Ed Dept: Disabled have right to compete in sports

Disabled students must have “equal access” to school sports, the U.S. Education Department ruled Friday. If there’s no “reasonable” way to include disabled athletes on school teams, schools must set up separate programs.

“Participation in extracurricular athletics can be a critical part of a student’s overall educational experience,” said Seth Galanter, of the department’s civil rights office. “Schools must ensure equal access to that rewarding experience for students with disabilities,” he added.

The directive doesn’t require schools to open sports teams to everyone, regardless of athletic ability, officials said. But it’s not all clear what will be considered “reasonable.” One example — providing “visual clues” in addition to a starter pistol to allow hearing disabled students to compete in track events — seems like the sort of thing any school would and should do. The second — waiving the “two-hand touch” finish at swim meets to allow one-armed swimmers to compete — also seems fair. But it raises a question: Can a one-armed student swim fast enough to make the team?

In 1972, Title IX forced schools to offer equal athletic opportunities to girls. But there are lots of girls in high schools. There aren’t that many one-armed students who want to compete in swimming.

It was also welcomed by disabled student competitors, among them Casey Followay, a 15-year-old high school track athlete confined to a wheelchair by a birth defect, who under current rules, has to race on his own.

“This will help me become a better athlete conditioning- wise, because I have something to push for,” said Followay, who filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights in 2011 asking that he be allowed to run alongside, but not against, the able-bodied.

If he’s not running against able-bodied runners, is he really on the team? He needs to compete against other wheelchair athletes. Schools are supposed to work with community groups to set up regional teams, if they don’t have enough disabled athletes in each sport. That could be expensive.

“The problem is this was done without any deliberation in Congress and no public input and it is not clear how expansive it will be,” says Fordham’s Mike Petrilli. “Just how far must a school district go to be compliant?”

Expect lawsuits charging “separate and unequal” sports opportunities for disabled students, predicts Rick Hess in When Good Intentions Run Amok.

A school where chess is cool

The cool kids are on the chess team at I.S. 318, an inner-city school in New York City. Brooklyn Castle follows five players on the championship-winning team known as the “Yankees” of middle-school chess.

Pobo Efekoro, last year’s IS 318 class president, and documentarian Katie Dellmaggiore discussed the importance of extracurricular activities with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. The school’s budget has been cut, making it hard for the team to travel to tournaments.

Extra boost from extra-curriculars?

Extra-curriculars are valuable, but how valuable? June Kronholz looks at the debate on Education Next.

With school districts struggling to keep their noses above choppy budget waters and voters howling about taxes, should schools really be funding ping-pong and trading-card clubs? Swim teams, swing dancing, moot court, powder-puff football? Latino unions, gay-straight alliances, the Future Business Leaders of America, the French Honors Society, the jazz band, the knitting club?

. . . There’s not a straight line between the crochet club and the Ivy League. But a growing body of research says there is a link between afterschool activities and graduating from high school, going to college, and becoming a responsible citizen.

Most high school students participate in sports, band, theater, clubs or other activities.  Active students do considerably better academically than the disengaged. But is it cause or effect?

Some researchers argue that involvement helps students succeed by increasing their time with adult role models and making school more engaging, Kronholz writes.

When college students look back on high school, they remember extracurriculars and sports, not academics, says Tony Wagner, codirector of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

The takeaway, Wagner said, is that extracurriculars “teach a lot of the skills you need as an adult: time management, leadership, self-discipline, and persistence for doing work that isn’t extrinsically motivated.” That dovetails with Wagner’s academic work, which defines the “skills of the future” as including adaptability, leading by influence, and initiative.

“Kids who have a significant involvement in an extracurricular activity have a capacity for focus, self-discipline, and time management that I see lacking in kids who just went through school focused on their GPA,” he told me.

I was as managing editor of the school newspaper, editor of the literary magazine and copy writer for the yearbook. (You may sense a pattern.)

Life’s a carnival

Bellringers is hosting the theme-free Education Buzz Carnival. (She was going to do a homecoming theme but was sidetracked by her school’s homecoming madness.)

At Scheiss Weekly, Mamacita writes about how to tell good parents from bad parents.

With the demise of neighborhood schools, students can’t participate in school functions these days unless a parent can drive them back to school, she writes.

A child whose parents are unable or unwilling to drive him/her to school in the evening will not be able to participate in the things that make school fun, such as choir, plays, programs, sports, band, etc. I am still sickened by the father who refused to drive his son to the ratio station’s big spelling bee playoff because he wanted to watch a ball game and, dammit, he’d worked all day and was tired.  His son had to forfeit because he had a lazy father.

Some parents can’t serve as chauffeurs. Others can’t be bothered.

Those parents who chose TV and personal relaxation over their child should be dragged out into the streets and shot, and their children given to GOOD parents.

That’s Mamacita: Firm but fair.

When public school isn’t free

Illinois public schools are charging “hefty” fees for textbooks, technology, bus rides and classes, reports the Chicago Tribune. Some districts charge a “registration fee.”

“This is like private school,” said parent Gio Chavez, who walked out of Oak Lawn Community High School’s registration this week shell-shocked. The final tally for her sophomore son’s classes: $665.

The bill started out with a required $275 registration fee but ballooned as a variety of course fees got tacked on, including $25 for Culinary Arts I and II classes (her son Seth wants to be a chef); $15 for a consumer education course required for graduation; $30 for a Woods I class; and $250 for driver education.

Chris Berta spent about $886 on required and optional fees for her high school freshman son and middle-school-age daughter in Naperville Community Unit School District 203.

Most states don’t allow public schools to charge parents, but Illinois courts have upheld the fees, reports the Trib. Low-income parents can ask for a waiver.

District policies vary widely, the Trib reports.

Suburban Naperville charges a general fee of $68 to $81, plus a $29 technology fee, plus charges for P.E. classes.  At the high school level, students pay extra for more than 100 courses ranging from English ($11), a required course, to French I ($24) to nutrition ($45).

School officials say course fees cover “workbooks, paperback novels and other ‘consumable’ materials.”

Pay to play” has become “pay for regular classes” at a growing number of schools nationwide, reports the Wall Street Journal.

. . .  in Medina (Ohio), the charges imposed on the Dombi family’s four children include $75 in generic school fees, $118.50 for materials used in biology, physics and other academic courses, $263 for Advanced Placement exams and $3,990 to participate in cross-country, track and band. That’s not counting the $2,716.08 the Dombis paid in property taxes specifically earmarked for the schools.

The oldest daughter gave up choir to save $200, but the total for the year was $4,446.50.

 

Too much homework?

Schools are setting limits on homework — typically 10 minutes a day per grade level and no work on weekends or holidays — reports the New York Times.  Usually these are schools in middle-class areas where parents worry their kids are under too much pressure — and kids have lots of extracurricular sports and lessons scheduled after school.

For elementary students, the 10-minute rule — 10 minutes in first grade, 20 minutes in second grade and so on — makes a lot of sense. Kids who do more homework don’t learn more.  However,  I worry about older students who expect breaks on weekends and holidays. One of the most valuable things students can learn in K-12 is how to schedule their time to get assignments done.

Of course, the quality of homework assignments varies: I’m not a fan of assignments that require a parent’s extensive involvement — especially if that parents is supposed to have arts and crafts skills.

‘Educating the emotions’ via extracurriculars

Don’t cut extracurriculars or add fees that make it hard for students to participate, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that one of the reasons American kids do so well in life (starting entrepreneurial companies, embracing a spirit of optimism, creating wealth, etc.) – even though they score poorly on international tests  –is because of what they pick up from sports, theater, band, student council, and the like.

Petrilli is impressed by David Brooks’ New York Times column on “educating the emotions.” Brooks writes:

When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.

Researchers in “neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on” are advancing a “richer and deeper view,” writes Brooks. We are social animals who “thrive as we educate our emotions,” not just our reason.

Children’s emotions are best educated outside the classroom, Petrilli argues.

I’m all for extracurriculars, but I also think we parents care a lot about our children’s character and their ability to form relationships when “we raise our kids.”

Brooks has written about his ideas in the form of a novel, The Social Animal:  The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement. The book is a depressing tale of two boring people “who lead muted, more or less satisfactory lives in the successful pursuit of achievement as it is narrowly defined by their culture,” writes Will Wilkinson in Forbes. PZ Myers got through the “arid wasteland” by repeatedly chanting “Die, yuppie scum, die,” he writes in Salon. Brooks is an acute social observer, but is frequently wrong about the science, writes psychologist Christopher Chabris in the Wall Street Journal. OK, here’s a Christian Science Monitor review that calls Brooks an “able storyteller.”

School rules year round

Schools are trying to enforce school rules on weekends and in the summer, reports USA Today.

Students across the country are going on notice that drinking, smoking, using drugs or posting risqué photos on the Web on weekends and during the summer can get them sidelined from school activities during the school year.

Student athletes and those involved in other extracurricular activities in states including New Jersey, South Carolina and Indiana are signing codes of conduct that hold them accountable for their behavior regardless of whether school is in session.

Some districts require athletes to “be on good behavior 24-7 during the school year,” USA Today reports. Others have year-round rules that include athletes, band members and choir members; some go even farther.

Indiana’s American Civil Liberties Union is representing two female volleyball players in the Smith Green Community schools who were disciplined for allegedly posting sexually suggestive photos on social networking sites during summer vacation.

Students wearing the school’s uniform can be held to a higher standard, says Erik Weber, attorney for the Smith-Green schools. “If they don’t like the rules, they don’t have to play,” Weber says.

Schools are having trouble enforcing rules on campus during school hours. I’m surprised they’re trying to control what students do on their own time.