Archive | January, 2012

The slow reading movement

31 Jan

The Slow Reading Movement is part of the “slow movement” which aims to decrease the pace of life and promote greater comprehension. Holly Ramer of AP reports on the slow reading movement. In the article, NH Professor Pushes For Return of the Slow Reading which was reprinted in the Seattle Times, Ramer reports:

At a time when people spend much of their time skimming websites, text messages and e-mails, an English professor at the University of New Hampshire is making the case for slowing down as a way to gain more meaning and pleasure out of the written word.

Thomas Newkirk isn’t the first or most prominent proponent of the so-called “slow reading” movement, but he argues it’s becoming all the more important in a culture and educational system that often treats reading as fast food to be gobbled up as quickly as possible.

“You see schools where reading is turned into a race, you see kids on the stopwatch to see how many words they can read in a minute,” he said. “That tells students a story about what reading is. It tells students to be fast is to be good.”

Newkirk is encouraging schools from elementary through college to return to old strategies such as reading aloud and memorization as a way to help students truly “taste” the words. He uses those techniques in his own classroom, where students have told him that they’ve become so accustomed from flitting from page to page online that they have trouble concentrating while reading printed books.

“One student told me even when he was reading a regular book, he’d come to a word and it would almost act like a hyper link. It would just send his mind off to some other thing,” Newkirk said. “I think they recognize they’re missing out on something.”

The idea is not to read everything as slowly as possible, however. As with the slow food movement, the goal is a closer connection between readers and their information, said John Miedema, whose 2009 book “Slow Reading” explores the movement.

“It’s not just about students reading as slowly as possible,” he said. “To me, slow reading is about bringing more of the person to bear on the book.”

Wikipedia has additional information about slow reading

The University of New Hampshire where Professor Newkirk teaches has a press release which summarizes his case for slow reading. In Key To Children Reading More is Fostering Reading More Slowly Newkirk’s philosophy is summarized:

Newkirk proposes several strategies for “slowing down and reclaiming the acoustical properties of written language—for savoring it, for enjoying the infinite ways a sentence can unfold—and for returning to passages that sustain and inspire us. Many of these strategies are literally as old as the hills.”

  • Memorizing: Memorization is often called “knowing by heart,” and for good reason. Memorizing enables us to possess a text in a special way.
  • Reading Aloud: Reading aloud is a regular activity in elementary classrooms, but it dies too soon. Well-chosen and well-read texts are one of the best advertisements for literacy. By reading aloud, teachers can create a bridge to texts that students might read; they can help reluctant readers imagine a human voice animating the words on the page.
  • Attending to Beginnings: Writers often struggle with their beginnings because they are making so many commitments; they are establishing a voice, nrrator, and point of view that are right for what will follow. These openings often suggest a conflict. They raise a question, pose a problem, create an “itch to be scratched.” Readers need to be just as deliberate and not rush through these carefully constructed beginnings. As teachers, we can model this slowness.
  • Rethinking Time Limits on Reading Tests: We currently give students with disabilities additional time to complete standardized tests; we should extend this opportunity to all students. Tests place too high a premium on speed, and limits are often set for administrative convenience rather than because of a reasoned belief in what makes good readers.
  • Annotating a Page: In this activity, students probe the craft of a favorite writer. They pick a page they really like, photocopy it, and tape the photocopy to a larger piece of paper so they have wide margins in which they can make notations. Their job is to give the page a close reading and mark word choices, sentence patterns, images, dialogue—anything they find effective. A variation of this activity is a quote and comment assignment in which students copy out passages by hand that they find particularly meaningful and then comment on why they chose those passages. Copying a passage slows us down and creates an intimacy with the writer’s style—a feel for word choice and for how sentences are formed.
  • Reading Poetry: Even in this age of efficiency and consumption, it is unlikely that anyone will reward students for reading a million poems. Poems can’t be checked off that way. They demand a slower pace and usually several readings—and they are usually at their best when read aloud.
  • Savoring Passages: Children know something that adults often forget—the deep pleasure of repetition, of rereading, or of having parents reread, until the words seem to be part of them.

Thomas Newkirk is a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author and editor of a number of books, including “Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For(2009), “Teaching the Neglected ‘R’ “(2007), and “Misreading Masculinity”(2004), which was cited by Instructor Magazine as one of the most significant books for teachers in the past decade. Newkirk is a former teacher of at-risk high school students in Boston, former director of UNH’s freshman English program, and the director and founder of its New Hampshire Literacy Institutes. He has studied literacy learning at a variety of educational levels, from preschool to college.

Professor Newkirk has written the article, Reading is not a race: The virtues of the ‘slow reading’ movement for the Washington Post:

This obsession with speed has not always been dominant. The McGuffey readers encouraged patience and repeated readings that would lead to oral performance. But in the 1920s, reading educators argued that oral reading was too slow and inefficient—in fact, students needed to cut themselves off from any connection to sound and oral performance.

One popular guide at the time advised teachers to have students — literally — hold their tongue while reading, thus preventing sounding out words. Another technique was to bring a piece of wood to class and bite down on it while reading. Another was to allow them to chew gum while reading. If sound was turned off in these ways, students could process bigger visual chunks.

I myself am a slow reader. Always have been. I enter a book or essay carefully, trying to get a feel for this writer/narrator/teller that I will spend time with. I hear the language, feel the movement of sentences, pay attention to punctuation, sense pauses, feel the writer’s energy (or lack of it), construct the voice and temperament of the writer.

If I am going to spend time with an author, I want to hear his or her voice — I want some human connection.

I have therefore joined the slow reading movement. Like the slow food movement, it is about more than just slowing down, though that is part of it. It is about an intimacy with authors; it is about paying attention, about caring, about rereading and savoring what we read. It is about finding the right pace. About pleasure more than efficiency.

Slow reading is also about recovering old practices that have traditionally aided readers in paying attention — oral performance, annotation, exploring complex and difficult passages. It is about reading that generates ideas for writing, what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “creative reading.” And even memorization.

There should be a variety of strategies to help people read and comprehend. There shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach to education. The goal remains providing a good basic education for all.

See, Illiteracy in America

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Battle of the studies: Does class size matter?

30 Jan

There is an ongoing discussion or battle about whether class size matters in effective learning. Class size reduction theory has both supporters and skeptics. Leonie Hamson writes in the Washington Post article, 7 Class Size Myths — And the Truth

So perhaps its time to review what the research really says and what experience shows about the importance of reducing class size. Here are seven myths about class size, commonly repeated as gospel by the corporate-type reformers, juxtaposed with the facts.

1. Myth: Class size is an unproven or ineffective reform.

Studies from Tennessee, Wisconsin, and states throughout the country have demonstrated that students who are assigned to smaller classes in grades K-3rd do better in every way that can be measured: they score higher on tests, receive better grades, and exhibit improved attendance.

The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education has concluded that class size reduction is one of only four, evidence-based reforms that have been proven to increase student achievement through rigorous, randomized experiments — the “gold standard” of research. (The other three reforms are one-on-one tutoring by qualified tutors for at-risk readers in grades 1-3; life-skills training for junior high students, and instruction for early readers in phonics – and not one of the policies that the corporate reformers are pushing.

A recent re-evaluation of the STAR experiment in Tennessee revealed that students who were in smaller classes in Kindergarten had higher earnings in adulthood, as well as a greater likelihood of attending college and having a 410K retirement plan. In fact, according to this study, the only two “observable” classroom factors that led to better outcomes were being placed in a small class and having an experienced teacher.

2. Myth: There is a threshold that has to be reached before class size reduction provides benefits.

Since STAR involved comparing outcomes between students in classes of 22 to 25 students and those in classes of 13 to 17, many critics have argued that classes have to be reduced to a certain level to provide benefits.

Yet Alan Krueger of Princeton University analyzed the STAR results for the control group of students who were in the “larger” classes and found that within this range, the smaller the class, the better the outcome.

Indeed, esteemed researchers such as Peter Blatchford have found that there is no particular threshold that must be reached before students receive benefits from smaller classes, and any reduction in class size increases the probability that they will be on-task and positively engaged in learning.

3. Myth: Large scale programs such as class size reduction in California didn’t work.

Actually, every controlled study of the California class size reduction program –and there have been at least six so far—have shown significant gains from smaller classes.

Unlike the STAR studies, nearly all elementary schools in the state reduced class size at once –especially in grades K-2nd—so it was hard to find a control group with which to compare outcomes. Also, the state exam was new, making it difficult to compare achievement gains to past trends.

Yet given these limitations, the results were striking: even when analyzing the achievement of third graders who had the benefits of a smaller class for only one year, as compared to those who were in large classes, the gains were substantial, especially for disadvantaged students in inner-city schools.

In the five largest school districts other than Los Angeles, namely San Diego, San Francisco, Long Beach, Oakland and Fresno, researchers found that class size reduction raised the proportion of third graders who exceeded the national median by l0.5 % in math, and 8.4 % in reading, after controlling for all other factors. Even larger gains occurred in schools with high numbers of poor students, and in schools that had 100% black enrollment, lowering class size resulted in 14.7% more students exceeding the national median in math, and 18.4% more in reading.

Another researcher, Fatih Unlu, avoided some of the pitfalls encountered by other researchers who were stymied by the fact that the state tests were new and there were few students to use as a control group. In his paper, he instead analyzed the change in National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, and by using two different statistical methods, he found very substantial gains from smaller classes.

4. Myth: Class size reduction lowers the quality of teachers.

This urban legend is often repeated by the corporate-style reformers. Typical is the claim from
Mr. Snider, that lowering class size in California “had the unintended effect of creating a run on good teachers: the best teachers tended to flee to the suburbs, which were suddenly hiring and which offered better pay and working conditions…

5. Myth: Class size matters, but only in the early grades.

Although there has been no large scale experiment done for the middle and upper grades, as STAR did in the early grades, there are numerous studiesthat show smaller classes are correlated with achievement gains and/or lower dropout rates in the middle and upper grades as well.

One comprehensive study, done for the U.S. Department of Education, analyzed the achievement levels of students in 2,561 schools across the country. After controlling for student background, the only objective factor found to be positively correlated with student performance was smaller classes, not school size or teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify. Moreover, student achievement was even more strongly linked to class size reduction in the upper grades than the lower grades….

7. Myth: Even if class size matters, it’s just too expensive.

Many studies have shown that class size reduction is cost-effective because it results in higher wages later in life (see the above study, for example), and lower costs for health care and/or welfare dependency.

One re-analysis of the STAR data published in the American Journal of Public Health estimated that reducing class sizes may be more cost-effective than almost any other public health and medical intervention, with large savings in health care and almost two years of additional life for those students who were in smaller classes in the early grades….

Also, class size reduction is one of very few educational interventions that have been proven to narrow the achievement gap, with students from poor and minority backgrounds experiencing twice the gains as the average student. While many of the high-achieving charter schools, such as the Icahn charter schools in the Bronx, and those highly celebrated such as Harlem Children’s Zone, cap class sizes at 18 or less, class sizes in our inner-city public schools continue to grow.

As a recent issue brief on the achievement gap from the Educational Testing Service pointed out, schools having high numbers of minority students are more likely to feature large classes of 25 students or more, with the class size gap between high-minority schools and low-minority schools larger over time. Don’t we have a moral obligation to provide equitable opportunities to all children?

So the next time somebody with power or influence tells you that class size reduction is a waste of money, ask him what the evidence-base is for the policies he favors instead. Or ask him what class sizes were in the school his own child attends.

Many of the individuals who are driving education policy in this country, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Bill Gates, sent their own children to private schools where class sizes were low and yet continue to insist that resources, equitable funding, and class size don’t matter – when all the evidence points to the contrary.

As John Dewey wrote, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.” If education is really the civil rights issue of our era, it is about time those people making policies for our schools begin to provide for other people’s children what they provide for their own.

There is of course, a contrary opinion.

The Center for American Progress has a report by Mathew M. Chingos, The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction

In the Executive Summary Chingos reports:

There is surprisingly little high-quality research, however, on the effects of class size on student achievement in the United States. The credible evidence that does exist is not consistent, and there are many low-quality studies

with results all over the map. The most encouraging results for CSR come from a single experiment conducted in the 1980s, which found that a large reduction in class size in the early grades increased test scores, particularly among low-income and African American students. But evaluations of large-scale CSR policies in California and Florida have yielded much less positive results, perhaps because of the need to hire so many (inexperienced and potentially less effective) new teachers.

Chingos does not believe the advocates for smaller class size have made their case.

Suzy Kihmm reports in the Washington Post article, Study: Class size doesn’t matter:

Two Harvard researchers looked at the factors that actually improve student achievement and those that don’t. In a new paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Will Dobbie and Roland Freyer analyzed 35 charter schools, which generally have greater flexibility in terms of school structure and strategy. They found that traditionally emphasized factors such as class size made little difference, compared with some new criteria:
We find that traditionally collected input measures — class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree — are not correlated with school effectiveness. In stark contrast, we show that an index of five policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research — frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations — explains approximately 50 percent of the variation in school effectiveness.                                  

Catherine Rampell wrote in the 2009 New York Times article, Class Size Around the World:

Note that some of the countries with some of the world’s highest achieving student bodies — like Korea and Japan — have the biggest class sizes. Perhaps this has to do with cultural differences; societies with Confucian roots may have stricter hierarchies within the classroom, so perhaps it’s easier (or more expected) for a single teacher to manage a bigger group of students. But presumably there are other explanations, too.

Rampell includes charts from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in her article.

Something to think about.

Here is the citation:

Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City

Will Dobbie, Roland G. Fryer, Jr

NBER Working Paper No. 17632

Issued in December 2011

NBER Program(s):   ED   LS                                                                                                                                      You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

New emphasis on obesity: Possible unintended consequences, eating disorders

29 Jan

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is reporting in the study, School Obesity Programs May Promote Worrisome Eating Behaviors and Physical Activity in Children:

Report Highlights

82% of parents report at least one school-based intervention aimed at preventing childhood obesity within their children’s schools.

30% of parents of children age 6-14 report worrisome eating behaviors and physical activity in their children.

7% of parents say that their children have been made to feel bad at school about what or how much they were eating.

B.A. Birch reports about the Mott study in the Education News article, Report: School Food Programs Could Trigger Eating Disorders:

David Rosen, a professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, said:

“We have to be really careful that we’re not putting things out there, particularly to younger kids, that might be misinterpreted, not be given appropriate supervision, and being done in ways that kids can, or some kids, can go off in dangerous directions and have bad outcomes.”

Rosen believes it is important that parents talk to their children about what they’re being told at the schools and to keep an eye out for worrying behavior.

“Parents need to know what’s going on in school. They need to be able to talk with their kids about the information they’re getting in schools, be attentive to any changes they’re seeing in their kids, particularly if those behaviors seem to persist or seem to be getting worse.

“We think the parents ought to be talking to schools about this kind of education.”

The schools must also take responsibility, says Rosen. Officials should pay attention to the outcomes of their programs.

The key is moderation in both eating habits and exercise.

The media presents an unrealistic image of perfection for women and girls. What they don’t disclose is for many of the “super” models their only job and requirement is the maintenance of their appearance. Their income depends on looks and what they are not able to enhance with plastic surgery and personal trainers, then that cellulite can be photoshopped or airbrushed away. That is the reality. Kids Health has some good information about Body Image  Michael Levine, PhD of the National Eating Disorders Association has written, 10 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Eating Disorders:

1. Consider your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors toward your own body and the way that these beliefs have been shaped by the forces of weightism and sexism. Then educate your children about (a) the genetic basis for the natural diversity of human body shapes and sizes and (b) the nature and ugliness of prejudice.

􀁹 Make an effort to maintain positive attitudes and healthy behaviors. Children learn from the things you say and do!

2. Examine closely your dreams and goals for your children and other loved ones. Are you overemphasizing beauty and body shape, particularly for girls?

􀁹 Avoid conveying an attitude which says in effect, “I will like you more if you lose weight, don’t eat so much, look more like the slender models in ads, fit into smaller clothes, etc.”

􀁹 Decide what you can do and what you can stop doing to reduce the teasing, criticism, blaming, staring, etc. that reinforce the idea that larger or fatter is “bad” and smaller or thinner is “good.”

3. Learn about and discuss with your sons and daughters (a) the dangers of trying to alter one’s body shape through dieting, (b) the value of moderate exercise for health, and (c) the importance of eating a variety of foods in well-balanced meals consumed at least three times a day.

􀁹 Avoid categorizing and labeling foods (e.g. good/bad or safe/dangerous). All foods can be eaten in moderation.

􀁹 Be a good role model in regard to sensible eating, exercise, and self-acceptance.

4. Make a commitment not to avoid activities (such as swimming, sunbathing, dancing, etc.) simply because they call attention to your weight and shape. Refuse to wear clothes that are uncomfortable or that you don’t like but wear simply because they divert attention from your weight or shape.

5. Make a commitment to exercise for the joy of feeling your body move and grow stronger, not to purge fat from your body or to compensate for calories, power, excitement, popularity, or perfection.

6. Practice taking people seriously for what they say, feel, and do, not for how slender or “well put together” they appear.

7. Help children appreciate and resist the ways in which television, magazines, and other media distort the true diversity of human body types and imply that a slender body means power, excitement, popularity, or perfection.

8. Educate boys and girls about various forms of prejudice, including weightism, and help them understand their responsibilities for preventing them.

9. Encourage your children to be active and to enjoy what their bodies can do and feel like. Do not limit their caloric intake unless a physician requests that you do this because of a medical problem.

10. Do whatever you can to promote the self-esteem and self-respect of all of your children in intellectual, athletic, and social endeavors. Give boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement. Be careful not to suggest that females are less important than males, e.g., by exempting males from housework or childcare. A well-rounded sense of self and solid self-esteem are perhaps the best antidotes to dieting and disordered eating.

Beautiful people come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. The key is to be healthy and to live a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

School dinner programs: Trying to reduce the number of hungry children

28 Jan

There are some very good reasons why meals are provided at schools. Education Bug has a history of the school lunch program

President Harry S. Truman began the national school lunch program in 1946 as a measure of national security. He did so after reading a study that revealed many young men had been rejected from the World War II draft due to medical conditions caused by childhood malnutrition. Since that time more than 180 million lunches have been served to American children who attend either a public school or a non-profit private school.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson extended the program by offering breakfast to school children. It began as a two years pilot program for children in rural areas and those living in poorer neighborhoods. It was believed that these children would have to skip breakfast in order to catch the bus for the long ride to school. There were also concerns that the poorer families could not always afford to feed their children breakfast. Johnson believed, like many of us today, that children would do better in school if they had a good breakfast to start their day. The pilot was such a success that it was decided the program should continue. By 1975, breakfast was being offered to all children in public or non-profit private school. This change was made because educators felt that more children were skipping breakfast due to both parent being in the workforce.

In 1968, a summer meals program was offered to low income children. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks are still available to students each year, during the summer break. Any child in need can apply for the program at the end of the school year. Parents that are interested in the summer meals program should contact their local school administration.

Since its inception, the school lunch/meals programs have become available in more than 98,800 schools….

Hungry children have more difficulty in focusing and paying attention, their ability to learn is impacted. President Truman saw feeding hungry children as a key part of the national defense.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (Agriculture Department) has a School Lunch Program Fact Sheet According to the fact sheet, more than 30 million children are fed by the program. Physicians for Responsible Medicine criticize the content of school lunch programs. In Healthy School Lunches the physicians group says:         

Menus in most school lunch programs are too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (see PCRM’s 2008 School Lunch Report Card). Major changes are needed to encourage the health of the nation’s youth and to reverse the growing trends of obesity, early-onset diabetes, and hypertension, among other chronic diseases, in children and teens.        

A 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) reached the same conclusion. See, School Lunch Program: Efforts Needed to Improve Nutrition and Encourage and Healthy Eating

Nirvi Shah is reporting in the Education Week article, After-School Programs’ Newest Activity: Supper:

At some schools and community centers across the country, baked chicken, steamed broccoli, apple slices, whole-wheat rolls, and milk are on the menu—but not just at lunch.

While breakfast and lunch programs have long been a common part of the school day, all states now have the opportunity to serve students free after-school suppers, too, with the money for the meals coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A few states have offered supperRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader for years as part of a pilot program, but the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids ActRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, which passed late that year, expanded the program, allowing all qualifying after-school programs to take part and get paid by the USDA for the suppers they serve. In 2011, tens of thousands more suppers were served at a time when child poverty is on the rise—although getting programs started can be an undertaking that many child-care centers and after-school sites, especially those located apart from schools, aren’t equipped to handle.

For many of the students who eat those meals, food outside of school breakfasts and lunches is scarce, said Lois Hazelton of the New York Department of Health, who oversees the program in her state. It was one of the first states eligible to serve supper, starting about 10 years ago.

“We knew that there were kids out there who were going home to potentially no supper, or not enough supper, or not a nutritious supper,” Ms. Hazelton said. On average, she added, 140,000 students eat free suppers every day in her state through the USDA program.

‘Safety Net’ for Families

USDA research found that in 2010, an average of one in six Americans had difficulty finding enough money to buy food…

The best way to eliminate poverty is job creation, job growth, and job retention. The Asian Development Bank has the best concise synopsis of the link between Education and Poverty For a good article about education and poverty which has a good bibliography, go to Poverty and Education, Overview

Christina Silva writes in the Huffington Post article 1 in 5 U.S. Children Lives in Poverty

“People who grew up in a financially secure situation find it easier to succeed in life, they are more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to graduate from college and these are things that will lead to greater success in life,” said Stephen Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “What we are looking at is a cohort of kids who as they become adults may be less able to contribute to the growth of the economy. It could go on for multiple generations.”

The annual survey monitored by policy makers across the nation concludes that children from low-income families are more likely to be raised in unstable environments and change schools than their wealthier peers. As a result, they are less likely to be gainfully employed as adults.

There are other social costs. Economically disadvantaged children can result in reduced economic output, higher health expenditures and increased criminal justice costs for society, the survey concludes. The research is based on data from many sources, including the Mortgage Bankers Association, National Delinquency Survey and U.S. Census Bureau.

“Even if you don’t care about kids and all you care about is your own well-being, then you ought to be concerned,” said Patrick McCarthy, president of the Baltimore, Md.-based charity. “… We’ve got to think about what kind of state, what kind of country we can expect to have if we are not investing in the success of our children.”

See, The government that money buys: School lunch cave in by Congress

 The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.
John F. Kennedy

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.


Keeping our children healthy, hunger-free By Dr. Joe Thompson

Hunger in America: 2011 United States Hunger and Poverty Fact, World Hunger Education Service

Congress Pushes Back On Healthier School Lunches, Fights To Keep Pizza And Fries by           Mary Clare Jalonick                                                                               

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Common sense leaving education: 6-year-old branded with sexual assailant label

26 Jan

In Inappropriate discipline: The first step on the road to education failure, moi said:

Joan Gausted of the University of Oregon has an excellent article in Eric Digest 78, School Discipline

School discipline has two main goals: (1) ensure the safety of staff and students, and (2) create an environment conducive to learning. Serious student misconduct involving violent or criminal behavior defeats these goals and often makes headlines in the process. However, the commonest discipline problems involve noncriminal student behavior (Moles 1989).The issue for schools is how to maintain order, yet deal with noncriminal student behavior and keep children in school.

Alan Schwartz has a provocative article in the New York Times about a longitudinal study of discipline conducted in Texas. In School Discipline Study Raises FreshQuestions

The New York Times has a report about a case from West Contra Costa Unified School District which is an example of the question of whether common sense has left education.

Scott James reports in the New York Times article, A Touch During Recess, and Reaction Is Swift:

It started as schoolyard roughhousing during recess, with one boy’s hand allegedly touching the upper thigh, or perhaps the groin, of another. There were no reported witnesses, and it remains unclear if anyone complained, but the principal immediately suspended the student, placing the incident on the boy’s record as a case of “sexual assault.” The children involved were first graders — the purported assailant just 6.

It’s really overzealous,” Levina Subrata, the accused boy’s mother (they do not share the same last name), said of the incident last month at Lupine Hills Elementary, a public school in Hercules. “They were playing tag. There’s no intent to do any sort of sexual assault.”

The school’s principal, Cynthia Taylor, did not respond to an interview request. Marin Trujillo, a spokesman for the West Contra Costa Unified School District, which includes Hercules, said officials were barred from speaking about student and personnel matters. However, he added, “We must take any allegation of assault involving a child very seriously.”

Ms. Subrata provided a copy of the suspension notice, which shows what appears to be the principal’s signature and the conclusion: “Committed or attempted to commit a sexual assault or sexual battery.”

That such adult criminal intent was applied to a matter involving young children has caused a stir in this tidy East Bay suburb, a place so orderly that traffic signals halt every car at every light.

Ms. Subrata, fearful that being branded with a sex offense could ruin her son’s future, sought advice via the Berkeley Parents Network, a popular online forum for area families. An avalanche of vitriol followed….

Experts said such incidents are not isolated, but rather part of an emerging national trend. A similar case caused a sensation in Boston in November when a 7-year-old faced sexual harassment charges for kicking another boy his age in the groin during a fight.

Due to heightened concerns over bullying in recent years — spurred by a public awareness campaign following several child suicides — school administrators now feel pressure to act boldly in cases where students might face harassment.

Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy institute, said the antibullying efforts are well intentioned, but, “the policies being adopted set forth pretty strong rules regarding categories of behavior,” he said. “This means there’s less room, and more risk, for principals who would make sensible accommodations based on student age and the circumstances in question.”

Indeed, calling a matter “sexual” when a first-grader is involved seems at odds with California statutes that indicate that such intent can only be applied to children who are in fourth grade or older.

Stuart Lustig, a board-certified child psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, said that in general it is quite common, normal even, for young children to touch each other’s genital areas. “It’s curiosity,” he said. “It’s not sexual in the adult sense.”

Dr. Lustig added that it would only become a concern if a young child does not stop when told the behavior is inappropriate. However, he said he had heard of cases where schools have acted immediately to discipline youngsters, even over a single schoolyard kiss. “Schools can sometimes respond very strongly because of the legal environment,” he said.

Mr. Hess predicted that questionable actions by schools in such cases would soon become a significant education concern. “We’re putting educators in an untenable position,” he said. “They’re being asked to squelch out every iota of bad behavior, but without overreacting or stomping on childhood.”

The Council of State Governments (CGS) released a ground breaking report of discipline in Texas. This report contains not only valuable information, but raises several questions.

In the press release, CSG Justice Center Releases New Report on How School Discipline Relates to Academic and Juvenile Justice Outcomes, the CSG reports:

In an unprecedented study of nearly 1 million Texas public secondary school students followed for more than six years, nearly 60 percent were suspended or expelled, according to a report released today by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University.

Of the nearly 1 million public secondary school students studied, about 15 percent were suspended or expelled 11 times or more; nearly half of these students with 11 or more disciplinary actions were involved in the juvenile justice system. 

  • Only three percent of the disciplinary actions were for conduct in which state law mandated suspensions and expulsions; the rest were made at the discretion of school officials primarily in response to violations of local schools’ conduct codes. 
  • African-American students and those with particular educational disabilities were disproportionately disciplined for discretionary actions. 
  • Repeated suspensions and expulsions predicted poor academic outcomes. Only 40 percent of students disciplined 11 times or more graduated from high school during the study period, and 31 percent of students disciplined one or more times repeated their grade at least once. 
  • Schools that had similar characteristics, including the racial composition and economic status of the student body, varied greatly in how frequently they suspended or expelled students.

  Download the full report in PDF:  “Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement

Dore Francis has a guide, which lists what parents should do if their child is suspended. The guide gives detailed instructions to these steps and other steps.

Get the Facts

1.        Immediately contact the school and request: 1) a copy of the student’s school records, including records for attendance, grades, and any past discipline; 2) a copy of any administrator’s, teacher’s, or student’s statements about the charge/incident; and 3) a copy of the school’s or district’s disciplinary policies in writing (if they have not as yet been provided to you). Review these materials and note anything you want to ask your child or the school about that may include issues relevant to the current situation.

2.        School administrators must provide students with notice of the charges against them, the basis for the charge, and an opportunity to tell his/her side of the story.

3.        Talk with your son or daughter. Ask him/her to tell you (or even better to write out) exactly what happened as soon as possible so you have a clear understanding of the details related to the incident. Make sure he/she is being honest about what happened.

Meet with School Officials

1.        Call the principal or assistant principal who gave the suspension and ask for a face-to-face meeting at a time that is convenient for you. Ask for whatever accommodation you need to enable you to participate fully in the meeting, for example, if you need to meet in the evening or need a translator if you do not speak English. There are five good reasons to request and attend a face-to-face meeting: to learn more of the facts around the incident, to verify that your child is being treated fairly, to ensure that your child is taking responsibility for his/her actions, to ensure that your child’s educational progress is not adversely affected, and to learn of any opportunities or services that may help your child, such as counseling or other types of social, educational, or health services.

2.        Do not go alone to the meeting. Take someone with you who can serve as an advocate and provide you with support or make you feel more comfortable. This might be a friend, neighbor, community service agency representative, or clergy. Make sure that the school official is informed that this person will be present at the meeting.

3.        Approach the meeting with an open mind and a firm commitment not to argue or raise your voice.

4.        Write down any questions you have before the meeting and bring your list with you so you can ask your questions and have them answered at the meeting.

Questions that parents may want to ask about the situation:

1.        What rule did my child break? May I see this rule in writing? What did my child do to break the rule?

2.        What is the normal punishment for breaking this rule? Is there a different punishment for the first, second, or third violation of this rule? Are these things in writing?

3.        Why is my child receiving extra punishment?

4.        Where was my child when this happened? Who was the teacher in charge? Where was the teacher when the incident happened?

5.        What other students or employees were around when this happened? What are their accounts of the incident?

6.        Were other students involved in this incident? What punishment did the other students receive? Why is their punishment different?

7.        Exactly what did each person do? Exactly what did each person say?

8.        Could the teacher have handled this differently?

9.        Has my child had similar problems before? Is this documented in writing?

10.     Will this punishment cause my child to fail a class or be held back?

11.     Can my child make up his schoolwork and tests?

12.     What can the school do to help my child and avoid this problem in the future? For example, may my child change his seat in class or be transferred to a different class? 

Francis has this advice if you take your son or daughter to meet with school officials.

           Take your son/daughter to the meeting with you if he/she can act respectfully and take responsibility for his/her actions. He/she must admit if he/she was wrong and violated a school rule.

Do not admit wrongdoing and do not let your son/daughter admit wrongdoing unless it is true.

If your son or daughter admits wrongdoing, consider or ask what can be done to “make things right.” For example, is an apology to a teacher or another student in order, or is there some other action your son or daughter may take to correct or make amends for the situation? If so, have your son or daughter follow through on this.

Francis also lists what questions to ask after meeting with school officials.

The focus at this point should be how best to address the behavior issues that could result in a disciplinary action. Discipline should be the last resort.


Education Law Center

Discipline In Schools: What Works and What Doesn’t?

Justice for Children and Youth has a pamphlet I’m being expelled from school – what are my rights?

Alternatives to Suspension

Fourth Grader Suspended Over ‘Kick Me’ Sign Prank

School Suspension for a Crush? Not Cute

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©


Is mandating 18 as the dropout age the answer?

26 Jan

History is a race between education and catastrophe.

H. G. Wells

This world is in a period of dislocation and upheaval as great as the period of dislocation which ushered in the “industrial revolution.” The phrase “new, new thing” comes from a book by Michael Lewis about innovation in Silicon Valley. This historical period is between “new, new things” as the economy hopes that some new innovator will harness “green technology” and make it commercially viable as the economy needs the jump that only a “new, new thing” will give it. Peter S. Goodman has a fascinating article in the New York Times, Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs Unless, children are given a meaningful education which provides them with basic skills to adapt to a changing environment, the education system is producing a permanent underclass which will not be able to participate in the next “new, new thing.” The U.S. Department of Education has issued the following Press Release which describes the new method for calculating graduation rates.

Henry M. Levin and Cecilia E. Rouse opine in their New York Times opinion piece, The True Cost of High School Dropouts:

In 1970, the United States had the world’s highest rate of high school and college graduation. Today, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we’ve slipped to No. 21 in high school completion and No. 15 in college completion, as other countries surpassed us in the quality of their primary and secondary education.

Only 7 of 10 ninth graders today will get high school diplomas. A decade after the No Child Left Behind law mandated efforts to reduce the racial gap, about 80 percent of white and Asian students graduate from high school, compared with only 55 percent of blacks and Hispanics.

Like President Obama, many reformers focus their dropout prevention efforts on high schoolers; replacing large high schools with smaller learning communities where poor students can get individualized instruction from dedicated teachers has been shown to be effective. Rigorous evidence gathered over decades suggests that some of the most promising approaches need to start even earlier: preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, who are fed and taught in small groups, followed up with home visits by teachers and with group meetings of parents; reducing class size in the early grades; and increasing teacher salaries from kindergarten through 12th grade….

If we could reduce the current number of dropouts by just half, we would yield almost 700,000 new graduates a year, and it would more than pay for itself. Studies show that the typical high school graduate will obtain higher employment and earnings — an astonishing 50 percent to 100 percent increase in lifetime income — and will be less likely to draw on public money for health care and welfare and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. Further, because of the increased income, the typical graduate will contribute more in tax revenues over his lifetime than if he’d dropped out.

When the costs of investment to produce a new graduate are taken into account, there is a return of $1.45 to $3.55 for every dollar of investment, depending upon the educational intervention strategy. Under this estimate, each new graduate confers a net benefit to taxpayers of about $127,000 over the graduate’s lifetime. This is a benefit to the public of nearly $90 billion for each year of success in reducing the number of high school dropouts by 700,000 — or something close to $1 trillion after 11 years. That’s real money — and a reason both liberals and conservatives should rally behind dropout prevention as an element of economic recovery, leaving aside the ethical dimensions of educating our young people….

Proven educational strategies to increase high school completion, like high-quality preschool, provide returns to the taxpayer that are as much as three and a half times their cost. Investing our public dollars wisely to reduce the number of high school dropouts must be a central part of any strategy to raise long-run economic growth, reduce inequality and return fiscal health to our federal, state and local governments.

In order to compete internationally, the U.S. must have an educated workforce and high school is the first step for college and additional vocational training.

The Alliance for Excellent Education has information about Graduation Rates at their site:

Yet every year, approximately 1.3 million students—that’s over 7,000 every school day—do not graduate from high school on time. Nationwide, only 69 percent of students earn their high school diplomas. Among minority students, only 56 percent of Hispanic, 54 percent of African American, and 51 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students in the U.S. graduate with a regular diploma, compared to 77 percent of white students and 81 percent of Asian Americans.

While there is no single reason that students drop out, difficult transitions to high school, a deficiency in basic skills (such as the ability to read and write at grade level or near it) or a lack of engagement serve as prominent barriers to graduation. Over one third of all dropouts are lost in ninth grade. The six million secondary students who comprise the lowest 25 percent of achievement are twenty times more likely to drop out of high school than students in the top-performing quartile. “Early-warning systems” or “on-track” indicators have allowed researchers and educators to, increasingly, identify some potential dropouts and get them back on track to educational success.

Unfortunately, many students are not given the extra support they need to successfully make the transition to high school. While some students fall through the cracks in otherwise successful schools, more than half of the nation’s dropouts are unlucky enough to attend one of the nation’s 2,000 lowest-performing high schools. In these schools, less than 60 percent of freshmen make it to their senior year three years later. These schools are the chronically low-performing, under-resourced schools where the freshman class shrinks by 40 percent or more by the time the students reach their senior year.

High school dropouts face a lifetime of reduced earnings and a diminished quality of life. For example, a high school dropout’s lifetime earnings are, on average, about $260,000 less than a high school graduate’s. Local communities, states, and the American economy suffer from the dropout crisis as well – from lost wages, taxes, and productivity to higher costs for health care, welfare, and crime, as shown in the potential economic impacts nationally and by state.

Census projections show that the minority populations with the lowest graduation rates are poised to become half of the U.S. population by 2050. According to Demography as Destiny: How America Can Build a Better Future, an Alliance issue brief, if minority students continue to receive inferior educations and leave high school without diplomas and adequate preparation for the twenty-first-century economy, the nation’s graduation rate and economic strength will both decrease further.

To learn more, access the Alliance’s publications on high school graduation and dropout rates.

The question that educators, politicians, and business leaders are asking is how to decrease the dropout rates.

Abby Rapoport writes in The American Prospect article, Does Changing the Dropout Age Matter?

Right now, in most states students must attend school until they are 16 or 17. However, even before last night’s speech, several states were considering legislation to raise the dropout age, like Wyoming and Kentucky. Many states—19 back in 2009—already had raised the age for compulsory attendance to 18. With so many states doing it, and the president pushing the policy, presumably it works, right?

Well, not exactly. In 2009, the Rennie Center in Massachusetts came out with a report investigating the impact of the policy. Their conclusion? Focus on other policies first.

The comprehensive report showed a lack of evidence that changing the age for compulsory school attendance had a major impact on the dropout rate. Based on 2004-05 data, it showed that of the ten states with the highest graduation rates, only three had a dropout age of 18. Over at Kentucky’s Bluegrass Institute, Richard Innes updated the Rennie Center report with 2008-09 dropout data, and found that while some states with a dropout age of 18 have have better graduation rates than the national average, others, like Utah, California and Nebraska, do not. 

Compulsory attendance “is not a silver bullet,” explains Chad d’Entremont, the Rennie Center’s executive director. Instead, he argued that raising the dropout age “needs to be accompanied by a host of supports that address the root causes.” d’Entremont pointed to options like night classes for students who felt a need to work while in school and a bigger emphasis on goal-setting and counseling so that alienated students had at least on adult in the school they could turn to.

To really lower the dropout rate, d’Entremont argued for early childhood care, like more pre-k and full-day kindergarten, and a better way to monitor which kids are likely to be at high-risk of dropping out—and provide resources in elementary and middle school. “We need to focus more on prevention as opposed to intervention,” he said, explaining that “changes that occur at the very tail end of a student’s career” are least likely to bring change.

The trouble, of course, many of those elements, like better guidance counselors, are hard to implement at a policy level. The federal and even state governments cannot dictate how schools are run day-to-day. And with widespread cuts to education, many schools are scrambling to get by, rather than pushing to expand professional development for their staff and outreach to parents. But even those schools and districts that are innovating right now are doing so on their own—it’s hard to legislate on-the-ground work.

Passing a law is not going to be effective, but intervention for at-risk students and early childhood education are proven strategies. Those strategies cost money. The question is whether the political elite are paying lip service to dropout prevention while being penny wise and pound foolish. Rapoport is correct that raising the age to dropout must be accompanied by proven education strategies.


School Dropout Rates Add To Fiscal Burden


Education funding lawsuits against states on the rise

25 Jan

Moi has often said in posts at the blog that the next great civil rights struggle will involve access for ALL children to a good basic education. Sabra Bireda has written a report from the Center for American Progress, Funding Education Equitably

The old axiom that the rich get richer certainly plays out in the American classroom—often to the detriment of achieving academic success. Data on intradistrict funding inequities in many large school districts confirm what most would guess—high-poverty schools actually receive less money per pupil than more affluent schools.1 These funding inequities have real repercussions for the quality of education offered at high-poverty schools and a district’s ability to overcome the achievement gap between groups of students defined by family income or ethnicity.

The source of these funding inequities is not a deliberate scheme designed to steer more state and local funds to affluent schools. Rather it is often the result of an accumulation of higher-paid, more senior teachers working in low-poverty schools. High-poverty schools typically employ less-experienced, lower-paid teachers, thereby drawing down less of the district’s funds. The imbalance in funding created by this situation can total hundreds of thousands of dollars school by school.2 Archaic budgeting practices that track positions instead of actual school expenditures only serve to reinforce this inequity.

Aside from concerns about the inequitable distribution of veteran and novice teachers across schools, students attending high-poverty schools actually need more funding to achieve at the level of their wealthier counterparts.3 The federal government recognizes this fact with its allocation of federal funds under Title

I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA. One condition of receiving Title I funds is that districts allocate state and local funds equitably to non-Title I and Title I schools before spending federal monies. The “comparability” provision was implemented to ensure that schools spend Title I funds on services meant to enhance educational opportunities for students at high-poverty schools and not to make up for unfair shares of state and local resources stemming from conventional management and budgeting practices.

The comparability provision should be a strong tool to correct the funding disparities created by an inequitable distribution of higher- and lower-paid teachers. But for years, districts have been able to evade true comparability between schools due to a loophole in the law. The loophole allows districts to demonstrate compliance without comparing the amount of actual dollars spent at each school. Instead, districts can show comparability by placing equal numbers of teachers, on a per pupil basis, at high- and low-poverty schools.

If a district does compare per-pupil expenditures, for example, the district can use a district-average teacher salary in calculations in place of actual salaries in school budgets. This common budgeting practice masks significant funding inequities. Under the current provision, districts can continue to receive Title I money even as their most high-poverty schools are deprived of fair shares of local and state funds.

The issues brought out by Bireda’s report are just one of a host of reasons why there must be equitable education funding.

Sean Cavanagh reports in the Education Week article, Lawsuits Say States Fail to Meet K-12 Funding Duties:

Even as they struggle to climb out of deep financial holes, states are facing lawsuits that contend they don’t meet their constitutions’ requirements to provide sufficient funding to districts and fail to provide resources for disadvantaged schools and student populations.

Ongoing or recently decided legal battles in Colorado, Texas, Washington state, and elsewhere underscore the challenges confronting states that have been battered by the extended economic downturn and are only beginning to see their revenues improve. The cases also highlight the political and ideological divides over school funding in many states, with some governors and lawmakers choosing to balance budgets by making deep cuts in spending—including for K-12—rather than raise taxes.

One of the more dramatic fights is taking shape in Texas, where four separate lawsuits—brought by an assortment of poor, middle-income, and wealthy districts, along with advocacy groups—have been challenging different aspects of the school finance system. Those cases are playing out in the shadow of deep cuts, more than $5 billion by some estimates, that lawmakers imposed last year on the state’s schools—reductions that school officials say have laid bare the flaws in the current system.

Although the outcomes of lawsuits in a number of states are not likely to be known for some time, the cases could result in courts’ directing legislatures to make fixes to school finance systems, as was the case in Washington state….

At least a dozen states are facing lawsuits that challenge some aspects of their funding systems, estimates Mr. Rebell, who is now the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, at Teachers College, Columbia University, a nonprofit organization that advocates for fair funding across districts….

Risky Cuts

States may be especially vulnerable if they have made budget-related cuts, such as reducing instructional time, that courts believe disproportionately affect disadvantaged students, said James W. Guthrie, a senior fellow at the George W. Bush Institute, located in Dallas at the former president’s center. He expects the number of school finance lawsuits to increase as states struggle financially…

In Washington, that state’s supreme court ruled this month that the state is not living up to school funding requirements in its constitution. It directed the legislature to correct the situation over time, and it said it would monitor its work.

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, has said she agrees with the court that the state must revamp its funding system. Changes are crucial, given recent, deep cuts to K-12 funding, said the governor’s spokeswoman, Karina Shagren. “She’s always said that the first dollars she gets go to education.”

Here are some resources from The National Education Access Network:

Educational Inequity and Inadequacy

Resources on Inequity and Inadequacy in America’s Schools

More than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, there remain enormous inequities and inadequacies in the resources and funding provided to America’s schools. These inequities and inadequacies tend to favor wealthier, suburban school districts and often prevent students in urban areas, students from low-income backgrounds, and students from minority backgrounds from having an equal and meanginful educational opportunity. Here are some resources that outline these problems.

In May 2002, Michael A. Rebell testified before United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions during their hearing entitled “America’s Schools: Providing Equal Opportunity or Still Separate and Unequal.” His full testimony (PDF) provides a wealth of information on school funding inequities and inadequacies.

Issue Area Resources:

Funding: The Education Trust publishes a report every year entitled “The Funding Gap.” Here is the latest report, “The Funding Gap: 2005” (PDF).

Teacher Quality: The Education Trust published a report in June 2006 on the gap in teaching quality between higher- and lower-income districts entitled, “Teaching Inequality” (PDF).


Litigation-related Resources:

There are many cases from state courts where the court decision lists the ways in which education funding is inadequate.

For detailed background on the “adequacy” movement, read Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity through the State Courts (University of Chicago Press, 2009) by Michael A. Rebell.

For a more detailed historical background on school funding “adequacy” lawsuits, read “Education Adequacy, Democracy, and the Courts” (PDF), by Michael A. Rebell.

The first major school funding “adequacy” case is the 1989 Rose case from Kentucky. It is the “classic” ruling citing school funding inadequacies: Full Text of Decision | Background

Other major decisions include:

Other good sources include:

Last updated April 2010

All children have a right to a good basic education.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The digital divide in classrooms

25 Jan

One of the major contributors to poverty in third world nations is limited access to education opportunities. The Asian Development Bank has the best concise synopsis of the link between Education and Poverty For a good article about education and poverty which has agood bibliography, go to Poverty and Education, Overview As technology becomes more prevalent in society and increasingly is used in schools, there is talk of a “digital divide” between the haves and have-nots. Laurence Wolff and Soledad MacKinnon define the “digital divide” in their article, What is the Digital Divide?

The “digital divide,” inequalities in access to and utilization of information and communication technologies (ICT), is immense.

Access to information technology varies within societies and it varies between countries. The focus of this article is the digital divide in education.

Jim Jansen reports in the Pew Internet report, Use of the internet in higher-income households:

Those in higher-income households are different from other Americans in their tech ownership and use.

95% of those in households earning over $75,000 use the internet and cell phones

Those in higher-income households are more likely to use the internet on any given day, own multiple internet-ready devices, do things involving money online, and get news online.

Some 95% of Americans who live in households earning $75,000 or more a year use the internet at least occasionally, compared with 70% of those living in households earning less than $75,000.

Even among those who use the internet, the well off are more likely than those with less income to use technology. Of those 95% of higher-income internet users:

  • 99% use the internet at home, compared with 93% of the internet users in lower brackets.
  • 93% of higher-income home internet users have some type of broadband connection versus 85% of the internet users who live in households earning less than $75,000 per year. That translates into 87% of all those in live in those better-off households having broadband at home.
  • 95% of higher-income households own some type of cell phone compared with 83% in households with less income.

The differences among income cohorts apply to other technology as well

The relatively well-to-do are also more likely than those in lesser-income households to own a variety of information and communications gear.3

  • 79% of those living in households earning $75,000 or more own desktop computers, compared with 55% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 79% of those living in higher-income households own laptops, compared with 47% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 70% of those living in higher-income households own iPods or other MP3 players, compared with 42% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 54% of those living in higher-income households own game consoles, compared with 41% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 12% of those living in higher-income households own e-book readers such as Kindles, compared with 3% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 9% of those living in higher-income households own tablet computers such as iPads, compared with 3% of those living in less well-off homes.

Read Full Report

Explore Survey Questions

Unless school leadership is very innovative in seeking grants and/or outside assistance or the school has been adopted by a technology angel, poorer schools are likely to be far behind their more affluent peers in the acquisition of technology.

Nick Pandolfo reports in the Hechinger Report article, As some schools plunge into technology, poor schools are left behind:

The term “digital divide” used to refer to whether classrooms had computers connected to the Internet. Now, the bar has been raised, as newer software programs require high-speed connections and as WiFi-dependent devices such as iPads make their way into classrooms.

Even though Chicago Public Schools reports spending about $40 million a year on technology, Bronzeville Scholastic lags behind its peers and exemplifies a dangerous disparity that exists in the United States, according to Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

Chicago in particular probably highlights the digital divide that’s across the country,” Patrick said. “Some schools may have access to one-to-one pilots, and other schools have old infrastructure that is barely functional, so that kids don’t have access to the computers.”

As a result, Patrick said, students are “not building their technology skills, (and) they’re not able to access some of the courses and supplemental materials that would help them ramp up and be successful.”

Technology spending in schools varies widely across the country, as some districts reap the benefits of grants and parental donations, while others tap local, state and federal funding….

Nationally, schools that provide laptops and tablets to students often grab the headlines, worrying educators at less tech-savvy schools that their students are being left behind their wired peers.

I’ve seen huge disparities, where I’ve gone into classrooms in urban districts and the paint is peeling and there’s not a computer in sight, to very high-end districts where every kid has an iPad they can bring home,” said Lisa Gillis, president of Integrated Educational Strategies, a national nonprofit based in California that helps schools implement digital curricula. “We have a long way to go.”

The government is aware of the “digital divide “and where that divide is geographically.

Mini Swamy, writes in TMCnet article, National Broadband Map Reveals Digital Divide in Schools:

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, NTIA, has released the first National Broadband Map in the country, a search tool that searches, analyzes and maps broadband availability across the country. This has been created and maintained by NTIA in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission.

Data released by the NTIA shows that Internet connection in educational institutions lack the level of broadband connectivity. Although virtually all schools are connected to the Internet, the speed of connection is inadequate to meet the education goals. The findings are particularly relevant for federal and state policy makers.

A press release based on studies by state education technology directors, released by NTIA, revealed that while most schools need a connection of 50 to 100 mbps per 1,000 students, data showed that almost two-thirds of those surveyed subscribed to a speed less than 25 mbps.

The “digital divide” has implications for U.S. economic growth.

Professor Susan P. Crawford of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy writes in the New York Times article, The New Digital Divide:

The new digital divide raises important questions about social equity in an information-driven world. But it is also a matter of protecting our economic future. Thirty years from now, African-Americans and Latinos, who are at the greatest risk of being left behind in the Internet revolution, will be more than half of our work force. If we want to be competitive in the global economy, we need to make sure every American has truly high-speed wired access to the Internet for a reasonable cost.

One of the skills that students must learn and be comfortable with is the use of technology. Unfortunately, the poorer student’s access is often limited because their schools sit firmly on the “digital divide.”

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Helping foster children alumni to succeed

24 Jan

This blog is written around a set of principles:

  1. All children have a right to a good basic education.
  2. Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved.
  3. Society should support and foster strong families.
  4. Society should promote the idea that parents are responsible for parenting their children and people who are not prepared to accept that responsibility should not be parenting children.
  5. The sexualization of the culture has had devastating effects on children, particularly young women. For many there has been the lure of the “booty call” rather than focusing on genuine achievement.
  6. Education is a life long pursuit.

Increasingly, schools are being forced to deal with the social problems brought to school resulting from dysfunctional families, violence, and substance abuse. Any person who thinks they will decrease the number of abortions by defunding Planned Parenthood is a knuckle dragging idiot. Of course, those families and parents who support abstinence have a perfect right to espouse that value to their children. BUT, values training and sex education should begin at home early, when each child is ready to absorb that information. Parents should pass along their values to their children because the culture is out there promoting the values of “Sex in the City,” Paris Hilton, and Lindsey Lohan.

The number of children in foster care is staggering, but the truly staggering statistic is what happens to these kids when they age out of the foster care system. Foster Care Alumni of the United States provides the following statistics:

These facts were taken from the National Foster Care Month website.  FCAA is proud to be a partner in National Foster Care Month.

Total Population:
513,000 children were in the U.S. foster care system on September 30, 2005. Most children are placed temporarily in foster care due to parental abuse or neglect.

Average Age: 10.0 years

6% < 1 year
26% 1-5 years
20% 6-10 years
28% 11-15 years
18% 16-18 years
2% >19 years


Male 52%
Female 48%

Race and Ethnicity:
As a percentage, there are more children of color in the foster care system than in the general U.S. population. However, child abuse and neglect occur at about the same rate in all racial/ethnic groups.


Out-of-home care population

General population

Black (non-Hispanic) 32% 15%
White (non-Hispanic) 41% 61%
Hispanic 18% 17%
American Indian/Alaska Native (non-Hispanic) 2% 1%
Asian/Pacific Islander (non-Hispanic) 1% 3%
Unknown 2% n/a
2 or more Races (non-Hispanic) 3% 4%

Length of Stay:
For the children in foster care on September 30, 2005, the average amount of time they had been in the system was 28.6 months. Half of those leaving care that year had been away from home for a year or longer. 54% of the young people leaving the system were reunified with their birth parents or primary caregivers.

Foster Homes:
In 2004, there was a total of 153,000 licensed/certified/approved kinship and non-relative foster homes nationwide. In 2005, 24% of youth living foster care were residing with their relatives.

In 2005, 60% of adopted children were adopted by their foster parent(s). The “foster parent” category excludes anyone identified as a relative of the child. 25% of children adopted in FY 2005 were adopted by a relative. A “relative” includes a step-parent or other relative of the child.

Siblings and Extended Families:
Over 2 million American children live with grandparents or other relatives because their parents cannot care for them. When relatives provide foster care (known as kinship care), siblings can often stay together. Kinship care also improves stability by keeping displaced children closer to their extended families, their neighborhoods, and their schools.

Youth in Transition:
Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth are often left vulnerable to a host of adverse situations: 

Outcomes during transition from care to adulthood

National data

Regional or Local data

Earned a high school diploma 54% 50% – 63%
Obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher 2% 2%
Became a parent 84% 42%
Were unemployed 51% 30%
Had no health insurance 30% 29%
Had been homeless 25% 36%
Were receiving public assistance 30% 26%

Please download this National Foster Care Month Fact Sheet for important notes and citations.

We, as a society must care about these children after they “age” out of foster care.

Mary Beth Marklein reports in the USA Today article, Programs help foster youth achieve college success:

UCLA is one of a growing number of colleges and universities across the USA that are offering more services to students who grew up in foster care. The University of Alaska is piloting a program that provides academic and social support for 18 students. Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, this year is providing full scholarships, year-round housing and summer jobs to three foster care students and is seeking donors to support more. Colorado State University-Fort Collins recently sent gloves, cough drops and macaroni and cheese to 28 students as part of its Fostering Success program launched in 2010.

California, home to about a quarter of all foster care youth, is at the forefront of the trend. The first such program was founded in 1998 at California State University-Fullerton. Today, about 79 campuses offer a program for former foster care youth, up from 31 in 2008.

Spurring much of the recent activity is a 2008 federal law that makes it less costly for states to extend foster care beyond age 18. That’s becoming increasingly critical because, even as the number of children in foster care has declined, the proportion who leave care without an adoptive family has increased, from 7.1% in 2001 to more than 11% in 2010.

Since the federal law passed, at least 18 states, including Oregon, Michigan and California, and the District of Columbia have enacted or strengthened state policies or are considering legislation to extend care up to age 21. Proposals are pending in several states.

Advocates hope the extended support will enable more foster care youth to complete college. Research shows that 70% of youth who are aging out of foster care plan to attend college — but between 3% and 11% complete a bachelor’s degree, says data compiled by Casey Family Programs, a Seattle-based non-profit that focuses on foster care issues.

“When youth have their basic needs met like food, clothing and a stable living situation then they can focus on their education,” says Amanda Metivier, coordinator of Facing Foster Youth in Alaska, a non-profit created by former foster youth. “They aren’t making the transition out of care and starting college all at once.”

On campus, support generally falls into two types. Some schools, including Cal State Fullerton, offer full scholarships, mentors and other support to a select group of students — 38 this year. Others, like UCLA’s 3-year-old program, have created an office that connects former foster youth to existing resources, including each other.

See, For Former Foster Kids, Campus Is Their ‘Home for the Holidays’

In “Sisters Are Doin’ For Themselves,” But Could Use Some Help  Moses, Boggess, and Groblewski report:

In our paper, we argue that supporting responsible fatherhood and related pro­grams and services helps low-income mothers (single, married, or cohabitating alike) with the following:

• Economic stability. Fathers with more access to effective employment assistance have an increased ability to help mothers with the costs of child rearing. Those fathers involved in the lives of their children are more likely to directly con­tribute to household income, pay child support, and provide noncash support, minimizing financial burdens on families.

• Child care. Low-income mothers struggle to ensure safe and stable child care arrangements for their children. Fathers can help in providing care.

• Work-life balance. As mothers struggle to balance the demands of work and fam­ily, the contributions of fathers can determine the degree to which family obliga­tions result in some available “me time” for mothers to rest and also to get ahead.

• Domestic violence. Programs can help identify and serve mothers and fathers involved in violent situations.

• Reproductive health. It is unfair for all the responsibilities associated with family planning and preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases to fall on the shoulders of women. Fatherhood programs can work with men on doing their part

• Providing more relationship and family choices. Poverty often limits women’s and men’s choices about forming and maintaining relationships and families. Properly designed government family support programs can provide women with more choices regarding the future of their families.

• Positive childhood outcomes. Research suggests that fathers can have a positive impact on the academic achievement and behavior of children. Mothers who want to do what they can to ensure positive outcomes for their children may be supportive of fatherhood programs, even participating in some of the services.

Women have to be reminded over and over again to use contraception especially if they are involved in a relationship where their partner is not likely to be a committed and involved father to children resulting from that relationship. Maybe the peeps know of someone, but moi never knew a rocky relationship which got better because the woman got pregnant. Girlfriend, you need to make the trip to Planned Parenthood

As for the report by Moses, Boggess, and Growbleski?  Amen, sisters.  

Moi does not support abortion, but in order to decrease the number of abortions there must be access to birth control and information about reproduction. That is a key part of the equation. Those who seek to make political points by defunding Planned Parenthood are simply increasing the misery index for children in this society. Women also have to be responsible for their reproductive choices. If you are in a sketchy relationship or have a substance abuse problem, you must use birth control. Sisters not doing it to themselves is the other key part of the equation.


Foster Care Alumni of America                                       

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum

24 Jan

Linda Shaw reported in the Seattle Times about cursive writing. In Roosevelt High School Teacher Gives Her Students a Review in Cursive

Sure, they learned cursive when they were in elementary school, but they use it so rarely that they’ve forgotten a lot of it.

Even for these students — high achievers taking advanced-placement Latin at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School — cursive is quaint.

“I never write in cursive,” said Annika Kounts, who struggled when she had to write a few cursive sentences as part of the SAT college-entrance exam.

“I gave up and printed,” classmate Kevin Tang said. “I started writing it in cursive, but it took me too long.”

Cursive is encouraged but no longer required in Seattle Public Schools, and Washington state’s education department doesn’t insist it be taught, either. That doesn’t mean early elementary-school teachers don’t teach it — the vast majority still do in Seattle and elsewhere. But as students use computers more and academic demands increase, many schools no longer devote as much time to cursive as they once did.

Roosevelt Latin teacher Nora MacDonald says it was about 10 years ago when she first noticed that fewer of her students used cursive for homework assignments. For the past five years, she said, almost all of them used block printing.

MacDonald last year became so annoyed with the state of her students’ handwriting that she asked her seniors if they wanted a short refresher in cursive. In some cases, their printing was so messy that she feared their grades on the advanced-placement Latin exam would suffer because graders wouldn’t be able to decipher their answers.

The students thought a day of cursive would be fun, so for the past two years, MacDonald has invited friend and retired third-grade teacher JoAnne Jugum to give a one-hour review.

According to Shaw, the teachers report that students who take pride in their writing take pride in their school work. Teachers are beginning to discover that cursive writing has education value.

Jaclyn Zubrzycki reports in the Education Week article, Summit to Make a Case for Teaching Handwriting

Doubt about the continued worth of handwriting skill is “similar to what happened with math as calculators and computers came into vogue,” said Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, which co-sponsored the gathering with Zaner-Bloser, a Columbus, Ohio, company that produces a handwriting curriculum. “People wondered whether students needed to learn how to do math. The answer in both cases is absolutely yes. Writing is not obsolete.”

Proponents of teaching—in some cases, reintroducing—handwriting in the school curriculum say their concern over the fading importance of handwriting became more urgent with the advent of the Common Core State Standards. The standards, which were released in 2010 and have been adopted by all but four states, mention keyboarding but not handwriting.

“The conversation about handwriting instruction has been growing,” said Kathleen Wright, the coordinator of this week’s event and the national product coordinator at Zaner-Bloser.

The company advocates that states supplement the common core with handwriting standards, as Massachusetts and California have already done. Ms. Wright said the conference, called the “Handwriting in the 21st Century?: An Educational Summit,” was timed so policymakers could address any lack of attention to handwriting while their states are still rolling out their own versions of the common core.

“As I talked to researchers, they were all saying the same thing in different ways,” Ms. Wright said. “Handwriting instruction needs to be done.”

Cognitive and Motor Skills

Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and a scheduled presenter at the conference, said that learning handwriting has both cognitive and motor benefits, and that letter formation is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the skill of handwriting helps in cognitive learning.

Gwendolyn Bounds reports in the WSJ article, How Handwriting Trains the Brain:

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a “spaceship,” actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called “functional” MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters.

“It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time,” says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.

Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters’ proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key.

See, The Importance of Cursive Writing

Perhaps, it is wishful thinking. One cannot stop “progress.” Sometimes, everything old is new again.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©