Stanford player promotes reading

Wayne Lyons will read the quarterback when he covers pass receivers for the Stanford Cardinal in Tuesday’s Foster Farms Bowl. He’s into reading, reports Elliott Almond for the San Jose Mercury News.  A Fort Lauderdale native, the 22-year-old architectural design major started a virtual book club to encourage his high school friends and team mates to read.

Stanford football safety Wayne Lyons, photographed in the Stanford Business Library, started a book club to keep his high school team mates eligible. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

Stanford football safety Wayne Lyons, photographed in the Stanford Business Library, started a book club to keep his high school team mates eligible. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

Lyons believed 20 minutes a day of reading would help classmates build knowledge that would make them better students — and eligible to play football.

He encouraged students to read and write about their book in a text or on Facebook.

An honors student and class president at Dillard High, Lyons took community college classes in high school and became class valedictorian.

His friend and teammate Wilkervens Tamar, who’d left middle school with a 1.0 grade-point average, graduated No. 3 in his class, earned a Bill Gates Millennium scholarship and attends Georgia Tech.

After seeing how excited some of his classmates got about reading, Lyons expanded the project to reach younger students with a mentoring program he called P.A.R.T.Y. — Pick Up Anything and Read To Yourself. He also matched upperclassmen with middle school kids so the younger ones would know what to expect upon entering Dillard.

Lyons once told his mother, “I feel bad for a lot of these kids. They don’t have study habits. They’re doomed before they even get into high school. I’ve got to get them reading, because that’s the start.”

His mother, Gwen Bush, a computer science teacher, taught her children to read fluently before they started kindergarten.

Lyons plans to graduate in June, but has another season of academic eligibility. He may return to Stanford or go on to the NFL.

No more school sports?


Sayreville High canceled its football season in response to charges of locker room assaults. 

A New Jersey high school canceled its football season after seven varsity players were charged with hazing and sexually assaulting younger players.

Should high schools eliminate sports teams? asks the New York Times‘ Room for Debate.

‘To write is to learn’

Every Cleveland Browns player has a tablet computer — and a pad of paper. Coach Mike Pettine believes tells players writing by hand will improve their chances of learning complex plays, reports Kevin Clark in the Wall Street Journal.

As a high-school coach in Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001, Pettine learned “how to get students to study — whether for a pivotal third down or a geology quiz,” Clark writes.

“I would talk to teachers all the time and they would say, ‘To write is to learn,'” Pettine said. “When you write stuff down, you have a much higher chance of it getting imprinted on your brain.”

A study titled The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard backs the idea that students learn more when they write in longhand rather than taking notes on a laptop.

The study found that, because the hand can’t possibly keep up with the speaker’s words, the writer must rephrase what was said in his or her own words, which in turn processes the information at a deeper level.

Browns defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, who went to Harvard, believes handwriting is better than typing. “You are actively using your brain more,” Bryant said.

High-challenge high schools

Once again, Oakland’s American Indian Public Charter High has topped the Washington Post‘s list of the nation’s most challenging high schools. The index measures the percentage of students taking a college-level exam. It also shows the percentage of students who qualify for a subsidized lunch and the percentage of graduates who passed at least one college-level test.

The Oakland school board revoked the charter of three high-scoring American Indian schools last year, due to financial improprieties. AIPCHS and its sister schools remain open on appeal.

The list excludes selective schools, such as Stuyvesant in New York City, and schools that attract primarily high achievers, such as BASIS Scottsdale, a charter that became very popular with parents of high achievers. Mathews explains:

We do not include any magnet or charter high school that draws such a high concentration of top students that its average SAT or ACT score exceeds the highest average for any normal-enrollment school in the country. This year, that meant such schools had to have an average SAT score below 2005 or an average ACT score below 29.3 to be included on the list.

The Challenge Index is designed to identify schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests. It does not work with schools that have no, or almost no, average students. We put those schools on our Public Elites list.

Here are alternative ways to rank high schools.

Two-thirds of the most challenging schools don’t field an 11-member football team, writes Mathews.

See jocks run — but not read

Some college athletes play like adults, but read like 5th-graders, reports Sara Ganim for CNN. Tutors help them, as long as they can play.  Then they drop out or graduate with a degree they still can’t read.

At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 60 percent of football and basketball players admitted in 2004 to 2012 read at the fourth- to eighth-grade level, reports Mary Willingham, a former tutor for the athletic department.  Eight to 10 percent read below a third-grade level, according to her research.

Some were enrolled in “laughably lax” African-American Studies classes. Professor Julius Nyang’oro now faces fraud charges: He was paid $12,000 to teach a class that never met. 

It’s not just UNC, Ganim writes. About 10 percent of University of Oklahoma athletes in revenue-generating sports read below a fourth-grade level, according to Oklahoma Professor Gerald Gurney.

At most schools, seven to 18 percent of football and basketball players read at an elementary level, a CNN investigation concluded.

Intensive tutoring can close the gap by junior year, said Robert Stacey, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington.

Former and current academic advisers, tutors and professors say it’s nearly impossible to jump from an elementary to a college reading level while juggling a hectic schedule as an NCAA athlete. They say the NCAA graduation rates are flawed because they don’t reflect when a student is being helped too much by academic support.

“They’re pushing them through,” said Billy Hawkins, an associate professor and athlete mentor at the University of Georgia. “They’re graduating them. UGA is graduating No. 2 in the SEC, so they’re able to graduate athletes, but have they learned anything? . . . To get a degree is one thing, to be functional with that degree is totally different.”

Some universities refused to cooperate with CNN, but others provided more details on football and basketball players’ SAT or ACT scores and other data.

Many black male athletes end up with no degree and few job prospects, writes Isiah Thomas, a former pro basketball player now working on a master’s in education at Berkeley. “Only 65 percent of African American basketball student-athletes graduated in 2013,” writes Thomas and co-author Na’ilah Suad Nasir, an associate professor of African American Studies and Education.  Berkeley’s graduation rate for black male basketball players in 2013 was 33 percent.

Is it time to give football the boot?

American high schools care more about sports than academics, charges Amanda Ripley in The Atlantic.

football

Last year in Texas, whose small towns are the spiritual home of high-school football and the inspiration for Friday Night Lights, the superintendent brought in to rescue one tiny rural school district did something insanely rational. In the spring of 2012, after the state threatened to shut down Premont Independent School District for financial mismanagement and academic failure, Ernest Singleton suspended all sports—including football.

To cut costs, the district had already laid off eight employees and closed the middle-school campus, moving its classes to the high-school building; the elementary school hadn’t employed an art or a music teacher in years; and the high school had sealed off the science labs, which were infested with mold. Yet the high school still turned out football, basketball, volleyball, track, tennis, cheerleading, and baseball teams each year.

Football at Premont cost about $1,300 a player. Math, by contrast, cost just $618 a student. For the price of one football season, the district could have hired a full-time elementary-school music teacher for an entire year. But, despite the fact that Premont’s football team had won just one game the previous season and hadn’t been to the playoffs in roughly a decade, this option never occurred to anyone.

Without football, Premont focused on academics. There were fewer fights. Eighty percent of the students passed their classes in the first sports-free semester, compared with 50 percent the previous fall.

Now out of debt, Premont brought back baseball, track, and tennis.

Competitive sports dominate childhood for higher-class families, writes Hilary Levey Friedman.

Powderpuff football is sexist, dangerous

800px-Powder_puff_football.jpg

Powderpuff football is sexist, divisive and dangerous, according to the principal of a suburban Boston high school. Newton South Principal Joel Stembridge canceled the school’s annual girls’ flag football game, which pits juniors against seniors.

On The Corner, Andrew Johnson links to a screenshot of principal’s e-mail on Acculturated.

The principal lists the five reasons why the tradition was ended, such as injuries and “destabiliz[ing] our normally supportive, welcoming, intimidation-free school environment.” The gender-specific nature of the game also resulted in its cancelation.

“In terms of gender politics, the name ‘powerderpuff,’ which most students still call the game, inadvertently serves to mock the hard-fought struggles of female athletes to be taken seriously and, we think, perpetuates negative stereotypes about femininity and female athletes,” the e-mail read.

In addition, the game “does not include the whole school” or “celebrate the diversity of interests of our students, nor does it encourage appreciation for the skills and/or expertise developed here at South.”

By this logic, Newton South should cancel varsity football too.

In a word, yes

Is it fair to put the total blame on a student’s academic performance on his or her coach?

That’s one of the questions with which Valerie Strauss (it must be a Strauss sort of day; my last post was spurred by her as well… so many thanks to Ms. Strauss) ends this blog post, which discusses some comments from our nation’s Secretary of Education.

The larger question at issue is whether college coaches — particularly public university coaches — should be fined for athletes’ failure to graduate.

I say that the answer is obviously yes. And the reason is this: it’s not that the coach has control of the student’s academics… but the coach does have a surprising amount of control over who gets admitted to the school on the basis of athletics. If coaches know that they’ll be held responsible, there will be an incentive not to recruit students who don’t have a realistic chance at graduating.

That’s where you’ll see the effect of this sort of policy.

The trick is that you need to make it so that the penalty for having non-graduating students is bigger than the payoff for having a winning team. Otherwise, the behavior will still persist, because it’s just a smaller incentive pointing in the same direction.

Now, maybe that means that you end up “pricing out” all the best coaches from public universities, so that only private schools like Notre Dame (football) and Duke (basketball) can afford the best coaches. Eh… so what if that happened?* That doesn’t seem like such a bad outcome to me. I’m all for college sports. But they’re called college sports and not just “the minor leagues” for a reason.

I don’t begrudge coaches their millions; I’m a fan of free markets. But a coach is a university employee, and that means that one of their jobs is (or should be) upholding the mission and reputation of the university. And that mission should — and I say “should” in the most skeptical sense — be about turning out educated minds, not about hanging championship banners.

Coaches are also hired to do that, but that job should be tempered by their broader institutional commitments. The job of a university isn’t to make money. That’s simply something universities have to do in order to accomplish their mission.

* (I’d note that neither Notre Dame nor Duke really has the same sort of problem with sports and academics that many big public universities seem to have.)

‘We came here to play FOOTBALL’

Ohio State third-string quarterback Cardale Jones tweeted: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS.”

Jones’ comments and his Twitter account have been deleted.

Ohio State ranks in the top 10 percent of Division 1 football teams on the Academic Progress Rate, notes ESPN.

CCs make room for out-of-state athletes

California’s crowded community colleges are cutting classes, turning would-be students away and making room for out-of-state football players.