ADHD diagnoses surge overseas

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses are surging overseas, as well as in the U.S. Children may be taking powerful drugs needlessly, warn researchers in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

In Australia, prescriptions for the stimulant Ritalin and other ADHD drugs rose by 72 percent between 2000 and 2011, while in Britain and the Netherlands prescriptions roughly doubled between 2003 and 2008, said the paper.

According to the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in 11 American children aged 13-18 and one in 25 adults are affected by ADHD.

Ritalin and other drugs are appropriate only for “severe” ADHD symptoms, which occur among about 14 percent of children with the condition, the study noted. Yet 87 percent of U.S. children diagnosed with ADHD in 2010 received medications.

America’s states — more or less

From Tumblir, here’s an Australian’s attempt to label the 50 states.

Australia: Teachers don’t have to be smart

Teachers don’t have to be smart as long as they’re enthusiastic, says Australian School Education Minister Peter Garrett.

“It is not necessarily a fact that someone who is academically smart makes a better teacher than someone who isn’t,” Mr Garrett told reporters in Canberra.

“I don’t think education should necessarily be the province of the particularly smart or gifted.”

New South Wales plans to raise professional standards and make it easier to fire underperforming teachers. NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said university entrance scores for people studying teaching were sometimes too low. He wants teacher training schools to “limit training places as a way of combating the national oversupply of new teachers due partly to the federal government’s decision to deregulate university places.”

Via PJ Tatler.

The death of vocational ed — and the middle class

The death of vocational education is hastening the demise of the middle class, argues Marc Tucker in Ed Week.

Years ago, almost all the larger cities had selective vocational high schools whose graduates were virtually assured good jobs, Tucker writes. Employers made sure these schools had “competent instructors and up-to-date equipment,” so graduates would meet job requirements.

That ended when vocational education became just another class, often crowded out by academic requirements, Tucker writes.

I will never forget an interview I did a few years ago with a wonderful man who had been teaching vocational education for decades in his middle class community.  With tears in his eyes, he described how, when he began, he had, with great pride prepared young men (that’s how it was) for well-paying careers in the skilled trades.  Now, he told me, “That’s all over.  Now I get the kids who the teachers of academic courses don’t want to deal with.  I am expected to use my shop to motivate those kids to learn what they can of basic skills.”  He was, in high school, trying to interest these young people, who were full of the despair and anger that comes of knowing that everyone else had given up on them, to learn enough arithmetic to measure the length of a board.  He knew that was an important thing to do, but he also knew that it was a far cry from serious vocational education of the sort he had done very well years earlier.

Career academies were developed to motivate students, not to prepare them for real jobs, Tucker writes. Voc ed, now renamed “career technical education,” is no longer a “serious enterprise” in high schools.

By contrast, Japan, Singapore, the Netherlands, Denmark and other leading industrial countries “doubled down to improve both their academic and their vocational programs.”

They built vocational education programs that require high academic skills.  And they designed programs that could deliver those skills.  They did not sever the connections between employers and their high schools; they strengthened them.  They made sure their high school vocational students had first-rate instructors and equipment.  Their reward is a work force that is balanced between managers and workers, scientists and technicians.  No one tells an individual student what he or she will do with their life.  But those students have a range of attractive choices.

Tucker links to descriptions of vocational education in the NetherlandsAustralia and Singapore.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called for states to require school attendance till age 18 or graduation. If schools offer no options except the college track, that seems cruel.

 

College today: 31% take online class

Thirty-one percent of college students take at least one online class.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Should the U.S. adopt Australia’s sensible student loan plan or just charge universities for their graduates’ defaults.

School choice: college or career prep?

Students need a choice of college prep or trade school, writes Ilana Garon, who teaches high school in the Bronx, in the Huffington Post.

Uninterested in learning to spot the symbolism in Animal Farm, tenth-grader Danielle announces she doesn’t plan to go to college.  Instead, she’s taking community college courses to qualify as a massage therapist. “I want to have something ready to go when I graduate,” she says.

A few years ago, I would have been horrified at this pronouncement. . . . But these days, I’m more inclined to be impressed by Danielle’s self-awareness, foresight and her implicit understanding of a fact I wish our system leaders would see: that perpetuation of the current “college for all” trend in education is neither economically viable nor beneficial to all students.

Career tech students would need strong literacy and math skills, Garon writes, but not necessarily the same skills required to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Curricular emphasis in trade schools would perhaps be shifted from traditional literary analysis (themes, symbols, etc.) to literacy in functional documents, perhaps teaching students to read technical articles or to use math-based software programs that would be applicable to our tech-reliant workforce.

Queensland, Australia has introduced a “learning or earning” program after 10th grade, a commenter writes. Students can take academic classes to prepare for university, train for a job at a technical college or start a trade apprenticeship.

Students must be either enrolled in the program full-time, or working a minimum of 25 hours per week and studying part-time.
. . .  ALL young people receive a statement of learning detailing their achievemen­ts when they turn 17.
Parents and students decide on the “senior phase of learning.” Students can change paths, if things don’t work out.
In high-scoring Finland, about half of students go to vocational school at the age of 15 or 16.
Of course, developing high-quality career tech programs on this scale would be a challenge.

If you’re calling to lie . . .

Here’s the (alleged) answering machine message at a school in Australia.

There's no place like home

I’m home from Oz.  Thanks to Michael Lopez and Kate Coe for their guest blogging, enabling me to ride the Sydney Harbour ferries, cuddle koalas, toss a boomerang, drink Hunter Valley wine, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, glide over the rain forest and travel the Melbourne trams. Overall, it was a great trip, though we could have done without the cyclone winds and waves at the reef.

We had dinner with Daily Telegraph blogger Tim Blair and the lovely Nadia and spent several days with Des and Sue, who left Silicon Valley to run a winery and guest cottages. (Q: “Did you do a lot of wine tasting in your techie life?” A: “Well . . . Wine drinking.”)

I learned that all Aussie school children wear uniforms, including hats. They’re darned cute.

The Australian has a series on the effect of a federal stimulus bill on school construction costs: Replacing a $78,000 shelter for outdoor learning will cost $954,000. This is called “rorting.”

Other than that . . . Did I mention feeding the kangaroos and emus at the wildlife park? Watching the surfers at Bells Beach?

Anyhow, I’m back. And after a trip that got us home about 30 minutes before we started, thanks to the International Date Line, it’s not Tuesday any more.

Australia: no TV for under-twos

Children under two should watch no TV and be kept away from computers or electronic games, say Australian government guidelines.

The guidelines warn that exposure to television at such an early age can delay language development, affect the ability of a child to concentrate and lead to obesity.

The recommendations also suggest that children aged two to five should watch no more than one hour of television a day.

The advice to parents — and proposed rules for child-care centers — call for no “screen time” for fear it will crowd out active play.