Asking an Asian for math help is racist

Saying that “America is a melting post” or that “everyone can succeed” can be a “racial microaggression” at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, reports Social Memo.

New faculty are expected to read the list of microaggressions.

Urging a Latino or Asian person to “speak up more” makes the list. So does “asking an Asian person to help with a Math or Science problem.”

SF plans computer science for all


Volunteer Aimee Menne helps teach computer science at San Francisco’s Mission High. Photo: Andra Cernavskis

San Francisco’s public schools plan to expose every child to computer science from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, writes Andra Cernavskis on the Hechinger Report. What does that mean? The district is trying to figure that out.

“We are not trying to produce an army of software engineers,” said Bryan Twarek, SFUSD’s computer science coordinator. “We want to open all doors to this industry, and right now those doors aren’t open to everyone.”

In fact, only 10 of San Francisco’s 18 high schools offer any kind of computer science class, with just 5 percent of all high school students enrolled in classes at any level, from introductory to Advanced Placement. Most of the students in that 5 percent are white or Asian males. Of the few hundred students who took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science in 2014, only 22 percent were female, and only 3 percent identified as African American, Latino, or Native American.

For the younger grades, educators want to design a program that isn’t just about bringing gadgets and technology into the classroom, writes Cernavskis. Computer programming is a form of problem solving, said Julie Flapan, the executive director of Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS).

3rd graders spend 75% of day on iPads 

Third-graders follow and annotate a text on climate as their teacher reads it aloud. Later the children will be asked to post photographs related to the topic. Photo: Gail Robinson

Third-graders follow and annotate a text on climate as their teacher reads it aloud. Later the children will be asked to post photographs related to the topic. Photo: Gail Robinson

In Glued to the screen, Hechinger’s Gail Robinson looks at third-graders who spend three-quarters of the day on IPads. The affluent New York suburb of Mineola has supplied tablets to all students.

In Morgan Mercaldi’s class, many students use eSpark, which creates a “playlist” of education apps geared to each student’s needs, reports Robinson. After researching online and in books, students organize a first-person narrative about frogs on their iPads, then write it up on paper. The teacher pairs each student with a partner to revise their writing.

“Working with eSpark, Mineola selected apps, readings and videos” geared to Common Core standards, writes Robinson.

Third-graders began with the variety of apps available on eSpark and then added MobyMax, which provides electronic curricula, mostly for math. Teachers began using Edmodo to allow students to submit their work electronically for quick review.

Mercaldi teaches a short math less on multiplying to determine the area of rectangles. Students use their iPads to answer questions she’s posted on Edmodo. The software makes it easy to see where a student may need extra help.

Later the class will divide into four groups working at different levels.  While one group reads with the teacher, the others will do lessons on eSpark, Edmodo or MobyMax.

Mineola also is working with School4One to “compile digital portfolios that will track student progress in meeting individual Common Core standards.”

In Pixar’s world, Joy needs Sadness

Go see Pixar’s Inside Out, writes Greg Forster. In the movie’s portrayal of a child’s emotions,  “Joy is life. Sadness is wisdom.”

Dan Kois, Slate’s culture editor,  has rethought how he talks to his children about emotions since seeing Inside Out.

“Aren’t you a little bundle of joy?” Riley’s dad asks his infant daughter in her first moments of life. Indeed, for the first years of her life, Riley’s defining characteristic is joyfulness, as depicted in the movie by Joy (Amy Poehler)—the wide-eyed, blue-haired chief of headquarters, where the five anthropomorphized emotions work together to manage Riley’s feelings from minute to minute. The other emotions, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness (Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, and Phyllis Smith), look to Joy for leadership, because there’s no situation so scary or upsetting that Joy can’t find a way to turn it around and find the happy.

But Sadness has a critical role to play. Relentless positivity isn’t everything, writes Kois.

In the U.S. children are expected to be happy, says Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner,who consulted on the film. “That makes it harder to grapple with sadness.”

The movie’s view of childhood is narrow and trivialized, writes Richard Brody in The New Yorker.  He wants more going on in Riley’s head. Where’s her Bullshit Detector? he asks.

Unwed birth rate is down slightly

Share of Births to Unmarried Women Down for First Time Since 1995Births to unmarried mothers declined slightly in 2013 from 41 percent to 40 percent, according to National Center for Health Statistics data, reports Pew. Unwed births declined for all racial groups and for Latinos.

However, the share of children born to unmarried mothers has more than doubled since 1980, when 18 percent of babies were born out of wedlock.

Births to younger women are down and births to older women are up. Most young mothers are unwed. By the late 20s, the majority of new mothers are married.

Women are staying in school longer to gain more education, notes Pew. Forty-three percent of births are to women 30 and older, up from 36 percent in 2000.

Meanwhile, the teen birth rate has declined sharply.

Overall, the U.S. birth rate rose in 2014 for the first time in seven years.

California moves toward vaccine mandate

Rhett Krawitt, 7, who could not be vaccinated while he was being treated for leukemia, speaks to lawmakers in April in support of a bill requiring more children to be vaccinated. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Rhett Krawitt, 7, who could not be vaccinated while he was being treated for leukemia, speaks to lawmakers in April. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California’s legislature has passed a bill requiring parents to immunize their children before entering child care or school. The new vaccination mandate removes exemptions for religious or personal beliefs, retaining only medical exemptions confirmed by a physician.

Parents could decline to vaccinate children educated at home, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Mandatory vaccination violates parental rights, said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Glendale Democrat. “The broadness of this bill likely dooms it from a constitutional standpoint,” he said, accusing the state of “infringing on the rights of children to attend school.”

If Gov. Jerry Brown signs it — it’s likely but not certain — it will be challenged in court.

Pssst! Want some salt, kid?


“Healthy” cafeteria food is so bland that students are “bringing – and even selling – salt, pepper, and sugar” to make cafeteria food palatable, said John S. Payne, president of Blackford County School Board in Hartford City, Indiana, to a Senate subcommittee.

“Students are avoiding cafeteria food,” Payne said. “More students bring their lunch, and a few parents even ‘check out’ their child from campus, taking them to a local fast-food restaurant or home for lunch.”

Payne also said school fundraisers like bake sales, have been canceled due to the rules, and “whole-grain items and most of the broccoli end up in the trash” in his district.

Fewer children are eating school breakfasts and lunches, said Dr. Lynn Harvey, North Carolina’s chief of school nutrition services. “When it comes to whole grain-rich variations of biscuits, grits, crackers and cornbread, all too often, students simply toss them into the trash cans,” she said. New rules mean biscuits and muffins are “dense, compact, dry, and crumbly instead of light, moist, tender, and flaky.”

Can this school be saved?

Instead of closing low-performing schools, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Renewal” program offers help meeting students’ academic, health and social needs, reports Patrick Wall on Chalkbeat. Brooklyn Generation School — and 93 other struggling schools — have until 2017 to show improvement.

Twins Elodie and Ismaelle Oriental study after school at Brooklyn Generation School.

Elodie and Ismaelle Oriental, 15-year-old twins, earn straight A’s at Brooklyn Generation School. But will they be prepared to achieve their college dreams? Photo: Stephanie Snyder.

BGS is one of six small schools in a building once occupied by South Shore High, which was closed for low performance in 2006. The small school’s graduation rate is only 50 percent, well below the city average.

 In early February, Andrew Annunziata spent part of his morning at a weekly “kid talk” meeting, where 10th-grade teachers and a school social worker discussed a boy who was asking teachers for money, a girl battling arthritis and a truant boy whose foster mother wasn’t returning the school’s calls.

Renewal uses the “community school” approach, putting medical and social services into schools.

Only 11 of 20 students showed up to Annunziata’s social studies class, reports Wall.  “A few who did rested their heads on their desks” as he tried to explain the causes of World War I.

He compared the shootings of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the rapper Notorious B.I.G., and the Allied and Central forces to the Giants and the Patriots. He also had the teenagers complete a fill-in-the-blank worksheet that didn’t require much writing or critical thinking, asking questions like “Germany wanted to build up her empire. This is known as ___.”

Most students are way behind academically; some read at the elementary level. Renewal promises teachers training and coaching, but it hasn’t materialized yet, reports Wall.

Teachers are trying to encourage more “higher-order thinking” in class. However, in the weeks before the “quality review” team’s visit, teachers “spent hours assembling review binders with lesson plans and student work,” he writes. Some came to school on spring break to “make sure their classroom bulletin boards met the administration’s standards.”

Study: Too few minorities get special ed help

Nineteen percent of special education student are black, even though blacks make up only 14 percent of enrollment. Yet, blacks and Latinos are under-represented in special education, argues a federally funded study published in the Educational Researcher

Minority students are missing out on special services because they’re much less likely to be identified as disabled, according to Penn State researcher Paul Morgan and colleagues.

“Minority children are much more likely to be exposed to risk factors themselves that increase the likelihood of having a disability,” Morgan said in a video. “Exposure to lead, low birth weight [and] other risk factors for disability have often not been accounted for in the analyses when investigating minority disproportionate representation.”

Federal policy is based on the premise that too many low-income, black and Latino students are diagnosed with disabilities, notes U.S. News. “Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states are required to use federal funding to intervene with students sooner in hopes of reducing the proportion of minority students in special education.”

In fact, compared with otherwise similar white children, African-American children were 77 percent less likely to be identified as having health impairments, 63 percent less likely to be identified as having speech or language impairments and 58 percent less likely to be identified as having learning disabilities, the researchers found.

Hispanic children were more likely than African-American children to be identified as having a disability, but were still significantly less likely – by as much as 73 percent in some cases – to be identified with one than white children.

The key word is “similar.”

Morgan assumes that special education leads to helpful services, rather than lower expectations. Is that usually true?

Update: Federal special education officials and civil rights advocates are questioning the study’s methodology, reports Ed Week.

Shakespeare in court

Why read Shakespeare? Familiarity with the Bard will help understand Supreme Court opinions, writes Sasha Volokh.

Justice Scalia writes in various places in his King v. Burwell dissent:

Understatement, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act! . . .

Impossible possibility, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act! . . .

Contrivance, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act!

Scalia’s dissent in Johnson v. Transportation Agency (1987) cites Henry IV:

GLENDOWER: I can call Spirits from the vasty Deep.

HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man. But will they come when you do call for them?

I discovered this exchange when I was a kid watching The Hollow Crown,  a BBC series of Shakespeare’s historical plays. I’ve always loved it. (The BBC has released a new version of The Hollow Crown.)

Scalia isn’t the only Shakespeare-quoting justice, notes Volokh. In Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002), a child pornography case, Justice Kennedy cites the teen-age lovers in Romeo and Juliet.