Smart teacher vs. smart phones

This phone policy makes sense, says Ellen K at The Sum of All Things According 2 Me. “And if you don’t understand then you’ve never had to try to speak over the texting, movie watching and instagramming of today’s youths.”

Life and death of an urban high school

Once the largest high school in the U.S., Queens’ Jamaica High had only 24 students in its final graduation class, writes Jelani Cobb in The Life and Death of Jamaica High School in The New Yorker.

Cobb, who went to Jamaica High in its prime, earned a diploma in 1987 and went on to Howard.

The Jamaica High School building last year and, at right, in 1981. CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY; PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIC DELUCIA / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX; JACKSON KRULE

The Jamaica High School building last year and, at right, in 1981.
CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY; PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIC DELUCIA / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX; JACKSON KRULE

The New York City Department of Education closed the once respected high school due to “persistent violence and a graduation rate of around fifty per cent,” he writes. Four new “small schools” now share the old building.

The high school started to slip when talented students in northern Queens were given the option of attending two other schools, a magnet and an exam school, on college campuses, Cobb writes.

In 2004, the Bloomberg administration let students apply to any high school in the city. Savvy parents found the best schools. Less-savvy parents took what was left.

Once a racial, ethnic and socioeconomic mix, Jamaica High became 99 percent minority and 63 percent low-income in the year before it closed.

In Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, hunger strikers hope to save Dyett High School, a low-performing school that has lost students to competing schools.

Dyett High School valedictorian Parrish Brown accused CPS of "destabilization" in not providing basic resources.

Dyett High School valedictorian Parrish Brown accused CPS of destabilizing the school in 2014 by starving it of resources.

A community group wants to run it as a neighborhood school with a focus on “leadership and green technology.” The principal envisions a school with an sports theme. Another proposal would create an arts theme.

“Schools are ecosystems, each with its own history, culture, and intricately woven set of social relationships, writes Eve Ewing. “Schools are community anchors. They not interchangeable, nor are they disposable. Schools are home.”

Bronzeville parents have been choosing alternatives to Dyett for years now, just as Queens parents have been choosing alternatives to Jamaica High. Can they be persuaded to return to the neighborhood school?

28% are ready for college

ACT scores 2015.JPG

Only 28 percent of 12th graders who take the ACT are prepared to pass introductory college classes requiring English, reading, math and science skills, according to the new ACT report. Thirty-one percent of test-takers did not meet a benchmark in any subject.

Overall, scores are flat, even as more students are taking the ACT. Some states require students to take the test in hopes of encouraging college aspirations.

Colleges go ‘test-optional’ to fool rankings

When colleges go “test-optional” — applicants need not submit SAT or ACT scores — they claim it’s a way to increase diversity. That’s not the reason, writes Stephen Burd on the Hechinger Report. It’s a way to boost college rankings.

“Test-optional policies overall have not been the catalysts of diversity that many have claimed them to be,” concludes a 2014 University of Georgia study.

When applicants don’t need to submit SAT or ACT scores, more students apply, especially those with poor scores, writes Burd. “For the colleges, more applicants mean more students they can reject, which lowers their acceptance rate and raises the institution’s perceived selectivity.”

Only students with good scores send them in. “Many schools then use only these scores to calculate their average scores,” writes Burd.

Mean SAT scores rise by 26 points on average when a college goes test-optional, concludes the University of Georgia study.

With lower acceptance rates and higher average SAT/ACT scores, test-optional colleges move up in U.S. News rankings of the “best” colleges. That draws more applicants and allows the college to reject even more people.

No math, no money

Payscale’s new College Salary Report ranks colleges and universities, as well as majors for all degree levels, by alumni salaries.

Once again, petroleum engineering tops the list of bachelor’s degrees with the highest earnings. According to Payscale’s survey, petroleum engineering graduates start at $95,401 and reach $150,000 in mid-career.

It’s followed by Nuclear Engineering, Actuarial Mathematics , Chemical Engineering and Electronics & Communications Engineering.

Math teachers can tell students that all but one of the top 40 majors on the list require strong math skills. However, Government majors rank at #20 with a starting salary of $46,900 and a mid-career salary of $102,000.

Low-paying majors involve counseling, social work, ministry and, at the very bottom, early childhood education.

“TEM” degrees raise earnings, but “S” degrees may not, especially not with just a bachelor’s degree, writes Ben Casselman on FiveThirtyEight.

Engineering majors are nearly all high-paying. So are most computer and math majors, and math-heavy sciences like astrophysics. But many sciences, particularly the life sciences, pay below the overall median for recent college graduates. Students who major in neuroscience, meteorology, biology and ecology all stand to make $35,000 or less — and that’s if they can get a full-time job, which many can’t.

Zoology, with a median full-time wage of $26,000 a year, is one of the lowest-paying majors.

Lunch goes organic, non-GMO

Only organic, non-GMO lunches will be served at the two schools in the Sausalito Marin City School District, north of San Francisco. The district contracts with Turning Green, a nonprofit, to provide the meals with the help of The Conscious Kitchen.

The Conscious Kitchen prepares a lunch at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy. (Photo: Turning Green)

The Conscious Kitchen prepares a lunch at Bayside MLK Jr. Academy. (Photo: Turning Green)

Turning Green claims schools have seen a drop in disciplinary problems and truancy since the schools piloted the organic meals.

I ate a Turning Green lunch once at a conference. It was better than the average cafeteria food — a low bar — and fresher. Lots of greens. But I missed my GMOs.

Judy Blume: Teens ‘jump straight into sex’ 

Author Judy Blume, known for writing frankly about adolescent sexuality, wishes teens wouldn’t jump straight into sex, she tells Celia Walden, a  Telegraph reporter.

Judy Blume Photo: Jay Williams, Daily Telegraph  Pix by Jay Williams, Bristol, pix@jaywilliams.co.uk, 07770 576076 Pic shows Judy Blume at the Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Powys today Sunday 1-6-14

Judy Blume Photo: Jay Williams

“Rather than jump right into intercourse . . . I wish they would go through all the stages that we used to go through,” says Blume. “It’s really, really good to go through those stages: the hours and hours of ‘necking,’ ‘making-out,’ ‘kissing,’ ‘touching’ and going to the different ‘bases’.”

Blume had planned to be a teacher, but turned to writing when she was raising her two children.

Her teenager daughter Randy asked her mother to write Forever – or, as she put it: ‘A book where two nice kids do it and nobody has to die’,” reports Walden.

“The thing is not to be afraid, but to be ready,” she says. “If you wait until your kids are feeling those sexual feelings, it’s too late. Sex education should be an ongoing thing that starts with the very first question.”

In Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, the main character craves information about sex, notes Walden. Now “youngsters are swamped with it, thanks to the internet – and most of it pornographic.”

Blume is fine with “porn for grown-ups,” but says “it sends an awful message to young men and women. . . .  I think all you can do is talk to young kids and that isn’t happening enough.”

I’m too old to have learned about sex from Judy Blume. (Chapter two of The Group was very educational.) I enjoyed reading the Fudge books when my daughter was young.

‘Smart’ pill is safe, but is it fair?

A new “smart drug” can improve planning, decision making and performance on complex tasks, concludes a study  published in European Neuropsychopharmacology.

Modafinil is approved to treat sleep disorders, but the research paper concluded it improves “executive function” in people who aren’t sleep deprived.

The drug improves “the ability to analyze new information and make plans based on it” and “people’s ability to focus, learn and remember,” according to the researchers, reports Science Times.

Modafinil is “a hit among college students as a study aid,” writes Elizabeth Nolan Brown on Reason’s Hit & Run.

It’s a Schedule IV controlled drug and prescription-only in the U.S., but Americans buy it online from foreign pharmacies.

In the new review, researchers said the drug “appears safe for widespread use,” calling it “one of the most promising and highly-investigated neuroenhancers to date.” But that might not persuade federal officials, writes Brown.

Many people — including the researchers — see ethical problems in a improving human performance by taking a pill.
If a “smart pill” is safe and effective, is that a problem?

Homeschooling in the city

An estimated 2 million children — about 2.5 percent of school-age kids  — are educated at home. In a look at urban homeschooling in City Journal, Matthew Hennessey provides some history of the movement that I haven’t seen before.

Anne Tozzi teaches her five children in her Yonkers, New York home.

Anne Tozzi teaches her five children in her Yonkers, New York home.

In the mid-1970s, as few as 10,000 children were homeschooled in the United States, mostly in rural areas, he writes. Homeschooling was illegal in 30 states.

Things started to change in 1978, when “the Internal Revenue Service under President Jimmy Carter threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of Christian day schools that it accused of using religion-based admissions standards to circumvent federal antisegregation laws,” Hennessey writes.

The IRS ultimately caved on its threats, but the evangelicals took a message away from the battle: the federal government—as embodied by the newly established Departmentof Education—was out to get them.

“What galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the ERA,” Moral Majority founder Paul Weyrich told sociologist William Martin for his book With God on Our Side. “[It] was Jimmy Carter’s intervention against the Christian schools. . . . [S]uddenly it dawned on them that they were not going to be left alone to teach their children as they pleased.”

Backed by the Religious Right, Home School Legal Defense Association lawyers fought a state-by-state battle in the 1980s to remove legal barriers to homeschooling. “By 1993, the practice was legal in all 50 states,” writes Hennessey.

Homeschooling is becoming more secular and urban. Online courseware has made it much easier for parents to educate their children at home.  It’s also easy to network with other homeschooling parents and students.

Anne and Erik Tozzi teach their five children in their Yonkers home. He’s a specialist in medieval history; she’s an art historian and rare-book specialist.

Schoolwork for the Tozzi children, who range in age from two to 14, can mean a day spent at their book-strewn dining-room table discussing Chaucer or a visit to the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.

. . . Last year, the older Tozzi kids worked with students from around the country to write a radio script, which they produced for an all-online course. They took online classes in Latin, religion, and math with teachers based in other cities. They used Skype for live class lectures and to communicate with other students for their projects. . . .  The younger children used Skype for a weekly “Story Time” with a teacher.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 28 percent of homeschoolers are urban, 34 percent suburban and 31 percent live in rural areas.

 

Healthy lunches = more veg in the trash


Before/after photos of lunch trays show vegetables often end up in the trash.

Federal school lunch rules require that children take a fruit or vegetable. Kids aren’t eating healthier, according to a new study. reports the Washington Post. Most of the healthy food ends up in the trash.

“The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption. The answer was clearly no,” Sarah Amin, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

This salad, featuring raw green pepper and croutons, is supposed to contain chicken.

This salad, featuring raw green pepper and croutons, is supposed to contain chicken. Photo: Hans Pennink, AP

Children took 29 percent more fruit and vegetables after the rule went into effect, the study found. But their consumption of fruits and vegetables declined by 13 percent.

Food waste went up. In many cases, the researchers wrote, “children did not even taste the [fruits and vegetables] they chose at lunch.”

Last year, a Harvard study using a different methodology found students ate the same amount of fruit, but 16.2 percent more vegetables. However, students threw out 40 percent of fruit on their trays and 60 to 75 percent of vegetables.