But, like more than 1% of the adult population in the United States, she is in prison.

It’s even worse here in Texas, which leads the nation in inmate population. This is from Channel 10 in Amarillo:

Tougher state and federal sentencing is one of the main reason for the ballooning prison population. Legal experts say new laws will increase that population because punishment ranges are being extended every year. So people will get longer sentences. But some say it’s a problem that is much more deeply rooted in Texas history. For instance 1 in 9 inmates are of black males. With hispanics being a close second.

“Our system in Texas is absolutely broken that’s why all these people are coming out of prison now on DNA results. In 50 years we’ll look back and we’ll see our system incarcerated lots of innocent people. Former Texas Prison Board Chair Selden Hale said. Hale says he believes the numbers are more like 3 in one hundred blacks that are locked up and 4 and 100 hispanic.

I wonder if anyone really does want to change the current system.  Prisons are big business in the U.S. There is a private corrections industry in addition to the large number of federal, state and local jobs that revolve around guarding, feeding and monitoring prisoners. Someone suggested to me that prisons are our society’s way of NOT dealing with the poor and “stupid” among us.

In California,  

As the costs for fixing the state’s troubled corrections system rocket higher, California is headed for a dubious milestone — for the first time the state will spend more on incarcerating inmates than on educating students in its public universities.

Based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget will overtake spending on the state’s universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on its prisons compared with universities.

And that does not take into account how many people are involved in each system. It’s even worse in other states:

Those states are (in order of spending the most proportionally on prisons in 2007): Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware. The state spending the least on prisons relative to higher education was Minnesota, where for every dollar spent on higher education only 17 cents was spent on corrections. The average for all states was 60 cents, nearly double the 32 cents spent 20 years earlier. Only three states saw gains in spending on higher education, relative to corrections: Alabama, Nevada and Virginia

This link allows you to

Click on a state to see how much its incarceration rate has grown, how its spending on prisons and higher education has changed, what proportion of its prisoners are drug offenders, and the racial disparity between its general and prison populations.

What does all this say about our society?  Nothing good.  Time for us to start thinking about people instead of prisoners, inmates or offenders.  Time to start thinking about helping people with drug problems instead of throwing them in jail for decades.  Time to start treating mental health problems instead of waiting until those problems lead people towards crime.  Time to start acting like a society instead of acting like prison wardens.

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