Saturday, December 31, 2005

Wishing you the best in 2006

It is not your environment;
it is not your history;
It is not your education or ability.
It is the quality of your mind
that predicts your future.
- Dr. Benjamin Mays

Happy New Year!

Making the case for 'a new civil rights movement'

Are some problems facing black families self-inflicted?
One of the cruelest aspects of slavery was the way it wrenched apart black families, separating husbands from wives and children from their parents. It is ironic, to say the least, that now, nearly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, much of the most devastating damage to black families, and especially black children, is self-inflicted.

The above quote is by Bob Herbert, a popular columnist for the New York Times. He writes with precision, and he's never afraid to step outside the box of political correctness.

Herbert makes the case for black people to stop blaming others for their problems. He does not negate the fact that slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and institutionalized racism have impacted people of color since they hit American soil. But he does urge black people who are stuck in a "woe is me" mentality to escape their mental prisons. His biggest concern is the effect on children. Herbert also writes:

Most black people are not poor. Most are not criminals. Most are leading productive lives. The black middle class is larger and more successful than ever. But there are millions who are still out in the cold, caught in a cycle of poverty, ignorance, illness and violence that is taking a horrendous toll.

Herbert suggests that the black community could use an infusion of new leadership. What do you think? The complete text of the New York Times column can be found at FBIHOP.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Signs of child abuse: Part 2

Taking a closer look at 'silent victimization'

Yesterday's post on child abuse offered some suggestions to teachers on how to spot children who may be victims of abuse. Approximately 12 out of every 1,000 American children up to age 17 are treated for child abuse each year. Len, publisher of InnerVue, provides some insight on the impact to young victims.

She writes, "Emotional abuse is probably the cause of so many people experiencing depression, anxiety, anti-social behavior, and anger. This silent victimization can begin in childhood and the effects of it expands into adulthood, and the cycle repeats itself."

Len also recommends taking a look at the American Humane website - a great resource for anyone with an interest in child safety.

Defining emotional abuse

According to American Humane, "emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child's cognitive, emotional, psychological, or social development." To learn what constitutes emotional abuse, also known as psychological maltreatment, click here.

Abuse can take many forms, and some children can suffer from more than one type. According to data collected by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), the majority of children confirmed to be victims of mistreatment experience neglect. Following are the percentages of children who experience some form of abuse:

Neglect 59.2%
Physical abuse 18.6%
Sexual abuse 9.6%
Emotional/psychological 6.8%
Other 19.5%

"Other" includes abandonment, threats to harm the child, congenital drug addiction, and other situations that are not counted as specific categories in NCANDS. The percentages here add up to more than 100% because some children were victims of more than one type of abuse.

Race, gender and age of victims

In 2001, according to America Humane, roughly half (50.2%) of children who were abused were white, 25% were African American, and 14.5% were Hispanic. American Indians and Alaska Natives accounted for 2% of victims, and Asian-Pacific Islanders accounted for 1.3% of victims. These rates have remained consistent for the past several years. Boys are targeted as often as girls.

Teacher cites examples of abuse

Jaimie, publisher of Life Is Hilarious, is a kindergarten teacher. This veteran educator knows all too well that life is not always hilarious in the classroom. Jaimie shares some first-hand knowledge of what she has seen at her school:

One girl in kindergarten, who was not in my class, came to school with a black eye. Her sister, who was in 4th grade, came to school with a broken nose. Mom spent time in jail, then was released and the girls were back with her. It's just a matter of time before it happens again.

Another story: I had a child in my class who was extremely intelligent (reading at a second/third grade level), but who was absent frequently, would crawl into classroom closets, and purposely sabotage her work. She eventually told me that her mother's boyfriend was beating up her mom, and even broke her nose (I saw the mom's broken nose, but she told me she was 'in a car accident'). The girl was constantly living in fear. They ended up moving to Las Vegas.

Jaimie adds that the article by Kristen Houghton (featured in the previous post) was informative, but Jaimie would have liked to have seen more clarity in some areas.

"Some children are just more quiet than others, and some children just have strange dispositions," she says. "It is hard to detect an abused child if you were to rely on personality alone."

If you suspect your student is a victim of child abuse, report it to the appropriate school personnel so that the local child protection agency can be contacted. If the child is in immediate danger, call the police.

Web Resources

The Children's Bureau

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration
for Children and Families

The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information

American Psychology Association

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Facts for Families

Psychology Today

Dr. Deborah Serani
What parents need to know about child abuse

Tags: Children, Parenting, , Education, , , , ,

© 2005 D. C. Sistrunk - All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Signs of child abuse: Part 1

What a teacher should know

The abused child comes in many sizes and shapes. They come from families of all socioeconomic levels. They are among the sad children teachers see every day. Do you know how to tell the difference between a child just going through normal sadness and an abused child? Kristen Houghton offers some tips.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Celebrating Kwanzaa

Reflecting upon African ancestry, unity and values

Kwanzaa is the Swahili word for "first fruits." And just like a joyous harvest, it's a time for celebration. Guided by the seven traditional principles known as Nguzo Saba, Kwanzaa starts on Dec. 26 and is a week of reflection on African ancestry, unity and values. The holiday is observed annually by more than 18 million people throughout the United States, Canada, England and the Caribbean.

Maulana Ron Karenga, now a professor of black studies at California State University, Long Beach, came up with the idea for Kwanzaa in 1966 as a way to restore a sense of connection with African culture.

When someone greets you by saying, "Habari gani?" they're asking you what's new. And during Kwanzaa, the answer is always the honored principle of the day.

The first principle of Kwanzaa, Umoja, stands for unity. On Dec. 26, the day is set aside to resolve family or community problems and find ways for everyone to pull together.

Kujichagulia is the second principle, and its translation is "self-determination." Dec. 27 is dedicated to the need for living and speaking for oneself and to be true to what one knows is right. To live the value of Kujichagulia, families can explore their African heritage through culture, language and history. It's a time to learn more about the historical events that helped define culture (e.g. the civil rights movement in the United States).

The third day of Kwanzaa is based on Ujima, collective work and responsibility. On this day, people of color can help each other accomplish chores, and join with the community to complete area projects.

The principle of Ujamaa, or cooperative economics, helps build strong financial foundations. Shopping in black-owned stores or sharing skills are great ways to celebrate Ujamaa.

As people of color affirm Nia, they reinvigorate their sense of purpose. They respect their individual goals, as well as those of others. Values and the traditions of the past are honored.

Dec. 31 is dedicated to Kuumba, or creativity, and African arts take center stage. The festivities include reading poetry, telling folk tales, and performing traditional dances.

On Jan. 1, the principle of faith is honored.

As the holiday of Kwanzaa closes and the new year begins, people of African ancestry come together in pride and self-worth. A feast, called Karamu, is served and homemade gifts, Zawadi, are shared.

Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrating the legacies of the past and the remembrance of the struggles. And always, it is about pride, courage and hope for the future.

Related: The Official Kwanzaa Website

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A special day brought two faiths together

About Christmas and Hanukkah

On Sunday, for the first time in 46 years, Christmas and the start of Hanukkah fell on the same day.

On Dec. 25, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians maintain that Jesus, the son of God, was born of a man - a Jewish man - to suffer and die on the cross to take away the sins of the world.

The word Christmas comes from the words Cristes maesse, or "Christ's Mass." Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus for members of the Christian religion. Most historians peg the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D.

Meanwhile, at sundown on Sunday, Jews began their celebration of Hanukkah - the festival of lights. Hanukkah (also commonly spelled Chanukah) means "rededication" in Hebrew. The holiday, in part, honors the Maccabees, a family who successfully fought for Jewish independence from their oppressors (the Selucid Greek government) in the second century B.C. The Hanukkah observance continues through Jan. 1.

According to various demographic sources, there are nearly 2 billion Christians in a total world population of 5.5 billion. The total world population of Jews is estimated between 13 million and 14.5 million.

When Hanukkah and Christmas are celebrated on the same day, it's natural to wonder how the two major faiths are intertwined. The earliest Christian were, in fact, Jews. For that reason, the relationship wasn't something they had to ponder 2,000 years ago. Their faith was developing as they lived it.

(Many people prefer to concentrate on more secular celebrations of Christmas. Others blend the religious aspects with the secular. To learn more about secular traditions, click here.)

Related: Chanukah, Christmas

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Remembering the Christmas miracle and the treasure of friendship

Today is the day I remember the prophesy of peace - and the reason for the season of Christmas. It is also a time to be thankful for friends.


Dear Lord,
Thank you for a special gift,
one that cannot be bought
for any amount of money.

Thank you for a gift wrapped in beauty,
that is wonderful in all seasons and times.

Thank you for a gift that is always near
in times of need
and brings great joy.

Thank you for the gift that sparkles
with freshness every day.

Thank you for my friend.
May I never take this gift for granted.

(by John C. Maxwell)

C H R I S T M A S !

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Examining the funding gap in education

Low-income and children of color shortchanged in many states

Most states significantly shortchange poor and minority children when it comes to funding the schools they attend, according to a report released today by the Education Trust.

Nationally, we spend about $900 less per pupil on students educated in our nation’s poorest school districts than those educated in the wealthiest. Worst yet, in some states, this funding gap exceeds $1,000 per pupil.

The problem is widespread. In 27 of 49 states studied, the school districts serving the highest concentrations of poor students spend less per pupil than the lowest-poverty districts. The dollar figures in this analysis were not adjusted for the extra costs of educating low-income students.

The Education Trust also analyzed funding data by applying a widely used 40-percent adjustment to account for the additional costs of educating low-income students.

When this adjustment is applied, the funding gap between high- and low-poverty districts grows to more than $1,400 per student, and the number of states with funding inequities increases to 38 states.

Under-funding is also pervasive in districts educating the most minority students: In 30 states, the school districts serving concentrations of minority students spend less per pupil than the districts that educate few children of color; when the numbers are adjusted to account for the extra costs of educating the low-income students these districts serve, 35 states have minority funding gaps.

This annual analysis of school funding focuses on the money that state and local governments provide to school districts by looking at data for the 2002-03 school year, the latest year for which such financial data are available. The report focuses on state and local policies because these jurisdictions, rather than the federal government, control more than 90 percent of the dollars received by public schools, and they bear the lion’s share of the responsibility to close these gaps.

“In far too many states, we see once again that the children who need the most from our schools receive the least,” said Ross Wiener, policy director of the Education Trust. “While the federal government should spend more on education, this can’t be used as an excuse for states to ignore their discriminatory education funding policies.

"The fact that we still are talking about funding gaps shows a lack of political will to do what’s right.”

The Education Trust report acknowledged that providing more money to schools does not, by itself, guarantee gains in student achievement. Rather, the money must be spent wisely on resources proven to increase student learning, such as hiring qualified teachers and providing extra support to struggling students.

“This nation has embraced the goal of ensuring that every child – no matter their color, family background, or socioeconomic status – will receive an education that allows them to compete in a rapidly changing global economy,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust.

“Indeed, there are districts and schools all across the nation that are educating students to high-levels daily without additional dollars,” Haycock said. “But if we are to truly fulfill our promise to educate all students, we need to ensure that school systems have the resources they need to get the job done. We’ve got to abandon school-funding practices that consistently give poor and minority kids less than their fair share.”

Some states, like Illinois, stand out for being particularly unfair when it comes to funding schools. Illinois continues to have one of the biggest funding gaps in the country, at a whopping $2,065 per student, without adjusting for the additional costs of educating low-income students. And the state has made no progress in closing this gap since at least 1997.

New York also stands out for neglecting to fairly fund poor and minority school districts. New York spends $2,280 less per student in its poorest districts than its does on students educated in its wealthiest school districts. Even after New York was ordered to deal with these funding gaps, policymakers have failed to take action.

“Even relatively small gaps add up to big inequalities for poor and minority children,” said Haycock. Take for example, a state like Colorado, which has a gap of $101 per student between its highest- and lowest-poverty districts. If Colorado closed its funding gap, a typical low-income high school of 1,500 students would have an additional $151,500 to fund school improvements.

Some states are taking a serious look at their funding gaps and are working to close them, the report notes. Maryland, for example, appointed a bipartisan commission to examine education funding. The commission recommended large infusions of new money in the highest-poverty school districts, and the state’s political leaders are working to carry out those recommendations.

“Shortchanging the educational needs of students growing up in poverty has always been immoral,” Haycock said. “But these deep inequities in resources are absolutely untenable in the face of the demands of the 21st-century economy. How can we, as a nation, profess to care so much about poor kids and kids of color and then give them less of everything they need to succeed in school?

“Fortunately, policymakers in some states are making the right choices and putting money behind their convictions,” she said. “But, as this report shows, most still have a long way to go.”

The Education Trust's 11-page special report is available online as a PDF document. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the report. If Adobe Acrobat Reader is not installed on your computer, just go to for a free download.

Girls rule: Taking opponents to the mat

Female wrestler makes the grade

Helen Maroulis, 14, a 112-pound freshman, is undefeated in league wrestling matches so far in the 2005 season.

"She’s very technically sound," assistant coach Kevin Phelps says. ‘‘We work on her footwork a lot, and she knows how to scramble well. We try to focus on getting the points early and wherever she can, because she does have some strength issues to overcome."

Maroulis’ "strength issues" derive from the fact that she is one of the few girls wrestling against boys in Montgomery County, MD. Despite the fact that she is wrestling against opponents that, for the most part, weigh the same as she, Maroulis does not have the upper body strength that many of her male counterparts have. While that may be an insurmountable obstacle for other wrestlers, Maroulis has learned how to use her opponents preconceived notions to her advantage.

Maroulis often demonstrates her ability to pin her opponents. In the photo above, taken at a recent meet, she's the student on top.

"Some people just really don't like wrestling girls," she says. "I think some guys get psyched out, but I don't know. I don't really care. I like the competition." As Chay Rao reports, Helen Maroulis may be on the vanguard of a new generation of girls who have entered the formerly male-dominated sport of wrestling.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent design follow-up

Court ruling won't stop the battle, experts say

Supporters of the concept of "intelligent design" will find new ways to advance their cause to have it taught in U.S. schools despite a major setback this week, experts on both sides say.
In a strongly-worded court ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Jones said teaching intelligent design violated a constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools. The decision was a blow to Christian conservatives who have pressed for the teaching of creationism in schools but opponents and supporters of the concept said it could also energize and spread the campaign to put it on the curriculum.

Intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are so complex that they must have been the work of an unnamed creator rather than the result of random natural selection, as argued by Charles Darwin in his 1859 theory of evolution. Opponents argue it is a thinly disguised version of creationism -- a belief that the world was created by God as described in the Book of Genesis - which the Supreme Court has ruled may not be taught in public schools.

In his ruling that the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania acted illegally by including intelligent design in ninth-grade biology classes, the judge condemned the "breathtaking inanity" of the policy of the school board, all but one of whom have now been ousted by local voters. The San Jose Mercury News provides its take on the court ruling in this editorial.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Court rejects 'intelligent design' in science class

Six-week trial drew national attention

A federal judge said on Tuesday the teaching of intelligent design by Pennsylvania's Dover Area School District violated the constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools. Judge John Jones, in a 139-page ruling, said, "The defendant's ID (intelligent design) policy violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States."

Jones banned the school district from any future implementation of the policy in Dover schools. The district was sued by a group of 11 parents who claimed the intelligent design policy was unconstitutional and unscientific and had no place in science classrooms. CNN has the details.

Related: How intelligent design works

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Closing the achievement gap for young students

How teachers can make a difference

A new study provides evidence that for kindergarten children at risk for problems in first grade, strong interactions with their teachers appear to help reduce the achievement gap. In a recent commentary, Bridget K. Hamre and Robert C. Pianta explore effective ways for closing gaps between students of varying demographic, experiential and developmental backgrounds. The commentary, Closing the Achievement Gap - One Teacher at a Time, appears in the journal Teachers College Record.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Brainy babies, or the next generation of couch potatoes?

Educational value of toddler tech toys questioned

Many video games, computer-software titles and DVDs advertised as "educational" for infants and toddlers, have not been proven to increase either the IQ or cognitive abilities of preschool children. That's the conclusion of a new study funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Glenn Lovell writes that these games and DVDs may be "less effective in educating very young children" than what they are replacing: one-on-one time with parents. Lovell explores the issue in the San Jose Mercury News.

Via Media by Sistrunk

Tags: Technology, Children, Parenting, Culture, Early Childhood Education, Education,

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Zula Patrol: A launch pad for learning

PBS science program for young children is funny and educational

A group of animated aliens travel the galaxies to learn new and exciting things about science and space exploration. This is the story behind the "The Zula Patrol," a science/astronomy TV show for children pre-kindergarten through second grade.

The program delivers both astronomy-based science education (orbits, eclipses, moon phases, asteroids, comets, gravity), as well as character-building lessons. It provides a dynamic, focused and fun learning experience for children, while encouraging them to think innovatively and approach problems evenhandedly. The official website for The Zula Patrol offers classroom resources for teachers and students - and home versions of these tools for parents. More from Yahoo News/AP.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Study backs benefits of preschool

Innovative program prepares children for kindergarten

The journal Developmental Psychology has published new research suggesting that Oklahoma's pre-kindergarten program is a success at helping kids prepare for school. Oklahoma is one of the few states to offer preschool to every four-year-old. Gains are reported for kids across the board.

Oklahoma's early childhood program is unusual because it is staffed by well-educated, well-trained, and well-paid teachers receiving regular public school salaries. Michelle Trudeau reports for National Public Radio.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Speaking Spanish at school

Student gets a rude awakening - suspension

Sixteen-year-old Zach Rubio (pictured here, bottom right) speaks like most kids. He embraces the slang of his generation and talks clearly in unaccented English. But Zach is also fluent in his dad's native language, Spanish. Speaking a few words of Spanish led to Zach getting suspended from school. The Washington Post has the story.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Report: American schools put too little emphasis on science prep

Science standards are too low in many states, officials say

According to a new study, many states are doing a poor job of setting high academic standards for science in public schools. The study, released this week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggests that No Child Left Behind, the federal education mandate, puts emphasis on reading and math at the expense of science. The report says that when it comes to science, American students are not getting enough preparation to stay competitive with peers in other countries. Academic and corporate leaders are expressing a need to improve science prep and expand the talent pool. Details from the New York Times.

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Great expectations for student achievement

In pursuit of academic victories

Few victories are more important than raising expectations. Sadly, we still have some educators, parents, and community leaders who don't believe that poor youngsters and children of color can learn as well as their white privileged peers. For those schools, it can be difficult to convince students that education offers their best opportunity for a better life.

"It doesn't take much effort to learn to have low expectations of poor people and people of color," says Martin Haberman. "All you have to do is grow up in American society, and you've built them in."

As Robin Flanigan writes, if school leaders don't believe in students, then students won't believe in themselves. Flanigan's report appears in the December American School Board Journal.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Higher Education Act

Funding postsecondary education

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Higher Education Act, the piece of legislation that created the federal government's large scale involvement in funding postsecondary education for lower income citizens. By most measurements, the results of that involvement have been revolutionary, with the number of colleges, universities, and vocational schools growing rapidly, and the percentage of Americans with some higher education expanding greatly as well.

In 1960, 7.7 percent of Americans held a bachelor's degree or higher; in 2000, that number was 24.4 percent. In 2002, a majority of the population -- 55.2 percent -- had attended some college, while in 1967 only 22.9 percent had done so. According to the Census Bureau, the increase in educational achievement between the late sixties and the early part of this decade accounts for 93 percent of the average gain in family income over that period.

For more information on federal student aid, for tips on how to establish high expectations for students as early as middle school, and for assistance in planning for higher education academically and financially, visit The site, called Adventures in Education, provides content for students and parents, beginning at the middle school level. TG provides this Web site as a public service to help all families and students achieve their educational and career dreams.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; Postsecondary Educational Opportunity Newsletter

Via Black

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Remembering Pearl Harbor

Survivors recall chilling moments that pulled the U.S. into World War II

On Dec. 7, 1941, a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu, Hawaii, lasted two hours, leaving 21 U.S. ships heavily damaged and 323 aircraft damaged or destroyed. The attack killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178.

Today, 64 years later, Pearl Harbor survivors will join community leaders and guests for a moment of silence - and to honor the battleship Arizona, which remains submerged under water with the bodies of soldiers still aboard. A survivor recalls that "day of infamy" in the Arizona Republic.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Podcast: 2005 Word of the Year

Rest of the world catches up with techies

The Oxford University Press, publishers of the New Oxford American Dictionary, has selected podcast as the Word of the Year for 2005. Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary, said: "Podcast was considered for inclusion last year, but we found that not enough people were using it, or were even familiar with the concept. This year it's a completely different story. The word has finally caught up with the rest of the iPod phenomenon."

For the complete story, just click on the header above (Podcast: 2005 Word of the Year).

Reading, writing and raising kids

The changing face of public education

Public schools have more than just a focus on academic achievement. They have clearly evolved into public child-rearing institutions. Public schools now provide before-school programs, breakfasts, lunches, after-school care, afternoon snacks and sometimes dinners (as well as summertime meals). They also instruct children about sex and, in many places, teach them to drive. They face growing pressure to take tots as early as age 3 in pre-kindergarten programs.

They share responsibility for keeping children off drugs, making sure they don't carry weapons, instilling ethical behavior, battling alcohol abuse, tackling child obesity, heading off violence, and providing a refuge for homeless children. Certainly, schools are now providing services in ways not anticipated a generation ago.

How do we manage these hybrid institutions so that both nonacademic and academic programs get a fair shake? A recent story in the Washington Post offers some suggestions.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

In praise of child labor

Why chores are good for our kids

If you're like Patrick Boyle, you had a lot of family responsibilities when you grew up. You probably did your fair share of setting the table, washing dishes, raking leaves and cleaning bathrooms. Perhaps you cared for younger siblings or painted the house. We learned important lessons from these experiences.

Now that we're older, we realize that our parents weren't mean. They were right. It's good for children to have chores. Chores build good work habits, discipline and character. Youngsters respond well to having real responsibilities that matter. Boyle writes more in the Maryland Gazette.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Girl credited with raising $5 million for Katrina families

Effort received national and international attention

A 10-year old Iowa girl is credited with helping to raise $5 million for hurricane victims. The child conceived a fundraising idea several months ago and set a goal of $1 million. Students from thousands of schools across the country also helped to raise money for the project. Thanks to the concerted effort, five times the original amount is now available to assist victims of Katrina and Rita. The Des Moines Register is following this story.

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Mean girls: The follow-up

Educator recounts how she was tormented in high school

A few days ago (Nov. 26), we examined a disturbing trend - increased frequency of bullying, verbal abuse and outright violence among girls. The post conjured up memories for Jaimie, a teacher and publisher of Life Is Hilarious.

Many of Jaimie's high school memories are less than funny. She vividly recounts her experiences with mean girls. Jaimie tells how being pretty and smart made her the target of harassment by schoolmates. Read her powerful story, Stuck and Unfinished.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Curry Report - Guest Commentary

True Education Reform
By George E. Curry

This country likes to celebrate anniversaries. Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. This weekend will mark the 50th anniversary of Rosa Park’s decision not to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Ala. What many people don’t realize is that there were two major Brown decisions in the mid-1950s. The landmark ruling outlawing “separate but equal” schools was handed down in 1954. A companion ruling was issued in 1955 calling for schools to be desegregated “with all deliberate speed,” which essentially meant no speed at all.

Perhaps it is fitting, given this propensity for celebrating the past, that this week – 50 years after the second Brown ruling – that the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University has issued a report titled, “With All Deliberate Speed: Achievement, Citizenship and Diversity in American Education.” The 44-page report, available online, does more than revisit the 1950s; it outlines a series of steps to improve public education.

After pointing out that the U.S. is undergoing one of the most profound demographic transitions in history, the report observes: “Unfortunately, the United States continues to have an unequal and two-tiered system of public education. Even as the United States becomes increasingly diverse, our nation’s K- 12 education system remains unequal and increasingly segregated by race and income.” The report says the country has a mixed record on eradicating the last vestiges of its Jim Crow public education system.

“We are a nation ambivalent,” it observes. “We are both for integration and against it. We are for equality, but we are unwilling to create and sustain policies that ensure equal opportunity. We are for academic success for all children, but we allow millions of them to remain isolated in inferior schools.”

We have traditionally shifted too much of the burden to the schools.

“Desegregation failed in some communities because almost the entire burden of integrating our society was placed on our public schools,” the study says. “That was a mistake we cannot afford to repeat.”

“...We, therefore, recommend a fundamental change in the relationship between schools and the community, where both are seen as having a shared responsibility in the education of all children.”

To do its part, the community should take over responsibility for providing the schools’ support services, freeing teachers to concentrate on what they do best – teach. The schools must also change.

“Even today, too many of our schools still are being used as sorting machines –sorting children into those who are college bound, those who will use basic skills and those who will be left behind,” the report said.

In order to do better, the report argues, diversity must be part of the equation long before students enter the first grade.

“If we expect all of our children to go on to college and have diverse learning experiences and then go on to work with people from diverse ethnic, racial, social and economic backgrounds, surely it makes sense to prepare our children for these new experiences as early as possible,” the study says.

“We are losing ground and jobs to other countries – for example, China and India,” the report states. “Our nation’s ability to sustain our long-term economic success increasingly depends on the very children we are not educating now.”

Put another way: Each year, 1.2 million children do not graduate from high school. Of those, 348,427 are African-American and 296,555 are Latino.

At the college level, almost a quarter of first-year students do not stay around for their second year. Figures show that only 31 percent of Latinos compete some college and 48 percent of African- Americans, compared to 62 percent of Whites and 80 percent of Asian Americans.

“According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, by the year 2020, the U.S. will need 14 million more college-trained workers than it will produce,” the report states. “Nowhere is college participation lower than among African-American and Hispanic youth; no where is the potential to meet our nation’s need for college graduates greater.”

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Push state legislatures to provide essential and quality educational opportunities, regardless of where the child attends public school
  • Make sure all students have access to a high-quality education and the opportunity for diverse learning experiences
  • Provide additional opportunities, including after-school programs, for students to improve academic skills
  • Create greater regional equity
  • Support and stabilize integrated residential communities

Whether we accomplish those goals will impact our national security, our ability to compete globally and field an able military, the report says. That alone should be incentive to take on these tough issues.

George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service and He appears on National Public Radio (NPR) three times a week as part of “News and Notes with Ed Gordon.” To contact Curry or to book him for a speaking engagement, go to his Web site,

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Monday, November 28, 2005

"Seen and not heard": Is it due for a parenting comeback?

Experts sound off on rude children

Last month, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans said they believed that people are ruder now than they were 20 or 30 years ago, and that children are among the worst offenders.

The conservative child psychologist John Rosemond recently denounced in his syndicated column the increasing presence of "disruptive urchins" who "obviously have yet to have been taught the basic rudiments of public behavior."

According to Harvard University psychologist Dan Kindlon, most parents, would like their children to be polite, considerate and well behaved. But they're too tired, worn down by work and personally needy to take up the task of teaching them proper behavior at home.

Educators feel helpless, too: Nearly 8 in 10 teachers, according to the 2004 Public Agenda report, said their students were quick to remind them that they had rights or that their parents could sue if they were too harshly disciplined. More than half said they ended up being soft on discipline "because they can't count on parents or schools to support them."

Are we raising a generation of "kids gone wild"? Judith Warner examines the issue in this New York Times story.

Related: MSNBC

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Easy Grades for Athletes

The Quick Fix

University High, with no classes and no educational accreditation, appears to have offered players a quick academic makeover. Even with poor grades, athletes are qualifying for scholarships and getting into college via a $399 diploma. More from the New York Times.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Educators see more aggressive behavior among female students

No more "sugar and spice"

There used to be a time when girls fought with words, over words. Those times, educators say, have changed. When girls are aggressive, fights don't always escalate to physical violence. However, when girls do fight physically, their fights are often worse than disputes between their male peers.

Northwood (MD) High School Principal Henry Johnson has seen this phenomenon first-hand. When boys fight, Johnson says, they tend to ‘‘get a few licks in," then they are pulled away from each other by friends or administrators. Afterwards, they get over it. But when girls fight, it often takes greater measures to break up the dispute, and the young women often carry a grudge for days or weeks after, Johnson observed. ‘‘They don't let it drop as much as boys do."

Youths with low self-esteem sometimes may find it harder to walk away from conflict, Meredith Hooker writes in a report. Girls with higher self-esteem are less likely to engage in bullying and aggressive behavior, Johnson said. She adds that girls who do bully tend to gravitate toward each other.

Read Hooker's story on Gazette.Net, entitled the Not 'sugar and spice' any more.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Children, sex and American culture

Are children in the U.S. forced to grow up too quickly?

How influential are the media and popular culture when it comes to exposing American children to sex? This topic is certainly not a new one. However, one of the most articulate social commentaries on the issue is written by Malik, brain child of The Struggle Within.

Malik's essay, titled Can Children Have a Right to Be Children?, is posted as a guest op-ed piece on Adequate Defense. Make sure you check out the comment section, also, for lively interaction between Malik and Adequate Defense creator Dell Gines. Other readers also weigh in on the topic.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Immigrant learners and No Child Left Behind

High concentration of limited-English proficient students challenges implementation of NCLB

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) may be one of the most important pieces of immigrant integration legislation in the last decade. That's the finding of a new study by the Urban Institute.

The research finds that limited-English proficient (LEP) students are highly concentrated in a small share of America's public schools. Seventy percent of LEP students in kindergarten through fifth grade are enrolled in only 10 percent of the country's public elementary schools.

High-LEP schools, where almost a quarter of students are LEP, are more likely than others to have teachers with provisional, emergency, or temporary certification, and their teachers are substantially more likely to be uncertified. At the same time, high-LEP schools outdistance other schools in providing professional development for teachers as well as support and enrichment programs for students.

NCLB requires schools to report, as a separate group, LEP students' scores on standardized tests and holds schools accountable for their results. As a result, NCLB is forcing schools to give special attention to the education of LEP and low-income students. To read the report online, click here.

(Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this document. If Acrobat Reader is not installed on your computer, go to for a free download.)

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High court rules against parents in special education case

Did the ruling weaken part of the disability law?

Parents who demand better special education programs for their children have the burden of proof in the challenges. The Supreme Court handed down that ruling last week. Retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the 6-2 court, said that when parents challenge a program they have the burden in an administrative hearing of showing that the program is insufficient. If schools bring a complaint, the burden rests with them, O'Connor wrote.

The ruling is a loss for a Maryland family that contested the special education program designed for their son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The case required the court to interpret the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, which does not specifically say whether parents or schools have the burden of proof in disputes. The law covers more than six million students.

The Maryland family in the Supreme Court case had argued that when there are disagreements between schools and parents, education officials have better access to relevant facts and witnesses. The Bush administration backed the Montgomery County, Maryland, school district which maintained that the extra requirement would be expensive for local schools.

Related: New York Times, CNN/AP

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Examining adolescent literacy

Standards for middle and secondary school literacy coaches

Faced with an influx of needy readers whose skills are inadequate forcontent mastery, teachers in middle and secondary schools need help. Adolescents today require high degrees of literacy in order to understand complex texts in a variety of media, covering a range of topics and subject areas.

One possible solution is to use a literacy coach. Literacy coaching, a model adopted by many successful Reading First programs, is highly targeted professional development.

Supporters say such coaching can be a very effective vehicle for improving reading skills. Educators identify literacy components in language arts, mathematics, science and social studies - in other words, across the curriculum.

Standards for Middle and High School Literacy Coaches provides a guide for a complex intervention aimed at a new level of students.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Lessons from a three-year old

The joy of children

Jaimie is a Los Angeles teacher and creator of the blog "Life Is Hilarious." She writes about a charming conversation with her toddler daughter. Jaimie tells the rest of the story in her post, Where's My Little Baby?.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ask the kids

Achievement rises when students are given a voice

In many schools, keeping kids silent is a thing of the past. And from what studies show, the change is happening none too soon. According to many educators, giving students a voice in classroom decisions - such as suggesting themes and topics to study - and in school policies - such as homework regulations - makes schools less autocratic and more democratic.

According to researcher Susan Black, such schools tend to have fewer discipline problems, more civic involvement, higher student engagement, and higher achievement. In addition, schools that genuinely seek and appreciate students’ ideas are more likelyto see their school improvement plans succeed. Even so, the idea of giving students a voice in school matters still meets with skepticism and resistance. Black elaborates in the American School Board Journal.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

What video games can teach us

Exploring new ways to encourage students to learn

Good video games are long, complex, and difficult. They have to be. If they were dumbed down, no one would want to play. So why is it that many children can't sit still long enough to finish their homework and yet will spend hours playing games on the computer? Can strategies used by game designers work in the classroom. The Harvard Education Letter examines this issue.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

No-bid contract to replace schools after Katrina is criticized

Do contracts reflect wasteful spending?

To critics, the 450 portable classrooms being installed across Mississippi are prime examples of waste and favoritism. But the Federal Emergency and Management Agency boasts that the project reflective of "Katrina recovery." Details from the New York Times.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Chicken Little: The follow-up

"Chicken Little" film adds new story angle - aliens

Blogger Jaimie was true to her word. After going to see the new animated movie "Chicken Little," she reported back. Some interesting comments were generated after a previous post. She comments, in part:
I didn't see anything shocking. I actually thought he (the chicken) was really cute. It was strange because he was so small but sounded like a 33 year old man. The movie twisted into something unexpected about aliens from outer space, which my daughter seemed confused about. She didn't know whether she should be scared or laughing. It definitely wasn't Cinderella.
Thanks, Jaimie.

Movie critics gave "Chicken Little" mixed reviews. You can read one of the most balanced ones at CNN wrote the story titled Are G-movies going to far? on Nov. 2. After the film opened last weekend, MSNBC weighed in with its review, titled 'Chicken Little' plays it too safe. E! Online has still a different take.

Perhaps blogger friend Brea made a valid point when she said, "All these things make me scared to have kids." Meanwhile, Malik offers this introspective comment:

I agree with Brea, it is a fine line. On the one hand, I give my children credit for being intelligent enough to distinguish between silly fantasy violence and images of actual aggression. I'll even let my kids see violence, as long as it has a moral context. I think kids should know that violence in self-defense and defense of others is sometimes necessary and justifiable. I think it actually gives kids a sense of security to know that although [there] are bad people in the world who do bad things, we have ways of protecting society against them. I draw the line at gratuitous sexuality of any kind though. There's no conceivable reason for a [child] to be exposed to that.

We'll let Stan, a social worker in Cleveland, have the last word:

As parents, we owe it to our children to do our homework to the best of our ability, to insure that they are being educated and entertained with images that are healthy. Otherwise we risk them being programmed and misinformed with unhealthy input. Sometimes on a subliminal level. Negative input leads to negative output. We want to give our kids a chance to be their best.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"Peace on That"

Childhood Achilles Heel

James Manning publishes the blog Peace on That. Many of James' posts have to do with "guy stuff" - commentary on life and sports, for instance. But he steps back for a moment to write an endearing post about childhood - something any adult can relate to. We'll let James take it from here.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Encouraging parent involvement in schools

Tips for the busy moms and dads

All parents want their children to succeed in school. But some moms and dads may feel as if they are not equipped to take an active role in their children's education. Nothing could be further from the truth. Family involvement is key to a child's academic success - from early childhood through high school and beyond.

Do you think you child spends most of his waking hours at school? Think again. On average, an American child spends more than 120 hours a week at home and less than 40 hours at school. As a parent, you have more time with your child than his or her teachers, meaning it's your responsibility to ensure your home is a learning environment that complements the classroom.
Keep education a priority in the home. Stay in touch with your child's teacher. Visit the school.
Remember that you, as your child's first teacher, can put him/her on the path to success.

Did you know . . . ?

  • 80% of 12th graders agree that one of the main reasons they go to school is because the teachers are interested in them.
  • 56% of nine year-olds report reading every day for fun.
  • The most common barrier reported to parental involvement is lack of time. The second most common is parents feeling that they have nothing to contribute.
  • Family participation in education is twice as influential on learning as family socioeconomic status.
  • Teachers say children in quality after-school programs become more cooperative, learn to handle conflict better, develop an interest in recreational reading, and get better grades.

Given the many challenges and time restraints facing today's families, it makes sense for school to redefine or expand their definitions for parental involvement. More and more parents are working long hours. For those parents working second shift (3 p.m. - midnight) or rotating shifts, it's tough getting time off for parent-teacher conferences or other evening school events.

Many parents don't realize that they have the right to request a meeting with the teacher at an alternative time - before school, during the teacher's planning period or immediately after school. Another way for parents and teachers to keep communication lines open is to exchange messages by email or to have brief phone conversations at a mutually agreeable time.

Remember two thoughts. One is a quote from a famous philosopher; the other is a proverb:

Do not train youth to learn by harshness, but lead them to it by what amuses their minds. Then you may discover the peculiar bent of the genius of each.
-- Plato

Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse.
-- Nigerian Proverb

Relevant: Parent Involvement Gets Results, National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education , Parent Information and Resource Centers

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Violence and veiled sexual references in many animated films

Are G-rated movies going to far?

Disney's new film, "Chicken Little," is loaded with pop culture references -- some of which are meant for adults. This movie isn't the only one. Violence and subtle sexual content are creeping into the seemingly innocent cartoon landscape, giving parents reason to do some homework of their own. More from CNN.

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Missouri news: High school soccer team learns lesson in faith

Team, including many Muslim players, emerge victorious

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and Ramadan is a holy month of fasting. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, the festival that will begin, most likely today but possibly Friday, after the first sighting of the new moon.

For the Soldan High team, Ramadan meant more than a quarter of its players would be fasting during practices and games. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the story.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Denver update: Performance-based teacher pay approved

Supporters say move is necessary to attract good teachers

Denver voters have approved an annual $25 million tax increase to link teacher salaries to test scores and other measurements. As a result, Denver becomes the largest school district in the country to switch to paying teachers based on their students' achievement. Details from CNN.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Eid celebrations set for later this week

Muslims to observe the "feast of fast breaking"

The end of the Muslim month of fasting, Eid Ul-Fitr, will be celebrated on Thursday or Friday with the sighting of the new moon. According to South Africa's Media Review Network, some 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide will celebrate the "feast of fast breaking." Eid ul-Fitr commemorates the end of the month of Ramadan in which Muslims have abstained from food and drink from dawn until dusk.

The web log Light Within offers an educational and insightful perspective on the Muslim observance. The post is especially poignant because the site's publisher, Shirazi, lives in Pakistan. Recent events have changed how he and other Muslims look at this year's holy observance.

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Teaching European languages to African students

Exploring the impact on academic achievement

Can teaching European languages in African schools impede student achievement? A recent study reveals that the process of teaching the second language is negatively impacting classroom achievement. Details from via The (Addis Ababa) Daily Monitor.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Teacher pay: Tenure or performance-based?

Linking teacher salaries to student achievement

On Tuesday, Denver voters will decide whether to approve a $25 million annual property tax hike that would dramatically overhaul how city teachers are paid. Among other things, the plan would link teacher salaries to student achievement, rather than years of service and education level.

Teachers' unions have generally balked at pay-for-performance plans instead of guaranteed raises and salary scales. The proposal here, however, was put together by the Denver teachers' union and school district administrators after a four-year pilot program -- and experts say educators and policy-makers around the nation are watching the vote with interest. CNN has the story.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Lawmakers want Rosa Parks to lie in honor

Senate passed resolution Thursday; House expected to follow suit Friday

Lawmakers worked Thursday to clear the way for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. That would make the former seamstress the first woman given such a tribute.

The Senate passed a resolution Thursday. If the House follows suit Friday, the public will be able to file past Parks' casket Sunday evening and Monday, as it did most recently for Ronald Reagan last year. More from USA Today.

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