Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Facebook, Time Warner Partnering To Combat Bullying

The AP (7/13, Liedtke) reports that social networking site Facebook and Time Warner are partnering "to use their clout to raise awareness about bullying and encourage more people to report the abuses when they see them. Facebook's participation reflects a growing recognition that its online social network consisting of more than 750 million people has become an outlet for harassment as well as friendship." The campaign "will be waged on the Internet, on TV and radio and several major US magazines. It's being billed as 'Stop Bullying: Speak Up,' a theme that Time Warner's Cartoon Network has been trumpeting since last year."

California Murder Trial Casts Light On Anti-Gay Bullying

NPR (7/13, Kahn) reports that the trial of Brandon McInerney in Southern California for "killing a gay classmate is bringing national attention to the problem of gay bullying. Prosecutors in Southern California say the defendant murdered 15-year-old Lawrence King out of his hatred of homosexuals, but defense attorneys say their client snapped after being repeatedly harassed by the openly gay teen." The piece notes that the gay community has focused on the case to draw attention to anti-gay bullying.

Observers Cite "Sea Change" For Teachers From Recent Legislation

Education Week (7/13, Heitin) reports on the spate of state legislature passed this year having "a notable impact on teachers. Building on the momentum from the previous two years, in which lawmakers began aggressively pursuing teacher-related reforms, about a dozen states passed laws since January that curb or otherwise modify teacher tenure, teacher evaluations, last-in-first-out policies, and collective bargaining." The piece quotes Jennifer Dounay Zinth of the Denver-based Education Commission of the States calling the legislative wave "a 'sea change'" and notes that "at least a dozen" states passed laws "altering teachers' conditions of employment. Actions affected collective bargaining, seniority, evaluations, and tenure, among other policies. In some categories without checkmarks, similar legislation by that state may have taken effect in previous years. And some states' actions on tenure, seniority, and evaluation could ultimately have an influence on collective bargaining."

Pennsylvania District Expands ESL Summer Enrichment Program

The Scranton (PA) Times Tribune (7/13, Hall) reports that as the immigrant population has expanded in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, area, the district "is operating an English as a Second Language summer camp" for the first time in a number of years. "About 150 kindergarten through fifth-grade students are enrolled in the five-week program." The Times Tribune notes that some 8% of the district's students are enrolled in ESL classes. "During the five-week program, which is funded through federal grants, students receive breakfast and lunch, work on reading and writing skills and attend field trips on Fridays."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Atlanta Cheating Scandal Highlights Debate Over High-Stakes Testing

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (7/11, Sarrio) reports on the impact that the Atlanta cheating scandal is having on the debate over high-stakes testing, noting that some observers predict that the focus on standardized testing may "trigger similar episodes in the years ahead." State officials said that the Atlanta cheating scandal is largely attributable to "pressure to meet testing targets," and has "tarnished Atlanta's Cinderella story of school reform. This comes as Georgia and states across the country are working on new strategies to retain, pay and promote teachers and principals based -- in large part -- on how much growth students show on standardized tests." However, Education Secretary Arne Duncan "said the Atlanta situation was 'deeply disturbing,' but he disagrees with people who say a greater emphasis on testing will cause more cheating. Students need to be evaluated, he said, and what leads to great test scores is great teaching." This article is accompanied by a Q&A with Duncan about the scandal.


ED Official Expresses Concern About Cheating Allegations.FOX News (7/11) quotes ED's Justin Hamilton saying that "the department is 'concerned' about the wave of investigations and allegations regarding cheating on standardized tests in several school systems, but stressed that most schools are 'doing the right thing.'" Fox alludes to the DC and Atlanta investigations, noting that Hamilton, "while declining to comment specifically on the D.C. probe, said Sunday that it's important investigators get 'to the bottom' of the cheating claims. 'People want to have confidence in that process,' he told 'It's clear that the real crime here is that these kids are being cheated out of the world-class education they deserve.'" This article notes Education Secretary Arne Duncan's recent warning to state officials that districts should increase vigilance about systemic cheating.

New Indiana Curriculum Eliminates Cursive Writing Instruction

The Indianapolis Star (7/11, Elliott) reports that the new school curriculum approved by Indiana officials eliminates cursive handwriting instruction in favor of mandatory keyboarding classes. "The national move away from cursive is being fueled by the Common Core curriculum," which includes keyboarding but not cursive. The piece notes that the move is controversial.


Meanwhile, CNN(7/11) reports that "handwriting experts and educators worry that Indiana's choice to stop teaching cursive in schools could negatively affect a child's ability to learn," quoting Paul Sullivan, principal of St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Burbank, California, "The fluidity of cursive allows, I think, for gains in spelling and a better tie to what they are reading and comprehending through stories and such and through literature."

Tennessee Districts Implementing Single-Gender Classrooms

The Tennessean (7/11, Hubbard) reports on a number of statistics showing boys trailing girls academically in Tennessee, adding, that according to Middle Tennessee State University professor Martin Kennedy, "too many boys are already mentally checked out of school by the seventh grade." The piece notes that in the past, "single-gender schools in Nashville have been reserved for the religious or wealthy," but "Kennedy, who grew up with 10 brothers and graduated from asingle-gender Catholic high school, wanted to give that choice for public school parents. Boys Prep will open in fall 2012, the city's first all-boys public charter school."

New York Charter Schools Said To Reject Problem Students

The New York Times (7/11, Winerip, Subscription Publication) reports on the experience of a New York mother who was encouraged to remove her young son from the Harlem Success Academy 3 charter school because he was disruptive. The boy is "thriving" in his new school, and his mother now says "she felt her son had been done an injustice." Her "story raises perhaps the most critical question in the debate about charter schools: do they cherry-pick students, if not by gaming the admissions process, then by counseling out children who might be more expensive or difficult to educate - and who could bring down their test scores, graduation rates and safety records?"