Armed teachers

Schools in Argyle, Texas have armed teachers and other staffers to protect campuses from intruders.

A Texas school district has posted signs warning possible evil-doers that their staff is armed and "may use whatever force is necessary" to protect students. (Image source: Screen grab KDAF-TV)

Don’t Nerf me, bro!

Scott and Ramsey McDonald with the fourth grader's Nerf gun.

Scott and Ramsey McDonald with the fourth grader’s toy.

Fourth-grader Ramsey McDonald was told to bring a favorite toy to his Houston school to share with the class. He brought a blue, orange and green Nerf gun.

He received a three-day in-school suspension for bringing “something that looked like a weapon,” a school official told Ramsey’s father, Scott McDonald.

Houston School Supt. Mark Scott said school officials realized the Nerf gun wasn’t dangerous. “We never viewed that as a weapon.”

At least, they didn’t call the cops.

Big Nanny explains how to roast marshmallows

How Does Your Marshmallow Roast? asks the U.S. Forest Service. The advisory tells parents to keep children 10 feet from the fire and “use a roasting stick of at least 30 inches in length.”

That would prevent the marshmallow from getting overcooked — or cooked at all.

Yet the illustrative photo shows two girls holding short sticks and standing very near the fire.

Madelyn Morrissey (left) and Katie Roth roast marshmallows near the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest. (Courtesy Adrian Roth)

Madelyn Morrissey (left) and Katie Roth roast marshmallows near the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest. (Courtesy Adrian Roth)

After providing the traditional recipe for s’mores,  the feds urge readers to “grill thin slices of pineapple and substitute chocolate for the sweet, warm fruit.” (Perhaps the writer means: Grill pineapple, throw it away and stick with the chocolate.)

Don’t use too much marshmallow, the advisory goes on, and try “slices of angel food cake instead of graham crackers” to cut more calories.

What’s the point of low-calorie s’mores?

Or the kiddies might enjoy not roasting marshmallows.

 Grab a small bag of chocolate or peanut butter chips – or a combination of the two. Take a banana and slice one side open, exposing the fruit but leaving the peel intact. Slice the banana, add a few chocolate chips then top with tiny marshmallows. Or substitute the chips for blueberries from the local farmer’s market. (Again: Throw away the blueberries and stick with chocolate chips.) Place the banana in aluminum foil and wrap tightly. Place the foil-wrapped fruit next to but not on the flames. Wait five to 10 minutes or enough time for the chips and marshmallows to melt. Open and enjoy with a spoon.

Another way to limit the amount of marshmallows used is to substitute them with marshmallow crème, a spreadable version of marshmallows that helps you more easily regulate portion. (“Substitute with”? No.) For healthier treats, use large strawberries, apple slices, banana chucks, pineapple or other fruit. Put a piece of fruit on a roasting stick, dip quickly in the crème and roast over indirect heat until a delicious golden brown. You’re still having campfire fun, but the focus is on a healthier evening snack.

The Blaze mocks the nearly 700-word article on how to do — or not do — something Americans have successfully done for close to 100 years.

A commenter nails it: “S’more-ons.”

Poverty casts a long shadow

Poor kids usually grow up to be poor adults, concludes The Long Shadow. Johns Hopkins researchers followed 790 Baltimore first-graders until their late twenties. Nearly half had the same income status as their parents; only a third of the poorest moved out of poverty.

Four percent of those from low-income families had a college degree at 28, compared to 45 percent of their higher-income peers.

Baltimore’s low-income blacks do worse than low-income whites, writes Michelle Gininger.

Forty percent of blacks who dropped out of high school were now working, compared to 89 percent of white high school dropouts, the study found.

Black and white women both earned less than their male counterparts, but white women tended to be better off financially with the benefit of marriage or a live-in partner. Black women earned less than white women and were less likely to be in stable relationships.

Growing up poor affects adults’ sense of control, concludes a new study. Even those who’ve reached the middle class may be more likely to make impulsive decisions and “quickly give up on challenging tasks in uncertain situations,” according to lead author Chiraag Mittal, MS, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota.

Showing participants a photo or news story about economic uncertainty decreased persistence for those who’d grown up poor. So did asking them to recall feeling uncertain about their own finances.

Participants were more likely to persist — even if they’d grown up poor –when asked to recall a time when they were in control of a situation.

“Persistence is directly tied to myriad important outcomes, including self-control, academic achievement, substance abuse, criminal behavior, healthy eating and overspending,” said study co-author Vladas Griskevicius, PhD, also of the University of Minnesota.

However, persistence at an impossible task isn’t necessarily a good thing, the researchers concede. “Time and energy are limited resources, and sometimes it is adaptive to stop expending effort on an endeavor one cannot control in order to pursue more promising opportunities.”

Too many non-teachers?

Thirty-one percent of school employees implies are support staffers — clerks, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, security guards — and another 12 percent are aides, reports Fordham’s The Hidden Half.

Their salaries and benefits absorb one quarter of school expenditures.

Is it worth it?

Teacher/author suspended for fictional violence

A Maryland middle school teacher was placed on leave — and taken by police for an “emergency”  psychiatric evaluation — because he wrote two novels set 900 years in the future about school massacres.

A police search for guns and bombs found nothing. (Not even a slice of pizza chewed into the shape of a gun?!) But police will guard the middle school until the nonexistent danger is past.

Patrick McLaw self-published The Insurrectionist and its sequel, Lillith’s Heir, under a pen name.

The 23-year-old eighth-grade English teacher was nominated for teacher of the year honors after his first year at Mace’s Lane Middle School. He made national news for helping a 14-year-old student self-publish his own e-book.

Assuming McLaw wrote his own Amazon copy, his novels sound dreadful:

 “On 18 March 2902, a massacre transpired on the campus of Ocean Park High School, claiming the lives of nine hundred forty-seven individuals–the largest school massacre in the nation’s history. And the entire country now begins to ask two daunting questions: How? and Why? After the federal government becomes involved, and after examining the bouquet of black roses that lies in front of the school’s sign, it becomes evident that the hysteria is far from over.”

Neither is the hysteria transpiring in 2014.

Tennessee seeks college ‘stickiness’

In hopes of lowering high college dropout rates, Tennessee now links some college funding to graduation rates. State universities are trying to improve student “stickiness,” reports PBS NewsHour.

Judge confirms Vergara ruling

The judge in Vergara vs. California has finalized his June ruling that state laws on teacher employment — including seniority-based layoffs and tenure — deny disadvantaged students access to a quality public education.

In his final ruling, filed yesterday, Judge Rolf Treu, said, “plaintiffs have met their burden of proof on all issues presented.”

The state and its two largest teachers unions have 60 days to appeal. The unions will file, but the state of California may not.

California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't taken a stand yet on the Vergara ruling overthrowing teacher protection laws.

California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t taken a stand yet on the Vergara ruling overthrowing teacher protection laws.

California Democrats have avoided comment while awaiting Treu’s final decision, writes Chris Reed on Fox & Hounds.

Gov. Jerry Brown is cruising to re-election against a little-known opponent. He could go for a place in history by admitting that “teachers unions are bad for minorities,” writes Reed.

State Superintendent Tom Torklakson — a named defendant in the suit — is facing a tough fight against reformer Marshall Tuck, who’s been endorsed by all the major newspapers in the state.  Tuck has called on Torlakson not to appeal the ruling.

Torlakson will stick with his “greatest patron during his political rise — the California Teachers Association,” predicts Reed.

Helping can hurt

As a CityYear corps member, Amanda Dixon tutored and mentored struggling students, she writes on Chalkbeat. She learned there’s such a thing as too much support.

When Paul was reading, I asked additional questions to make sure he understood the text. When he was writing an essay, I broke down the process into manageable chunks and helped him find evidence that supported his argument.

Under my careful watch, Paul participated in class and completed most of his classwork.

But when he needed to complete an essay at home, he fell apart.

Some students specialize in getting “supporters” to “mask a lack of work and skills,” writes a commenter. But she wonders if “struggling” is the right word for Paul.  “Do you see these students really struggle? Doesn’t it seem like that’s often a polite/false way of describing them?”

Perhaps “leaning” is more accurate than “struggling.”

Helping can hurt, writes David Ginsburg. Students will require self-reliance in college and in the workplace.

He set out to teach students the link between “resourcefulness and success.”

This meant providing students access to various resources (notes, textbooks, technology, each other, etc.) and, if necessary, teaching them the skills they needed to use those resources (including alphabetizing).

But it also meant refusing to help students until and unless they had in fact used those resources. When, for example, students called me over for help, whereas I previously would have immediately obliged, I now asked, “Where are your notes?” And if they didn’t have notes, there was something else they didn’t have: my help.

He told students: “I don’t want to deny you the satisfaction you’ll feel when you figure it out yourself.”

America’s top high schools

The Preuss School, a charter affiliated with University of California at San Diego, topped the list of change-maker high schools.

The Preuss School, a charter affiliated with University of California at San Diego, topped the changemaker schools list.

The Daily Beast has ranked America’s top public high schools by rigor, graduation rates, college-going, etc.

Charter schools do very well, followed by high schools with selective admissions.

The most interesting ranking is 25 High Schools Doing the Most with the Least. Charter schools also dominate the “changemaker” list along with magnet and selective schools.