Donald T’s first report card

From The New Yorker, via Alexander Russo.

Sub fired for teaching ‘vagina’ art

Allison Wint

Allison Wint is job hunting.

In a lesson about controversial art, a substitute art teacher told eighth graders that some viewers see “vaginas” in Georgia O’Keeffe‘s paintings, reports the Detroit Free Press. Allison Wint was fired by Harper Creek Middle School for . . . Saying the word “vagina?”

Wint remembers saying: “Imagine walking into a gallery when (O’Keeffe) was first showing her pieces, and thinking, ‘Am I actually seeing vaginas here, am I a pervert?’ ”

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Through the course of the lecture, she went on to use the word vagina “maybe 10 times,” she said. “But it was never in a vulgar capacity.”

I thought if I used a euphemism, that would make it into a joke,” she said.

School officials initially said teachers must get approval before discussing reproductive health, reports WWMT-TV.

Then, Harper Creek Superintendent Rob Ridgeway told the Free Press that Wint was fired for deviating from the art curriculum and not warning the principal that she’d be discussing controversy in art. “She was not terminated due to uttering the word ‘vagina,’ ” he said.

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However, Principal Kim Thayer told the Free Press that Wint had used the word “vagina … without previous approval.”

Thayer fired Wint on Friday, giving her one hour to gather her things and leave the school.

“It now seems abundantly clear that, in spite of her vehement denials, O’Keeffe meant some of her paintings (not just the flowers) to look vaginal,” writes Randall Griffin, an art history professor who’s authored a book on the artist. “Works such as Abstraction Seaweed and Water – Maine and Flower Abstraction overtly allude to female genitalia.”

College encourages lively consensus

Trescott University encourages a lively exchange of one idea, president Kevin Abrams told The Onion.

“We recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus.

Counseling is available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

To help the poor, give them money

To prepare children from low-income families for school success, U.S. policy and funding has focused on Head Start and universal pre-kindergarten, writes Brookings’ Russ Whitehurst. But research shows that giving more money to low-income parents is more cost effective, he writes.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, which raises the income of  low-income working parents, is more effective than providing free pre-K for four-year-olds, he writes. The chart also shows the modest effects of class-size reduction and Head Start.

Northern European countries focus on supporting family incomes rather than providing preschool or pre-K, writes Whitehurst. “A policy midpoint” could be giving families more money, but limiting it to expenditures on their young children. He envisions something like food stamps.

In Finland, working parents of young children can choose from a variety of child-care providers or “opt to receive a financial subsidy that allows them to reduce their work hours in order to be home more with their child,” he writes. “They can also take unpaid leave.” The rate of enrollment in child-care centers is very low for children under four.

Teen birth rate hits new low

The teen birth rate has declined by 61 percent since its peak in 1991, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2006 and 2014, the teen birth rate for Hispanics fell by 51 percent and for blacks by 44 percent, while the birth rate for white teens declined by 35 percent. Hispanic and black teens remain twice as likely to give birth.

Some think MTV's "16 and Pregnant" has discouraged teen pregnancy by showing its challenges.

Some think MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” has discouraged teen pregnancy by showing its challenges.

More teens “are taking advantage of innovations like long-acting injectable and implantable methods that can last years over a daily birth control pill,” writes Ariana Eunjung Cha in the Washington Post. And teens are “having less sex.”

For younger teens, there’s now peer pressure to be abstinent, says Veronica Gomez-Lobo, director of pediatric gynecology at Children’s National Medical Center.

Abortion rates have declined or stayed in the same in every state but Vermont, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s research, Cha adds.

One of the most interesting possibilities has been the popularity of MTV’s hit reality show “16 and Pregnant.” The struggles of the young moms in the show – who were often shown in tears—may have served as cautionary tales to millions of viewers their age. A study that came out in 2014 estimated that teen births dropped 6 percent in the 18 months following the show’s first broadcasts.

Others theorize that better sex education programs and the ability to research effective contraception online have contributed to the decline.

Maybe school’s just not our nation’s thing

“After years of watching it struggle to perform academically in nearly every area of study, U.S. education officials told reporters Wednesday they have begun to think maybe school just isn’t the nation’s thing,” reports The Onion.

“When it comes down to it, school isn’t for everyone,” said Education Secretary John King Jr. “Every country learns in its own way,” he continued. “And that’s okay.”

College prep for all lowers grad rate

Requiring all students to take college-prep courses — and earn C’s or better — is raising the number of students eligible for state universities in San Diego, concludes a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report. It’s also lowering the graduation rate.

About 10 percent more students in the class of 2016 will meet the minimum requirements for University of California and California State University campuses, researchers estimate. However, 16 percent more students may fail to graduate from high school, pushing the graduation rate down to 72 percent,

Career academies challenge college for all

Most 12th graders aren’t prepared to succeed in college, according to NAEP, but nearly all are told it’s the only path to a decent job. Nearly two-thirds of high school graduates go directly to college. Two-thirds of high school graduates go directly to college. Those who fail to earn a degree — about 45 percent — will struggle to earn a living and pay back student loans.

Students including Joshua Espinosa, left, steady the head of Jacqueline Villalobo during an exercise in EMC First Responder class as emergency medical technician Gretchen Medel, background left, supervises at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch, Calif. Photo: Ben Margot, AP

Students practice paramedic skills at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch, Calif. Photo: Ben Margot, AP

“Vocational education is “making a comeback,” reports AP. However, the goal of new “career pathways” programs isn’t to get students from high school to the workforce. Often the aim is to motivate students “to pursue some post-secondary education — whether it’s a certificate from a two-year school or a four-year degree.”

Educators are afraid that the new career-tech will be a lesser alternative to the college track.

“I think we can identify 9th grade students who have career interests and build a rich, challenging curriculum around those interests,” Kevin Welner, who directs the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said.

“What’s not smart is to identify 9th grade students who are academically struggling and then track them into these separate academic programs that have watered-down expectations and watered-down instruction,” he said.

That concern is the focus of Melinda Anderson’s story on career academies in The Atlantic.

Often a school within a larger school, “career academies generally feature small learning communities, integrate business and industry partnerships, and provide students with a curriculum blending traditional and technical courses,” she writes.

Eighth-grader Keller Wessel works on a project in his Gateway to Technology class at Deer Park Junior/Senior High School in Cincinnati.

Eighth-grader Keller Wessel works on a project in his Gateway to Technology class at Deer Park Junior/Senior High School in Cincinnati.

For “students at highest risk of dropping out, participation in career academies improved attendance and the likelihood of graduating on time,” a 2008 MDRC study found. Several years later, male students had found higher-paying jobs.

However, high schools that serve predominantly white, middle-class students are more likely to offer career pathways that lead to college, she writes.

At Cincinnati’s Deer Park Career Academy, students in grades seven through 12 choose from career pathways that include digital design and civil engineering.

At Atlantic High in Delray Beach, Florida, where a majority of students come from lower-income, non-white families, the career academy is devoted to law enforcement careers.

75% of seniors aren’t ready for college math

Only 25 percent of 12th graders are prepared for college math and 37 for college reading, according to the latest Nation’s Report Card from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Math scores fell over the last two years, while reading scores have been flat since 2009.

Remember that the weakest students have dropped out by 12th grade.

Low performers are doing worse while high achievers are improving, notes Liana Heitin on Ed Week. The percentage of students scoring at the “below basic” level was higher in both reading and math, compared to 2013.

That may be a side-effect of the rising graduation rate, which hit 82 percent in 2014.

Racial/ethnic gaps are huge: 64 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanics score as below basic in math; only 7 percent of blacks and 11 percent of Hispanics score as proficient or better. By contrast, a third of whites and nearly half of Asian-Americans are proficient or better.

Here’s more on the knowledge and skills required to score “basic” or “proficient” on NAEP’s 12th-grade math exam.

In reading, 49 percent of Asians, 46 percent of whites, 25 percent of blacks and 17 percent of black 12th graders are proficient or better.

“College for all” remains the mantra. Nearly two-thirds of high school graduates will enroll in college immediately: 55 percent will complete a degree within six years.

Free speech on campus? Not if it’s ‘unwelcome’

Title IX’s ban on sexual speech harassment trumps the First Amendment on college campuses, according to an April 22 Justice Department letter. “Unwelcome” conduct or speech of a sexual nature is sexual harassment  — and must be investigated — “regardless of whether it causes a hostile environment,” the letter told the University of New Mexico.
“The Department of Justice has put universities in an impossible position: violate the Constitution or risk losing federal funding,” said Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) President Greg Lukianoff.

“An enormous amount of everyday speech” would be sexual harassment under this definition, writes Joseph Cohn on FIRE’s site.

Did you overhear someone retelling an Amy Schumer joke about sex that you found unpleasant? According to the DOJ, that makes them a harasser—even if they only did it once and didn’t do it again after you asked. If that’s harassment, the term is devoid of meaning.

If a professor argues for transgender restroom access, conservative students might complain ze has made unwelcome comments about a sexual issue. Is Camille Paglia a sexual harasser? “Leaving sex to the feminists is like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist” must be unwelcome to somebody.

Much narrower definitions of sexual harassment have been struck down as “unconstitutionally overbroad” in previous cases, writes Hans Bader, a former Office of Civil Rights attorney, on Liberty Unyielding. “Hostile or offensive” speech about sexual issues is protected speech unless it “objectively denies a student equal access to a school’s education resources,” these decisions have found.

Investigations chill free speech, adds Bader.

Northwestern Professor Laura Kipnis suffered through a “Title IX inquisition” last year after writing an essay on “sexual paranoia” that offended some students. She was cleared of all charges — after an ordeal that will discourage others from writing anything the least bit controversial.