Core support erodes, right and left

Common Core support is eroding on the left and the right, according to two new polls, writes Rick Hess in National Review.

Depending on how the questions are phrased, “it’s possible to argue that the public supports the Common Core by more than two to one or that it opposes it by more than two to one,” he writes.

“Support on the right melted away between 2012 and 2015, but Democratic support has also steadily softened,” writes Hess. In that period, “the share of Democrats opposed to the Common Core has increased about fivefold — from 5 percent to 25 percent.”

“New York was one of the first major states to implement Common Core state standards,” writes Casey Quinlan on ThinkProgress. Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who backed linking test scores to teacher evaluations, has launched a task force to review and revise the standards.

Statewide, 49 percent of New Yorkers do not support the standards, with more downstate suburban voters and Upstate New Yorkers opposing them, according to a Siena Rsearch Institute Survey.

. . . (Cuomo) “refuses to admit he was wrong to demand test-based teacher evaluations during this sensitive time. He is unwilling to level with parents about the need for higher standards and more honest assessments,” Michael J. Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio wrote in Newsday.

Core-aligned test scores are very low, especially for disadvantaged students. “A growing number of states across the country are walking back their commitments to the tests and even to the standards themselves,” reports U.S. News.

If unions lose agency fees, what next?

Teachers’ unions could lose money, members and political clout, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against “agency fees,” writes Michael Antonucci in Education Next.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association challenges the California law requiring teachers who haven’t joined the union to pay fees meant to cover collective bargaining, but not political activity.

Friedrichs plaintiffs assert that the agency-fee system infringes their rights to free speech and free association, he writes. “They maintain that collective bargaining in the public sector is itself inherently political.”

Wisconsin eliminated agency fees (and weakened unions’ bargaining power) in 2011, notes Antonucci. Union member has fallen by more than half.

Minnesota is an agency-fee state with about 111,000 K-12 employees, of which about 75,000 are teachers union members. Arizona, with no agency-fee law, has about 103,000 K-12 employees and only 16,000 teachers union members.

“In 2014, NEA membership in agency fee states grew by 5,300. In states without agency fees, it fell by more than 47,000.”

A typical California teacher pays $1,000 in dues asa union member, $650 in fees as a non-member. If non-members saved $1,000 a year, membership could go down sharply, Antonucci suggests.

The American Federation of Teachers pays heavily to play politics, reports RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation.

According to its 2014-2015 financial disclosure, the “second-largest teachers’ union spent $42 million on political lobbying activities and contributions,” a 45 percent increase over influence-spending levels in 2013-2014.

AFT gave $250,000 to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and another $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative, “the other non-explicitly political wing of the Clinton family’s always-political efforts,” writes Biddle. The union has endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

Sombreros are prohibido

Sombreros are prohibido at Britain’s University of East Anglia reports The Tab, a student newspaper.

Pedro’s Cantina, a Tex-Mex restaurant near campus, handed out free sombreros at a fair for new students — until they were ordered to stop.tumblr_inline_nvdoaf4GSG1tv19na_500

To ensure that everyone feels “safe and accepted, . . . we try to ensure that there is no behaviour, language or imagery which could be considered racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or ableist,” said Chris Jarvis, a Student Union official.

“Who is going to get offended?” asked a first-year student. “Speedy Gonzales?”

You’re insensitive, you racist!

Three contributors to the Claremont Independent, a conservative campus newspaper and website, posted photos of themselves in tank tops that said “Claremont Independent: Always Right.”

Called “racist, sexist, classist” “ignorant,” “white supremacists,” etc. on social media, they also were attacked for “insensitivity” and making students “emotionally ill,” reports The College Fix, which captured screenshots.

The Independent is a monthly student publication at Claremont Colleges, a consortium of five private undergraduate liberal arts colleges in Southern California.

“Honestly I wish I could shut them down but they would be so quick to spit their ‘constitutional rights,’ rights that only work for some,” one student stated.

Claremont Independent editor Hannah Oh asked critics to “engage with us and offer constructive criticism.” Contributors include moderates, libertarians and classical liberals, she wrote.

What if she’d said being called a racist, sexist, white supremacist had made her emotionally ill? Surely, the insults qualified as a “micro” — or perhaps even a “macro” — aggression.

“I think that it is ridiculous to have a shirt that says ‘Always Right’ when many people don’t agree with the views published in your publication,” a student responded.

In another exchange, editor Steven Glick posted a picture of himself wearing the tank top with the caption “150 years ago, the Republican Party abolished sleevery. We continue to support the right to bare arms. Pick up your Claremont Independent tank top and exercise your freedom today!”

“The play on words prompted one student to suggest the post was ‘extremely offensive and violent’ and ‘trivialized slavery’,” reports The College Fix.

Fragile students, nervous professors

Declining student resilience is a serious and growing problem on campus, writes Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College, in Psychology Today.

Last year, he was invited to meetings at a major university to discuss the problem. Emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled in five years, he learned. “Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life.”

Professors are afraid of sobbing students in their office if they give C’s, and sometimes B’s. Many students see a poor grade as a world-ending failure, they reported.

They “see a poor grade as reason to complain — the professor didn’t explain clearly enough or give sufficiently explicit instructions — rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively,” faculty members said.

Much of the discussions had to do with the amount of handholding faculty should do versus the degree to which the response should be something like, “Buck up, this is college.”

Colleges across the country are reporting “a decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life,” write the university’s head of Counseling in a recent email. He summarized:

Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.

. . . Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things.

College mental health centers are overwhelmed by anxious, depressed students, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education in An Epidemic of Anguish.

“We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems,” writes Gray. “They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention.”

Overcontrolling, overprotective parents raise emotionally fragile children, writes Diane Dreher.

From HUMAN, here’s the story of two survivors.

Tag, you’re OK

Tag is back at school playgrounds on Mercer Island, near Seattle, reports the Seattle Times.

The district had banned tag — and any game involving touching — to protect students’ “physical and emotional safety.” In the past, tag has led to name-calling and minor injuries, district officials said.

Parent protests — and national mockery — forced the reversal.Tag-is-Back-on-Mercer-Island-School-Playgrounds-after-Attempted-Ban

Superintendent Gary Plano initially said schools would develop new “tag-like running games” with no contact. Now, children will be allowed to play tag at recess.

Some schools nationwide have banned contact games in the name of safety, said Jonathan Blasher, executive director of the nonprofit Playworks. Some don’t allow children to throw balls or use other playground equipment.

In 2006, some Spokane elementary schools prohibited tag because of safety concerns, he said.

“I think a game like tag is wonderful,” Blasher said. “You can play it almost anywhere, it’s universal. It’s important for kids to have that free-range play, where adults aren’t micromanaging, but there is the need for assurance that the kids have a basic understanding what the expectations are.”

Kelsey Joyce, a parent and tag defender, said her son and his friends play “four different types of tag,” reports the Seattle Times. That includes a version involving a “red-hot lava monster.”

Pass the test, earn a future

Tested follows eighth-graders prepping for the exam that determines who gets a seat at New York City’s most elite public high schools. Asian-Americans make up 73 percent of enrollment at the city’s elite schools, blacks and Latinos only 5 percent.

A+ Asians: Are they diverse?

Students on the Berkeley campus. Photo: Eric Risberg, AP.

University of California schools rank high for educating diverse, first-generation students, writes Alia Wong in The Atlantic. Banned from considering race or ethnicity, UC has kept tuition low, enrolled community college transfers and targeted recruitment at lower-income and first-generation students, she writes. “Latinos are now the fastest growing and second-largest ethnic group admitted to the UC system, making up close to three in 10 of last year’s freshmen class.”

But focusing on economic diversity lets UC win points while admitting many Asian-Americans, complains Wong.

The highly selective UC campuses are known, sometimes bitterly, to serve especially disproportionate numbers of Asian students; Asians famously make up half of the undergraduates at UC Irvine, for example . . .

California has taken in many Vietnamese refugees and low-income Chinese immigrants. They speak English as a second language, go to public schools in their working-class neighborhoods — and often qualify for state universities.

Other high scorers are the children of Indian and Chinese engineers, who aced tests in their home countries. (Check out the winners in Google’s Science Fair. Six of eight have Indian names.)

Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai invented a way to use corn cobs to filter water.

Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai, 13, invented a way to use corn cobs to clean pollutants from waste water.

Not all Asian-Americans — or those grouped with them in diversity data — excel in school, reports the Campaign for College Opportunity in a new report on the “model minority stereotype.”

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have much lower success rates than students of Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese ancestry. Southeast Asians from Laotian, Hmong and Cambodian families also tend to struggle in school.

There’s lots of individual variation in any group. Look at Cuban-Americans vs. Puerto Ricans or black immigrants from the West Indies vs. American-born blacks. We could be more precise about divvying people into racial/ethnic/cultural groups. I think it makes more sense to focus on socioeconomic disadvantage.

My niece is an 11th grader starting to look at colleges. Should she declare her 1/4 Mexican heritage on applications? It has no bearing on who she is as a student or as a person. If asked, my advice would be: Don’t.

Princeton’s discrimination against Asian-American applicants is OK with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, writes John Rosenberg on Minding the Campus. He analyzes a 20-page September 9 letter to Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber.

Effort isn’t enough: Kids have to learn

Psychologist Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” theory — students work harder and learn more if they believe they can “grow their brains” — is red-hot in the education world.

Everyone says they believe in the growth mindset, even when they don’t really, Dweck writes in Education Week. A “growth mindset isn’t just about effort.” It’s about learning and improving.

The student who didn’t learn anything is told, “Great effort! You tried your best!”

Instead, a teacher might say, “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.”

Dweck has a fear that keeps her up at night, she writes.

. . . that the mindset concepts, which grew up to counter the failed self-esteem movement, will be used to perpetuate that movement. In other words, if you want to make students feel good, even if they’re not learning, just praise their effort! Want to hide learning gaps from them? Just tell them, “Everyone is smart!”

She calls for “telling the truth about a student’s current achievement and then, together, doing something about it, helping him or her become smarter.”

Tag is unsafe, school tells kids

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Pieter Bruegel painted Children’s Games in 1560

Children have played tag for centuries, writes Lenore Skenazy on Reason‘s Hit & Run. It’s never been considered a dangerous game.

Tag — and other games in which children do not “keep their hands to themselves” —  have been banned by the Mercer Island School District near Seattle. The ban will protect the “physical and emotional safety” of students, wrote Mary Grady, the district’s communications director, in an email note to Q13Fox TV

I guess holding hands for Ring Around the Rosy also is verboten under the touching-is-dangerous rule.

Children have been playing tag since the time of Breugel — and possibly since the dawn of time — Skenazy writes. But today’s kids are too fragile?

Melissa Neher, the mother of two schoolchildren, started a Facebook campaign to alert parents to the ban.

“Kids should be free to have spontaneous play on the playground at recess,” she told Fox TV.  “I played tag” as a child. “I survived.”

Another mother brags she survived Red Rover. That was one of my favorites.