school


Dear Readers,

I love my blog! I don’t spend enough time here, but this blog has been with me since 8th grade and has been a good friend. But now I am graduating and moving on to a new blog: Cassie at College.

Have you ever been to any kind of graduation ceremony where they didn’t explain that commencement is about new beginnings and not about closing things down? I think it’s a lie. Or a myth. Or wishful thinking. But I AM starting something new —- my college career.

With high school graduation, I am formally graduating from my first blog Political Teen Tidbits and moving on to my brand new grown-up college blog right over at Cassie At College!

The themes and colors there will change when I get a chance to play with all that, but I will always be me.  Still politically left, still writing about prison and drug reform, and adding in my feelings and experiences moving from the world of high school to the world of college.

Maybe in four years from now, Peanut Butter and Betsy will buy me the “Cassie at Law School” website or “Cassie in the Working World”.  Some day I might even buy my own site!  And of course, one of us needs to reserve PresidentCassie2032.com.

Please visit the new site and follow me on my journey to Princeton.

No, I’m not valedictorian or salutatorian and I don’t get to give a speech at my high school graduation, but I’m still reflecting and considering and getting scared.

When I was a little girl, Pocahontas was my favorite movie. As I approach my high school graduation, there is a part of me that isn’t ready to leave high school — a piece of my heart that wants everything to stay exactly the same. Last night, I was reminded of the old adage that everything always changes. Just as a river changes the lives and the plants it touches, so the river itself changes from moment to moment, and so do our lives.

The real Pocahontas was a young teenager when the English settled at Jamestown and her life and the life of our continent changed forever. The Disney movie places her closer to my age and her questions are similar to my own.

What I love most about rivers is:
You can’t step in the same river twice
The water’s always changing, always flowing
But people, I guess, can’t live like that
We all must pay a price
To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing
What’s around the riverbend
Waiting just around the riverbend

I look once more
Just around the riverbend
Beyond the shore
Somewhere past the sea
Don’t know what for…
Why do all my dreams extend
Just around the riverbend?
Just around the riverbend…

Lyrics here

Unlike Pocahontas, I know where I am going. I have no marriage proposals to consider, but I do have a scholarship to Princeton. My dreams await past the shore and into the sea. The river of high school has changed me, as have all the streams and rocks and reeds in my life.

In the past 18 years, my river has included rough and smooth waters and has taken some unexpected turns. I have a sense of what lies just beyond the river bend, and I’m gathering the courage to explore the rest of the twists and turns.

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.

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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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

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.

I don’t cheat.  Don’t need to.  But if I did I would look at these videos. Of course, it would be faster to study than do all that.

Kids’ how-to-cheat videos


Lawgeek (who’s just quit his job to become a university prof) posts a roundup of students’ how-to-cheat YouTube videos. The best one is definitely the guy who scans the label off a Coke bottle, replaces the nutritional information with cheaty stuff, prints it, and glues it around a bottle (presumes that your teacher lets you bring Coke into class — I suppose this works best in schools where Coke has struck a deal requiring their products to be available at all times and in all places.)When I was a kid, we were obsessed with figuring out methods for cheating — far more so than with actual cheating itself. We used binary encoding to sneak in long lists of numbers, stitching them up the outer seams of our jeans or cuffs — a stitch for 1, no stitch for 0 — that we could read by fingertip. After we learned the resistor color-coding scheme, we started to shave pencils and then decorate them with colored bands that actually contained the same lists of numbers. We tried — and failed — to produce a decent tapping code for interactive cheating, though this is certainly possible. One exciting failure was a light-based semaphore wherein the conspirators would flash reflected discs of light up on the wall over the teacher’s head using our watch-faces.

The kids in these videos are awfully sanguine about their teachers’ YouTube cluelessness. I’m relatively certain that the adorable little English moppet pictured here has never actually succeeded in using his cheat, as it relies on your teachers allowing you to keep playing cards on your desk during the exam. This is surely a purely theoretical cheat.

Link

So, if my parents or guardians made me sleep in a room like this

or spend all of my time lying on the floor face down like this …

they would probably get arrested, right?  Either for child abuse or neglect.

But what about if parents outsourced abusing their kids?  What if they sent thm to places where things like THIS take place?

Many who have been there describe a life of pain and fear. They say they spent 13 hours a day, for weeks or months on end, lying on their stomachs in an isolation room, their arms repeatedly twisted to the breaking point.

….

 “You could hear kids screaming when they were getting restrained,” Mr. Bucolo said. “It was horrible. They would do it behind closed doors. And say the kids were lying if they complained.”

What would you say about parents who spent $30,000 to send their kids to this place?  Or what about this one?

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When I was 8, 9 and 10 I was a bully. I hit and kicked other kids all the time. I never threatened a teacher though. But I could have.

This little boy threatened his teacher with a plastic knife or fork. And he had to go to jail. Would that happen in other “civilized” countries? Does it happen to white kids from good neighborhoods? It shouldn’t happen to anyone!

New Project Seeks Justice for Vulnerable Children

Darius was only 9 when he was locked up. For two months, he languished in a juvenile facility — alone, frightened. He missed his 10th birthday party. He missed Thanksgiving. He missed his stepfather’s funeral.

His offense: He had threatened a teacher with a plastic utensil.

Unfortunately, Darius’s early introduction to the juvenile justice system is not that uncommon.

Across America, countless school children — particularly impoverished children of color — are being pushed out of schools and into juvenile lock-ups for minor misconduct that in an earlier era would have warranted counseling or a trip to the principal’s office rather than a court appearance.

The problem is particularly acute in the Deep South, where one in four African Americans live in poverty.

The children and teens most at risk of entering this “school-to-prison pipeline” are those who, like Darius, have emotional troubles, educational disabilities or other mental health needs.

But rather than receiving the help they need in school, these vulnerable youths are being swept into a cold, uncaring maze of lawyers, courts, judges and detention facilities, where they are groomed for a brutal life in adult prisons.

“Our juvenile prisons and jails are overflowing with children who simply don’t belong there,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “These are the children who desperately need a helping hand. Instead, we’re traumatizing and brutalizing them — increasing the risk that they’ll end up in adult prisons. It’s tragic for the children and bad for the rest of us, because it tears apart communities, wastes millions in taxpayer dollars and does nothing to reduce crime.”

To attack this problem, the Southern Poverty Law Center has launched a multi-faceted new initiative, called the School-to-Prison Reform Project. Based in New Orleans, the project is seeking systemic reforms through legal action, community activism and lobbying to ensure these students get the services — both in school and in the juvenile justice system — that can make the difference between incarceration and graduation.

Nationwide, almost 100,000 children and teens are in custody. Black youths are vastly over-represented in this population; they are held in custody at four times the rate of white youths, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Students with disabilities that would qualify them for special education services are also grossly overrepresented. Some studies suggest that as many 70 percent of children in juvenile correctional facilities have significant mental health or learning disabilities.

“These are the children left behind,” said Ron Lospennato, an SPLC lawyer who heads the new project. “They are paying a heavy price because of short-sighted policies based mainly on fear and myths. Someone must be there to catch them before they fall through the cracks.”

The pipeline begins in the classroom, where black students are disproportionately affected. Nationally, black students in public schools are suspended or expelled at nearly three times the rate of white students, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis of U.S. Department of Education data.

The state with the worst disparity is New Jersey, where black students are almost 60 times as likely as white students to be expelled for serious infractions. Many other states also had striking gaps in discipline rates. In Alabama, a state where more than a third of all public school students are African American, black students are expelled five times as often as whites.

Once a black student is pushed into the juvenile justice system, the pipeline takes another tragic turn. The proportion of black youths within the system grows at each stage — from arrest through sentencing — until this group, which represents only 16 percent of the nation’s youth population, accounts for 58 percent of the youths admitted to state adult prisons.

“The vast majority of children caught up in the juvenile justice system have not committed violent crimes and do not deserve to be sent to prison,” Lospennato said. “And what most people don’t know is that thousands of non-violent kids get locked up for months even before their cases are heard.”

Students in special education are especially at risk of being pushed into the pipeline.

“Often these students are simply acting out of frustration because they can’t keep up with the others, and they’re not getting the help they need in class,” said Jim Comstock-Galagan, founder and executive director of the Southern Disability Law Center, which has partnered with the SPLC on the School-to-Prison Reform Project.

Poverty makes the situation worse, because a family may not have the resources needed to successfully demand the special school services that can prevent an outburst of misbehavior. It also means a detained child might find her fate in the hands of an overworked and underpaid public defender who has little or no training in the field of juvenile law.

Cohen noted the importance of basing the project in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina exposed the country’s racial and economic disparities.

“In opening the New Orleans office, we are sending a message, loud and clear, that the key to addressing these inequities is ensuring all children receive the education they deserve and are guaranteed under federal law,” Cohen said.

The project grew out of the SPLC’s legal work representing children with disabilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

SPLC won key victories
The project has already won key victories for many school children in Mississippi and Louisiana. Settlements reached with school systems in Louisiana’s Jefferson, East Baton Rouge and Calcasieu parishes, for example, will ensure that quality special education services are provided to thousands of students. The settlements also have provisions that will enhance school experiences for all children, not just those with emotional or learning disabilities.As for Darius, the SPLC won his release from juvenile detention and helped him receive mental health treatment near his home and special education services at school. A program to help strengthen family relationships was part of the treatment.

“There are thousands of children like Darius whose lives can be saved if we reform this broken system,” Cohen said. “That’s what this project is all about.”

Editor’s note: Darius’ name has been changed to protect his identity.

I got this from a teacher!  Not one of my teachers, but even so, every little bit helps.  Should I sue the teacher who gave me an 84 on a paper that I wrote in Arial?

Put your paper into Georgia, a serif font, and your grades may rise.

Some enterprising fellow at Fadtastic did the research, and discovered Georgia-fonted papers tend to get A grades, Times Roman-fonted papers get A- grades, and Trebuchet-fonted papers get B grades (”The Secret Lives of Fonts).

Of course, that’s what the type designers, book designers and web designers have been telling us for 20 years — a serif font is easier to read, and makes the reader feel more at ease.  When graders feel good, the paper gets a good grade.  That’s logical.

I also discovered that when faxed to news editors, sans serif fonts get better play.  If the press release is legible, it goes farther.

And, when I was taking broadcast courses, my grades rose significantly when my IBM Correcting Selectric II arrived, and I started doing all my scripts in Orator font.  The teacher, an active newsman at the time, graded higher when he recognized the font more — it was roughly the same font on the teleprompter at his station.

Pick your font and your transmission method accordingly.

The author of this non-scientific study is a web designer, of course.

I’ll bet you’ll find that conclusion, backed with some sort of research, in the book design and web design texts.

Remember when we all used typewriters, and such choices were not options at all?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Graceful Flavor.

Now, I would NEVER wear these but if I was on the borderline of passing science and needed a bribe gift for my teacher …. hmmmm ….. maybe. Who else would wear them?

table of elements socks

image from Oh Gizmo!