What counts as a “school shooting”?

When students are killed, injured, or put in harm’s way on school grounds, when does it “count” as a school shooting? Not all of the time, according to a number of right-wing commentators — and CNN.images-1

ThinkProgress reports that “In a news report published Thursday, CNN amends its prior reporting that there were 74 school shootings since the Newtown Massacre — a number calculated by gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety — and concludes that there have instead been just 15.

“CNN determined that 15 of the incidents Everytown included were situations similar to the violence in Oregon — a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school,” the article explains. Except for the times when those criteria don’t apply: “Some of the other incidents on Everytown’s list included personal arguments, accidents and alleged gang activities and drug deals,” the article explains, apparently nixing Everytown’s bright line criteria that encompassed all incidents “when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts” in exchange for its own subjective assessment.

“Among those incidents not included was a brawl that escalated outside a college basketball game at Chicago State University, a shooting at a Mississippi town’s football game that left a 15-year-old dead, and a Georgia college that saw two shootings in two days. As Everytown points out in response to CNN, these discounted shootings led to 25 deaths and 45 injuries. They included familiar scenes of students hiding under desks and running for cover. And many of them were characterized by CNN as “school shootings” at the time of the incidents. Continue reading “What counts as a “school shooting”?”

About letter grading

Letter grades are a tradition in our educational system, and we accept them as fair and objective measures of academic success. Jessica Lahey writes in The Atlantic that: “If the purpose of academic grading is to communicate accurate and specific information about learning, letter, or points-based grades, are a woefully

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blunt and inadequate instrument. Worse, points-based grading undermines learning and creativity,rewards cheating, damages students’ peer relationships and trust in their teachers, encourages students to avoid challenging work, and teaches students to value grades over knowledge.

“Letter grades communicate precious little about the process of learning a given subject. When a child earns a ‘B’ in Algebra I, what does that ‘B’ represent? That ‘B’ may represent hundreds of points-based assignments, arranged and calculated in categories of varying weights and relative significance depending on the a teacher’s training or habit. But that ‘B’ says nothing about the specific skills John has (or has not) learned in a given class, or if he can apply that learning to other contexts. Even when paired with a narrative comment such as, “John is a pleasure to have in class,” parents, students, and even colleges are left to guess at precisely which Algebra I skills John has learned and will be able to apply to Algebra II.  Continue reading “About letter grading”

Challenge to 1266 fails

The California secretary of state’s office issued the final full check Monday, February 24, as reported in the Bay Area Reporter.

“It showed that the Privacy for All Students coalition, which sponsored the referendum, needed 540,760 valid signatures. The coalition ended up with only 487,484 valid signatures.

“Called the School Success and Opportunity Act, Assembly Bill 1266 ensures that California public schools are committed to the success of all students, including those transgender-identified. Under the law, transgender students have the right to participate in all school activities like sports teams, and use school facilities like bathrooms based on their gender identity.

In January, random samples taken from petition signature counts in each county qualified the referendum, albeit barely, for a full signature count. As final numbers rolled in on Monday, AB 1266 supporters nodded their approval and celebrated the continued protection of transgender youth in California schools. AB 1266, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown last summer, went into effect January 1.

“Richard Poppen, an Equality California board member and mathematician, watched the signature counting process closely and relayed regular informative updates to colleagues as each county reported their numbers.

“The process went through in the standard way,” Poppen told the Bay Area Reporter. “Referendum proponents got the full benefit of the statutory process but failed fair and square to meet the threshold. Trans kids will continue to be protected as the legislature intended.”

“Supporters of the new law, including Equality California, the Transgender Law Center, and other groups that came together under the Support All Students campaign, were pleased the referendum failed to qualify, and thus there won’t be a divisive anti-LGBT measure on the November ballot.”

 

More at: http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=69512

The end of snow days

“At 9 a.m. on Thursday the snow was piling high outside and officials had long since made the call to shutter the local schools.images-1

The New York Times reports: “But Alexa H. Hirschberg, 17, was not curled up in bed, watching videos on her Netflix account or making plans on Facebook for sledding with her boyfriend. She was showered and dressed, seated before a laptop in her family’s kitchen searching for the day’s assignments her French teacher had left online. School was out, but she was in virtual class.

“As classrooms become more electronically connected, public schools around the country are exploring whether they can use virtual learning as a practical solution to unpredictable weather, effectively transforming the traditional snow day into a day of instruction.

“About a third of school districts in the United States already have “significant one-to-one initiatives,” where students and teachers are given laptops and can work away from school on some assignments, said Ann Flynn, the director of education technology at the National School Boards Association. A byproduct “could be their application in times of health crises or in weather emergencies,” Ms. Flynn said. Continue reading “The end of snow days”

School dress codes and gender policing

Last month, the fifth grade parent group at my daughter’s school had the first of many conversations about how to mark our children’s transition to junior high, writes Marianne Mollman on HuffPost Gay voices:

“Unfortunately, the issue we discussed — whether the kids would be wearing caps and gowns at the end-of-year celebration — sidelined a much more important issue: what the kids would be wearing under these gowns. (My daughter’s school had sent out a notice to parents that boys must wear one thing and girls another.)

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“For many children, a gendered dress code may be just another imposition by adults, and to some it may seem small compared with decisions related to bedtime, computer usage, and the precise meaning of the phrase “clean up your room.” But to others it is a big deal. Indeed, clothing is such an essential expression of who we are that international law recognizes it as a human right to wear what we want, barring reasonable restrictions for the purposes of safety or to protect the rights of others.

“And it is precisely because clothing can project our identity so concisely that the clothing associated with particularly stigmatized populations is vigorously policed around the world. For example, several European countries and some North American jurisdictions place restrictions on head coverings. These restrictions are closely linked to discomfort with Islam and are based on the negative and erroneous stereotype that Muslim women are “oppressed” and “submissive.” In fact, even where headscarves are not explicitly prohibited by law, women can be fired for wearing them, and many are discriminated against even before landing a job.

“Likewise, many jurisdictions enforce strictly gendered dress codes in public by either requiring specific attire or criminalizing cross dressing. These restrictions are tied to stereotypes about sexuality and sex. Continue reading “School dress codes and gender policing”

kids don’t seem to be at school or work

images-1About 15 percent of American youths between the ages of 16 and 24 do not work or attend school, according to a new study released Monday and discussed on ThinkProgress: ‘ The report, from the Opportunity Nation coalition, underscores how economic mobility is increasingly out of reach for the millennial generation.

“These six million idle young people are concentrated in states with lower incomes and higher unemployment rates. In Mississippi and West Virginia, one in five young adults are idle. The worst states for youth opportunity are Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico. Urban residents are also disproportionately affected; Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Houston, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles each have more than 100,000 youths who are unemployed and out of school.

“These troubling numbers cannot be chalked up to laziness or lack of talent, Opportunity Nation notes. The economic recession and sluggish recovery have hit teens and young adults hard, squeezing them out of the workforce even as higher education becomes less and less affordable. Young workers who do manage to get a job are often the first to be laid off when businesses face budget troubles. This effect has lasted long past the initial financial crisis — youth employment sunk to its lowest level since World War II last year.

“Meanwhile, staying in school is becoming harder for many low-income Americans. Millions of teens from poor families have had to sacrifice their educations as parents lost their jobs in the recession or had to take on multiple low-wage positions to make ends meet. College is increasingly a pipe dream for this group, as tuition costs explode and financial aid stagnates. A record number of students are now in debt, but can’t find jobs that match their degree. Continue reading “kids don’t seem to be at school or work”

Minecraft and angry birds go to school

From Angry Birds to Minecraft, computer games are invading the classroom. images-1

But this is not going on behind the teacher’s back anymore: it is part of the lesson plan, reports the BBC:

“The average young person will have spent 10,000 hours gaming by the time they are 21 years old, research suggests.This has been mainly for entertainment, providing light relief from the maths textbooks and science experiments taking place in classrooms. But gaming is taking up more time of a child’s life.

“For a child in the US with perfect attendance, 10,080 hours will be spent in school from fifth grade (age 10) to high school graduation, according to game designer Jane McGonigal. Minecraft is just one game that has found its way into the classroom, actually being used in lessons In the UK, computer games offering “stealth learning” have been used by many schools. But the big developers have generally, so far at least, not been keen to get involved.

“Angry Birds creator Rovio has brought Angry Birds Playground, a schools initiative devised with the University of Helsinki in Finland, into the kindergarten classroom of children, aimed at six-year-olds. With the initiative already in use in Finland, Rovio has now entered into an agreement with schools in China. “With small children, the Finnish approach to education is very much play-orientated,” says Sanna Lukander, vice president of book publishing at Rovio Entertainment. “These characters and their world seemed to inspire children. You can’t not think about how you might motivate children to do more than play.” Finland is rated as having the best education system in the developed world. And it is not just the same edition of Angry Birds re-packaged: it is using the now-famous characters in new education-based games and a “full 360-degree approach to learning” involving books, teachers and digital devices.”

 

More at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24228473

 

High school and the college gender gap

Recent research has suggested various ways in which girls outperform boys in high school, making them more likely to go to college:images stronger desire to get good grades, better social skills, greater validation from academic performance.

But as Inside Higher Ed reports, “A new study suggests gender sorting — a boy’s or girl’s decision to attend one school or another – could have its own effect on the college enrollment gap.

“In a study of public school systems in Florida, researchers found that what high school a student attends is “strongly associated” with college enrollment; girls are attending high schools that have higher rates of college-going than one would expect based on the students’ test scores – and boys, vice versa.

“Over all, the high school that boys and girls attended accounts for 10.9 percent of the gender gap in college enrollment – in other words, 11 percent of the approximately 7-percentage-point nationwide gender gap in colleges is attributable to the high school attended — but the figure is significantly higher for black (15.8 percent) and Hispanic students (12.2 percent) than it is for white students (5.2 percent).

“While the paper does not make a causal link – it’s not clear whether the high schools themselves are causing the gaps – if it is the high schools having this effect on the students, one would conclude that equal gender distribution across high schools would close the college gender gap by 11 percent.

“Either girls are choosing to attend high schools that are going to advantage them by making them more likely to go to college, or girls are simply attracted to high schools whose students have higher college-going rates — even if the school does not cause this outcome — while boys are attracted to other features of high schools,” such as facilities or the characteristics of the school’s students, said Mark C. Long, co-author of the paper published in Educational Researcher and associate professor of public affairs at the University of Washington.

“The sample includes nearly 537,000 students who enrolled in a Florida public high school between 2002-6 and graduated within four years. While not every student has the ability to choose which high school to attend — say, private, traditional public, or charter — there is often some element of choice involved, either by the student selecting from a group of residential schools or a parent opting to live in a certain neighborhood.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/09/05/how-boys-and-girls-choice-high-school-affects-college-gender-gap#ixzz2eFOz1gAH
Inside Higher Ed

Teaching to the test…and failing

It’s a terrible time for advocates of market-driven reform in public education. images-1For more than a decade, their strategy—which makes teachers’ careers turn on student gains in reading and math tests, and promotes competition through charter schools and vouchers—has been the dominant policy mantra. But now the cracks are showing. That’s a good thing because this isn’t a proven—or even a promising—way to make schools better.

Here’s a litany of recent setbacks: In the latest Los Angeles school board election, a candidate who dared to question the overreliance on test results in evaluating teachers and the unseemly rush to approve charter schools won despite $4 million amassed to defeat him, including $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $250,000 from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall, feted for boosting her students’ test scores at all costs, has been indicted in a massive cheating scandal. Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. school chief who is the darling of the accountability crowd,faces accusations, based on a memo released by veteran PBS correspondent John Merrow, that she knew about, and did nothing to stop, widespread cheating. In a Washington Post op-ed, Bill Gates, who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting high-stakes, test-driven teacher evaluation, did an about-face and urged a kinder, gentler approach that teachers could embrace. And parents in New York State staged a rebellion, telling their kids not to take a new and untested achievement exam. Continue reading “Teaching to the test…and failing”

Pedagogical Vaudeville Revisited: Yvonne Rainer

yvonne_0Pedagogical Vaudeville Revisited: Yvonne Rainer at UC Irvine

A celebration of Yvonne Rainer at UC Irvine and beyond, Monday, April 29, 2013 | 7 – 9 PM, UC Irvine, Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Contemporary Arts Center , Experimental Media Performance Lab (xMPL)

With performances and contributions by:  Yvonne Rainer, Ben Boatright, Maura Brewer, Pat Catterson, Marcus Civin, Heather Delaney, Aaron Guerrero, Maya Gurantz, Natilee Herren, Patricia Hoffbauer, Kuan Hwa, David Kelley, Simon Leung, Monica Majoli, Lyle Massey, Lara Odell, and Sara Wookey.

Heteronormativity in school

It’s commonly thought that teenagers these days are so much more hip about gender and sexuality than their parents ever more. But this perception can obscure the facts that concepts of “normality” and  “fitting in” still drive much of the culture of the young, As discussed today in Huffington Post:

“Popularity in middle and high school operates as a heterosexist reward system. Who “fits in” and who does not has a great deal to do with heterosexuality and gender conformity, which makes it difficult for LGBTQ kids to engage in the school social scene. For adolescents, school is (significantly) about social connections, social possibilities, social hierarchies and navigating through them. A great deal of school social life is about reinforcing the “normalcy” of heterosexuality and marking those considered to not measure up as “weird” or “less than” in some way. Continue reading “Heteronormativity in school”

School transgender decision raises questions

imgres-2A Colorado school’s ruling over a transgender child has sparked questions that could affect schools all over the country. As reported by CNN, the  questions and their implications include the following:

“Which bathroom should be used by a child who identifies as a different gender from his or her body? Where’s the line between accommodation and discrimination? Continue reading “School transgender decision raises questions”

A boom market for assault rifles

imgres-1Now that the post-Newtown nation has suddenly woken up to the breakout popularity of the AR-15, a host of questions are being asked, especially about who is buying these rifles, and why. Why would normal, law-abiding Americans want to own a deadly weapon that was clearly designed for military use?

These somewhat unsettling questions are taken up in Danger Room: “Why are existing AR-15 owners buying as many of these rifles as they can get their hands on? Are these people Doomsday preppers? Militia types, arming for a second American Civil War? Or are they young military fantasists whose minds have been warped by way too much Call of Duty?

“In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the AR-15 has gone from the most popular rifle in America to the most scrutinized and, in some quarters, vilified. Also known in its fully automatic, military incarnation as the M16, the rifle was racking up record sales in the years before Sandy Hook, but now, in the midst of a renewed effort to ban this weapon and others like it from civilian hands, the AR-15 market has gone nuclear, with some gun outlets rumored to have done three years’ worth of sales in the three weeks after Newtown.

“Preppers, militia types, and SEAL Team 6 wannabes are certainly represented in the AR-15′s customer base. But fringe groups don’t adequately explain the roughly 5 million “black rifles” (as fans of the gun tend to call it) that are now in the hands of the public. No, the real secret to the AR-15′s incredible success is that this rifle is the “personal computer” of the gun world.

“In the past two decades, the AR-15 has evolved into an open, modular gun platform that’s infinitely hackable and accessorizable. With only a few simple tools and no gunsmithing expertise, an AR-15 can be heavily modified, or even assembled from scratch, from widely available parts to suit the fancy and fantasy of each individual user. In this respect, the AR-15 is the world’s first “maker” gun, and this is why its appeal extends well beyond the military enthusiasts that many anti-gun types presume make up its core demographic.”

 

Full story at: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/02/ar-15/

On hating gym class

When it comes to bullying, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students are prime targets in gym class. imgresRecent research conducted by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) revealed that a majority of LGBT youth are bullied in gym classes across the nation and that many feel unsafe or uncomfortable in the athletic environments.GLSEN analyzed the responses of more than 8,584 students between the ages of 13 and 20 in high schools and middle schools across the country, reports today’s Huffington Post “The research, which found “critical gaps in safety and support,” revealed that LGBT youth not only feel unsafe, but that they’re also underrepresented on athletic teams and aren’t fully backed by school staff and policies. Continue reading “On hating gym class”

College degree as minimum job requirement

The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma, albeit an expensive one, and increasingly a requirement for getting even the lowest-level job.

Consider the 45-person law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh here in Atlanta, a place that has seen tremendous growth in the college

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-educated population, reports today’s New York

Times.  “Like other employers across the country, the firm hires only people with a bachelor’s degree, even for jobs that do not require college-level skills. Continue reading “College degree as minimum job requirement”

The new segregation

imgres-1A group of Indiana-based parents, teens and even a teacher is fighting for a separate “traditional” prom that would ban gay students, reports today’s Huffington Post.

“Special education teacher Diana Medley is defending a group of Sullivan High School students who are arguing in favor of the alternate prom.

‘Homosexual students come to me with their problems, and I don’t agree with them, but I care about them,’ Medley told the news station. ‘It’s the same thing with my special needs kids; I think God puts everyone in our lives for a reason.’

“When asked whether or not gay people have a ‘purpose’ in life, Medley added, ‘No, I honestly don’t. Sorry, but I don’t … A gay person isn’t going to come up and make some change unless it’s to realize that it was a choice and they’re choosing God.’

“Medley was just one of several parents, students and others who reportedly met Feb. 10 at the Sullivan First Christian Church demanding that gay students be barred from attending the dance. ‘We want to make the public see that we love the homosexuals, but we don’t think it’s right nor should it be accepted,’ one local student is quoted as saying. Continue reading “The new segregation”

School sports and disability rights

Recent federal action on school sports programs could do for disabled students what Title IX did for women and girls.

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For the first time, federal officials are telling school districts that they must offer students with disabilities equal access to school sports, reports today’s edition of DisabilityScoop, continuing:

“In guidance issued Friday to districts across the country, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said that children with disabilities have the right to participate in their school’s extracurricular activities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

“Accordingly, the agency said that students with intellectual, developmental, physical and other types of disabilities should be afforded opportunities to play for their school teams with modifications, aids and services as needed. Continue reading “School sports and disability rights”

Difficulties in predicting violent acts

Only a severely disturbed individual marches into an elementary school or a movie theater and guns down innocent people.

But how can society stop such people in time to avert tragedy?This question now “drives the public longing for a mental health system

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that produces clear warning signals and can somehow stop the violence.And it is now fueling a surge in legislative activity, in Washington and New York,” reports a story by Benedict Carey and Anemona Hartcollis in today’s New York Times. The piece continues: Continue reading “Difficulties in predicting violent acts”

Most school chairs fail the grade

Blaming teachers has been a favorite blood-sport of republicans in America for decades, dating to the famous Reagan-administration “A Nation at Risk” report. Then liberals like Jonathan Kozol entered the fray by pointing out the “savage inequalities” in school funding.

Now education has a new problem: the chairs. Cheapskate school districts and money-hungry corporations have been keeping the kids in crummy seats.

“‘And then there is the classroom chair,’the New York Times reports. ”In New York City public schools, a top chair of choice since the mid-1990s

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has been the Model 114, also known as the ‘super stacker,’15 pounds of steel, sawdust and resin that comes in 22 colors and has a basic, unyielding design little changed from its wooden forebears.

Continue reading “Most school chairs fail the grade”

What made the news

It’s no big secret that what people think has a lot to do with what they watch and read. While ideologies and other belief systems also underlie public opinion, there is no denying the role of “news” in shaping contemporary worldviews – sometimes in direct opposition to empirical data.

For example, while many parents now fear sending junior off to school each morning, the odds of a child being shot in Sandy Hook fashion stand at less than one in a million, as it has for decades. If anything, schools recently have been getting safer.

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After reaching a high of 63 deaths in the 2006-2007 school year, the number of people killed in “school-associated” incidents dropped to 33 in 2009-2010 – the lowest in two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Continue reading “What made the news”