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.
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 violence, dilapidated 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.
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.
At KIPP charter schools, students are encouraged to develop “grit.”
“Grit” is racist, according to some progressive educators, reports Ed Week. EduCon 2.7, a conference for “progressive” educators interested in digital learning, included a discussion titled “Grit, Galton, Eugenics, Racism, Calvinism.”
“We keep [hearing] this narrative that the only way children in poverty are going to succeed is by working harder than their peers who are middle class,” said Pamela Moran, the superintendent of the 13,000-student Albemarle County public schools, in Virginia.
To avoid the “terribly racist” consequences of “the grit narrative,” schools and districts should create abundant supports for disadvantaged students, said Ira Socol, Moran’s assistant director for educational technology and innovation, who co-led the discussion.
For example, Albemarle County schools provide a computer for each student with apps and digital tools such as “text-to-speech and voice-dictation software to help struggling students with reading and writing assignments,” reports Ed Week.
Instead of “no excuses,” students are given “flexibility and forgiveness. . . . when it comes to things like homework and class attendance.”
“The attitude is that if a child feels [he or she] can’t be in class, it’s probably for a reason, and we can help them, rather than say, ‘The kid has to be miserable and get through it,'” Socol said. “Wealthy people take ‘mental-health days’ all the time.”
Enabling disadvantaged students to get through school without learning reading, writing or a work ethic strikes me as pretty darned racist. There’s a phrase for that: “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
Angela Duckworth’s research shows that certain traits — persistence in pursuit of goals, resilience in the face of obstacles — raise students’ odds of school and college success. Grit may be more important for kids who face more obstacles, but Duckworth never suggested it’s only for the poor– or that it’s the only thing they need.
The idea that “grit” is “racist” is “the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” writes Harry Wong in comments. “Hard work” works, he writes. It always has.
Immigrant families who come to America, from Haiti, Bosnia, and Ethiopia . . . come steeped in the importance of family, respect for others, and the value of hard work. Their accomplishments make our schools look good. They understand that there are no short cuts to success. They come from cultures that stretch back for centuries that value ambition, dedication, diligence, commitment, integrity, determination, fortitude, constancy, responsibility, steadfastness, drive, and perseverance.
I think he’s the Harry Wong.
With GED pass rates down by 85 percent, states are turning to alternative tests, reports Anya Kamenetz on NPR.
— In 2012, a total of 401,388 people passed the GED test.
— In 2013, people rushed to take the old test in its final year, creating a bump: A total of 540,535 people passed.
— How many earned a GED credential in 2014? In the general population: 58,524.
The new GED is aligned to Common Core standards, which measure college readiness. It’s much harder — and more expensive — and must be taken on a computer.
“Teachers are telling us that the new test is virtually impossible for students to pass,” says David Spring, who with his wife, Elizabeth Hanson, runs the website Restore GED Fairness.
However, in 34 states, passing the GED is the only route to a high school equivalency credential.
Previously, GED aspirants could pass part of the test, then retake the sections they’d failed. Now they have to pass all of it at the same time or start over from scratch.
People may be scared off by the harder test, said Diane Renaud, who runs the St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center in Detroit. “The vast majority of the people taking the GED are not likely to be college-bound,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “However, to get a job, where you’re able to earn a minimum livable wage, you have to have a GED.”
CT Turner, spokesman for the GED Testing Service, said there are few jobs for people with just a GED or high school diploma. Available jobs require additional job training or education, said Turner.
“Inequality and a lack of good jobs” killed Kevin Green at 54, writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. They went to high school together in rural Oregon, running on the cross country team and joining Future Farmers of America.
Kevin grew up on a small farm. His father had a good union job as a cement finisher, though he had only a third-grade education and couldn’t read.
The son earned his high school diploma, but union jobs were hard to find. He took lower-paying construction jobs. He fathered twin boys, but “because he and his girlfriend struggled financially, they never married.”
At about 40, Kevin hurt his back and lost his job. His girlfriend moved out, taking the boys.
Kevin’s weight ballooned to 350 pounds, and he developed diabetes and had a couple of heart attacks. He grew marijuana and self-medicated with it, (brother) Clayton says, and was arrested for drug offenses.
Kevin eventually got disability benefits, but he was far behind in child support and was punished by losing his driver’s license — which made it pretty much impossible to get a job in a rural area. Disability helped Kevin by providing a monthly check that he desperately needed, but it also hurt him because he might have looked harder for a job if he hadn’t been getting those checks, Clayton says.
After child support deductions, Kevin lived on “about $180 a month plus food stamps and a small income from selling home-grown pot,” writes Kristof. He grew vegetables and fished in the river.
His twin boys “had trouble in school and with the law, jailed for drug and other offenses.”
Kevin died of multiple organ failure.
Trying to make a living with a high school education is harder than ever before. Scraping by on disability, food stamps and off-the-books work is increasingly common. But there will be no return to the days of high-paying jobs for uneducated workers. Who does cement finishing in Oregon these days? Mexican immigrants, I’d guess.
Some 93 million Americans 16 and older are out of the workforce — not employed and not looking, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force participation rate is 62.7 percent.
College students nearing graduation think they’ll be ready for the workforce, but employers aren’t so sure, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
A report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows the discrepancy between students’ and employers’ views.
Four-year graduates’ wage advantage over high school-only workers hasn’t changed much since 2000, writes Rob Valletta for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Economic Letter. Increasingly, the “labor market favors workers with a graduate degree.”
Is that mindless credentialism — or too many four-year grads with weak skills?
Wage gaps compared with high school graduates
Julius Caesar’s assassination was “mean,” said one of Bridgit McCarthy’s third graders.
But students remembered last week’s lesson. “Well, it did kinda seem like he wanted to be a king—and the Romans said no way to kings.”
McCarthy teaches at New Dimensions, a public charter school in North Carolina that uses the Core Knowledge curriculum. Students learn about world civilizations such as Mesopotamia and Egypt in first grade, ancient Greece in second grade and ancient Rome in third. They enjoy it, she says.
A student was playing a dune-buggy race car computer game in my room during indoor recess. I scoffed at its total lack of educational value. He pouted at me a bit and said, “Dang, that’s what my mom said last night! Et tu, Mrs. McCarthy?”
Children can learn a great deal in the early grades if teachers use “a really rich, cumulative curriculum in which the topics build off of each other,” concludes McCarthy on Core Knowledge Blog.
Literature can teach “wisdom,” writes Michael Godsey, an Advanced Placement English teacher, in The Atlantic. But Common Core standards favor “objective analysis” and information extraction.
The Common Core promotes 10 so-called “College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards” for reading that emphasize technical skills like analyzing, integrating, and delineating a text
College readiness is not the same as life readiness, Godsey argues.
. . . I’m making plans to teach the students how to “evaluate the sufficiency of the evidence” instead of asking them, “Who here sympathizes with Hamlet, or Ophelia, or any character, and how so?”
A consultant told Godsey to “ditch literature” since “literary fiction is not critical to college success.”
Achieve the Core, for example, an organization founded by the lead writers of the standards, explicitly encourages schools to teach students to “extract” information so they can “note and assess patterns of writing” without relying on “any particular background information” or “students having other experiences or knowledge.”
“None of the state assessments has a single question about the content of any classic literature,” he writes. It’s all about reading skills. There goes the “secular wisdom” of American culture.