Robo-baby moms become real moms

A weekend caring for a computerized baby doll — a popular sex ed technique — doesn’t discourage pregnancy, according to an Australian study published in Lancet. Girls who mothered Baby Think it Over dolls were more likely to become pregnant than sex-ed students who didn’t get the lifelike dolls.

Costing several hundred dollars, the “robo-babies” mimic “six-week-old infant behavior including crying when hungry or needing changing, or gurgling when rocked and burped,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

The simulators track teens’ parenting, “including whether they are left for long periods in a car seat or left without adequate care, or even whether they are handled violently or incorrectly.”

By the age of 20, 17 percent of Australian girls in the Virtual Infant Parenting program had become pregnant compared with 11 percent of the control group.

VIP graduates also were less likely to have abortions than those who hadn’t cared for a robo-baby.

Many girls said caring for the baby dolls was a positive experience, with family members pitching in to help, said Sally Brinkman, of the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia.

I was 13 when my “surprise” (more like shock) brother was born. Naturally, I helped care for him — and not just for a weekend. It sure didn’t make me want to run out and have a baby of my own.

From The Onion‘s American Voices:

  • “Don’t send a thousand-dollar robot to do a bag of flour’s job.”

  •  “Why don’t we just stick to the old-fashioned method of demonizing sexuality altogether?”
  •  “Well, let’s not blame the schools. They’re doing all they can to prevent unwanted pregnancies besides teaching students about contraception and fostering open discussions about safe sex.”

Iowa prof: Herky the Hawk spurs aggression

The University of Iowa’s Herky the Hawk mascot is too angry, “conveying an invitation to aggressivity and even violence,” complains a pediatrics professor.

“I believe incoming students should be met with welcoming, nurturing, calm, accepting and happy messages,” wrote Resmiye Oral in an email to UI athletic department officials and the Faculty Senate.

In a phone interview with the Press-Citizen, Oral said university symbols — Fighting Herky, the “Old School” Flying Herky and the Tigerhawk logo — should show a variety of facial expressions.

Aggression is OK for the football field, but not for posters welcoming new students, she argued.

Angry Herky images on posters “are totally against the nonviolent, all accepting, nondiscriminatory messages we are trying to convey through campus,” she told colleagues.

U-Chicago: No ‘safe spaces’ here

Image result for college free speech safe spaces trigger warnings

Don’t expect “safe spaces” or “trigger warnings” at the University of Chicago, wrote Dean of Students John Ellison in a letter to incoming freshmen. Expect some discomfort.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” wrote Ellison. “Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community.”

“Universities cannot be viewed as a sanctuary for comfort but rather as a crucible for confronting ideas and thereby learning to make informed judgments in complex environments,” wrote University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

It’s inspired praise. “It is a sad commentary on higher education that this is considered a brave and bold move,” writes Mary Katharine Ham on The Federalist.

But there’s plenty of outrage, writes Reason‘s Robby Soave.

The New Republic‘s Jeet Heer called Ellison’s letter a “perverse document” that limits academic freedom by telling professors they can’t issue “trigger warnings,” if they choose.

“The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education confirmed with the university that its statement should not be read as a ban on trigger warnings,” responds Soave.

Professors are free to warn — or not warn.

Slate‘s L.V. Anderson branded (the letter) “very odd,” while suggesting that the university is further marginalizing students who already feel marginalized.

Activist students should want their universities to treat them as thinking adults — rather than Mommy’s Special Snowflake — Soave argues. If the administration has the power to limit unpopular speech, students lose power.

At University of Georgia, Dr. Naomi Graber defines “safe space” as a place where students can voice unpopular views without risking a lower grade — or ridicule. Her syllabus assures students “they will not be penalized for being ‘wrong’ in discussion sections” and asks them to “challenge ideas, not people.”

College hopes for all, but . . .

“As colleges push students to consider their options for higher education, more high-school students are taking the ACT exam,” reports the Wall Street Journal. But most aren’t ready to succeed in college courses.

As 64% take ACT, scores fall

ACT scores are dropping as more students — 64 percent of 12th graders — take the exam. Some states require the ACT, even for students who aren’t planning to enroll in college.

Only 38 percent of test takers tested as college ready in at least three of the four subject areas (English, math, reading and science). Thirty-four percent are not prepared to pass entry-level college courses in any subject, according to ACT.

Image result for 2016 national ACT college benchmarks condition of college readiness 2016

“While 60 percent of Asian American students and 49 percent of white students showed strong readiness for college coursework, meeting three or more of the ACT benchmarks, just 23 percent of Hispanic students and only 11 percent of African American students earned that same level of achievement,” ACT reports.

Most community college students believe — incorrectly — that they’re prepared for college, according to a study by the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) at the University of Texas at Austin.

While 86 percent of new students believe they are academically prepared, 68 percent take at least one remedial class.

Sixty-one percent think they’ll earn a certificate or degree in two years or less. Only 39 percent of first-time, full-time community college students earn a credential in six years, reports the National Student Clearinghouse.

LA schools compete for students

Los Angeles Unified schools are competing for students with charters, reports Anna M. Phillips in the LA Times.

In heavily Hispanic Pacoima, a 90-year-old district elementary school, now known as Haddon Avenue STEAM Academy, is advertising on a billboard and a LA Unified delivery truck.

“With a declining enrollment, you have no choice,” says Principal Richard Ramos, who previously worked at a charter school.

Haddon’s enrollment dipped from 890 K-5 students five years ago to 785 last year, reports Phillips. “It didn’t matter that the principal had expanded the school’s mariachi classes or brought in a decorated speech-and-debate coach if none of the neighborhood’s parents knew about it.”

With the help of $9,000 for a billboard (it also advertises Arleta High) and the truck ad, Haddon is starting the year with 848 students, including 39 transfers from charter schools.

Scores are low at Haddon: Only 18 percent of students are proficient in English, 11 percent in math, according to Great Schools. At nearby Montague Charter Academy and Pacoima Charter Elementary, 22 percent are proficient in English and 20 percent in math. Is that significant? Some parents will think so. Others will prefer mariachi and debate.

The KIPP LA charter network spent $18,000 last year to advertise openings in its 13 charter schools in the area, spokesman Steve Mancini said. “We welcome the competition” from the district.“It’s healthy; it keeps you on your toes. One of the best accountability measures is knowing you have to fill your school every year with students.”

At Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, the largest charter school network in L.A., the recruiting budget for its 28 schools is $13,000 to $15,000, spokeswoman Catherine Suitor said.

It’s good to see district schools figuring out how to appeal to parents, rather than trying to suppress competition, writes Reason‘s Scott Shackford.

John Oliver mocked the idea that competition might motivate schools to improve.

Focusing on mismanaged schools, Oliver’s rant was “clever, glib and uninformed,” responds Nick Gillespie.

He cited education researcher Jay Greene’s analysis of randomized studies comparing lottery winners and losers (kids with equally motivated parents): Urban students “do significantly better in school if they attend a charter school than if they attend a traditional public school,” writes Greene.

A British comedian’s ignorance isn’t worth all the fuss, writes Robert Pondiscio.

EdNext poll: Core support slides

“The demise of school reform has been greatly exaggerated,” concludes Education Next in reporting on its survey of 10-year trends in education opinion.

“Public support remains as high as ever for federally mandated testing, charter schools, tax credits to support private school choice, merit pay for teachers, and teacher tenure reform,” the survey found. “However, backing for the Common Core State Standards and school vouchers fell to new lows in 2016.”

In 2016, 50% of all those taking a side say they support the use of the Common Core standards in their state, down from 58% in 2015 and from 83% in 2013. Republican backing has plummeted from 82% in 2013 to 39% in 2016. The slip among Democrats is from 86% to 60% over this time period. Eighty-seven percent of teachers supported the initiative in 2013, but that fell to 54% in 2014 and to 44% in 2015, stabilizing at that level in 2016.

When “Common Core” is not mentioned, two-thirds back the use of the same standards.

Nearly four out of five respondents, about the same as in 2015, favor the federal requirement that all students be tested in math and reading in each grade from 3rd through 8th and at least once in high school. However, only half of teachers support the testing requirement.

A “federal policy that prevents schools from expelling or suspending black and Hispanic students at higher rates than other students” is very unpopular, backed by only 28 percent of the general public and of teachers.  In 2016, 48 percent of black respondents express support for the idea, down from 65 percent in 2015. Thirty-nine percent of Hispanics express support, showing little change from last year.

Respondents rated local schools more favorably than in the past, but continued to give low marks to schools nationally.

Welcome to the 4th Grade

Dwayne Reed, a new teacher in Chicago, released this music video.

Student loan crisis is oversold

The student loan crisis is media and political hype, argues Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and author of Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York


Courtesy of Federal Reserve Bank of New York

The 23-year-old graduate with heavy debt and a job at Starbucks is “rare,” Baum tells Claudio Sanchez at NPR. Most people who earn bachelor’s degrees will do fine.

But many go to college, borrow and leave with a low-value credential or no degree at all. “They tend to be older. They tend to come from disadvantaged, middle-income families and they’re struggling,” says Baum. But “not because they owe a lot of money.”

Flunking out of college doesn’t raise earnings. Many defaulters didn’t borrow very much, but they can’t handle the payments.

Baum’s book calls “free college” and “debt-free college” proposals “simplistic.”

It’s not realistic to say we’re going to pay people to go to college [for free]. Someone has to pay. We can have everyone pay much higher taxes. But short of that, it’s not clear how we would pay.

. . . Some schools don’t serve students well. Some students aren’t prepared to succeed no matter where they go to college. We just tell everybody: “Go to college. Borrow the money. It will be fine.”

We don’t give people very much advice and guidance about where … when to go to college, how to pay for it, what to study.

There’s plenty to worry about, Baum says.

. . . we should worry about the single mother of two, going back to school in her late 20s to try to get some training to help her get a job and support her children. We need to worry about supporting her and directing her in a way that will allow her to succeed. . . . We should worry a lot less about 18-year-olds going off to college and borrowing $20,000, $25,000, for a bachelor’s degree.

Student loan debt now totals $1.3 trillion. About half of that is held by 25 percent of graduates. Most borrowed for medical, law or business school, which means they’re high earners, says Baum.

What new college students need to know

The 7 things new college students don’t know that drive professors crazy start with “You’re not in charge.” After 12 years as a high school English teacher and four years as a college instructor, Shannon Reed tells parents to prepare their college-bound teens to respect their professors.

“Too many high school students are used to bossing their teachers around, bullying or whining their way to better grades, or keeping up a line of patter that amuses their classmates,” writes Reed. High school teachers may put up with that. College professors will not.

Reed shocked a student on the first day of class by telling him to put away his phone or leave the room.

Are teachers really that easy to push around?

She also warns that your professor is not your administrative assistant.

It is not her job to show you how to see the comments on a document, remind you about a deadline or explain what you missed when you took a class off. Read your syllabus or ask a classmate.

Students persist in confusing Reed with their mother. They expect a white woman in her 40’s to be “nice” or “understanding,” even though she uses a “rather hard-driving teaching persona” and issues “a clear statement on my syllabus that I am not especially nice.” It doesn’t matter. “Every semester, a clueless student will ask me to boost his grade, give her more time on an essay or let him miss an extra class.”

There are more points, but I’ll summarize: Don’t be a spoiled brat.

Profs, are students really that bossy/helpless?