All Articles Tagged "public education"
-Sally Ride the first American woman in space, died yesterday at the age of 61 after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Ride made history in 1983 when she traveled aboard the space shuttle Challenger. She was also one of the first six women to be named to NASA’s astronaut corps. A Stanford graduate, she held three degrees in physics, including a Ph.D. and a Bachelor’s in English. She was also the founder of Sally Ride Science, an organization in San Diego that creates science programs for tweens, especially young girls, and Girl Scouts’ Camp CEO, a group that brings minority girls and professional women together.
Separately but related, pancreatic cancer has a very high mortality rate; 75 percent of patients die within a year and 94 percent within five years. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has more information about this deadly disease.
-Warner Brothers, the studio behind The Dark Knight Rises, will donate a “substantial” though undisclosed amount of money to the victims of the Friday morning mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, CO. Though the studio has canceled premiere events and made changes with regards to its other film Gangster Squad, the backlash against Hollywood has been limited. “Many agree that you simply can’t hold the art form itself responsible in the shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 others injured,” the AP writes.
-The alleged gunman in that mass shooting, James Holmes, appeared in court yesterday looking dazed and confused. At times seeming to doze off briefly, Holmes didn’t say a word during the appearance in which Judge William Sylvester ordered the suspect to be held without bond. Colorado law enforcement says Holmes isn’t cooperating with the investigation. He’s being held in solitary confinement.
-The recession is wreaking havoc on school districts across the country. According to The New York Times, foreclosures and other economic problems are driving parents and their kids out of places like Detroit, Cleveland, and San Bernadino, CA. There’s also greater competition from charter schools, which have seen their enrollment numbers go through the roof. Funding for schools is based on the number of students attending. The decline in the student population has led to school closures, layoffs and has put educational programs in jeopardy.
-Good news? Mariah Carey is going to be a judge on American Idol. She’s getting an eye-popping $18 million for the one-year contract. In return, the show hopes that her star power will revive ratings.
(The Root) — As states grappled with ways to reinvigorate the flagging public education system, charter schools were offered up as an attractive alternative: a way to break outside the mold and offer the kind of innovative learning environment and accountability for results that is more often associated with private schools. Some critics fear that this alternative is now crowding out the public school system it was meant to supplement, creating a two-tiered system that leaves children in more traditional settings with fewer resources and options. That argument is the crux of a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and the United Federation of Teachers against the New York City Department of Education. They charge the city with favoritism toward 18 charter schools that share space in public schools. The suit, filed last month in New York State Supreme Court, claims that charter schools are getting more than their fair share of space within public school buildings and have better access to playgrounds, gyms and cafeterias. It also disputes the rationale for closing 22 failing schools, including 15 that were part of similar litigation last year by the UFT and the NAACP.
Over forty years ago, African Americans demanded public school districts and other educational institutions to reform their curriculum in order to reflect the experiences and histories of folks other than white men. Those opposed to the curriculum change argued that inclusion of the civil rights movement and notable black figures would challenge religious values and politicize the curriculum. Nevertheless, in the years that followed, other ethnic groups and women would follow suit and push schools to revise their curriculum to be more reflective of United States history.
These battles over what and whom should be included in public school curricula are far from over; e.g., Texas State Board of Education approves revising textbooks to eliminate the civil rights movement, and Mississippi becomes the first state to implement a civil rights curriculum for grades K through 12. But it appears that public school curricula may undergo an entirely new makeover with the recent news that the state of California is close to becoming the first state to require the teaching of gay history.
According to the Associated Press, the California Senate approved the landmark measure a week ago, but it still needs to get a seal of approval from the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. If the legislation is a success, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be added to the lengthy list of social and ethnic groups that schools must include in social studies lessons. As early as the 2013-2014 school year, the California Board of Education and local school districts would be required to adopt textbooks and other teaching materials that would cover the contributions of LGBTs throughout history.
Those who are opposed to the curriculum change, including some churches and conservative groups, believe that homosexuality is being forced upon students. Some also add that how a child learns about homosexuality should be determined in the home by the parents.
Yet advocates believe that the instruction about gays in history would fill “an obvious gap in the state’s existing social studies framework and curb anti-gay stereotypes,” reports the AP.
“Teaching LGBT history in schools would offer all students a valuable lesson in the respect of all human beings and would help to break down stereotypes, bias and bigotry, which is learned at home, at school and in religious environments,” said Douglas Sadownick, Ph.D., founder and director of Antioch University LGBT specialization in clinical psychology.
“California has an amazing opportunity to set the bar high in an area we have previously been challenged—education,” said Michael Kyle, a member of the board of directors for the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “It is imperative that the youth of today (our leaders of tomorrow) learn a comprehensive version of history.”
This comprehensive view of history would put emphasis on people who are considered leaders throughout history—and that just so happen to be gay, like Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes.
Former teacher Pablo Solomon, though not completely against the idea of incorporating LGBT history, believes implementing such a change in curriculum should be rethought and redirected to a different set of students. “Frankly, it shouldn’t be taught until college,” he said. “The gay and lesbian lifestyles are complex and not really comprehensible by children and even most teens. Many intelligent adults have trouble understanding some of what goes on.”
Solomon added, “while I think it is appropriate to teach tolerance, going as far as doing gay history is just too over the top early in the game.”
(New York Times) — There is no more pressing topic in education today than closing the achievement gap, and there is no one in America who knows more about the gap than Ronald Ferguson. Although he is a Harvard professor based in Cambridge, Mass., Dr. Ferguson, 60, spends lots of time flying around the country visiting racially mixed public high schools. Part of what he does is academic, measuring the causes of the gap by annually surveying the performance, behaviors and attitudes of up to 100,000 students. And part is serving as a de facto educational social worker, meeting with students, faculty members and parents to explain what steps their schools can take to narrow the gap.
The gap is about race, of course, and it inevitably inflames passions. But there is something about Dr. Ferguson’s bearing — he is both big (6-foot-3) and soft-spoken — that gets people to listen. Morton Sherman, the Alexandria school superintendent, watched him defuse the anger at a meeting of 300 people. “He talks about these things in a professorial way, a kind way,” Dr. Sherman said. “It’s not about him. He doesn’t try to be a rock star, although he is a rock star in this field.” While he has a personal stake in closing the gap as an African-American parent who has raised three boys, Dr. Ferguson does not get emotional in tense situations — he gets factual.
He is frequently quoted in the news media, and in recent months, he has played a major role in four important educational stories: the Gates study on evaluating teachers (his research shows that when kids say a teacher is good, they usually know what they’re talking about); the Council of the Great City Schools study of the widening gap between white and black boys (12 percent of black fourth-grade boys were proficient in reading on a national test, compared with 38 percent of whites); a front-page story in The New York Times last year on the effectiveness of big high schools (at a time when small schools are in vogue); and as a member of the eight-person New York State panel that decided whetherCathleen P. Black should qualify for a waiver to be New York City’s chancellor (he won’t say how he voted).
(AJC) — State School Superintendent John Barge told educators from across the state Tuesday that Georgia’s graduation rate could plummet 16 percentage points this year under a new federally mandated formula. Just last week, Barge told lawmakers to expect at least a 10 percentage point drop as the state begins calculating its graduation rate using a new formula that better accounts for dropouts. But in an appearance here before the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, Barge said a more detailed analysis shows the state’s 80.2 percent graduation rate could fall to 64 percent this year. “That’s a worst-case scenario,” he said. The graduation rate could take another big drop if students struggling with the state’s integrated math curriculum aren’t able to graduate with their class, though that could change with some recently proposed changes to the curriculum, Barge said. Officials have long expected a drop in the state’s graduation rate once Georgia switches from a formula that has been in place since 2003 to the federal formula. Beginning next year, all states will move to the federal method. By 2012, that graduation rate will be a factor in whether a school makes “adequate yearly progress” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Also appearing before the crowd was Gov. Nathan Deal, who weighed in on the debate over future funding for the HOPE scholarship program.
Williams-Bolar didn’t set out to be a household name but like Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat became the national symbol for the Civil Rights Movement, Williams-Bolar’s defiance will now serve as an important symbol of the modern day Civil Rights Movement happening now in the public education system.
The 40-year old mother became the first person in U.S. history to have been convicted of “theft” and “tampering with records” for sending her children to a better school outside of her designated school district. Using the address of the children’s grandfather, who is a resident and pays taxes to Copley Township, Williams-Bolar enrolled her two daughters into the Copley Township school district, a much whiter and wealthier suburb in her home city of Akron, Ohio, in the hopes of pulling of them out of their own dangerous and poor performing school district.
Because of her “crime” of manipulating school residency requirements, Williams-Bolar spent nine days in jail and will have to serve two-years probation, as well as 80 hours of community service. Moreover, because of her felony conviction (yes, I said felony), Williams-Bolar now faces the prospect of losing her job as a teaching assistant at a local high school, as well as getting kicked out of the University of Akron where she is one semester shy of completing her education degree.
The injustices in this story are plenty: first, we have the overzealous Ohio prosecutor, who chose to relentlessly pursue a criminal conviction against Williams-Bolar when other parents who’d done the same thing were not criminally charged. While it’s hard to conclusively say if this prosecution was racially motivated, you do have to wonder why the prosecutor’s office absolutely refused to cut a deal with Williams-Bolar and let her plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge.
Then there is the issue of how public education is funded. Like many other states nationwide, Ohio primarily funds its education on the basis of property taxes, thereby ensuring that neighborhoods with higher home values have more money for education than schools in lower-income communities.
Because of these disparities, American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered; the average black child attending school is 59% poor compared to only 29 % of white children. The typical Hispanic child is also subjected to similar segregated conditions.
The real fraud is that the quality of education hinges on one’s ability to afford to live in a higher-income zip code. Instead of coming up with real solutions to address this discrepancy, the leaders in our society have chosen to establish laws to charge these desperate parents with felonies.
Sadly in Ohio, as well as across the country, a system of educational apartheid has continued to disenfranchise many from increasing their own standard of living. If the Williams-Bolar case is not used to springboard a real movement toward education equality, such as how Rosa Parks was used to ignite the Civil Rights movement, then it will only serve to scare black, brown and other poor folks into accepting substandard education.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
(Washington Examiner) — Kaya Henderson is tired of breaking china. The interim D.C. schools chancellor remembers a class she took in college: Cycles of Revolution, something like that. It explained that when something is broken, people reach a boiling point. There’s a bloody battle in the streets. And then people look up: They realize their people have died, or their country is ravaged. “People keep asking me how I’m different from Michelle Rhee. I’m different than her because she’s a petite Asian woman and I’m a large black girl,” Henderson told The Washington Examiner.
(San Francisco Chronicle) — More than a third of California’s African American public high school students dropped out before graduation day, a startling number and one that’s on the rise, according to 2009 data released Tuesday. The 37 percent African American dropout rate, up three percentage points from the prior year, was far above that of any other ethnic subgroup. Hispanic students had the second highest rate at 27 percent. Locally, San Francisco cautiously celebrated a 9 percent overall dropout rate, a stark contrast to Oakland’s 40 percent, numbers still under review for accuracy.
(New American Media) — He was on his way to class. He really was. He wasn’t “ditching” and he had no intentions of leaving campus to engage in illicit or illegal behavior. Rodney Smith said he forgot his backpack in the school cafeteria and went to retrieve it; that’s the reason he was late to class after lunch, and being late is the reason he was given a truancy ticket. “…I was just a couple of minutes late … the officers took me to their office to give me the ticket which made me even later for class than I had been for just going to get my backpack,” he said. “Truancy” tickets are issued to students throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) under Los Angeles Municipal Code 45.04, which prohibits juveniles from loitering during normal school hours. Students who are not in school during those hours and who appear to be without parental/adult supervision are given citations that come with a minimum fine of $50 dollars.
(Wall Street Journal) — Former Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee launched a national advocacy group Monday to support political candidates and school districts that embrace substantial changes in public education. Through the group, StudentsFirst, Ms. Rhee hopes to raise $1 billion to dole out to political candidates who support her policies and to local school districts that adopt the group’s prescriptions, such as linking teacher tenure to student test scores.