Monthly Archives: March 2010

Suicide of Phoebe Price, 15, leads to increased anti-bullying efforts

The Associated Press (via National Public Radio) reports:

Insults and threats followed 15-year-old Phoebe Prince almost from her first day at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. Officials say the Irish immigrant was targeted in the halls, library and in vicious text messages…

Phoebe reached her breaking point and hanged herself in January after a day that officials say included being hounded with slurs and pelted with a beverage container on her way home from school.

Now, nine teenagers face charges in what a prosecutor called “unrelenting” bullying; two boys have been charged with statutory rape, and a clique of girls have been charged with stalking, criminal harassment and violating Phoebe’s civil rights.

This 2007 report (PDF) by the Pew Internet and American Life Project states:

About one third (32%) of all teenagers who use the internet say they have been targets of a range of annoying and potentially menacing online activities – such as receiving threatening messages; having their private emails or text messages forwarded without consent; having an embarrassing picture posted without permission; or having rumors about them spread online.

The Reno Gazette Journal, citing a recent U. S. Department of Justice-funded study, reports that cyberbullying has become more prevalent than physical bullying.

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The Denver Post profiles one school’s experience with standardized testing

The Denver Post recently published a profile of one elementary school’s experiences with standardized testing.

In the increasingly loud debate around reforming America’s public school system, most every change being discussed focuses on the teacher.

Reforms are calling for a link between teachers and student test scores, more thorough evaluations, changes to tenure laws and merit pay.

Teachers are in the spotlight because nearly every education expert agrees they are key to student success — a measurement that in most cases is based on how well students perform on the annual assessment.

Stedman Elementary [in Denver] last year posted some of the state’s highest academic growth on the CSAP.

The feat drew the governor, mayor and the district’s superintendent to Stedman’s doorstep for a news conference on the first day of school.

“This is an extraordinary elementary school,” said Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg. But after the dignitaries and TV crews left that day, the real work began again — teachers and students in this urban school battling against the inequities of poverty to raise student achievement above the norm.

“There is not a harder job in the country than being a teacher in an urban or rural school district with children who are living in poverty — there is just not a harder job,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, DPS’s former superintendent, at a recent Senate hearing.

New report examines college graduation gap between Latinos and whites

Inside Higher Ed reports:

With Latino Americans expected to make up more than 20 percent of the college-age population by 2020, most policy makers recognize that it will be nearly impossible to meet President Obama’s college completion goals without significant improvement in the graduation rates of Hispanic students, which have long lagged those of other racial and ethnic groups, as numerous studies have documented.

A new analysis digs more deeply into the data surrounding Latino graduation rates, and while it confirms the overall reality that Latino students trail their white peers at all types of institutions, no matter how selective, it also reveals wide variation in the relative success of institutions with similar student bodies. That matters, the authors say, because it shows that the educational practices of institutions matter.

“The data show quite clearly that colleges and universities cannot place all of the blame on students for failing to graduate,” said Andrew P. Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute, who co-wrote the study, “Rising to the Challenge: Hispanic College Graduation Rates as a National Priority,” with Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research and Kevin Carey of Education Sector…

Among “competitive colleges” and “very competitive colleges” — the groupings that include the largest number of Latino students — the gaps between the institutions with the highest and lowest graduation rates for Hispanic students are more than 50 percentage points.

“To look at this another way, a competitive student enrolled at the school with the highest graduation rate is, on average, more than seven times as likely to receive a bachelor’s degree than a competitive student enrolled in the lowest-performing school,” the authors write.

The full report is available here from the American Enterprise Institute.

“The forgotten half:” Should we expect all American students to aspire to college?

USA Today reports:

Long before President Obama vowed last year that America will “have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world” by 2020, the premium placed on going to college was firmly embedded in the American psyche.

The case is compelling: As good jobs increasingly require more education, college is widely seen as the ticket to personal economic security and to global competitiveness. And the message has gotten through: The percentage of students who went on to college or trade school within a year of high school climbed from 47% in 1973 to 67% in 2007, Census data show.

And yet, there’s an undercurrent of concern about a group of students — sometimes called “the forgotten half,” a phrase coined 22 years ago by social scientists studying at-risk young people — who, for whatever reason, do not think college is for them. It’s expressed by soul-searching parents such as Crave, whose son doesn’t thrive in the classroom. It’s also expressed increasingly by educators, economists and policy analysts, who question whether it’s realistic and responsible to push students into college even if the odds of academic success seem low.

Obama Administration proposes changes to No Child Left Behind

The Washington Post reports:

President Obama proposed Saturday to overhaul the No Child Left Behind law, saying he wanted to help all students get on track for college and careers, through a new school accountability system that he hoped could be in place within four years…

Administration officials said the president’s plan would jettison some mandated remedies for schools that fall short of targets, require states to ensure that students are on a path to “college and career readiness” by 2020, and clamp down on the lowest-performing schools as never before.

The plan would retain annual testing in reading and math but raise expectations for students and place more importance on academic growth than the law’s current pass-fail approach.

Conservative faction prevails in Texas K-12 textbook vote

The New York Times reports:

After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday voted to approve a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Father’s commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.The vote was 11 to 4, with 10 Republicans and one Democrat voting for the curriculum, and four Democrats voting against.

The board, whose members are elected, has influence beyond Texas because the state is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks. In the digital age, however, that influence has been diminished as technological advances have made it possible for publishers to tailor books to individual states.

Kansas City school closures re-open debate on school size

The New York Times reports:

The Kansas City Board of Education voted Wednesday night to close almost half of the city’s public schools, accepting a sweeping and contentious plan to shrink the system in the face of dwindling enrollment, budget cuts and a $50 million deficit.

In light of this news, the Times gathered a panel of education experts to offer their opinions on whether school size matters since the students who remain in Kansas City schools will now be attending more populous campuses.

The experts are:

  • Herbert J. Walberg, University of Illinois
  • Don Soifer, Lexington Institute
  • Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters
  • Valerie E. Lee, professor, University of Michigan
  • Rudy Crew, former chancellor of New York City Schools

Read their opinion pieces here.