Send disruptive kids to separate school

Disruptive students should go to a separate school till they learn to behave, says Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart. Don’t wait till a disruptive student turns violent, she told the City Club of Chicago.

“Here’s the problem: Teachers don’t always get the support they need from their principals. Too often, the principal returns disruptive students to the class like a boomerang,” Stewart said. “Teachers can’t teach and students can’t learn in a constantly disruptive classroom.”

. . . In the St. Louis school, students attend from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day and complete the full year at the alternative school before returning to their regular school the next year.

This is common sense, writes teacher John Thompson on This Week in Education.

It sure would be nice for the students who want to learn.

Resistance (to reform) is futile

Resistance to education reform is futile, says Democrats for Education Reform.

Those who resist the school reform movement are going to find they are on the wrong side of history. They may affect the pace of reform, but not its inexorable direction. They must decide whether they will participate, or continue to be further marginalized.

Via This Week in Education.

School choice is gaining ground, argues Greg Forster on Pajamas Media.

The bottom line is that the D.C. and Milwaukee programs are in trouble because they’re legacy programs; they’re the old model of school choice, designed as charity programs that only serve the most disadvantaged. As a result, it’s hard to mobilize political support for them. The constituencies that benefit most are the least powerful.

Georgia, with its more broad-based programs, is pointing the way forward. School choice that serves all students, not just some, is where the movement is headed — precisely because it’s the only model where the political math adds up.

The unions are getting desperate, Forster writes.

Coal-based learning

The American Coal Foundation has designed a coal-based elementary school curriculum, reports In These Times.

(It) suggests that students learn about the costs and benefits of coal mining by using toothpicks and paper clips to “mine” chocolate chips out of cookies. They also go about “reclaiming” the “land” damaged in the process by tracing the cookies’ outline on graph paper. Costs are to be calculated by the amount of time spent per chip and the expanse of graph paper that needs to be reclaimed.

. . . The stranger-than-fiction curriculum prods students to write inspiring stories about mining company towns and teaches how to make “coal flowers”—lumps of coal adorned with paper and fabric held together by congealing ammonia, salt and “laundry bluing,” which the curriculum helpfully advises can be purchased through women’s magazines.

Via This Week in Education.

Exit exam doesn’t do much

California’s High School Exit Exam doesn’t raise performance or worsen the dropout rate, concludes a new study by Stanford’s Institute for Research on Education Policy

While graduation rates dropped significantly because of the exam, students didn’t drop out of school in despair as predicted. Nor did the high-stakes test motivate the schools and students to do better academically than before.

Researchers found that low-performing female and non-white students did worse on the exit exam than low-performing white males.  They blamed “stereotype threat,” the tendency for students to stress out when they face a negative stereotype about their ability, such as the belief that girls do worse in math.

However, bottom-quartile Asian-Americans have a lower pass rate than bottom-quartile whites. The prevailing stereotype about Asians is that they’re smart and ace tests.

On Ed Policy, Bill Evers raises that point and adds that the solution to negative stereotypes should be to teach students to meet the same expectations.

Without getting into my skepticism about some aspects of the stereotype-threat effect, let’s assume that it’s true or can sometimes be true. The need then is to accustom blacks and women to competition and challenges, and the potential would seem to be there for greater success when people have instead high, demanding expectations about blacks and women.

. . . Getting rid of the high school exit exam cannot be the solution. The solution has to be preparing low-performing students to pass the exam and telling them that their teachers, parents, ministers, and other community leaders expect them to succeed and will accept no excuses.

Going in the opposite direction, some California schools are using race-based assemblies to try to raise test scores, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The bleachers in the Laguna Creek High School gym were filled earlier this week with students gazing at an outline of Africa on a big screen.

Almost all of them were African American, called together for one of five “Heritage Assemblies” high school administrators organized to pump up kids for STAR testing this week.

. . . Students at Laguna could go to any rally they wanted, but the gatherings were designated for specific races – African Americans in the gym, Pacific Islanders in the theater, Latinos in the multipurpose room.

Some students and parents complained about the stress on race and ethnicity, including a mixed-race couple who’d “taught their children that skin color doesn’t matter.”

“My son texted me and asked me which one to go to,” said Tracy Houston. “He didn’t know where to go because I’ve never raised him to be black or white. … I tell my children they are part of the human race.”

Via This Week in Education.

Unions kill vouchers, go after charters

Teachers’ unions have declared war on charter schools, writes Jay P. Greene in the Wall Street Journal. The unions are fighting on two fronts:  While seeking to deny charter funding, they’re also trying to unionize charter teachers.

Studies have shown students who win charter school lotteries do better than those who seek a charter education, lose the lottery to get in and have to attend district-run schools, Greene writes.  A study by Harvard economist Tom Kane also looked at Boston’s district-run, unionized charters, known as “pilot schools.”

. . . students accepted by lottery at independently operated charter schools significantly outperformed students who lost the lottery and returned to district schools. But students accepted by lottery at charters run by the school district with unionized teachers experienced no benefit.

When charter schools unionize, they become identical to traditional public schools in performance. Unions may say they support charter schools, but they only support charters after they have stripped them of everything that makes charters different from district schools.

“Vouchers made the world safe for charters by drawing union fire,” Greene writes. Now that the unions have beaten back vouchers — pressuring congressional Democrats to defund the successful and popular voucher program in Washington, D.C. –  they can unionize, regulate and starve the charter schools.

The American Federation of Teachers is working hard to unionize three Chicago charter schools run by a non-profit, notes This Week in Education.

Marcus Winters writes on KIPP vs. the Teachers’ Unions on City Journal.

Good order, good reading skills

In orderly homes, where educated, middle-class mothers enforce regular meal and bed times, children read better. Emily Bazelon looks at “Order in the House!” a study of middle-class kindergartners and first-graders by Anna D. Johnson and Anne Martin of Columbia’s Teachers College. Researchers looked at mothers with average reading ability and those with above-average reading skills, controlling for socioeconomic status.

Both groups of mothers were asked about how often their children are read to—and also how often they amuse themselves with books. Then the mothers were asked a separate set of questions about order at home, designed to get at what researchers call “executive function.” A few sample responses: “It’s a real zoo in our home,” “The children have a regular bedtime routine,” and “We are usually able to stay on top of things.”

. . . Surprisingly, the amount of shared parent-child reading time did not matter, on average, for the reading skills of either group of kids. What mattered instead, for the kids of average-reader mothers, was how often a child amuses herself with books. What mattered for the kids of the high-reading moms was how orderly the family’s home was.

Johnson and Martin theorize that household order reflects “maternal industriousness, planning ability, or conscientiousness.”

Maybe order helps promote reading only among the children of the high-reading mothers because it’s what the authors call a “higher order element”—in other words, it matters only once you’ve got the basics down, which means reading to your kids pre-kindergarten and surrounding them with books.

As an excellent reader and an orderly mother, I approve this study. I wonder if there’s a link between order and reading for low-income and working-class kids.

Via This Week in Education.