Education News Roundup
A great story from Huffington Post on the "Buddy Bench."Second-grader Christian Bucks, of York, Pa., knew that some of his classmates felt lonely during recess, and he decided to do something about it. His simple, utterly heartwarming solution was to install a playground "buddy bench."
As reported by the York Daily Record, a buddy bench is a designated seating area where students feeling lonely or upset can seek camaraderie. The area is customarily painted in bright, inviting colors.
Christian told the Record that he hopes the bench will help "grow our dream circle of friends."
Next up in what's coming up in the next Legislative session. For education, it'll be more of the same from Senator Tom & Company. From the Times:
The state Senate majority caucus congratulated itself Tuesday for surviving a year and vowed to pursue legislation that did not pass last session, including changes to K-12 education and workers compensation.
When asked about meeting a state Supreme Court mandate to increase funding for education, Tom, the Senate majority leader, said during a news conference it’s all about prioritizing spending within existing resources.
“We should never have a conversation that we need new revenue for education,” he said.
And I will ask, as I do every time I hear someone from the right say this, what would YOU change in how the current funding is spent? What would change that you believe would bring better academic outcomes? What would YOU eliminate? Somehow that question never gets a full and complete answer.
From KUOW, a story about charter schools and how they can legally be selective. No big surprise to those of us following this issue but I hope it reached many others. (Apparently the applications are available to read; I haven't gone through them yet myself.)
Proposals for Washington state's first-ever charter schools include a wide range of educational models, from a focus on team sports to a military school.
But a KUOW review of the 22 lengthy applications released over the past week found a common theme: high expectations for parent volunteerism.
If Sunnyside Charter Academy in Yakima County gets state approval, board chair Brittany Weaver said, parents who want to enroll their children in the grades K-8 school will be expected to do volunteer work, from helping in classrooms to groundskeeping.
One school apparently "requires" 60 volunteer hours a year (and that's not legal). I think the idea is to make prospective parents think about what they might need to do and wave off any who won't commit to it.
Charter schools are aware of those impediments when setting up their volunteer expectations, said Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who studies how charters operate.
Miron said although charter schools are not legally allowed to discriminate among students, "charter schools are schools of choice, which means parents are choosing, but there are a number of mechanisms that charter schools can use to structure or steer which students and families are attracted to the school."
UPDATE: new story from the Network for Public Education about a charter in Florida that sent out a cheery notice to parents whose students were in danger of not passing their state test. "If your child does not receive a passing score on the FCAT exam, their continued enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year may be in jeopardy." Can't do that in a real public school.
Remember China as one of the top performing countries on the PISA tests. Guess what is the number one cause of death in China for young people 15-34? Suicide. From the Network for Public Education:
Amid growing competition for university places and rising graduate unemployment, suicide is now the leading cause of death for Chinese people aged between 15 and 34, official media reported this week.
According to figures from the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), 30 percent of the world’s suicides take place in China, where 250,000 people take their own lives annually.
We learned this week that "Britian's Got Talent" winner, Susan Boyle, has been diagnosed as having an above average IQ and that she also has Asperger's.
In an interview in the Observer this weekend, Boyle, who’s currently promoting her fourth album, acknowledges that “Some articles have said I have brain damage,” and says, “I have always known that I have had an unfair label put upon me.”
For a smart woman once mocked as “Susie Simple,” one who has also battled depression and “got laughed at because people didn’t think I’d do well … It’s a condition that I have to live with and work through, but I feel more relaxed about myself.” Boyle says she hopes that now “People will have a greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do.”
(I also want to state - nearly on the one-year anniversary of Newtown - that while the killer in Newtown did have Asperger's, from all the reports of his behavior and actions, he was likely also mentally ill. Aspies are almost to a person gentle and have no desire to hurt others. They can get very frustrated and act out but almost never in violence to others. It is very worrying to think that people might believe Asperger's had anything to do with Newtown. I do not believe it did.)
On a similar note, the NY Times had a good article on a school in Los Angeles for twice-gifted children. It sounds wonderful and it's a model that needs to be duplicated. I had trouble figuring out what kind of school it is - it's private - but they have parents pay tuition and many of them then have that reimbursed by their school district (on the idea that the school is providing a service the district cannot). They have a wonderful campaign for the school called Bridges Academy.
The campaign presents famous achievers from history — like Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, Leonardo da Vinci, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Abraham Lincoln, Michelangelo, Wolfgang Mozart and George Washington — who are identified as “believed to have been twice exceptional, or 2e.”
“At Bridges Academy, we are completely devoted to the social, emotional, intellectual, academic and creative growth of our 2e students,” the ads declare. “After all, we could be teaching this generation’s Leonardo da Vinci” (or Darwin, or Emerson, and so forth).
It's a horrible and outrageous story about a 16-year old from a wealthy family who went with friends to Walmart and stole alcohol, got into this car and hit four pedestrians, killing them all. Others were hurt as well.
He got probation because he (and his lawyer) claimed that his parents allowed their wealth and privilege to shield him his entire life. The judge bought it (apparently missing that if HE made the boy pay it would break that cycle).
He's now in a counseling center. Luckily, many of his victims understand that if you can't get someone on criminal charges, you can go after them (and, in this case, their wealthy family) with wrongful death suits.
We often talk about the effects of poverty in education. It appears the reverse may be true as well.