Utterly Meaningless » 2002 » August

    Filed on August 13, 2002 at 7:28 pm under by dcobranchi

    COMPETITIVE PARKING? No, this doesn’t have anything to do with the kind of “parking” that you remember from your high-school days. We’re talking here about students parking their cars at school. Apparently a 3-judge panel in NJ feels this is a competitive sport.

    New Jersey appeals court ruled yesterday that a Hunterdon County high school can randomly conduct drug tests on students who participate in teams and clubs or who park their cars in the school parking lot.

    The issue of testing students for drug use has been hotly debated around the country since 1995, when the United States Supreme Court upheld the testing of student athletes.

    In June, the court expanded the earlier ruling and upheld the widespread use of random drug testing of public school students. The 5-to-4 decision upheld a program in a rural Oklahoma district that required students engaged in “competitive” extracurricular activities — including the future homemakers’ club, the cheerleading squad and the choir — to submit to random drug testing.

    EDISON UPDATE A couple

    Filed on at 7:19 pm under by dcobranchi

    EDISON UPDATE A couple of really negative stories today about Edison Schools. A Nevada school district is withholding payment until Edison comes up with some $7.7M in promised donations and Phila. Mayor John Street predicted that Edison will be out of business in about a year.


    Filed on at 6:54 pm under by dcobranchi

    WHAT IS HOMESCHOOLING? I’m not sure I could come up with an all-inclusive definition but, as Potter Stewart claimed about obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” I also know what isn’t HSing. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Paula Spencer who, in the 9/1/2002 edition of “Woman’s Day” (don’t get snarky), penned an article entitled “We’re All Homeschoolers” (not available online).

    Like every parent I know, I worry about whether my children are getting a good education…

    Still, the second guessing haunts us. Are we doing enough?

    For a surprising number of families I know, homeschooling is the answer…Lots of kids thrive in home schools. For a host of reasons, though, that’s not for me. (To name three: I already have a job, I lack the right temperament, and I like having my kids exposed to a bigger world and other ideas. Not least, I’d go insane being around all four kids 24/7.)

    I’m reassured by a cheering thought told to me back when my oldest started kindergarten: We’re all homeschoolers. This insight came from a good friend…who’s also a teacher, as her second career. Half of education, this wise friend pointed out, is what happens at home.

    The executive summary: This mother of 4 kids feels guilty because she’s not sure that her kids are in the “snazziest schools in the country”. She believes that HSing is probably better but for her 3 excuses plus her one BIG reason, she chooses not to HS. To assuage her guilt, she and her PS-teacher friend attempt to co-opt the language: “I’m a HSer, too.”

    What a load of crap!

    Today appears to be

    Filed on at 4:36 pm under by dcobranchi

    Today appears to be the day for updates. Here’s more stuff about peanuts. The school district rescinded the “No More PB&J Rule”.

    Last week, Constance Carter, first-year principal of Nickajack Elementary School in Smyrna, announced that peanuts — from nuts themselves to peanut butter sandwiches and even candy bars — would be banned to prevent health problems.

    Tony Arasi, an assistant superintendent of the Cobb County district, quickly countermanded her edict, but said all schools would create peanut-free zones in lunchrooms when necessary.

    “We are not considering banning peanuts in schools,” he said. “But the incident [involving Nickajack] leads us to believe we just need to clarify the protocol with principals and food service managers on how we would handle students with allergies, say, somebody allergic to peanuts.”

    Good news. New York

    Filed on at 4:32 pm under by dcobranchi

    Good news. New York State is cracking down on teachers who were essentially forcing their students to take Ritalin.

    state education czar Richard Mills said he will instruct public-school districts not to strong-arm parents into medicating their kids with Ritalin and other psychiatric drugs.

    His decision came hours after a top state lawmaker urged him to straighten out the mess – and threatened to create a law to cure it.

    It also followed a statement from Gov. Pataki’s office that said state regulations prohibit educators from diagnosing kids and pushing drugs.

    “The State Education Department [SED] has a policy that prohibits the practice, and that should be enforced – no ifs, ands or buts,” said Pataki spokesman Joe Conway.

    More on vouchers. The

    Filed on August 12, 2002 at 11:15 am under by dcobranchi

    More on vouchers. The Washington Times gives a hint on how voucher opponents tactics will likely change:

    Indeed, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State — the group that successfully challenged the Florida program — said he believes “it’s still a very fertile ground for anti-voucher activists.”

    The strategy of Mr. Lynn’s group is to go after existing voucher programs for violating state laws.

    “With voucher funds private schools in Ohio have to obey civil rights and health and safety regulations,” Mr. Lynn said. “If they don’t, I suspect they’ll be sued.”

    In the handful of states with voucher programs in place, he said, his group will “continue to look for unfair treatment of students, unfair treatment of employees, and we would be happy to help anyone who is a victim.”

    I believe there may

    Filed on at 9:17 am under by dcobranchi

    I believe there may be no group more opposed to “accountability” than retired public school teachers. As evidence, check out this screed.

    The No Child Left Behind Act scam has finally reached the great State of Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been gleefully waiting for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to release the Wisconsin “list of schools facing an escalating list of sanctions if they don’t show better results”. This is how a list of 84 schools, “in need of improvement” statewide was described in a typical infamous top of the front page August 8th Journal Sentinel article with the Bold headline, “38% of MPS schools face sanctions”, that subtly bashes the integrity of the exemplary [emphasis added] Milwaukee Public Schools…

    Mathematics proficiency standardized testing is the most stupid feature of testing 3rd to 8th grade students nationwide. There is absolutely no rationale for establishing absolute high standards in math for students at any grade level. It is child abuse to label children who are arbitrarily labled deficient in math skills at any grade level. It is destructive of children at any age level and does nothing but increase dropouts and decrease graduation rates…

    What is the rationale for higher-level math requirements for all? What is the rationale for high stakes testing for promotion or graduation and elimination of social promotion? When is the unintelligent testing and math mania going to end? When are political, educational and business leaders at the national and state level going to be held accountable for their educational polices?

    Now, I am no fan of the NCLB Act. I think it is badly flawed. Allowing each state to define “failing school” just opens the entire process to political games. That said, this former teacher would do away with all accountability (at least for mathematics). We’ve been there, done that. It doesn’t work.

    Sometimes Google News (beta)

    Filed on August 9, 2002 at 6:56 pm under by dcobranchi

    Sometimes Google News (beta) throws me a curve ball. Here’s an exact copy of a hit for “education”:

    Pam & Tommy Lee Take Sacramento – National Review Online – 9 hours ago
    … has her sights on leaving a lasting imprint on California public education. This
    year alone, in addition to collective bargaining, she’s sought to revamp …

    Sounds like one of those typical celebrity “casues”, right. Nope, the article is really about CA Gov. Gray Davis and the CTA.

    If one were to set Sacramento’s inner workings to film, Gray Davis and the California Teachers Association would be the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee of California politics. They’ve coupled (CTA donated about $1.3 million to Davis’s first gubernatorial race, plus worked the phone banks to get out the vote); they’ve bickered on collective bargaining and other educational policies; their quarrel has mushroomed to a public spectacle played out before the cameras.

    And the woman who “has her sights on leaving a lasting imprint”?

    Elected to the state assembly two years ago, Goldberg is one of four lesbian lawmakers who make up the so-called “lavender caucus”. Goldberg is loud, brash — and not shy about advancing her left-of-Left agenda be it for the benefit of the downtrodden, the transgendered, or the union-labeled. The Los Angeles Daily News has depicted her in cartoons as a grotesquely overweight Jabba the Hutt-like figure. The alternative New Times LA calls her “the Duchess of Dumb,” “a complete creep,” and, in the same Star Wars vein, “a human Jabba the Hutt who consumes the good while producing the bad”.

    Having graduated to Sacramento, the assemblywoman has her sights on leaving a lasting imprint on California public education. This year alone, in addition to collective bargaining, she’s sought to revamp standardized testing and failed in her bid to rid all California public schools of Indian mascot names. Small wonder that CTA’s Johnson has hailed Goldberg as “a brilliant person who could not be more aligned with teachers and the public schools.”

    Say it ain’t so!

    Filed on August 8, 2002 at 3:25 pm under by dcobranchi

    Say it ain’t so! This school has banned peanut butter from the campus.

    The classic childhood lunch, a PB&J on white bread, will be confiscated on sight this year at one of Cobb County’s elementary schools.

    So will peanut butter crackers and cookies, peanut butter cups and anything else containing Georgia’s top-selling homegrown snack.

    The ban on all things goober is no joke. Several children entering Smyrna’s Nickajack Elementary School this year have allergies so severe they are life-threatening, said new Principal Constance Carter. Some people are so allergic that even breathing peanut dust can trigger a reaction.

    I can understand not allowing the school to serve any peanut-derived product, but confiscating lunches seems way over the top. I doubt peanut butter sandwiches spread too much “peanut dust” around.

    On vacation (again!). This

    Filed on at 7:08 am under by dcobranchi

    On vacation (again!). This time down in SC to celebrate my in-law’s 50th anniversary. I have my laptop (no disk crash yet) so I may be able to post but it’ll likely be light until Sunday.

    The NY Post (I

    Filed on at 6:59 am under by dcobranchi

    The NY Post (I know, I know) has a series of articles on the use of Ritalin in the public schools.

    Here’s an update to

    Filed on at 6:51 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s an update to the drug-sniffing dog search of kindergartners. It may not have happened.

    Ken Cotton, the lawyer for the school board, gave a starkly different description of the searches, which he said took place on April 24 and May 6 at the Wagner district’s K-12 school.

    “When the searches were occurring—and I hesitate to call them searches—it was more like dogs passing through classrooms,” Mr. Cotton said. And the K-2 pupils and their classrooms were not even searched, and neither dog escaped its leash or chased any children, he maintained.

    According to Mr. Cotton, police brought the specially trained dogs to the school because of two complaints by parents that their children had seen students in possession of marijuana on the school playground, and because a survey of students had found that they perceived the school had a drug problem.

    Tom Washburne (of the

    Filed on at 6:36 am under by dcobranchi

    Tom Washburne (of the HSLDA) has posted a response to Rob Reich, Department of Political Science, Stanford University. Some background: Reich’s paper, Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority Over Education: The Case of Homeschooling, set off a firestorm in the HS community. Reich posits a separate (from the parents and the state) interest of the child in his/her education. This interest is centered on developing “autonomy”.

    I understand autonomy to mean something close to the etymological meaning of the word: self-governance. Minimally autonomous persons possess the capacity to develop and pursue their own interests and are able, if they so choose, to participate ably as equal citizens in democratic deliberation about the exercise of political power (pg. 21).

    I doubt too many HSers would want less for their kids. The problem arises, though, because Prof. Reich does not believe HSers are willing to expose their children to a variety of people and ideas.

    I submit that even in a minimal construal of autonomy, it must be the function of the school setting to expose children to and engage children with values and beliefs other than those of their parents.54 To achieve minimal autonomy requires that a child know that there are ways of life other than that into which he or she has been born. Minimal autonomy requires, especially for its civic importance, that a child be able to examine his or her own political values and beliefs, and those of others, with a critical eye. It requires that the child be able to think independently. If this is all true, then at a bare minimum, the structure of schooling cannot simply replicate in every particularity the values and beliefs of a child’s
    home (pg. 30).

    In other words, this is the “S-word” issue all dressed up in academic language! Washburne does a good job picking apart the rest of Reich’s argument. I have one quibble, though. Washburne wonders why Reich spends so much energy “helping” the small HS community when there are much bigger fish to fry. Mr. Washburne then answers his own question:

    The real root of the problem home education presents to Reich is that home educators have
    removed themselves from America’s educational system and its underlying values. Their children are beyond the reach of the elite and the predominate worldview of relativism or secular humanism. As home schooling continues to grow and prosper, this will become increasingly troublesome to the educational establishment. But more than being beyond the intellectual elite, the children of home educators are largely beyond the reach of the state.

    Based on many emails that Prof. Reich has posted to NHEN-Legislative, I don’t think this is his motivation. Instead, I think this is good old-fashioned opportunism. Recih has found a small but growing educational niche. It seems to have some political clout. It has only been minimally studied. Eureka! Fodder for lots and lots of papers. Reich is an academic, through and through. All of this is merely a theoretical exercise. Regardless, though, Washburne’s final comment is one to keep in mind:

    What Reich is doing, intentional or not, is setting an academic framework by which an activist judge might rule in favor of heavy restrictions on home education, while at the same time avoiding the obvious assault on precedent and the Constitution.

    Other papers are beginning

    Filed on August 6, 2002 at 9:55 am under by dcobranchi

    Other papers are beginning to pick up the PA HS-law story.

    Other home-schooling parents say the paperwork, like the education objectives, gives them a structure to follow to ensure their children get the education they need.
    “The current law simply provides a framework of accountability that helps us educate our children,” said Susan Richman, a mother from Pittsburgh and a board member of the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency, the largest of the state’s seven home-school associations.
    “It’s all about how parents pick their attitude,” Mrs. Richman said. “You can do it in a minimal way, and in the end you can find it really worthwhile and meaningful.”

    What The WashTimes misses is that Mrs. Rcihman is not exactly an unbiased observer; PA HSers Accreditation Agency is the Richman’s for-profit business which stands to lose big if PA passes the proposed law.

    And the next “Toni

    Filed on at 8:22 am under by dcobranchi

    And the next “Toni Braxton” (who?) is also a HSer.

    Kiah and her dad moved to New York so she could do the show [the “Lion King”]; while here, her father will home-school her. The young actress is in a six-month contract, which may be renewed, providing “Disney likes her,” says her dad, and she doesn’t grow too much (actors playing the young Nala cannot be taller than 58 inches; Kiah is 52 1/2 ).

    Highered Intelligence blogged a

    Filed on August 5, 2002 at 4:35 pm under by dcobranchi

    Highered Intelligence blogged a quote from Chris Klicka that helped me make up my mind not to re-up with HSLDA.

    “Initially, nobody was certain that homeschooling really works – thus the need for heavier regulation, or in some cases, complete prohibition,” said Christopher Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Va.

    The “need”? No way! There was never a “need”. A desire by the NEA and their legislative supporters perhaps. I hope Chris was mis-quoted. If not, this is worrisome. If the senior counsel for a HS lobbying group believes that HSing is a privilege earned by being good boys and girls and “proving” that HSing works, then we are in trouble. Hey, Chris, HSing is not an earned privilege; it is a right! Go back and re-read Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

    The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

    The implementation of the

    Filed on at 8:33 am under by dcobranchi

    The implementation of the NCLB Act is being slowed by the states and the federal government. The schools claim they don’t yet know how to implement the “choice” provisions for kids in failing schools. This may be true but I have a feeling there are ulterior motives for slowing things down:

    Officials at several metro-area school systems are actually urging parents not to request transfers.

    Judy Robinson, a Coweta County Schools assistant superintendent over curriculum and instruction, said moving a child to a new school may not be the best decision for some children.

    “I’d recommend parents leave their children where they are, at least in our system,” Robinson said. “I never say to parents one school is better than another.

    “The disruption it causes in a child’s education for them to move from one school to another for whatever reason is not worth whatever benefits” that would come from going to a higher-performing school, Robinson said. Parents should “just work with the school to make sure their child gets a quality education.”

    Welcome to Coweta County, GA, where all of the schools are above average.

    I’m sure there’s a

    Filed on August 4, 2002 at 7:59 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’m sure there’s a lesson here. I just don’t know what it is. GIs’ kids, often uprooted, thrive at on-base schools

    With small, personalized classes and a record of high academic achievement — students consistently score above the national average on standardized tests — the schools are so popular that there are long waiting lists to live in military quarters.

    A Vanderbilt University study last fall concluded that if all Department of Defense schools were lumped together as a state, the system would rank first or second nationally. As in many large urban districts, 40 percent of the students are minorities, and half are poor enough to qualify for the federal lunch program.

    On tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the students are among the highest scorers. The gap between the scores of blacks and Hispanics and those of whites and Asians is one of the nation’s smallest.

    Some factors responsible for the success cannot be readily duplicated elsewhere. Every student has at least one parent with a high school degree or more and a job.

    But most parents and school officials say the biggest reason is the involvement expected, even demanded, of parents.


    Filed on at 7:37 pm under by dcobranchi


    If you can’t pass,

    Filed on August 3, 2002 at 7:14 pm under by dcobranchi

    If you can’t pass, CHEAT! Redux. Here’s an update to the story about the school administrator who cheated her school’s way to a “exemplary” rating.

    Jean Bailey was hired in June as a language arts teacher, said Doug Reed, Danbury superintendent. Reed said he and the Danbury Middle School principal interviewed Bailey. Reed said he also contacted Bailey’s references from Brazosport, where she was a teacher before joining the Fort Bend system. Reed is also a former Brazosport administrator.

    “We did hire Jean Bailey. Her resume and background are excellent,” Reed said. “I think she’s going to be a good addition to our staff.

    “Everything I heard led me to believe she has done nothing illegal,” said Reed.

    What about setting a terrible example for her future students? I hope she doesn’t give tests in her laguage arts classes as I’m sure cheating would be rampant.

    Just say no! Apparently

    Filed on at 6:52 pm under by dcobranchi

    Just say no! Apparently anit-drug programs in schools are ineffective.

    In a study published today in Health Education Research, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say many schools are using popular programs such as DARE, Here’s Looking at You 2000 and McGruff’s Drug Prevention and Child Protection, which haven’t shown the results schools should expect, despite years of use.

    The Boston Globe today

    Filed on August 2, 2002 at 5:08 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Boston Globe today had a good Op-Ed today on The big lie: ‘No child left behind’ They report on multiple school districts throwing up road blocks preventing students in failing schools from transferring. It’s probably not entirely the SD’s fault, as there are literally hundreds of thousands of eligible students and not nearly that many empty slots in better schools.

    With all the restrictions Duncan has put in place, there will be only 2,900 transfer slots. Chicago will keep between 97 and 98 percent of its 125,000 students in their traps in failing schools. Duncan said he will spend $35 million of federal money on the failing schools. But the odious whiff of enforced segregation in his plan makes you wonder if the dreamy rhetoric of ”neighborhood schools” is just another South African pass law.

    ”We fully support the spirit of the law, but there is a practical reality to deal with,” Duncan said. ”If every student in every school exercised choice, there would be a great deal of chaos in the system. We simply don’t have enough space for the students.”

    The left coast is

    Filed on August 1, 2002 at 9:06 am under by dcobranchi

    The left coast is at it again. California’s Attack On Home Schooling

    Historically in California, the only requirement for parents to home school their children has been that they fill out a so-called private-school affidavit that designates the parents’ home school as an individual private school. Now, however, the California Department of Education (CDE) has become more aggressive in its long-held opinion that home schooling is illegal unless either of two stringent conditions are met: 1) children are enrolled in a public school independent study program or charter school; or 2) the parent possesses a teaching credential and is tutoring his or her child. Since most home-school parents can’t meet these conditions, the CDE charges they are operating unlawfully. Mike Smith, who heads the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), observes that the CDE “is saying that the only home schooling allowed in California is one that is under its control.”

    Former DE Governor Pete

    Filed on at 8:39 am under by dcobranchi

    Former DE Governor Pete DuPont (didn’t he start out as “Pierre”?) has a nice summary of a voucher decision by the much-maligned Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Washington State had withdrawn a grant because the student had decided to major in pastoral ministry. The court held this to be unconstitutional.

    A Washington statute prohibits the awarding of aid to any “student who is pursuing a degree in theology,” and the state constitution says that public money shall not be “applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction.”

    But on July 18 the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Evergreen State’s policy denying the use of state education scholarships to individuals studying to be pastors was unconstitutional: “A state law may not offer a benefit to all . . . but exclude some on the basis of religion.”

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