Talking About the Newtown Tragedy

The Hartford Courant printed an excellent article on speaking with children in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting:
Be calm and delicate with the facts, said Julian Ford, a clinical psychologist at the UConn Health Center who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder. "First thing to remember is that children hear everything," Ford said. "We do want to protect them from graphic details and we don't want to scare them, while at the same time, we don't want to try to pretend that this isn't a very sad event."

Full article here.

Save the Children: Cope

American Psychological Association: Aftermath

National PTA: School Violence

National Association of School Psychologists


Teaching Intolerance and Hate

Rock Hill, S.C. teacher Sharon Aceta was placed on leave after she posted a sarcastic and offensive statement about President Barack Obama on Facebook. Aceta, a public school teacher who teaches grade 8 math at Rawlinson Road Middle School, posted the following public message:
"Congrats Obama. As one of my students sang down the hallway, 'We get to keep our fooood stamps'...which I pay for because they can't budget their money . . . and really, neither can you."
School spokesperson Elaine Baker told reporters that while there have been a number of complaints about the post and that the teacher violated the district's social media policy, Aceta likely will not face disciplinary action beyond the one-day suspension. Aceta has since apologized and deleted the screed.

A Columbus, Ohio teacher also recently came under fire for a Facebook posting which sent a sarcastic congratulations "to those dependent on government, homosexuals, potheads, JAY-Z fans, non Christians, non taxpayers, illegals, communists, Muslims, planned murder clinics, enemies of America, Satan You WON!"

 Parents at Lousiana's Delcambre Elementary School are furious after their children say a fourth grade teacher made derogatory comments about President Barack Obama.

Students tell reporters that the teacher arrived at school Wednesday wearing all black, "attending America's funeral" after Obama was reelected for a second term. She also reportedly said Obama would make the U.S. "the new China," and took hits at First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy school lunch initiative. School officials have not commented, pending further details on the case.


The Broad Prize for Urban Education

Alberto Carvalho,
superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/23/3064039/miami-dade-schools-win-broad-prize.html#storylink=cpy

Huffington Post reports:  

The Broad Prize for Urban Education, one of the country's most prestigious education prizes, was awarded to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for improving student achievement, raising the graduation rates of minority students, and increasing the percentage of minorities reaching advanced levels on state exams.

"To give every child a fair shot at the American dream, big-city school systems must deliver an education that prepares young people for college and careers," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. "I commend the entire Miami-Dade community for establishing a district-wide culture of results that empowers teachers and students, puts more resources into helping children in the lowest-performing schools, and is helping narrow the achievement gap."

Miami-Dade will receive $550,000 in scholarships for students who demonstrate financial need and academic improvement. Three school districts were chosen as finalists and will receive $150,000 each: the Palm Beach, Fla., district; the Corona-Norco district in Riverside County, Calif.; and the Houston public schools.


School - Prey and Predator Day?

As part of the Homecoming festivities, Crookston High School in Minnesota scheduled an event called "Prey and Predator Day" that encouraged "guys [to] dress in their camouflage and other hunting apparel while girls … show off their animal print," the Pioneer Press reports.

"In hindsight and looking at it from a different light, a better decision should have been made," Superintendent Chris Bates said. "People might see it in a different way than it was intended." According to Principal Lon Jorgensen, the school’s students did not realize the name’s underlying connotations, adding, "hunting in this area is pretty popular."

The town’s residents, including Ileanna Noyes, were not so understanding, however, and voiced alarm at the school’s implicit endorsement of sexualized assault. Noyes said the theme was "absurd and appalling," telling reporters, "Really, in this day and age, you think it's okay to have the mentality of the men as predators and the women as pretty prey?"

Crookston is near Grand Forks, North Dakota where UND student Dru Sjodin's  disappearance and death garnered national media coverage -- prompting the creation of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Registry.


Definining I.T.

Ray Tolley notes that the difference between information and data is that information is only effective if it actually communicates. Information then, might be defined as "that which can be communicated and understood." Technology is "the process of using scientific, material and human resources in order to meet a human need or purpose." Tolley provides the following basic definition of IT:

Information Technology is the use of information in order to meet a human need or purpose.


Education Investment Gap

Huffington Post reports -- schools that enroll 90 percent or more non-white students spend $733 less per pupil per year than schools that enroll 90 percent or more white students. This according to a study released by the Center for American Progress. These 'racially isolated' schools make up one-third of the country’s schools. Nationwide, schools spend $334 more on every white student than on every nonwhite student.

Unequal Education

According to CAP's report -- titled "Unequal Education" -- the traditional claim that variation in schools’ per-pupil spending stems almost entirely from different property-tax bases between school districts does not hold true. Rather, variation within a district can be largely attributed to district budgeting policies that fail to take into account teacher salaries. For instance, new teachers who often start out in high-need schools that enroll many students of color earn less money than veteran teachers located in more affluent, Whiter areas.


St. Paul Discrimination Suit

Timothy Olmsted
Heights Community School parents have filed a lawsuit that is now moving to federal courts against the St. Paul Public School District amid an investigation into allegations that teacher Timothy Olmsted discriminated against Black students.

In the suit, parents claim that the district failed to protect their children from Olmsted, the Star-Tribune reports. Latasha Tolbert, mother of 12-year-old Jamia Ware, said she made nearly 100 calls to school officials in the fall regarding Olmsted's classroom behavior but no action was taken until January.

Front, left to right - Melissa Dobbs,  Jamia Ware and Aulecia Jones. Behind - Vanessa Boyd, Melissa and Jamia’s grandmother,
Latasha Tolbert, Jamia’s mother, and Miguel Jones, Aulecia’s father.

Olmsted resigned once the district placed him on paid leave in the spring after parents complained that he called African American students "fat, Black and stupid" and told them, "you will never amount to anything" and "you only have one parent," WCCO reported.The teacher also allegedly forced African American students to sit in the back of the classroom, or sit with their desks facing the wall."He told the whole entire class that it is easier for him to teach rich White folks than poor Black people," Tolbert told WCCO.

Olmsted has a long history of inappropriate and offensive behavior. He resigned from Heights Community in March, but is still being paid through the first week of October -- and parents are dissatisfied. He is not facing disciplinary action due to the resignation.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There have recently been two similar cases in the news -- a case at North End Middle School in Waterbury, CT and one at Marshall High School in Falls Church, VA.


School Turns Back on Special Ed

A month before school starts, the families of 40 Minneapolis students with special needs were informed their children would not be welcomed back to the one-year-old charter, Minnesota School of Science. The school replaced Cityview Elementary School in August 2011 due to poor standardized test scores, the Twin Cities Daily Planet reports.

Originally, the arrangement stipulated that special education classrooms would remain in the building. It meant Cityview’s high-needs students would not have their schooling disrupted, and the district wouldn’t need to locate space for more classrooms in already-crowded schools.On July 9, however, the charter school’s board notified the district they would not re-sign a contract to mainstream MPS students this coming fall.

Diane Ravitch -- in her education blog -- points out that the Minnesota School of Science is part of a chain of urban, Midwestern charter schools managed by the controversial, Concept Schools.


African American Education

President Barack Obama Announces 

President Obama is creating a new office to bolster education of African American students.

The White House says the office will coordinate the work of communities and federal agencies to ensure that African American youth are better prepared for high school, college and career. The president announced his initiative, the first-ever White House initiative on educational excellence for African Americans, in conjunction with the 2012 convention of the National Urban League.


Good-Bye Bubbles

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is a state-led consortium developing "next-generation assessments" aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The idea underpinning the SBAC is to have a flexible and balanced system of assessments -- including formative, interim and summative -- that will provide schools with meaningful feedback and actionable data.

The tests, administered by computer, go beyond the old bubble-fill, multiple-choice questions and include short constructed response, extended constructed response and performance tasks, all aligned with the Common Core. Currently, Minnesota is not on board with the new standard in standardized testing.

Why not?

Smarter Balanced member states

New testing is also being developed by The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).


School Bored

A paper published by the Center of American Progress finds that students do not feel challenged at school. For example, more than half of 12th graders feel civics and history classes are often -- or always -- too easy. This finding was consistent across grades and subject matter.

The analysis, by Ulrich Boser and Lindsay Rosenthal, found a "disturbing disconnect between student engagement and test scores." Many students -- 21 percent of 12th graders and 37 percent of fourth graders -- reported that math classes were "too easy." But, only 40 percent of fourth graders and 35 percent of eighth graders were deemed proficient on the National Assessment for Educational Progress math test.

Boser and Rosenthal explain this disconnect by pointing to gaps between lessons and the test questions. "It's also possible that students do poorly on" the test "because they're not challenged in school," they wrote.

Student Perceptions:
A report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's
Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project


Mom Hacks Into School Computers

Police say Catherine Venusto, a former employee of the Northwestern Lehigh School District in New Tripoli, Pa., hacked into the school's computer system to change her children's grades, the Morning Call reports. The Associated Press says Ms. Venusto admitted to changing the grades, though she maintains her actions were simply "unethical" -- not illegal.


Teacher Busted Bullying

Fan Daily reports that on February 17, Stuart Chaifetz decided he would do all in his power to know what was happening at school with his son, 10 year-old Aiken (who has autism). He was one of the students in the New Jersey classroom of Mrs. Kelly Altenburg at Horace Mann Elementary. So, Mr. Chaifetz sent Aiken to school wired with a hidden audio recorder.

"I just knew I had to find out what was happening there," the father told reporters. "My only option was to put a recorder there. I needed to hear what a normal day was like in there."

When Mr. Chaifetz listened to the tape, he was devastated. His son was the victim of bullying -- and worst of all, the people who were bullying Aiken were his own teachers -- Kelly Altenburg and teacher's aide, who has to this point only been identified as Jodi. The tape contains hours of verbal and emotional abuse. 

Friends of Kelly Altenburg who talked to media said that "Kelly is not like that," and swore she would never hurt a child’s feelings -- particularly one with special needs.

Stuart Chaifetz uploaded sections of the taped abuse to YouTube. The secretly recorded audio catches teaching staff mocking, arguing and verbally bullying the child. One adult calls Chaifetz's autistic 10-year-old son "a bastard."

A lawyer for Altenburg has denied that the teacher was in the classroom when the abusive remarks were made. She has been placed on paid leave. Since the allegations have surfaced, school officials have announced that one school aide resigned, another was put on leave, and that a substitute aide will not be returning.

Correction: The teacher in this story is not the Kelly Altenburg who studied special education at Minnesota State University in Mankato as previously posted here in error. My sincere apologies for re-posting false information. My source was Huffington Post. I would like to blame that site, but since I failed to mention or link to the source -- I wrongly printed the incorrect information as fact. Fan Daily and Radar Online, which I did provide links to, were the other websites from which I sourced the bad information. I am sorry. I offer my apology for the error. I have learned an important lesson.


School of Hate Settles Lawsuit

The Anoka-Hennepin School District has announced a settlement in the lawsuit filed against the district that alleged persistent bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the settlement will likely bring an end to a federal civil rights investigation, "which stemmed from a student complaint in the fall of 2010."

The lawsuit was filed last summer on behalf of six current and former students who said the district did not adequately address complaints of severe and persistent bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation.

The Anoka Hennepin School District -- which lashed out over a Rolling Stone article that profiled the spate of suicides in the district and the school's policy which forces teachers to remain neutral on the subject of homosexuality -- recently voted to replace its old policy with one intended to provide a "respectful" environment for all students.


Zero Intolerance

Under a new policy instituted by Lowndes County Schools in Georgia -- report cards and progress reports will reflect a 60 out of 100 as the lowest grade.

Teachers must offer students opportunities to retake tests and redo assignments until a passing grade is earned. The highest grade earned will be recorded, and teachers cannot record zeros, but can give an "incomplete" for work not turned in after insisting that the assignment be completed.

"Assigning a grade of zero is equivalent to giving up on a child," Assistant Superintendent of Lowndes County Schools Troy Davis told reporters.

The district has posted the full text of the new guidelines online. The grading guide states that teachers should not be satisfied with issuing grades below a student's potential.


Digital Textbook Target - 2017

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other Obama administration officials challenged schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students' hands within five years.

At a recent "digital town hall" a new "playbook" was released that promotes the use of digital textbooks and offers guidance. The Obama administration hopes that dollars spent on traditional textbooks can instead go toward making digital learning a reality. Duncan told reporters:

"Do we want kids walking around with 50-pound backpacks and every book in those backpacks costing 50, 60, 70 dollars and many of them being out of date? Or, do we want students walking around with a mobile device that has much more content than was even imaginable a couple years ago and can be constantly updated? I think it's a very simple choice." 


Missed America

Laura Kaeppeler -- Miss Wisconsin -- was crowned the new 2012 Miss America. Kaeppeler, 23, has an unusual background. She says she thought long and hard as to whether she should make her father's jail time for mail fraud part of her pageant platform, reports AP.

Her father, Jeff Kaeppeler, served 18 months in federal prison for mail fraud, a sentence he started when Laura was entering college. Kaeppeler's mission: She wants children of incarcerated adults to feel less alone, to have mentoring and as much of a relationship with their parents as possible.

"Miss America represents everyone," she said. "Miss America represents all."

10 Stats You Should Know About Our Prison System


Atlanta's Slavery Math Quiz

Kirsten West Savali has written a great piece entitled: Atlanta Metro-Area School District Defends Using Slavery Equations To Teach Math To Third Graders:

Third grade math is not normally the course where students are taught about beating slaves and dehumanizing labor, but two teachers at Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Atlanta thought it was a perfectly normal integration.

Chris Braxton told Fox 5 Atlanta that his son came home from school Friday afternoon with a racially inflammatory assignment that featured such questions as:

"Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"
"How many baskets of cotton did Frederick fill?"
"If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week? Two weeks?"

While the Gwinnett County School District admits the questions were "inappropriate," they are not disciplining the teachers in any way; in fact, they came swiftly to their defense. Spokesperson Sloan Roach said "two teachers from the school came up with the questions as part of a cross-curriculum activity," reports Fox 5. After learning about slavery in social studies, they apparently felt it would be an excellent idea to reinforce the horrific violence of oppression by having their students count how many times African slaves was abused by their owners.

"They were trying to connect what they learned there with the math," Roach said. This is simply a case of creating a bad question."

Though Braxton rightfully feels that the questions are racist, the school district defends the teachers against the charges by simply stating that the "bad" questions will not be used again.

I have seen many cases of ignorance and racism in the media, but this is one of the most vile, reprehensible forms of indoctrination. To teach eight-year-olds math by inserting slavery into the equation is evidence that plantation philosophy not only runs rampant in Georgia politics, but in education as well.
There were no other questions that could have been asked? Maybe: How many slave-owners deserved to be lynched for the atrocities they committed against their African slaves?

Answer: All of them.

Read the full article here.

Also see:
Parents Hold Protest