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Showing posts with label Public Schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Public Schools. Show all posts

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Do We Need Year-Round Public School?

By Lee Duigon

I don’t have television in my home, but when I’m in a doctor’s waiting room, I have no choice: television has me.

So there I was, waiting, with the doctor’s TV set too loud to ignore, trying to decide which of its offerings was worse—the in-depth analysis of Kim Kardashian’s divorce after two months of marriage, or retired TV noozie Tom Brokaw babbling away about how America’s kids need year-round public schooling.

As brain-rottingly loathsome as the Kardashian material was, Brokaw’s earnest prattle is the more toxic to our culture.

Consider the damage done by a mere nine months a year of public schooling. Don’t be fooled by public education’s miserable failure to teach reading, writing, history, mathematics, science, critical thinking, and other such fripperies. Public education succeeds brilliantly in turning children into teat-sucking, leftist, de-Christianized duds.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Videos Expose Corrupt New Jersey Teachers' Union Thugs

By Terry Hurlbut

James O'Keefe, head of Project Veritas, yesterday released two videos in a series that he titled Teachers' Unions Gone Wild, a take-off on a popular TV show titled Girls Gone Wild. It contains candid footage taken by "citizen journalists" (meaning volunteer temporary stringers) interviewing several persons purporting to be teachers attending the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) leadership conference at the East Brunswick Hilton (August 7-13, 2010). Jason Method of the Asbury Park Press filed the first report yesterday evening.

The two videos are uploaded to YouTube and embedded at O'Keefe's Project Veritas site. The first of these videos follows:

WARNING: This video features candid interviews with persons or groups using profane and even obscene language. Parental judgment and discretion are advised.

The first video is taken at the conference, and shows several teachers describing hypothetical situations in which teachers (especially those with tenure) could utter racial slurs at their pupils in class and not be subject to termination, and also making crude references to Governor Chris Christie and describing the sort of violent assaults that some members would like to perpetrate upon him. Equally embarrassing are the shots of teachers playing video arcade games and boasting about doing so "on their dime", meaning at an event that they attended at parent/taxpayer expense.

One teacher, identified on the video as Alissa Ploshnick, a "special educator" in the Passaic Public Schools, appears telling an interviewer that "it is very, very hard to fire a tenured teacher." She said that even inappropriate sexual conduct would not be sufficient, and said that a teacher would have to be caught literally in flagrante delicto in the hallway for an immediate termination to occur. (The preceding is the Bowdlerized version of Ms. Ploshnick's remarks.) She then described the case of another teacher, whom she would not identify, who actually uttered a racial slur at a student and suffered no worse sanction than demotion.

The video goes on to capture several chants intended to demean Governor Christie, with shots of stories told of certain episodes of unprofessional conduct by school officials (like the Bergen County official who cut and pasted an e-mail wishing Christie dead and sent this memo out to the teachers who answered to him). It also mentioned an unidentified teacher describing the NJEA's role in altering the application for the Race to the Top federal grant without informing Christie or then-Education Commissioner Bret Schundler of the alterations. (New Jersey ultimately placed eleventh in the RTTT race and lost out on the grant.)

The video ends with the posting of a telephone number (609-599-4561) as if it were an advertisement for ordering a full-length video, and makes references to the rigging of elections. The telephone number turns out to belong to the NJEA. A viewer might interpret its presence in the video as either a take-off on lengthy TV ads for consumer goods "not available in stores," or an invitation to call the NJEA to ask, or complain, about the behavior depicted in the video.

The second video is largely a follow-up by one of the volunteer stringers on the Alissa Ploshnick interview. First he conducts an "ambush interview" with Ploshnick, an interview that turns out to be unproductive. Then he calls the assistant superintendent of the Passaic Public Schools, posing as the father of the boy who allegedly had suffered the racial insult.

NJEA spokesman Steve Baker denounced the two videos as inauthentic, saying, "It's James O’Keefe and that’s all you need to know."

However, in a later story carried by The Star-Ledger (Newark), Project Veritas spokesman Shane Corey defended the videos and insisted on their authenticity. He specifically says that no person posed as a teacher to be recorded making an embarrassing statement.

O'Keefe is famous for appearing at several housing-assistance offices of the old Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and posing as a procurer, with a young woman in tow posing as a prostitute, and asking for, and most of the time getting, housing assistance. The resulting scandal led to the official defunding of ACORN and ultimately to the spectacle of the national organization shuttering and its chapters changing their names.

Today O'Keefe released yet another embarrassing video for the NJEA, alleging a possible role for them in election fraud surrounding the Jersey City mayor's race in 1997, when Bret Schundler ran for a second term of office.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Three Reasons Obama's Education Vision Fails

Nick Gillespie of the Reason Foundation provides 3 reasons why Obama's education vision fails:
President Barack Obama is making his bid to be "the education president." At the start of NBC's recent Education Nation summit in New York, Obama appeared on the Today Show and touted what he claimed were a wide-ranging set of reforms to improve America's K-12 schools.

Yet Obama's education vision deserves an F for at least three reasons:

1. Money Talks. Obama says that the educational system needs new ideas and more money. Despite a doubling in inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending since the early 1970s, student achievement is flat at best. But Obama is placing most of his bets on the money part. While he brags constantly about his Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for $4 billion to fund innovative programs, he's spent more than $80 billion in no-strings-attached stimulus funds to maintain the educational status quo.

2. Choice Cuts. Candidate Obama said that he'd try any reform idea regardless of ideology. Yet one of his first education-related moves after taking office was to aid his Senate mentor, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in killing a successful and popular D.C. voucher program that let low-income residents exercise the same choice Obama did in sending his daughters to private school.

3. The Unions Forever. The two largest teachers unions, The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, overwhelmingly supported Obama with their votes and their contributions. Some 95 percent of the groups' campaign contributions go to Democratic candidates and the NEA, spends more money on elections that Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Walmart, and the AFL-CIO combined. No wonder Obama's big talking point is that he wants to add 10,000 more teachers to public payrolls despite the fact that there are already more teachers per student than ever.

Reforming education may not be politically easy, but the solution is pretty simple: Give parents and students more ability to choose - and exit - schools. This works for every other sort of business and it works for higher education, too. There's no reason to think it wouldn't work for K-12 education.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

If Schools Were Like 'American Idol'...

Unless we measure success by how children perform, we'll have higher standards for pop stars than public schools.

From The Wall Street Journal
By Rupert Murdoch

Over the past few years, I have often complained about a hidebound culture that prevents many newspapers from responding to the challenges of new technology. There is, however, another hidebound American institution that is also finding it difficult to respond to new challenges: our big-city schools.

Today, for example, the United States is home to more than 2,000 dysfunctional high schools. They represent less than 15% of American high schools yet account for about half of our dropouts. When you break this down, you find that these institutions produce 81% of all Native American dropouts, 73% of all African-American dropouts, and 66% of all Hispanic dropouts.

At our grade schools, two-thirds of all eighth-graders score below proficient in math and reading. The average African-American or Latino 9-year-old is three grades behind in these subjects. Behind the grim statistics is the real story: lost opportunities, crushed dreams, and shattered lives. In plain English, we trap the children who need an education most in failure factories.

Last August, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that our students have "stagnated educationally." The College Board recently put this into global perspective when it reported that we've dropped from 1st to 12th place in the percentage of people between the ages of 25 to 34 who have a college degree. America is now in danger of producing a new generation that will be less educated than their parents.

Clearly it's not for any lack of money. Over the past three decades, we've nearly doubled spending on K-12 education in real terms. So President Obama was absolutely right to declare the other day that "we can't spend our way out of this problem." Which begs the question: How can we spend so much with so little to show for it?

The answer is that while the system is failing our children, it works very well for some adults. These adults include the leaders of the teachers unions. They include the politicians whom the unions reward with their cash and political support. They include the vast education bureaucracies. In business terms, we have a system that rewards the providers and punishes the customers.

Davis Guggenheim won an Academy Award for producing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth." So you might think that the two of us don't have much in common. But his latest film on our public schools, "Waiting for 'Superman,'" brings home the way the status quo betrays our highest ideals and results in an almost criminal waste of human potential. On this issue, there is no light between us.

So how do we fix it? Clearly a big part of the answer is giving parents more choices for their kids. For choices to mean anything, however, parents also need transparency so they can make real comparisons.

The Los Angeles Times just gave us an excellent example of this kind of transparency when it published a database of about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers ranked by their effectiveness in raising student test scores. If you are a mom with a son or daughter in one of these classrooms, you know this information is vital. Unfortunately, it's the kind of information that seldom sees the light of day.

The reason is that the adults who are doing well by this system don't want it out there. The local teachers union, for example, blasted the Times for what it called "the height of journalistic irresponsibility" for bringing this material to the public. My view is that American schoolchildren need more such irresponsibility.

Occasionally we hear the leaders of the teachers unions say they too support reform. But Michelle Rhee, the chancellor fighting to reform D.C. public schools, made a telling point recently during a televised exchange with the head of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten. Ms. Rhee was talking about the union's decision to slap her with a class-action grievance after she dismissed more than 200 bad teachers. "The bottom line," said Ms. Rhee, "is that if these people are ineffective, and if, as President Weingarten says, nobody wants ineffective teachers in the classroom, then you can't fight us every step of the way when we're moving in that direction."

We all know that good schools begin with good teachers. We also know there are many heroic teachers. Unfortunately, our system is set up to protect bad teachers rather than reward good teachers.

In the existing system, we have incentives for almost everything unrelated to performance (seniority, tenure, etc.) and zero incentive for adapting new technologies that could help learning inside and outside the classroom. On top of it all, we have chancellors, superintendents and principals who can't hire and fire based on performance.

We have tougher standards on "American Idol." And so long as we refuse to measure success by what our children are learning, we're going to have higher performance standards for pop stars than for public schools.

We all know the economic returns on a good education. That's true for societies as well as individuals. According to one study by McKinsey, if we had closed the gap in educational performance between ourselves and nations such as Finland and Korea, our GDP would have been as much as 16% higher in 2008. Imagine that kind of gain compounded over time, and you begin to appreciate why other nations are putting such a premium on their school systems.

The flip side is that there are also huge economic downsides for a society that consigns millions of its population to the margins of prosperity. When we allow the children of other people to fail or leave school without an education, they do not disappear. They become adults who cannot provide for themselves. And guess what? The costs will be borne by our children.

Many years ago, the great teacher and union leader Albert Shanker put it this way. "As long as there are no consequences if kids or adults don't perform, as long as the discussion is not about education and student outcomes, then we're playing a game as to who has the power."

It's time we stop playing power games—and begin ensuring that every boy and girl who enters a public school leaves with the same shot at the American Dream we insist on for our own sons and daughters.

Mr. Murdoch is chairman and CEO of News Corporation, which owns The Wall Street Journal. This article is adapted from his remarks this week to the Media Institute in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shocking School Drug And Gang Survey

Yet another reason no parent should be compelled to send their children to government schools simply because they cannot afford alternatives. A parent facing schools like these should be able to take their child's share of education funding and seek alternatives, where their child can learn and good character can be formed. That is in the public interest, failed and dangerous public schools are not.

From MyFoxNY
By Luke Funk

new survey claims that 27 percent of public school students aged 12 to 17 attend schools that are both gang and drug-infected. That means 5.7 million students attend schools which are both gang and drug dominated.

Nearly 50 percent of all public school students report drug use or sales on school grounds.

The Columbia University survey claims that one in three middle schoolers say that drugs are used, kept or sold at their school. That number is up 39 percent in the past year.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) survey compared to teens attending gang and drug-free schools, teens who attend schools infected with both gangs and drugs.

It found that teens who attend schools with drug and gang problems are five times likelier to use marijuana and three times likelier to drink.

"The combination of gangs and drugs in a school is a malignant cancer that must be eliminated if we are to be able to improve public education in our nation," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

The survey found that 66 percent of high school students said their schools were drug infected, continuing a stead increase in drug-infected high schools since 2006 when 51 percent of high school students said that they attended drug-infected schools.

The complete survey findings were to be released at a conference in Washington, D.C.

The survey also found that the drug-free-school gap between public schools and private and religious schools is up sharply in the past decade.

This is the 15th annual teen survey of attitudes on substance abuse among teenagers.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give

From The Dennis Prager Show

If every school principal gave this speech at the beginning of the next school year, America would be a better place.

To the students and faculty of our high school:

I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people.

I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against our country.

First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships.

The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity -- your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.

If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity-, race- and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values -- e pluribus unum, "from many, one." And this school will be guided by America's values.

This includes all after-school clubs. I will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society divided by political correctness.

Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism -- an unhealthy preoccupation with the self -- while the purpose of education is to get you to think beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interesting in are those based on ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests you.

Second, I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as possible. The English language has united America's citizens for over 200 years, and it will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other languages here -- it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English -- but if you want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.

Third, because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor, everything in this school will reflect learning's elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward. Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.

Fourth, no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school's property -- whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can't speak without using the f-word, you can't speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal Communications Commission, plus epithets such as "Nigger," even when used by one black student to address another black, or "bitch," even when addressed by a girl to a girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy and the obscene.

Fifth, we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in only one way -- the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago -- by earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.

Sixth, and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. No more time will devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or primarily a health issue. There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or herself inordinately lucky -- to be alive and to be an American.

Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As many of you do not know the words, your teachers will hand them out to you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Federal judge Orders School District to Stop Spying on Students

From The Hill
By Tony Romm

A Pennsylvania school district has been ordered to disable equipment allowing officials to watch students using cameras on their laptops.

The order, issued Wednesday by a federal judge, will prevent school administrators from turning on cameras installed on students' school-issued laptops remotely.

The move arrives at the request of a Lower Merion family, which claimed school officials were wrong to activate the camera, snap a photo of their son and confront him about its contents.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Girl's Arrest for Doodling Should Concern Us All

"They put the handcuffs on me, and I couldn't believe it," Alexa Gonzalez, 12, said of her arrest.

The following story is an illustration of how very broken the public education establishment is in this country.

We aren't known for bleeding heart liberalism here, and we don't condone the defacing of public property, but arresting and handcuffing a seventh-grade girl for doodling on a desk says so much about the state of big, centralized, bureaucratic, government schools. It shows how large bureaucracies lose all sight of common sense and the goals toward which they should be directed. It makes clear that in a system governed by contracts negotiated by big labor unions, workers, not professionals, will work to the contract and are devoid of any sense of vocation, service, common sense and compassion for those whose minds and characters they should be forming. It is an example of a bureaucracy that exists for its own sake, not the students, and instead of acting like human beings with responsibility for changing and forming hearts and minds, they refer the matter, machine-like, to another bureaucracy charged with another set of bureaucratic solutions.

If dumbed-down curricula, national illiteracy, soaring dropout rates, and mediocre results even in the best schools serving the most advantaged students are not enough to make liberals and conservatives agree that the system isn't working, maybe the trauma and damage done to this 12-year-old will force us to see this evil system for what it truly is.

Girl's arrest for doodling raises concerns about zero tolerance
From CNN
By Stephanie Chen

There was no profanity, no hate. Just the words, "I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)" scrawled on the classroom desk with a green marker.

Alexa Gonzalez, an outgoing 12-year-old who likes to dance and draw, expected a lecture or maybe detention for her doodles earlier this month. Instead, the principal of the Junior High School in Forest Hills, New York, called police, and the seventh-grader was taken across the street to the police precinct.

Alexa's hands were cuffed behind her back, and tears gushed as she was escorted from school in front of teachers and -- the worst audience of all for a preadolescent girl -- her classmates.

"They put the handcuffs on me, and I couldn't believe it," Alexa recalled. "I didn't want them to see me being handcuffed, thinking I'm a bad person."

Alexa is no longer facing suspension, according a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education. Still, the case of the doodling preteen is raising concerns about the use of zero tolerance policies in schools.

Critics say schools and police have gone too far, overreacting and using well-intended rules for incidents involving nonviolent offenses such as drawing on desks, writing on other school property or talking back to teachers.

"We are arresting them at younger and younger ages [in cases] that used to be covered with a trip to the principal's office, not sending children to jail," said Emma Jordan-Simpson, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund, a national children's advocacy group.

There aren't any national studies documenting how often minors become involved with police for nonviolent crimes in schools. Tracking the incidents depends on how individual schools keep records. Much of the information remains private, since it involves juveniles.

But one thing is sure: Alexa's case isn't the first in the New York area. One of the first cases to gain national notoriety was that of Chelsea Fraser. In 2007, the 13-year-old wrote "Okay" on her desk, and police handcuffed and arrested her. She was one of several students arrested in the class that day; the others were accused of plastering the walls with stickers.

At schools across the country, police are being asked to step in. In November, a food fight at a middle school in Chicago, Illinois, resulted in the arrests of 25 children, some as young as 11, according to the Chicago Police Department.

The Strategy Center, a California-based civil rights group that tracks zero tolerance policies, found that at least 12,000 tickets were issued to tardy or truant students by Los Angeles Police Department and school security officers in 2008. The tickets tarnished students' records and brought them into the juvenile court system, with fines of up to $250 for repeat offenders.

The Strategy Center opposes the system. "The theory is that if we fine them, then they won't be late again," said Manuel Criollo, lead organizer of the "No to Pre-Prison" campaign at The Strategy Center. "But they just end up not going to school at all."

His group is trying to stop the LAPD and the school district from issuing the tickets. The Los Angeles School District says the policy is designed to reduce absenteeism.

And another California school -- Highland High School in Palmdale -- found that issuing tardiness tickets drastically cut the number of pupils being late for class and helped tone down disruptive behavior. The fifth ticket issued landed a student in juvenile traffic court.

In 1998, New York City took its zero tolerance policies to the next level, placing school security officers under the New York City Police Department. Today, there are nearly 5,000 employees in the NYPD School Safety Division. Most are not police officers, but that number exceeds the total police force in Washington, D.C.

In contrast, there are only about 3,000 counselors in New York City's public school system. Critics of zero tolerance policies say more attention should be paid to social work, counseling and therapy.

"Instead of a graduated discipline approach, we see ... expulsions at the drop of a hat," said Donna Lieberman, an attorney with the New York branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"If they have been suspended once, their likelihood of being pushed out of the school increases," she said. "They may end up in jail at some point in their life."

One of Lieberman's clients was in sixth grade when police arrested her in 2007 for doodling with her friend in class. The child, called M.M. in court filings to protect her identity, tried to get tissues to remove the marks, a complaint states.

Lieberman says police subjected M.M. to unlawful search and seizure. A class-action lawsuit, filed in January on behalf of five juveniles, is pending. It maintains that inadequately trained and poorly supervised police personnel are aggressive toward students when no criminal activity is taking place.

Several studies have confirmed that the time an expelled child spends away from school increases the chance that child will drop out and wind up in the criminal justice system, according to a January 2010 study from the Advancement Project, a legal action group.

Alexa Gonzalez missed three days of school because of her arrest. She spent those days throwing up, and it was a challenge to catch up on her homework when she returned to school, she said. Her mother says she had never been in trouble before the doodling incident.

New York attorney Joe Rosenthal, who is representing Alexa, plans to file a lawsuit accusing police and school officials of violating Alexa's constitutional rights. New York City Department of Education officials declined to comment specifically on any possible legal matters.

"Our mission is to make sure that public schools are a safe and supportive environment for all students," said Margie Feinberg, an education department spokeswoman.

Several media outlets have reported that school officials admitted the arrest was a "mistake," but when asked by CNN, Feinberg declined to comment specifically on the incident. She referred CNN to the NYPD.

The NYPD did not return CNN's repeated phone calls and e-mails. It is unknown whether charges will be pressed against Alexa.

Kenneth Trump, a security expert who founded the National School Safety and Security Services consulting firm, said focusing on security is essential to the safety of other students. He said zero tolerance policies can work if "common sense is applied."

Michael Soguero recalls being arrested himself in 2005 when, as principal at Bronx Guild School, he tried to stop an officer from handcuffing one of his students. A charge of assault against him was later dropped. He says police working in schools need specific training on how to work with children.

In Clayton County, Georgia, juvenile court judge Steven Teske is working to reshape zero tolerance policies in schools. He wants the courts to be a last resort. In 2003, he created a program in Clayton County's schools that distinguishes felonies from misdemeanors.

The result? The number of students detained by the school fell by 83 percent, his report found. The number of weapons detected on campus declined by 73 percent.

Last week, after hearing about 12-year-old Alexa's arrest in New York, he wasn't shocked.

"There is zero intelligence when you start applying zero tolerance across the board," he said. "Stupid and ridiculous things start happening."