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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Balls Banned At School


School Bans Balls Because They’re Too ‘Dangerous’
Posted by Julie Ryan Evans

We all want our children to be safe, but there’s a point at which we need to just step back, relax, and brace ourselves for a black eye or two. Trying to protect them from every little bump and scrape is a ridiculous waste of time and energy and is likely to do more damage to them and their well being than good. Case in point: A school in the UK has banned leather balls from the playground. Balls.

That’s right, Harewood Junior School in Gloucester thinks leather balls are just too dangerous after a “number of accidents” last year. They now want them to use only “sponge balls” at recess. Can you say ridiculous? I’d rather my kid come home with a bloody nose than be limited to playing with sponge balls.

At least during physical education classes and football club, they’ll get the real deal, but when it comes to recess, it’s all about the sponge. I’m guessing David Beckham never had to bend it like that when he was in school. Seriously, kids have been playing with leather balls for decades, but now they’re suddenly not strong enough to do so? They’re certainly not going to be if we keep limiting their abilities to explore, grow, and yes, get hurt once in awhile.

The ball ban is ridiculous and part of a growing trend for schools and parents to overreact to each and every little incident in which a child gets hurt. From banning pencils because kids might use them as weapons to banning boys from using their fingers as guns because it might lead to violence, we’re trying to pad their world. The intentions are good, but the results are outrageous.

Things happens; kids get hurt. But it’s important in life for them to learn how to fall down, then get back up, nurse their wounds, and move on. We can’t put them in bubbles, and we need to quit trying to put bubble wrap down everywhere they go.

Do you think it’s ridiculous for a school to ban leather balls? What’s the craziest thing your child’s school has banned?

Image via chipgriffin/Flickr

. About the author
Julie Ryan Evans can be found writing from coffee houses wherever she may be. The quality of her days is largely influenced by the seat she nabs and whether a protein plate is available.

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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Education News

 


Prosecutors: Teens paid college student thousands to take SATs
Some gained admission to prestigious colleges, and state law prohibits the colleges from learning the identities of their bogus students

Geraldine Baum and James Ford

Los Angeles Times and WPIX

7:38 a.m. CDT, September 28, 2011
NEW YORK — A 19-year-old college student was arrested and charged Tuesday with taking college entrance exams for six Long Island high school students in exchange for payments of up to $2,500.

Sam Eshaghoff, a 2010 graduate of Great Neck North High School and second-year student at Emory University in Atlanta, faces charges for scheming to defraud and criminal impersonation that carry a sentence of up to four years in jail. The six current students at Great Neck North were arrested on misdemeanor charges.

Eshaghoff, who prosecutors say used the money he raised as a test taker to pay for a gym membership, was led in handcuffs Tuesday afternoon into a Long Island courtroom, where he pleaded not guilty and was held on $1,000 bond or $500 bail. His mother left court without commenting.

The six high school students, whose names were being withheld because of their ages, were arraigned in a closed courtroom Tuesday, leaving without comment and with coats draped over their heads, according to The Associated Press.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement that teachers at Great Neck North, considered one of the best schools in the U.S., had heard rumors earlier this year that someone using fraudulent identification was taking the SAT for students.

“Some of the scores,” Rice said at a news conference, “were 2220, 2180, 2170.”

Administrators reviewed records of Great Neck North students who had taken the SAT at other schools, where proctors wouldn’t know them. The administrators found large discrepancies between the SAT scores and the academic performance of the six students who have been charged.

Prosecutors say Eshaghoff flew home from Atlanta at least once primarily to impersonate two students and that he took the SAT twice in one weekend.

Eshaghoff allegedly demanded a fee of between $1,500 and $2,500 per student to take a test. Rice’s office is investigating whether he also took the exam for students at other high schools in Nassau County.

Eshaghoff graduated from Great Neck North High School two years ago, and the students he took the tests for were still at the western Nassau County school when he sat for the exam in their stead last year and early this year. He showed fake IDs to gain admission to the exams when they were given at schools other than Great Neck North, so that testing proctors would not recognize him. He made one major mistake, however. He didn’t disguise himself for the written section of the exam, prosecutors say.

“The handwriting was identical on all six exams,” Rice said. Some teachers at Great Neck North had heard rumors that some students had cheated on the test. Those teachers consulted guidance counselors, who had copies of all students’ results. When they compared test scores with the students’ grades, the disparity started an investigation, and the school got the prosecutor’s office involved.

Of the six students under arrest for the bogus test taking, only one is female. Her exam Eshaghoff did for free, and he traveled back to Long Island to take the test, from the University of Michigan, where he had been a student last year when he sat for the three-hour exam.

The girl, according to prosecutors, has a gender neutral name, so Eshaghoff’s making a fake ID in order to be her proved to be no problem. So now the district attorney calls for another layer of identification to be used nationwide for entry into this vital exam.

ETS spokesman Tom Ewing said this kind of scandal involving a breach in the ETS security standards is rare.

“It’s not an issue that surfaces very often,” Ewing said in an interview. “The vast majority of cheating cases involve one student copying off another.”

Rice used the arrests Tuesday to warn students taking SATs this Saturday that “if you cheat, you can face serious criminal consequences.”

“Who are the victims?” Rice said. “Their fellow students, who play by the rules.”

Rice said her office its currently investigating whether similar SAT scams have occurred in at least two other Nassau County high schools, as well as allegations that Eshaghoff took the SAT exam for students of other high schools.

Chicago Tribune

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Education News

 

BedBugs Invade Schools


Bed Bugs Are Infesting Schools If you’re worried about your son or daughter bringing home bad habits from that troublemaker in his or her class, you’ve got bigger things to worry about coming home with them — bedbugs. Yes, no longer are they just lovely souvenirs from infested hotel rooms, but schools are seeing the little buggers in droves across the states. Last year, in New York alone, there were 3,590 reports of bedbugs at schools.

And if they’re in your kid’s school, that means they could soon be in your home, after hitching a ride in his backpack or in her jacket. It’s actually a two-way street, because that’s how they’re getting in the schools — from homes infested with bedbugs. It’s a regular old insect roundabout, and I’m itching just typing this.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help thwart the resistant little bugs.

Entomologists at Bell Environmental Services say vigilance, both at home and school, is the best defense against bedbugs, and offer these five tips for keeping bedbugs away:

1. At school, place backpacks and jackets inside large, resealable plastic bags, and don’t let them sit on the floor in a closet or in a pile with other coats and bags.

2. Upon returning home from school, empty backpacks completely outside the home, if possible, and inspect bags and items inside for bedbugs.

3. At home, keep backpacks in plastic bags or closed storage bins. At minimum, do not leave backpacks in or near bedrooms.

4. If bedbugs have been found at their school, have children disrobe immediately upon coming home, and place clothing in sealed plastic bags. Place clothing in a dryer (medium-high heat for 20 minutes) and throw out the plastic bag. Bed bugs can’t survive high heat.

5. Engage the school administration. Ask them what precautionary and proactive measures they are taking to prevent the introduction and spread of bedbugs.

While all that sounds like an awful lot of work, if it means keeping bedbugs at bay, then it’s well worth it. I’ll never be able to look at my kids’ backpacks the same way again anyway.

Have you ever had bedbugs in your home or school?

Image via Medill DC/Flickr

CaseClosed2: A family member had bedbugs and immediately threw out her mattress and got a new one. A friend had them in the apartment building where she use to live. The Super didn’t want to call in an exterminator, so my friend left most of her belongings in the bedbug invested apartment and moved.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Education News

 

Cheating Starts In Kindergarten


Shocking Stats On Cheating From Kindergarten Through College

From Kindergarten to High School, College to the working world.

“It’s not the dumb kids who cheat,” said one Bay Area prep school student. “It’s the kids with a 4.6 GPA who are under the pressure of keeping their grades up in order to get into the best Colleges.”

The InfoGraphic below shows that 8 in 10 high school students across the United States cheated on exams last year. It also details how many students get their answers through social networks and websites like Yahoo and Yahooanswers.com to name a few.

See the graphs here…

http://newsone.com/the-education-zone/newsonestaff2/cheating-kids-school-college/

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Education News

 


$100M grant from Mark Zuckerberg begins to have effect on Newark schools

NEWARK — After years of struggling in Newark’s troubled public schools, Lacha Young enrolled earlier this month in one of the city’s new experimental high schools.

At Newark Leadership Academy, she found new books, an enthusiastic new principal, teachers with time for tutoring and small classes with as few as five students.

For Young, it was a totally new way of learning.

“We stand together as one community here,” said Young, 18. “The teachers always keep helping you here, even if you’re being nasty or having a bad day. It’s not like that at other schools.”

Young and her classmates have one thing to thank for their new school: Facebook.

A year ago yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to announce he was making an unprecedented $100 million donation to help reform Newark’s struggling school system. A year later, the spending of the “Facebook money” — as it’s become known in Newark — has gotten mixed reviews.

The process got off to a bad start when the first $1 million was spent on a public survey that critics called a waste of money. That was followed by months of political missteps and public-relations debacles related to politically linked firms hired to help spend the donation.

But in recent months, the Newark-Facebook team seems to have gotten its act together, according to interviews with community leaders and education experts inside and outside of New Jersey. With a new Newark schools superintendent on board and a new head for the nonprofit group overseeing the project, the first Facebook dollars are showing up in Newark classrooms.

So far, at least $9 million of Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift have been spent, according to reviews of financial records and interviews with city officials. In addition, $48 million has been raised from private donors, with the goal of matching the Facebook money.

Four experimental high schools have opened. Two new charter schools are in place. The school day has been extended by up to two hours for thousands of students. A new call center to answer parents’ questions is up and running. New school playgrounds are in the works.

Slowly, the drama over how the high-profile Facebook money was initially being spent is giving way to real changes affecting Newark schoolchildren, said Clement Alexander Price, a Rutgers-Newark history professor and head of the panel that found the city’s new schools superintendent.

“Once again, we’ve borne witness to how drama in Newark is merely drama and oftentimes diminishes the real work,” Price said.

CASH COMES IN

Zuckerberg, the reclusive 27-year-old Facebook CEO, has mostly faded from the picture since he was flanked by Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker during their splashy Oprah show announcement. The social networking mogul left Newark officials and Foundation for Newark’s Future, the nonprofit group created to manage his donation, to oversee the cash.

“It’s possible he will come here, but he is running a pretty significant global company,” Booker said of Zuckerberg. “He never set things up so he could micromanage this gift. He never set it up so he would be the one determining the strategy.”

Greg Taylor, the new head of Foundation for Newark’s Future, said he and a panel of five trustees are deciding how to spend the Zuckerberg money as it arrives over the next five years.

In recent months, $1 million was spent to open Newark Leadership Academy and Newark Bridges, two high schools designed to help troubled students get their diplomas. Another $1 million went to paying teachers in 10 schools to extend the school day by up to two hours to help improve student test scores.

An additional $600,000 went to a fund to encourage Newark teachers to try new teaching methods, and $176,000 went to a literacy program to distribute children’s books.

When Zuckerberg made his gift, Booker and Christie pledged to find private donors to double Zuckerberg’s $100 million grant.

In the weeks after the Oprah show, donations came in from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, New York investor William Ackman and venture capitalist John Doerr, among others. Since then, donations have slowed significantly. But Taylor promised more donors are being courted.

“New investors wanted to see who the leader of this organization would be,” Taylor said. “Raising the rest of these funds will be an ongoing process, a steady flow, rather than a ‘get it all done tomorrow’ mentality.”

INFO STAYS SECRET

Few were happy with how the first Facebook dollars were spent last year.

The initial $1 million went to the heavily criticized outreach program dubbed “Partnership For Education in Newark,” which was supposed to survey the city about the school system’s problems.

But the effort was panned as a pointless marketing stunt. It didn’t help that the group hired to do the survey — led by political operative and former Elizabeth Board of Education member Jeremiah Grace — refused to disclose how much it was paid. A full accounting of the group’s expenses has never been released.

“So much hope was generated from the $100 million gift and to have the first million spent in a questionable manner is not the way to start this program off on the right foot,” Assembly Education Chairman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) said at the time.

Questions were also raised about how the next $500,000 was spent. Booker hired a consulting firm founded by acting state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf to draft a proposal to close and consolidate dozens of Newark schools and clear space for new charter schools. Cerf said that he didn’t profit from the deal and that he cut ties with the company before taking his state post.

But, parents and education officials protested after a draft of the proposal, which opponents dubbed the “secret plan,” was leaked to the media.

Critics say much of how the Foundation for Newark’s Future is spending the Facebook money is still cloaked in mystery. The foundation, for example, refused to disclose how much of Zuckerberg’s donation is being used to pay the salary of Foundation for Newark’s Future’s new CEO or other administrative costs. A spokeswoman said that information would not be made public until the nonprofit foundation files its tax returns.

Newark Teachers Union President Joe Del Grosso said he is troubled by the ongoing secrecy surrounding the Facebook donation.

“We don’t know what the foundation is doing or how they intend to spend the other money,” Del Grosso said. “With that money comes a responsibility to the public to be clear about its use.”

SPENDING GETS GOING

Newark school officials point to the new experimental high school in the city’s Central Ward as an example of the Facebook money at work.

Newark Leadership Academy opened this month with about 100 students up to age 20 who can earn high school diplomas, GEDs and trade certificates in construction. Many students are former dropouts or recently released from prison.

As word of the program spreads, about five new students enroll each day, said principal Sonn Sam.

“Things are jiving and moving forward and I’m a part of it,” said Sam, who came to Newark from Rhode Island after hearing about the new opportunities in the city.

In one of the school’s English classes Friday, six students gathered around two long tables to discuss W.W. Jacobs’ classic short horror story “The Monkey’s Paw.” Tattoo-covered teacher Justin DeVoe played heavy metal music in the background as he challenged the students to compete with one another to make the most observations about the story.

Students said they liked their nontraditional teacher and his unusual teaching methods.

“In my old English classes, we only studied vocab words and did work sheets. I cut English class,” said Christian Winbush, 20.

After eight years happily teaching in Newark’s Central High School, DeVoe said he was excited the Facebook funding helped give him the opportunity to teach in an experimental high school with students who may have been written off at other schools. “These are students that gave up,” said DeVoe, 31. “Life is not supposed to be a series of failures.”

CHANGES COME SLOWLY

But, not everyone is sold on how Newark is spending the Facebook money.

Bernice Carmichael said her two sons, who were failing their classes at Newark’s Central High School, are attending two of the schools opened this month with the Facebook funds.

She hopes it will be a new start for her teenagers and the city, but she has her doubts.

“I don’t know what the money is being spent on,” Carmichael said. “They’re extending the school day a little bit? Our children need a lot more than that.”

Other community members want more of a say in how the Zuckerberg money is spent.

“A lot of the grant distribution process still seems murky,” said Richard Cammarieri, a former Newark public schools advisory board member. “There has been discussion of creating a community advisory board that would also have input, which is good. But they need to be more open.”

Some of the responsibility for spending the Facebook funds now falls to Cami Anderson, a former high-ranking New York City school official who immediately began making changes when she was named Newark’s new superintendent in May.

For the first time, Anderson gave Newark principals the authority to staff their schools as they saw fit. Teachers who didn’t make the cut were kept on the payroll but demoted to teacher’s aide jobs or other supporting roles.

A $500,000 grant from the Facebook money will be used to attract high-quality principals to the district.

But Anderson cautioned that the donations are not enough to solve all of Newark’s education problems. Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift and the hoped-for $100 million in matching grants will account for roughly 4 percent of the district’s operating budget over the next five years.

“No matter how much we could raise privately, it would still be a small percentage of the overall money we spend. So we have to use that money wisely to drive innovation,” said Anderson, who has been on the job for just under four months. “We also need to make our public dollars stretch further than they do now.”

Many hoped the Zuckerberg donation would hasten the end of the 16-year state takeover of the Newark School District. But state officials said in July that Newark hadn’t boosted its “unacceptably low” student test scores and graduation rates enough to return the schools to local control.

On Friday, Newark’s advisory school board and local education advocates filed a pair of lawsuits challenging the state’s decision.

“Newark’s voters should, by right, be able to once again control their own schools,” said state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex). “It has been 16 years since the state took over the district and voters have been denied a voice and authority through elected representatives.”

JURY’S STILL OUT

Can a billionaire really make a difference in a city where half of the 40,000 public school students fail to graduate? Education experts say it’s still far too early to tell. But the rest of the nation will be watching closely as Newark spends the Zuckerberg grant over the next five years.

Newark can either spend the money on a series of “cute” education programs or make a meaningful change to the city’s schools, said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies for the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

“The real question is not: ‘Are there some more dollars for some nice programs the system currently can’t afford?’ ” Hess said. “When you get to Year Five, do people think of the money as having helped the Newark Public Schools system get on a fundamentally better trajectory than it was on before?”

By Jessica Calefati and Kelly Heyboer/The Star-Ledger

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Education News

 


A year after Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg announced on “Oprah” that he was giving $100 million to the troubled school system in Newark, N.J., city officials say at least some of that money will go directly to teachers.

About $600,000 will be parceled out in $10,000 grants to teachers who come up with innovative classroom programs, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Newark’s school system is under direct state control, and Gov. Chris Christie has encouraged the development of independent charter schools and other reforms there while sparring with the state’s teachers union. Newark is one of 11 New Jersey districts that will begin to evaluate teachers based on their students’ test scores and other factors this year.

The big donation has attracted some controversy. Newark officials were criticized in January for dropping $1 million on a survey asking residents how to spend the $100 million gift to the city’s schools. The survey was unscientific and its answers were too simplistic to be of any use, university professors and city education leaders told the Newark Star-Ledger.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in Education News

 


President Barack Obama listens to student Alexandria Sutton, 16, during his visit to a classroom at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Newser) – Barack Obama is today offering states a deal: If they adopt his preferred education reform policies, he’ll let them waive some of the more stringent and unpopular provisions of the No Child Left Behind law—most notably the 2014 deadline for making all students proficient in reading and math. “Our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change,” Obama said in a statement.

To earn the waiver, states will have to agree to overhaul their under-performing schools, perform more rigorous teacher evaluations, and adopt new “college and career ready” academic standards, officials tell the New York Times. In addition to avoiding the 2014 requirement, which some educators have complained was nigh-impossible to achieve, participating states will be able to replace No Child’s pass-fail assessments of schools with their own rating systems, and will have more say in how they spend federal education money.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Education News