Texas boy suspended for magic ring


Bilbo Baggins finds the magic “ring of power” in the new Hobbit movie.

 After seeing the new Hobbit movie, a nine-year-old Texas boy told a friend he had the magic ring — “one ring to rule them all” — and could make him invisible. Aiden Steward, a fourth grader, was suspended for making a threat, reports the New York Daily News.

“I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence,” the boy’s father later wrote in an email. “If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”

Bilbo Baggins, the hero of The Hobbit, uses the ring to become invisible in Tolkien’s book. It’s an asset.

Aiden already has been suspended three times this school year.

Two of the disciplinary actions this year were in-school suspensions for referring to a classmate as black and bringing his favorite book to school: The Big Book of Knowledge.

“He loves that book. They were studying the solar system and he took it to school. He thought his teacher would be impressed,” Steward said.

But the teacher learned the popular children’s encyclopedia had a section on pregnancy, depicting a pregnant woman in an illustration, he explained.

So, Aiden is observant, curious and imaginative. No wonder he’s considered a dangerous character at Kermit Elementary School.

Kids with one parent achieve less

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 Students from single-parent families do worse in math than students living with two parents in nearly all countries, but the single-parent achievement gap is especially large in the U.S., writes Ludger Woessmann in Education Next. U.S. children with a single parent are one grade level behind, on average. And the U.S. has a high percentage of one-parent families.

Adjusting for socioeconomic background, such as parental education and the number of books at home, narrows the gap. But it remains higher than the international average.

“It is possible to enhance family environments to improve the quality of parenting, nurturing, and stimulation, and thereby promote healthy child development, writes Woessmann, an economics professor at the University of Munich.

Nipple v. bottle at the playground

Can parents get along? Similac’s new ad on the “Sisterhood of Motherhood” shows a playground brawl with “strollers versus baby slings, breast-fed versus formula-fed, stay-at-home versus working mom, plus yoga moms, lesbian moms and stay-at-home dads,” reports AdWeek.

But when one of those stroller moms (who don’t care about bonding and cuddling with their baby, so they push their child away from them in a stroller instead of wearing them in a wholesome fashion) steps off to step up to the fight, the stroller goes tumbling down the hill. And all the parents go tumbling after.

It’s proving to be controversial.

Is it ADHD, fetal alcohol or both?

Some children diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are “alcohol babies,” according to Ira Chasnoff, a Chicago pediatrician. Of 156 foster children referred for behavior disorders — most diagnosed with ADHD — 81 percent had fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), he found.

ADHD diagnoses have increased by 42 percent in 12 years, writes Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.

Unlike children affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, which is the most severe condition on the spectrum, those with other types of FASD may not have facial anomalies. Thus, the issue may go unnoticed by physicians for years.

“Many alcohol babies will look normal, so no one thinks of doing the toxicology,” Chasnoff said. Nationally, about 20 percent of women drink during pregnancy, but only about 3.6 percent of children have been diagnosed with FASD.

Of course, kids who’ve ended up in foster care are much more likely to have heavy-drinking mothers.

“About 74 percent of children with FASD do meet criteria for ADHD,” Chasnoff said, “but, because of all the neurochemistry changes from the alcohol, it’s a different kind of ADHD” and requires different treatment and medications.

Years ago, I visited a rehab program for drug-addicted mothers and their children. A staffer told me that “crack babies” get better. “Fetal alcohol babies” do not, she said. They suffer lifelong learning and behavioral disabilities.

Law tells parents to limit kids’ tech use

Taiwanese parents are required by law to limit their children’s use of technology to “reasonable” levels, reports Kabir Chibber on Quartz. What’s reasonable? The law doesn’t say. But it threatens to fine parents whose children become “physically or mentally” ill due to overuse of digital devices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends a maximum of two hours a day of screen time for kids, found in a recent study that 8-year-olds in the U.S. spend an average of eight hours a day with some form of media—and many child-development psychologists urge more unstructured play time.

South Korea now regulates “online games and e-sports as if they were addictive substances,” writes Chibber.

Worried about addiction to online role-playing games, China limits online gamers to three hours of play at a time, reports BBC News. Games are set up to limit a game character’s ability if the player exceeds the three-hour limit.

They don’t read ‘Evangeline’ any more

In 1908, Minnesota’s recommended reading list for 7th and 8th graders included Longfellow’s Evangeline and the Courtship of Miles Standish, and works by Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson and others, writes Annie Holmquist on Better-Ed. Most of the books were 50 to 100 years old.

She found the 2014 reading list for 7th and 8th graders in Edina, one of the state’s best school districts. Other than Tom Sawyer, The Diary of Anne Frank and Fahrenheit 451, the books were written in the last 20 years.

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The 1908 list “is full of historical references and settings which stretch from ancient Greece (Tanglewood Tales) to the Middle Ages (Harold, Last of Saxon Kings) to the founding of America (Courtship of Miles Standish),” Holmquist writes. Children are introduced to classic writers.

The 2014 books touch on “current political and cultural themes such as the Taliban (The Breadwinner), cloning, illegal immigrants, the drug war (The House of the Scorpion), and deeply troubled youth (Touching Spirit Bear).”

In addition, the modern books use simple language and familiar vocabulary, she writes. It’s easy reading.

Nothing But the Truth starts:

 Coach Jamison saw me in the hall and said he wanted to make sure I’m trying out for the track team!!!! Said my middle school gym teacher told him I was really good!!!! Then he said that with me on the Harrison High team we have a real shot at being county champs. Fantastic!!!!!! He wouldn’t say that unless he meant it. Have to ask folks about helping me get new shoes. Newspaper route won’t do it all. But Dad was so excited when I told him what Coach said that I’m sure he’ll help.

Evangeline is a more challenging read:

 “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.”

Apparently, it wasn’t too challenging for kids in 1908.

Via The Federalist Papers.

Idiotae loquere

An eighth-grade Vermont girl studying Latin thought it would be nice if her state had a Latin motto. She wrote to Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, who introduced a bill proposing “Stella quarta decima fulgeat,” (“May the 14th star shine bright”) in addition to the state’s English motto, “Freedom and Unity,”  writes John Walters in the Vermont Political Observer.  Vermont was the 14th state to join the Union.

It seemed like a “nice, harmless” thing, writes Walter. Then, all hell broke loose.

WCAX-TV did a story about the bill and asked for comments on its Facebook page about adding a Latin motto. There was some confusion.

 Dorothy Lynn Lepisto: “I thought Vermont was American not Latin? Does any Latin places have American mottos?”

Norman Flanders: “What next Arab motto??”

Kevin P. Hahn: “How about ‘go back south of the boarder’”

Richard Mason: “We are AMERICANS, not latins, why not come up with a Vermont motto that is actually from us”

Judy Lamoureux: “Throw him out of the country tell him to take obama with him!”

Phil Salzano: “My question is, are we Latin, or are we Vermonters? Alright then, English it is…..”

Lori Olds: “I thought this was USA why are they trying to make Americans aliens”

Chris Ferro: “That’s a BIG NO, if you live in the United State YOU need to learn ENGLISH!!”

Julie Kellner: “No, you a USA citizen!.. Learn & understand the language!!!.”

Kurtis Jones: “No cause vt ain’t no Latino area. Leave the motto alone”

Zeb Swierczynski: “ABSOLUTLY NOT!!!! sick and tired of that crap, they have their own countries”

Ken Curtis: “Just when I felt our represenatives could not possibly get any dumber , they come up with this…get real… this is the USA, not some Moslim or Mexican country…stop given in to these people…PRESS 1 for English and forget the rest… worry about the problems you were elected to do”

Ronald Prouty Jr. “No way this is America not Mexico or Latin America. And they nee to learn our language, just like if we go there they want us to speak theirs”

Heather Chase: “Seriously?? Last time I checked..real vermonters were speakin ENGLISH.. NOT LATIN..good god…”

“Vermont” was named by explorer Samuel Champlain, a Frenchman, one of Walters’ readers points out. It means green mountain.

Vermont spends $19,000 per student — more than any other state — and has the highest graduation rate.

Free-range mom aids anxious parents

On a new reality show called “World’s Worst Mom,” Lenore Skenazy, an advocate of “free-range parenting,” encourages anxious parents to let their children try new things. That includes a mother who spoon-feeds her 10-year-old son because she’s afraid he’ll choke. The show runs on Thursdays at 9 EST on the Discovery Life channel.

For $25K per pupil, Camden still fails

Camden, New Jersey is a very poor city with very high school spending and very low-performing schools, reports Reason. Camden raised per-pupil spending to more than $25,000.  The public schools remain “notorious for their abysmal test scores,  the frequent occurrence of in-school violencedilapidated buildings and an on-time graduation rate of just 61 percent.”

Reason also takes a look at LEAP, one of Camden’s best charter schools: Last June, 98 percent earned a high school diploma and all graduates went on to college.

Can good teaching prevent disruption?

Worried about high suspension rates for black students, San Francisco public schools no longer suspend students for “willful defiance.”

Mission High School is trying to avoid trips to the principal’s office, writes Dani McClain on Slate. The school, which is devoted to “equity, inclusion, and Anti-Racist Teaching,” hopes to improve student behavior by changing teacher behavior.

When one of Henry Arguedas’ students got upset and slammed a book on the floor last year, the teacher followed what has become standard protocol in schools across the country: He sent the teenager out of class to an administrator who would decide his fate.

. . . A veteran teacher and a dean followed up and gently encouraged Arguedas to think carefully about why he had sent the student, who is black, to the office for glaring and slamming the book. As Arguedas reflected with his colleagues, he realized to his dismay that he had misinterpreted the teenager’s emotional problems and inability to express himself for aggressive anger—possibly because the student was black and male.

In October, a fourth-year teacher named David Gardner asked Mission High’s “instructional reform facilitator,” Pirette McKamey, to observe one of his ninth-grade geometry classes.

. . .  the lesson focused on logic and structuring proofs. Some students worked in groups to configure blocks of various colors and shapes into hexagons or triangles and puzzled over how best to describe what they’d done. Later, McKamey estimated that only about a quarter of the class was on task at any given time. Others took slow, meandering trips to the pencil sharpener or acted out in subtle ways. Two students, for instance, disobeyed school rules and kept their cellphones out while another listened to earphones. One boy stood his skateboard on end and spun it round and round. Two others playfully jousted with rulers.

. . . a black boy named John (not his real name) . . . popped between tables during group work, sang loudly as Gardner gave the class instructions, and at one point left the room without permission. But John’s hand was also the first one up when Gardner asked what the groups had accomplished with their proofs, and his answer was precise and on target.

When McKamey met with Gardner a few days later to debrief, she told him “the pacing was off.” If Gardner improved his instruction and kept more of the students engaged, McKamey assured him most discipline problems would disappear.

McKamey also suggested that Gardner might, unknowingly, be telepathing a dislike for John, which triggered the student’s unhappiness and frustration. “Think of him as someone you like and who you’re going to take care of,” she said. When John causes a disruption that demands a response, McKamey suggested using humor rather than a punitive tone to defuse the situation publicly, and then talking to John in greater depth about the incident privately.

Improving instruction is always good, but . . . really?

Teachers need to be trained in “warm demandingness,” advises Russell Skiba, director of the Equity Project at Indiana University.

As one example, he described watching a teacher coax a student who had his head on his desk to sit up. She kept urging him to lift his head higher and higher, but when he was finally upright, the teacher showed empathy. Specifically, she walked by him, put a hand on his shoulder, and said, “Get some more sleep tonight’’ in a friendly, supportive way, Skiba recalled. “It’s possible to show kids that you are not going to let up on them until they reach your expectation, but within that to be establishing a friendship.”

High school teachers usually have 30+ students in a class. Is it possible to teach an academic subject while providing individual coaxing, private talks and demanding friendship for each student? It sounds time consuming.

Larry Ferlazzo’s readers offer their advice for good classroom management.