ne of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was from a friend in the restaurant business. If I were planning to complain about any part of my meal or service, he said, I should wait until I had eaten all I was going to eat that night. He illustrated this warning with examples of what can happen to food prepared for awkward customers, and so I’ve followed this advice ever since. It’s a good principle: don’t complain to people on whom you’re relying – unless there’s no way they can wipe your steak on their bum or drop a bogey in your soup.
As with restaurants, so with schools. The difference with schools is that you’re likely to be stuck with them for a lot longer than one meal. So think carefully before putting on your Mr Angry face and marching into the school for a spot of ranting.
Category Archives: Legal Rights
Hacking Oklahoma State University’s Student ID
In 2013 I took an Information Security class at Oklahoma State University. As a final project, we were broken into teams to find a security hole, and have a plan to theoretically exploit it.
I led this project, and in early 2014, gave a presentation to key faculty and IT security on campus. As I understand it, the final solution was to take down the website (https://app.it.okstate.edu/idcard/), and not worry about the rest. Fair enough.
Here are the contents of my final report.
The progressive ideas behind the lack of free speech on campus
Is an academic discussion of free speech potentially traumatic? A recent panel for Smith College alumnae aimed at “challenging the ideological echo chamber” elicited this ominous “trigger/content warning” when a transcript appeared in the campus newspaper: “Racism/racial slurs, ableist slurs, antisemitic language, anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language, sexist/misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence, references to antisemitic violence.”
No one on this panel, in which I participated, trafficked in slurs. So what prompted the warning?
Smith President Kathleen McCartney had joked, “We’re just wild and crazy, aren’t we?” In the transcript, “crazy” was replaced by the notation: “[ableist slur].”
One of my fellow panelists mentioned that the State Department had for a time banned the words “jihad,” “Islamist” and “caliphate” — which the transcript flagged as “anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language.”
I described the case of a Brandeis professor disciplined for saying “wetback” while explaining its use as a pejorative. The word was replaced in the transcript by “[anti-Latin@/anti-immigrant slur].” Discussing the teaching of “Huckleberry Finn,” I questioned the use of euphemisms such as “the n-word” and, in doing so, uttered that forbidden word. I described what I thought was the obvious difference between quoting a word in the context of discussing language, literature or prejudice and hurling it as an epithet.
“We know best”: All over America, people have put small “give one, take one” book exchanges in front of their homes. Then they were told to tear them down.
Last summer in Kansas, a 9-year-old was loving his Little Free Library until at least two residents proved that some people will complain about anything no matter how harmless and city officials pushed the boundaries of literal-mindedness:
The Leawood City Council said it had received a couple of complaints about Spencer Collins’ Little Free Library. They dubbed it an “illegal detached structure” and told the Collins’ they would face a fine if they did not remove the Little Free Library from their yard by June 19.
Scattered stories like these have appeared in various local news outlets. The L.A. Times followed up last week with a trend story that got things just about right. “Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country’s biggest problems: small-community libraries where residents can share books,” Michael Schaub wrote. “Officials in Los Angeles and Shreveport, Louisiana, have told the owners of homemade lending libraries that they’re in violation of city codes, and asked them to remove or relocate their small book collections.”
Here in Los Angeles, the weather is so lovely that it’s hard to muster the energy to be upset about anything, and a lot of people don’t even know what municipality they live in, so the defense of Little Free Libraries is mostly being undertaken by people who have them. Steve Lopez, a local columnist, wrote about one such man, an actor who is refusing to move his little library from a parkway. His column captures the absurdity of using city resources to get rid of it:
When letting your kids out of your sight becomes a crime
We all want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy and successful, and we want to protect them from harm. But what if we are protecting them from extremely remote threats while ignoring the things that most endanger their well-being? What if police and child welfare officials, the experts whom we empower to protect our children, are pursuing phantom problems while neglecting those who are truly at risk?
One recent Saturday afternoon, six police officers and five patrol cars came to my home in Silver Spring. They demanded identification from my husband and entered our home despite not having a warrant to do so. The reason for this show of force? We had allowed our children to walk home from a neighborhood park by themselves.
A few hours later, a Montgomery County Child Protective Services (CPS) social worker coerced my husband into signing a “temporary safety plan” for our children by threatening to take the children “right now” — a threat she backed up with a call to the police. In the weeks that followed, another worker from the agency appeared at our door with the police and insisted that he did not need a warrant to enter our home. He also interviewed our children at school without our knowledge or permission.
Uncovering Security Flaws in Digital Education Products for Schoolchildren
“A lot of education sites have glaring security problems,” said Mr. Porterfield, the principal engineer at a software start-up in Los Altos, Calif. “A big part of the problem is that there’s not even any consensus of what ‘good security’ means for an educational website or app.”
Contacted last week by a reporter, John Campbell, the chief executive of the Cambium Learning Group, the company behind Raz-Kids.com, said that his company took privacy very seriously and that the site did not store sensitive personal details like student addresses or phone numbers.
“We are confident that we have taken the necessary steps to protect all student and teacher data at all times and comply with all federal and state laws,” Mr. Campbell wrote in an emailed statement.
Many schools use Google’s cloud products. Google’s business model mines data to sell ads…
Free speech? Not at four in five UK universities
When Professor Thomas Scotto, of Essex University’s department of government, invited Israel’s deputy ambassador to give a talk to political science students, he hoped for “lots of disagreement: that the speaker would express his views and that the students would challenge him”.
Instead, a noisy protest outside the venue ramped up into an attempt to storm the building, students in the lecture theatre heckled the Israeli diplomat, and it became impossible for him to begin. With feelings running high, university security said they could no longer guarantee the speaker’s safety. The event had to be abandoned.
To Protect His Son, A Father Asks School To Bar Unvaccinated Children
Carl Krawitt has watched his son, Rhett, now 6, fight leukemia for the past 4 1/2 years. For more than three of those years, Rhett has undergone round after round of chemotherapy. Last year he finished chemotherapy, and doctors say he is in remission.
Now, there’s a new threat, one that the family should not have to worry about: measles.
Rhett cannot be vaccinated, because his immune system is still rebuilding. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection — what’s known as herd immunity.
But Rhett lives in Marin County, Calif., a county with the dubious honor of having the highest rate of “personal belief exemptions” in the Bay Area and among the highest in the state. This school year, 6.45 percent of children in Marin have a personal belief exemption, which allows parents to lawfully send their children to school unvaccinated against communicable diseases like measles, polio, whooping cough and more.
Illinois Says Rule-Breaking Students Must Give Teachers Their Facebook Passwords
Update, 1/22/15: The Triad district has sent out a press release with more information about when it would ask for a student’s social media password. The full letter suggests there has been misinformation in the press but does not refute anything Motherboard has reported. More about the letter can be found at the bottom of this post.
School districts in Illinois are telling parents that a new law may require school officials to demand the social media passwords of students if they are suspected in cyberbullying cases or are otherwise suspected of breaking school rules.
The law, which went into effect on January 1, defines cyberbullying and makes harassment on Facebook, Twitter, or via other digital means a violation of the state’s school code, even if the bullying happens outside of school hours.
A letter sent out to parents in the Triad Community Unit School District #2, a district located just over the Missouri-Illinois line near St. Louis, that was obtained by Motherboard says that school officials can demand students give them their passwords. The full letter is embedded below.
“If your child has an account on a social networking website, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, ask.fm, etc., please be aware that State law requires school authorities to notify you that your child may be asked to provide his or her password for these accounts to school officials in certain circumstances,” the letter says.
Kaiser study: Clusters of unvaccinated children in Bay Area
Researchers have identified several geographic hot spots in the Bay Area where parents are not vaccinating their children, triggering concern about potential outbreaks of dangerous and preventable infectious diseases.
This unique study — which uses statistical software to match electronic medical records to home addresses of Kaiser patients — reveals precisely where physicians can target their vaccination efforts and detect disease outbreaks quicker.
One cluster is in the East Bay communities of El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda, where parents rejected vaccines for 10.2 percent of children. The second was in the northern part of San Francisco, as well as Marin County and the southwestern part of Sonoma County, with a 6.6 percent rate of vaccine refusal.
“Anecdotally, doctors have reported that a lot of parents in a particular neighborhood or county have hesitations about vaccines,” said lead investigator Dr. Tracy A. Lieu of Kaiser’s Division of Research, based in Oakland. “This is the first time we’ve used computers to actually find these clusters.”
64 Dartmouth College students face discipline over cheating
Up to 64 Dartmouth College students — including some athletes — could face suspension or other disciplinary action for cheating in an ethics class this past fall.
Dartmouth officials said students implicated in the cheating scandal misrepresented their attendance and participation in the undergraduate course, “Sports, Ethics & Religion.”
The class used electronic hand-held “clickers,” registered to individual students, to answer in-class questions. Officials at the Hanover, N.H., college said the students charged with cheating either gave their clickers to classmates instead of attending class themselves, or helped others cheat by using the clickers to answer questions on their behalf.
Some of the students have been found in violation of the school’s honor code and have been told they will be suspended for one term, a college official with knowledge of the proceedings said.
The Tyranny of Meritocracy
The term “meritocracy” was coined by the British sociologist Michael Dunlop Young as a spoof. In his 1958 satire, The Rise of Meritocracy, 1870-2033, Young gave an imaginary account of a smug elite: Instead of ancestry, ability had determined their social position. Rule by this select few appeared both benign and bountiful because of a talent-based formula for assigning status. Test scores (or other suitable substitutes for innate talent or aptitude) mattered the most. Because those who had risen in the status hierarchy had attained their positions through talent and effort, they were better able to justify their continued rule—they had earned it.
To Young, such a testocracy was not a shining vision but a nightmare. And more than 40 years after the publication of his book, he was “sadly disappointed” at how the word he coined has “gone into general circulation, especially in the United States.” He intended to warn society about what might happen if, in assigning social status, it continued to place formal educational qualifications over all other considerations. In Young’s fictional world, anyone unable to jump through educational hoops would be barred from a new, exclusive social class as discriminatory as older ones based on inheritance.
Citizenship 101: Too many Americans are ignorant of the basics of democracy
But a growing number of critics charge that education in good citizenship is being shortchanged by an American educational system that is focused on other “core competencies.” The result is that too many products of that system are ignorant of the basics of how American democracy functions, and lack the knowledge to participate fully in the society it sustains. One of the most prominent spokespeople for this view is retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the last member of the court to have held elected office.
In a 2008 article written with former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, O’Connor argued that “civic education has been in steady decline over the past generation, as high-stakes testing and an emphasis on literacy and math dominate school reforms. Too many young people today do not understand how our political system works.”
Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’
Have you met the Stepford students? They’re everywhere. On campuses across the land. Sitting stony-eyed in lecture halls or surreptitiously policing beer-fuelled banter in the uni bar. They look like students, dress like students, smell like students. But their student brains have been replaced by brains bereft of critical faculties and programmed to conform. To the untrained eye, they seem like your average book-devouring, ideas-discussing, H&M-adorned youth, but anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in their company will know that these students are far more interested in shutting debate down than opening it up.
I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. Three hundred promised to turn up to the debate with ‘instruments’ — heaven knows what — that would allow them to disrupt proceedings.
Turkish schoolboy accused of insulting president is released from custody
A Turkish teenager has been released from custody after his arrest for allegedly insulting the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, caused uproar.
The 16-year-old student, Mehmet Emin Altunses, was taken away from his school on Wednesday and jailed for making a speech during a student protest in which he reportedly said Erdoğan was regarded as the “thieving owner of the illegal palace”.
It was a reference to a government corruption scandal as well as a controversial 1,150-room palace Erdoğan inaugurated in October.
NEW REPORT: Most U.S. Colleges Violate Students’ Free Speech Rights
Foundation for individual rights in education:
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2015 report and interactive infographic on campus speech codes across America today. FIRE’s findings show that more than half of the 437 schools analyzed maintain policies severely restricting students’ right to free speech.
“Most universities continue to enforce speech codes that don’t satisfy First Amendment standards,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “For the seventh consecutive year, however, the percentage of speech codes has dropped, and we’re happy to see that. But the federal government’s efforts to address sexual harassment on campus are leading a number of universities to adopt flatly unconstitutional speech policies.” Lukianoff added, “The greatest threat to free speech on campus may now be the federal government.”
Major findings from Spotlight on Speech Codes 2015: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses include:
Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue
To hear Mikia Hutchings speak, one must lean in close, as her voice barely rises above a whisper. In report cards, her teachers describe her as “very focused,” someone who follows the rules and stays on task. So it was a surprise for her grandmother when Mikia, 12, and a friend got into trouble for writing graffiti on the walls of a gym bathroom at Dutchtown Middle School in Henry County last year.
Even more of a surprise was the penalty after her family disputed the role she was accused of playing in the vandalism and said it could not pay about $100 in restitution. While both students were suspended from school for a few days, Mikia had to face a school disciplinary hearing and, a few weeks later, a visit by a uniformed officer from the local Sheriff’s Department, who served her grandmother with papers accusing Mikia of a trespassing misdemeanor and, potentially, a felony.
River of Booze: Inside one college town’s uneasy embrace of drinking
The supplies are rolling in. At 1 p.m. on a Thursday, three delivery trucks line College Avenue. Around the corner, five more clog East Clayton Street. In downtown Athens, the center lane belongs to those who bring the booze.
Out come the boxes. Budweiser and Blue Moon, Bacardi Gold and Southern Comfort, Red Bull and rainbows of mixers. Stacked high on dollies, the goods are wheeled into bar after bar, each catering to students at the University of Georgia, where the iconic iron Arch stands within sight. Cutters Pub, On the Rocks, the Whiskey Bent. The blocks just beyond campus boast dozens of bars that own the late-night hours, when undergrads press themselves into crowds fueled by Fireball shots and beer as cheap as candy.
Athens, home to the flagship university and some 120,000 people, could be almost anywhere. This college town, like many others, celebrates touchdowns, serves early-morning cheeseburgers, and pours many flavors of vodka. When the sun goes down, some students get hammered, just as they do in Chapel Hill, Ann Arbor, and Eugene.
A Retired Teacher on “Utter Chaos”
Go ahead and watch this jaw-dropping Choice Media interview with retired John F. Kennedy High School metal shop teacher Lee McNulty, Save Jerseyans, and then reflect upon the fact that New Jersey taxpayers are spending, on average, $20,454 per K-12 student in Paterson this year.
Online education run amok? Private companies want to scoop up your child’s data.
Massive open online courses, first envisioned as a way to democratize higher education, have made their way into high schools, but Washington is powerless to stop the flood of personal data about teenage students from flowing to private companies, thanks to loopholes in federal privacy laws.
Universities and private companies this fall unveiled a slew of free, open-access online courses to high school students, marketing them as a way for kids to supplement their Advanced Placement coursework or earn a certificate of completion for a college-level class.
But when middle and high school students participate in classes with names like “Mars: The Next Frontier” or “The Road to Selective College Admissions,” they may be unwittingly transmitting into private hands a torrent of data about their academic strengths and weaknesses, their learning styles and thought processes — even the way they approach challenges. They may also be handing over birth dates, addresses and even drivers license information. Their IP addresses, attendance and participation in public forums are all logged as well by the providers of the courses, commonly called MOOCs.
Google’s education privacy practices are worth a look.
Big Ed Reform News in N.J.: Appellate Court Denies Education Law Center and Save Our Schools-NJ’s Argument that Successful Charter Schools Can’t Expand
The N. J. Charter School Association issued its own statement that relies more on the actual ruling than spin:
Today’s appellate division ruling validates our understanding of the breadth of the state DOE’s authority in regulating public charter school growth and the department’s intention to support public education choice for New Jersey families. This lawsuit was yet another attempt to stop the growth of innovation and preserve the status quo which continues to fail our state’s public school students. Defending this authority, and validating it through the judicial process, will allow charter schools to grow and serve families that are looking for great educational opportunities.
Wisconsin Special Education Open Enrollment Lawsuit
College Applicants Sanitizing Social Media Profiles
Admissions officers at Morehouse College in Atlanta were shocked several years ago when a number of high school seniors submitted applications using email addresses containing provocative language.
Some of the addresses made sexual innuendos while others invoked gangster rap songs or drug use, said Darryl D. Isom, Morehouse’s director of admissions and recruitment.
But last year, he and his staff noticed a striking reversal: Nearly every applicant to Morehouse, an all-male historically black college, used his real name, or some variation, as his email address.
Minneapolis Schools Implement Explicit Racial Bias in Suspensions
The good: Minneapolis Public Schools want to decrease total suspensions for non-violent infractions of school rules.
The bad: The district has pledged to do this by implementing a special review system for cases where a black or Latino student is disciplined. Only minority students will enjoy this special privilege.
That seems purposefully unconstitutional—and is likely illegal, according to certain legal minds.
The new policy is the result of negotiations between MPS and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Minority students are disciplined at much higher rates than white students, and for two years the federal government has investigated whether that statistic was the result of institutional racism.
Related. Madison’s problematic discipline policy.
Harvard secretly photographed students to study attendance
Harvard University has revealed that it secretly photographed some 2,000 students in 10 lecture halls last spring as part of a study of classroom attendance, an admission that prompted criticism from faculty and students who said the research was an invasion of privacy.
The clandestine experiment, disclosed publicly for the first time at a faculty meeting Tuesday night, came to light about a year-and-a-half after revelations that administrators had secretly searched thousands of Harvard e-mail accounts. That led the university to implement new privacy policies on electronic communication this spring, but another round of controversy followed the latest disclosure.
“You should do studies only with the consent of the people being studied,” Harvard computer science professor Harry Lewis said in an interview Wednesday.
Lewis said he learned about the study from two nontenured colleagues and asked administrators about it during the packed faculty meeting.
Campus Is this the end of the collegiate bacchanal?
It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene. Campus feminists are reimporting selective portions of a traditional sexual code that they have long scorned, in the name of ending what they preposterously call an epidemic of campus rape. They are once again making males the guardians of female safety and are portraying females as fainting, helpless victims of the untrammeled male libido. They are demanding that college administrators write highly technical rules for sex and aggressively enforce them, 50 years after the proponents of sexual liberation insisted that college adults stop policing student sexual behavior. While the campus feminists are not yet calling for an assistant dean to be present at their drunken couplings, they have created the next best thing: the opportunity to replay every grope and caress before a tribunal of voyeuristic administrators.
The ultimate result of the feminists’ crusade may be the same as if they were explicitly calling for a return to sexual modesty: a sharp decrease in casual, drunken sex. There is no downside to this development.
Connecticut Targets Homeschoolers
But while Lanza’s abnormal social and emotional development surely contributed to his crime, homeschooling neither exacerbated his mental illness nor obscured it from local education officials. Lanza attended traditional public schools up to the eighth grade. From the beginning, everyone knew he was different. As Andrew Solomon detailed earlier this year in The New Yorker, Lanza suffered from sensory issues and received speech and occupational therapy beginning in kindergarten. At every juncture of his early life, he was analyzed and agitated over by psychologists, counselors, behaviorists, and other state-credentialed educators. Yet Lanza’s troubles deepened, and his anti-social behavior grew worse. Peter and Nancy Lanza were as desperate to help their son find psychological peace as they were to identify a school environment in which he could thrive. At 13, he was sent to a private psychologist, who diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. At 14, he underwent a psychiatric assessment at the Yale University Child Study Center, where obsessive-compulsive disorder was added to his growing list of personality disorders. The Lanzas considered moving 50 miles away, to a town with a school district known for excellence in special education. They briefly enrolled him in a Catholic school.
ComputerCOP: The Dubious ‘Internet Safety Software’ That Hundreds of Police Agencies Have Distributed to Families
For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online.
Police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the disc to families for free at schools, libraries, and community events, usually as a part of an “Internet Safety” outreach initiative. The packaging typically features the agency’s official seal and the chief’s portrait, with a signed message warning of the “dark and dangerous off-ramps” of the Internet.
As official as it looks, ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies.
Commission: Evaluate some home-schooled kids for emotional issues (!)
Parents who home-school children with significant emotional, social or behavioral problems would have to file progress reports prepared by special education program teams, under a proposal being considered by the governor’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission.
Commission members acknowledged Tuesday that the proposal, contained in a tentative section of the panel’s final report, could be controversial and prompt opposition from parents of home-schooled children across the state.
But the commission, which is preparing its final report to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said tighter scrutiny of home-schoolers may be needed to prevent an incident such as the December 2012 slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The murders were carried out by Adam Lanza, a disturbed 20-year-old who had been home-schooled by his mother, Nancy Lanza, whom he also shot to death on the morning of his murder spree.
Banking’s future: Goodbye credit cards, hello social media probes
Advancements in technology will make banking very personal within the next decade—it may require your eye or finger to pay for shopping and your social network profile may determine your access to credit, the Daily Mail reports.
Banks may request access to clients’ Facebook account and see whether users have a stable friends network—a sign they may be less of a credit risk than users who change friends frequently, financial technology expert Gi Fernando told the Daily Mail.
The Manipulators: Facebook’s Social Engineering Project
SINCE THE LAUNCH of Netscape and Yahoo! 20 years ago, the development of the internet has been a story of new companies and new products, a story shaped largely by the interests of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The plot has been linear; the pace, relentless. In 1995 came Amazon and Craigslist; in 1997, Google and Netflix; in 1999, Napster and Blogger; in 2001, iTunes; in 2003, MySpace; in 2004, Facebook; in 2005, YouTube; in 2006, Twitter; in 2007, the iPhone and the Kindle; in 2008, Airbnb; in 2010, Instagram; in 2011, Snapchat; in 2012, Coursera; in 2013, Google Glass. It has been a carnival ride, and we, the public, have been the giddy passengers.
This year something changed. The big news about the net came not in the form of buzzy startups or cool gadgets, but in the shape of two dry, arcane documents. One was a scientific paper describing an experiment in which researchers attempted to alter the moods of Facebook users by secretly manipulating the messages they saw. The other was a ruling by the European Union’s highest court granting citizens the right to have outdated or inaccurate information about them erased from Google and other search engines. Both documents provoked consternation, anger, and argument. Both raised important, complicated issues without resolving them. Arriving in the wake of revelations about the NSA’s online spying operation, both seemed to herald, in very different ways, a new stage in the net’s history — one in which the public will be called upon to guide the technology, rather than the other way around. We may look back on 2014 as the year the internet began to grow up.
A story about Jessica
I want you to imagine someone for me. Her name is Jessica and she is 17 years old. She lives in a two bedroom apartment with her mother and uses an old laptop she got from one of her mom’s ex boyfriends. With it, she browses the portals that serve as her connection to the community constructed around attending the same high school. She is concerned with boys and love and the next rent payment keeping her and her mother in the apartment.
She doesn’t have the money for a new laptop. She doesn’t have the money to upgrade it, either. She doesn’t even know how you do that. She has other interests, like biology. She just worries about how she would pay for college, if she can keep her grades up enough to get a scholarship somehow.
The only person she knows in her whole life that’s good with computers is Josh, in English class. She knows she needs an antivirus, so she asks him. He gives her an option that costs $50 a year, but he notices her sudden discomfort and kindly mentions about an antivirus that’s free. When she goes home she downloads and installs it. It took some effort and it seemed complicated and took awhile, but there was now a reassuring new icon in the bottom right of her screen that says “Protected” when she hovers the mouse icon thing over it.
Guilty until proven innocent: How letting my kid play alone outside led to a CPS investigation
Monday. Late-morning. Hotter than hot.
Not even 24 hours home from vacation, and I was going through the piles of mail. There was a knock at the door, which was weird because no one ever knocks on our door unless it’s the UPS guy, and he doesn’t come until dinnertime. Corralling the crazy barky dog, I looked out the front-door window and saw a woman I did not know — and my 6-year-old.
I whipped the door open, trying to figure out what was happening. The woman smiled. My son frowned. And as soon as the door opened he flew into the house, running as far away from the woman as he could.
Facebook and OkCupid’s psychological studies were illegal under Maryland law, professor argues
“What Facebook and OkCupid did wasn’t just unethical. It was illegal.”
So says James Grimmelmann, a law professor at the University of Maryland who’s taking aim at the social media sites for conducting psychological research on its users without properly informing them. Now Grimmelmann is calling on Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler to force Facebook and OkCupid to stop conducting tests on Maryland residents.
Facebook created a firestorm earlier this year when it acknowledged it had published a scientific paper on mood manipulation based on a secret experiment it did with some users’ newsfeeds. The experiment, conducted in 2012, hid emotionally charged content from nearly 700,000 English-speaking users’ newsfeeds to try to learn whether emotions were contagious on the network. Turns out they are; “sadder” newsfeeds made people more likely to post sad things, and “happier” newsfeeds made people more likely to post happy things.
Students on the First Amendment
Knight Foundation: Future of the First Amendment Survey 2014 – Full report.
With Tech Taking Over in Schools, Worries Rise
At a New York state elementary school, teachers can use a behavior-monitoring app to compile information on which children have positive attitudes and which act out. In Georgia, some high school cafeterias are using a biometric identification system to let students pay for lunch by scanning the palms of their hands at the checkout line. And across the country, school sports teams are using social media sites for athletes to exchange contact information and game locations.
Technology companies are collecting a vast amount of data about students, touching every corner of their educational lives — with few controls on how those details are used.
Teacher tenure: Ruling will improve equity of education
Expert witnesses in the Vergara v. California trial overwhelmingly convinced a judge what all of us in education leadership circles already know: that five state statutes governing teacher employment rules violate the California Constitution by denying students access to a quality public education. Many cheered the verdict, while others, including state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, saw it as “anti-teacher.”
Torlakson said in a statement that those who “support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.” I cannot think of anything further from reality.
Books That Have Stayed With Us
by Lada Adamic and Pinkesh Patel @ Facebook Data Science
Favorite books are something friends like to share and discuss. A Facebook meme facilitates this very interaction. You may have seen one of your friends post something like “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.” If not great works of literature, what are the books that have stayed with us?
The following analysis was conducted on anonymized, aggregate data.
To answer this question we gathered a de-identified sample of over 130,000 status updates matching “10 books” or “ten books” appearing in the last two weeks of August 2014 (although the meme has been active over at least a year). The demographics of those posting were as follows: 63.7% were in the US, followed by 9.3%in India, and 6.3% in the UK. Women outnumbered men 3.1:1. The average age was 37. We therefore expect the books chosen to be reflective of this subset of the population.
What Do Schools Risk By Going ‘Full Google’?
Kaitlin Morgan says, this year, her school district is going “full Google.”
Morgan teaches U.S. and world history and advises the yearbook at Woodlake Union High School in California’s Central Valley. At Woodlake, “full Google” means a plan to have one Google Chromebook for every two students by the spring, running Google Apps.
The Chromebook is a relatively cheap, stripped-down laptop. It’s become popular in the education world, with 85 percent of its U.S. sales last year going to the ed market.
And the Chromebook is just the beginning. Already, Google Apps for Education claims 30 million active users around the world. The free, Web-based software works on any device and allows teachers and students to use Gmail with their own .edu address.
It’s the beginning of what Google calls the “paperless classroom” — moving assignments, class discussions, feedback, tests and quizzes online.
MOOC on Government Surveillance
It’s easy to be cynical about government surveillance. In recent years, a parade of Orwellian disclosures have been making headlines. The FBI, for example, is hacking into computers that run anonymizing software. The NSA is vacuuming up domestic phone records. Even local police departments are getting in on the act, tracking cellphone location history and intercepting signals in realtime.
Perhaps 2014 is not quite 1984, though. This course explores how American law facilitates electronic surveillance—but also substantially constrains it. You will learn the legal procedures that police and intelligence agencies have at their disposal, as well as the security and privacy safeguards built into those procedures. The material also provides brief, not-too-geeky technical explanations of some common surveillance methods.
Colleges in Boston required to release off-campus addresses
The Boston City Council on Wednesday voted to require colleges with a presence in Boston to provide a list of off-campus addresses where students are residing, in a step intended to fight chronic overcrowding and protect the health and safety of the thousands of students living in the city.
The measure was approved three months after a Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigation, “Shadow Campus,” revealed that illegal, overcrowded apartments with hazardous conditions riddle the city’s university neighborhoods, including a large number in violation of a zoning rule that prohibits more than four full-time undergraduates from sharing a house or apartment.
Compton, California School Board Approves AR-15 Rifles for Campus Police
The school board in Compton, California, has voted to arm campus police officers with AR-15 rifles, according to the Los Angeles public radio station KPPC. Some parents and students are expressing discomfort, citing the same sorts of concerns sparked by the militarized police force of Ferguson, Missouri. In Compton, the local police union says its officers are hardly alone in seeking such weapons:
Currently, the following School Districts authorize their Police Officers to deploy these weapons; Los Angeles School PD, Baldwin Park School PD, Santa Ana School PD, Fontana School PD, San Bernandino School PD.
The police union goes on to defend the semi-automatic rifle for campus police officers:
‘Vergara’ decision signals start of third wave of education reform
The June court ruling against teacher employment laws in California was the opening salvo in a battle that already has moved to New York and likely will spread from there. It also could mark the beginning of a third great era of U.S. education reform – one that focuses not on inputs or outcomes but on the workings of schools themselves.
Moments before closing arguments began in the landmark case Vergara v. California, Judge Rolf Treu asked those in his courtroom to stand, turn and look at two portraits: one of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, the other of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Wright. He reminded everyone that Warren led the high court to unanimity in Brown v. Board of Education, which marked the beginning of the end of segregation in U.S. public schools. Then he noted that it was Wright who led the state Supreme Court when, in Serrano v. Priest, it invalidated California’s uneven school financing system. “Both decisions have an impact on what we’re doing here today,” he noted.
Not long afterward, Treu added Vergara to that pantheon. In the most explosive education-related court ruling in a generation, he invalidated several laws dear to California teachers’ unions, including statutes that provide their members generous tenure rights and seniority protections and specify elaborate and costly procedures required to fire a teacher.
The judge’s words were as striking as his verdict: The dismissal statutes prevent firing even “grossly ineffective” teachers whose effect on students “shocks the conscience”; the logic of the “last in, first out” law that prevents job performance from being a factor in layoff decisions is “unfathomable.” Taken as a group, he said, the Vergara statutes particularly harm the most vulnerable: the poor, minority, non-English-speaking students often clustered in low-performing schools.
University of Florida Earns FIRE’s Highest Rating for Free Speech
“FIRE is very pleased to recognize the University of Florida as a national leader with regard to freedom of speech,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “The university and its administration are to be commended for ensuring that UF students and faculty can freely exercise their First Amendment rights.”
“The University of Florida has a long tradition of upholding the First Amendment rights of our students,” said UF Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Jen Day Shaw. “We are pleased to earn FIRE’s highest rating for our student speech-related policies.”
FIRE began working on speech code reform with UF administrators in May. Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program, and Associate Vice President Shaw led the effort.
New Rochelle Board of Education Declares War on Free Speech – Bans Criticism of Board Members, Grants “Right to Interrupt” to Board Members
NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Welcome to the administration of New Rochelle Board of Education President Lianne Merchant – where free speech goes to die and all dissent will be crushed. In her first act as the newly elected senior board President, Merchant waited until the last minute to unveil sweeping changes to board policy that eliminates any guarantees of public input into school board meetings as what can only be seen as a prelude to eliminating entirely any public involvement in school board meetings.
Beset by criticism over an unfolding story of corruption and incompetence on its watch, and infighting among its own members, the New Rochelle Board of Education last night proposed to “solve” that problem by severely curtailing public engagement during school board meetings.
THE NEWLY GUTTED POLICY: 9340 Public Participation in Meetings_REV_Track Changes
There are currently numerous criminal investigations going on concerning school district employees, the recent Board President was deposed after he was found to have misappropriated $13,000 to pay for his personal medical insurance, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the District asserting the District lied to investigators after wheel-chair bound students were left behind during a fire at the local high school, the District was issued fines and violation notices related to an asbestos exposure incident at an elementary school after an investigation by the New York State Department of Labor which also found the district never checked the license of its asbestos abatement contractor (the license was forged), the District’s business manager (since fired) paid out millions of dollars to contractors with no-bid contracts and invoices lacking required documentation, filed phony documents during a New York State Comptroller Audit, and in a report to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and lied repeatedly about a $3.5 million dollar environmental services contract that was never drafted or signed.
Middle School Students Plan to Break Dress Code, Principal Screams Terrorism
A group of Georgia middle school students decided they had enough of the school dress code and would violate it together in an act of civil disobedience. The school, Cowan Road Middle, found out about the plan and suspended the students for…terrorism.
According to WSB-TV (emphasis added):
“To me it was just a bunch of 13-year-olds acting crazy,” said Christopher Cagle, the father of a suspended honor roll student.
Cagle said the principal called the students’ actions terroristic threats. He said the principal was too swift and severe with the punishment.”
Read more at http://pandaunite.org/ndaa-middle-school-students-plan-to-break-dress-code-principal-screams-terrorism/#FdIlDubvj0sOkdQZ.99
Another Challenge to Teacher Tenure Status Quo
David Boies, the star trial lawyer who helped lead the legal charge that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban, is becoming chairman of the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group that former CNN anchor Campbell Brown founded in part to pursue lawsuits challenging teacher tenure.
Mr. Boies, the son of two public schoolteachers, is a lifelong liberal who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore and prosecuted Microsoft in the Clinton Administration’s antitrust suit. In aligning himself with a cause that is bitterly opposed by teachers’ unions, he is emblematic of an increasingly fractured relationship between the Democrats and the teachers’ unions.
As chairman of the new group, Mr. Boies, 73, will join Ms. Brown as the public face of a legal strategy in which the group organizes parents and students to bring lawsuits against states with strong tenure and seniority protections.
Academics call for guidelines on use of online learners’ data
Guidelines to ensure the ethical use of data gathered from online learners need to be developed, to prevent the misuse of personal information, a group of academics has said.
Delegates at the Asilomar Convention for Learning Research in Higher Education, which took place in California earlier this month, have produced a framework to promote the appropriate use of both learners’ personal information, and any research based on their activity.
The document states that six principles should inform the collection, storage, distribution and analysis of information gathered from people who engage with online learning resources such as massive open online courses.
These include having respect for the rights and dignity of learners and ensuring that digital technologies never erode the relationships that make learning “a humane enterprise”.
“Virtually all modern societies have strong traditions for protecting individuals in their interactions with large organizations, especially for purposes of scientific research, yet digital media present problems for the inheritors of those traditions,” the document says.
And now: The criminalization of parenthood
A couple of themes we explore here at The Watch are the increasing criminalization of just about everything and the use of the criminal justice system to address problems that were once (and better) handled by families, friends, communities and other institutions. A few examples from recent headlines show those themes intersecting with parenthood.
The first story comes from South Carolina, where a mother was jailed and charged with “unlawful conduct toward a child” for . . . leaving her 9-year-old daughter alone to play in a park. Lenore Skenazy of “Free Range Kids” comments:
Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.
Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a “splash pad,” and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied.
Some districts balk at latest serving of school lunch rules
Salty chips. Candy bars. Full-calorie sodas.
Don’t expect to find any of this in schools anymore — not in hot lunches, not in vending machines, not even in high school snack bars.
Schools across the nation are preparing to work with stricter standards for nutrition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as part of a nationwide campaign championed by first lady Michelle Obama to eliminate empty calories. The new standards took effect Tuesday for all schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and will build off previously implemented standards that limited serving sizes and restricted what food was healthy enough for the program.
What can students expect to find? Wheat bread, low-calorie drinks, meals with limited sugar, fat and salt.
Some district officials are saying they’re all for healthy food, but they have to sell enough hot lunches to break even on their program — and that won’t work if the kids shun the food. They also are a little prickly about federal officials telling them what to do.
“We believe that proper food nutrition and meal portion guidelines are best decided at a local level,” said Rick Petfalski, School Board president for the Muskego-Norway School District.
Opting out of the program means Muskego-Norway will no longer receive federal money for its meals, but it also means the district is free to serve whatever it wants.
Already losing money because fewer kids were buying the meals, the district will now have to cover the cost of free and reduced lunches on its own. It will do this partly by spending less on foods that students don’t eat and — they believe — increasing the number of kids buying lunches by providing tastier meals.
The Parent Trap
WHEN I was about 9 years old, I graduated to a Little League whose diamonds were a few miles from our house, in a neighborhood that got rougher after dark. After one practice finished early, I ended up as the last kid left with the coach, waiting in the gloaming while he grumbled, looked at his watch and finally left me — to wait or walk home, I’m not sure which.
I started walking. Halfway there, along a busy road, my father picked me up. He called my coach, as furious as you would expect a protective parent to be; the coach, who probably grew up having fistfights in that neighborhood, gave as good as he got; I finished the season in a different league.
Wearable Technology in Education
Wearable technology in education can increase a child’s ability to more naturally interact with their environment, and to be be creative and innovative. Students can more easily access information without any obstructions. Examples of wearable technology in the classroom are: Autographer, Keyglove, Muse, VR, Smart Watches, GoPro, and Google Glass. Autographer allows students to capture students direct notes to ensure complete note taking. Keyglove are wireless gloves that are useful in gaming, design, art, music, data entry, device control, and 3D objects. Muse tracks students’ brain activity onto a smartphone or tablet so that it can detect what activities they might need to keep them focused on studying. Virtual Reality gives students hands-on experience that allows students to interact with the object in that particular environment. The iPod is also an effective learning tool that empowered students to creatively think about the subject as well as to allow greater collaboration. GoPro is a camera that can capture a student or teacher’s point of view of events, such as a lesson or student behavior. Finally, the Google Glass enables students and teachers to search, take a picture, record video, and answer and translate questions in a foreign language. One application would be for medical students to watch different medical procedures in real time.
Why People Used to Have Children
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been characterized by a massive decline in fertility, beginning in rich Western countries and spreading all over the world. It is a transformation that is still underway in poor countries today.
Technological advances have, over the same period, radically decreased child mortality and increased life span. Modern parents need not have many children to ensure that one or two survive; almost all children survive to reproductive age. But Darwinian genetic interests cannot explain the modern decline in fertility (if Darwinian interests dominated, fertility should increase with increased survival, as observed in many historical elites). Rather, the fertility decline to present levels is mostly an economic response to the changing value of children, and to the changing economic relationship of parents and children. The economic transformation is not spontaneous, but the product of cultural transformation through education.
The economic value of children has decreased, but this is not the most important cause of the fertility decline. The transformation of countries from predominantly agricultural to predominantly urban reduced the value of children, especially where the industrial employment of children was restricted. Each child’s labor contributed positive value to a family farm or cottage industry, but in an urban setting, children began to have negative economic value. Indeed, the fertility decline correlates somewhat – though not perfectly – with the transformation from agrarian to city life.
But the fertility decline is not merely the product of a price effect – of people having fewer children because children are more costly. Children are not normal goods (or even inferior goods, as might be surmised from low fertility among the highest income groups): they become not goods at all, but rather bundles of claims on their parents. This transformation is a culturally-controlled change in direction of the flow of resources. Before the fertility decline, resources flowed from children to parents (and even up to grandparents and kin); after the transformation, resources flowed from parents to children. In Mass Education as a Determinant of the Timing of the Fertility Decline, John Caldwell argues that the vector of this cultural transformation has been mass education. He characterizes it as the replacement of “family morality,” in which children are expected to “work hard, demand little, and respect the authority of the old,” with “community morality,” in which children are dependent on their parents to become future productive citizens (perhaps even upwardly mobile) for the good of the country.
In Major Announcement, FIRE Says It Will Sue Every College With a Speech Code Until Speech Codes Die Forever
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education announced a major litigation effort Tuesday against universities that maintain clearly illegal speech codes.
With help from the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, FIRE is suing several universities that manifestly and unconstitutionally deprive their students of First Amendment rights.
“Universities’ stubborn refusal to relinquish their speech codes must not be tolerated,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff during a press conference.
For now, suits have been filed against Ohio University, Iowa State University, Chicago State University, and Citrus College in California. These universities have all trampled students’ free speech rights, according to FIRE.
Lukianoff explained that FIRE would not hesitate to expand the suits until all universities abandon their speech codes, which were ruled unconstitutional decades ago but have endured at more than 50 percent of colleges, according to the foundation’s research.
Facebook has conducted a secret massive psychology experiment on its users to find out how they respond to positive and negative messages – without telling participants
Over 600,000 Facebook users have taken part in a psychological experiment organised by the social media company, without their knowledge.
Facebook altered the tone of the users’ news feed to highlight either positive or negative posts from their friends, which were seen on their news feed.
They then monitored the users’ response, to see whether their friends’ attitude had an impact on their own.
“The results show emotional contagion,” wrote a team of Facebook scientists, in a paper published by the PNAS journal – Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists of the United States.
California voters reject tenure, layoff rules for public school teachers
The PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll showed that two-thirds of voters (68 percent) agree that the state should do away with “Last In, First Out,” a policy that requires the newest K-12 teachers be laid off first, regardless of merit. Just 17 percent said California should continue to conduct teacher layoffs in order of seniority, according to the poll. PACE stands for Policy Analysis for California Education.
California voters also largely opposed the state’s tenure laws for public school teachers, according to the poll. Six in 10 California voters said teachers should not continue to receive tenure, as it makes firing bad teachers difficult. Twenty-five percent of voters said the state should keep tenure for public school teachers to provide them job protections and the freedom to teach potentially controversial topics without fear of reprisals.
Locked up in America
Google Sells Parent Status to Advertisers
If you’ve ever read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, you probably didn’t notice a chapter about Google tracking your parental status in AdWords. Well, this is exactly what Google is doing, as Parental Status is now a demographic subset that advertisers can explicitly target.
This feature went live within the past 12 hours or so, and Google has yet to make an official announcement. However, we’ve already seen it in action, as you can see in the following figure:
Note that many schools, including Madison, use google email and other services.
Unblinking Eyes Track Employees
A digital Big Brother is coming to work, for better or worse.
Advanced technological tools are beginning to make it possible to measure and monitor employees as never before, with the promise of fundamentally changing how we work — along with raising concerns about privacy and the specter of unchecked surveillance in the workplace.
Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction. So a bank’s call center introduced a shared 15-minute coffee break, and a pharmaceutical company replaced coffee makers used by a few marketing workers with a larger cafe area. The result? Increased sales and less turnover.
Somewhat related: TeacherMatch.
LIFO keeps N.J. from true teacher tenure reform
Public school calendars may be winding down, but education rhetoric is heating up after a startling ruling last week in Los Angeles that, some pundits say, has national implications. In a case called Vergara v. California, nine Los Angeles public school students argued in County Superior Court that state tenure laws, which require schools to lay off teachers in order of seniority, had violated their constitutional rights by depriving them of effective teachers. Judge Rolf Treu ruled that the students were right.
But New Jerseyans who deplore seniority-based job security, also known as LIFO or “last in, first out,” shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. The Vergara ruling is important and will continue to inform discussions about improving America’s teacher quality and educational equity. But Los Angeles’ tenure laws are so far off the bell curve that they’re hardly a test case for the rest of the nation, even in the 11 states in the country that still adhere to the practice of seniority-based lay-offs.
But don’t underestimate the power of Judge Treu’s declaration that “evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed it shocks the conscience.”
NJ civil rights lawyers should sue over teacher seniority rules
A California judge ruled this week that a poor kid’s equal right to a quality education isn’t just a matter of funding — it’s also about the barriers to success that lawmakers have imposed on the system. This includes tenure, seniority and other employment policies that make it unduly hard to fire a bad teacher.
They’ve helped perpetuate a hierarchy in which the best teachers generally wind up at the most desirable schools, and some of the worst ones at high-poverty schools, where it can take years of bureaucracy and tens of thousands of dollars to get rid of them.
Not only is this absurd, the judge argued; it’s unconstitutional. It violates a clause in many state constitutions, including New Jersey’s, that assures students a “thorough and efficient education.” This was the same clause under which advocates sued in the famous 1985 New Jersey Supreme Court case, Abbott v. Burke, to challenge the lack of equal funding for students in the poorest districts.
In trying to root out religious conservatism from a few schools, the British government has ended up angering Muslims at large
MANY parents who picked up their children from Park View Academy on June 9th took home something else too: an official report excoriating the school. Ofsted, England’s schools inspector, had downgraded the largely Muslim institution to “inadequate”, saying it had failed to protect children from extremism. But parents outside the gates were less alarmed at this than cross about the report and the disruption it was causing. “If he messes up his GCSEs, I’ll hold David Cameron personally responsible,” said an angry father, pointing at his son.
A few months ago Birmingham City Council received a letter purporting to advise Muslim militants how to take over a state school. The letter might be a hoax, but it struck some as painfully accurate. Stories appeared of staff pushed out by hard-line governors (elected amateurs who appoint head teachers and set schools’ strategic direction). As the row grew, the government ordered snap inspections of 21 schools. Some of their findings are damning. But British Muslims—many of whom are Pakistani—have damned the government.
Judge Rules Union Priorities Violate Kids Civil Rights
A court ruling on Tuesday striking down job protections for teachers in California deals a sharp blow to unions — and will likely fuel political movements across the nation to eliminate teacher tenure.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu found five California laws governing the hiring and firing of teachers unconstitutional. But it was his language, more than the ruling itself, that will shake the political debate.
Treu found that the statutes permit too many grossly incompetent teachers to remain in classrooms across the state — and found that those teachers shortchange their students by putting them months or years behind their peers in math and reading.
He ruled that such a system violates the state constitution’s guarantee that all children receive “basic equality of educational opportunity.” In a blunt, unsparing 16-page opinion, Treu compared his ruling to the seminal federal desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, decided 60 years ago last month. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience,” Treu wrote.
Kenosha School Board settles lawsuit over Act 10 dispute
Kenosha schools and the teachers union were at odds over the issue of automatic dues deduction for non-union members. Supporters of the contract argued the agreement and terms within it, such as the provision for automatic dues deduction, were legal because of the Colás decision.
Kenosha Unified spokeswoman Tanya Ruder explained the School Board negotiated with the unions and signed the agreement on Nov. 12 only after receiving notice from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in October that the unions were still the certified collective bargaining representative of the teachers.
Legal rulings after that agreement resulted in WERC then informing Kenosha that the unions were not, in fact, certified collective bargaining representatives at the time, Ruder said.
That meant the union didn’t actually represent the employees in November when the collective bargaining agreements were reached, Ruder said.
Much more on Act 10 here.
Locally, Madison continues to automatically deduct union dues from teacher paychecks.
Parents fight student data mining (do they use google & Facebook?)
Moms and dads from across the political spectrum have mobilized into an unexpected political force in recent months to fight the data mining of their children. In a frenzy of activity, they’ve catapulted student privacy — an issue that was barely on anyone’s radar last spring — to prominence in statehouses from New York to Florida to Wyoming.
A months-long review by POLITICO of student privacy issues, including dozens of interviews, found the parent privacy lobby gaining momentum — and catching big-data advocates off guard. Initially dismissed as a fringe campaign, the privacy movement has attracted powerful allies on both the left and right. The American Civil Liberties Union is pushing for more student privacy protection. So is the American Legislative Exchange Council, the organization of conservative legislators.
Big Data, Common Core, and National Testing
May 2014 A Pioneer Institute White Paper by Emmett McGroarty, Joy Pullmann, and Jane Robbins New technology allows advocates for education as workforce development to accomplish what has long been out of their reach: the collection of data on every child, beginning with preschool or even earlier, and using that data to track the child throughout his/her academic career and his/her progression through the workforce. This paper explores the many initiatives that the federal government has worked with private entities to design and encourage states to participate in, in order to increase the collection and sharing of student data, while relaxing privacy protections. The authors offer recommendations to protect student privacy, including urging parents to ask what kinds of information are being collected on digital-learning platforms and whether the software will record data about their children’s behaviors and attitudes rather than just academic knowledge. If parents object to such data-collection, they should opt out. The authors also urge state lawmakers to pass student privacy laws, and they recommend that Congress correct the 2013 relaxation of FERPA.
Burning Down the House : The End of Juvenile Prison
WHEN the Center for Investigative Reporting recently visited the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall — widely considered one of the best juvenile detention centers in the country — they found remarkably prison-like conditions, ranging from the bare, concrete walls to the use of solitary confinement as a method of disciplining youth. There are currently no federal or state laws that regulate the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders, despite overwhelming evidence of its harmful effects. But the abuses don’t stop there. A 2012 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the Department of Justice, determined that youth held in adult prison facilities suffered less instances of sexual violence than their peers in juvenile facilities. And in some facilities, the rate of juvenile recidivism is over 80 percent, meaning that the bulk of these young people will eventually add to the burgeoning prison population.
There seems to be a consensus that the prison system as a whole isn’t working, and this is particularly true when it comes to juvenile detention. The United States incarcerates more young people under the age of 18 than any other industrialized country in the world. (By comparison, South Africa, our closest competitor, incarcerates its youth at one-fifth the rate of the United States.) Most juveniles who are sent to these facilities are from racial minorities. Many of them suffer abuses in prison that are heinous for adults and potentially ruinous for youth — solitary confinement, rape, repeated physical abuse, deprivation of sunlight, insufficient food and affection. Perhaps worst of all, children leave these facilities with additional traumas under their belts and no promise that their outside lives will improve.
And yet, despite protestations from all political parties that our society values children, despite the proliferation of New York Times bestsellers on how to raise children, despite growing scientific evidence that the confinement of adolescents may profoundly stunt their brain development, despite the fact that juvenile crime is steadily declining, change has not followed. Why?
MIT and Harvard release de-identified learning data from open online courses
“We are excited to be able to present the data behind the reports we released in January. This step opens the door to more sophisticated analyses that build on what we have already done,” says co-lead researcher Isaac Chuang, a professor in MIT’s electrical engineering and computer science and physics departments. “MITx and HarvardX are committed to upholding learner privacy as well as advancing learning research. These data are a public good.”
Harvard’s Andrew Ho, Chuang’s co-lead, adds that the release of the data fulfills an intention — namely, to share best practices to improve teaching and learning both on campus and online — that was made with the launch of edX by Harvard and MIT in May 2012.
Ho and Chuang anticipate that the data will offer insight to other educational researchers. Moreover, the methods used to protect learner privacy comply with FERPA (Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act) regulations, which govern the release of such data. The practice should inform the release of future datasets from edX and offer lessons more broadly.
Machines v. Lawyers As information technology advances, the legal profession faces a great disruption.
Law schools are in crisis, facing their most substantial decline in enrollment in decades, if not in the history of legal education. Applications have fallen over 40 percent since 2004. The legal workplace is troubled, too. Benjamin Barton, of the University of Tennessee College of Law, has shown that attorneys in “small law,” such as solo practitioners, have been hurting for a decade. Attorney job growth has been flat; partner incomes at large firms have recently recovered from the economic downturn, but the going rate for associates, even at the best firms, has stagnated since 2007.
Some observers, not implausibly, blame the recession for these developments. But the plight of legal education and of the attorney workplace is also a harbinger of a looming transformation in the legal profession. Law is, in effect, an information technology—a code that regulates social life. And as the machinery of information technology grows exponentially in power, the legal profession faces a great disruption not unlike that already experienced by journalism, which has seen employment drop by about a third and the market value of newspapers devastated. The effects on law will take longer to play themselves out, but they will likely be even greater because of the central role that lawyers play in public life.
School spyware in coursebooks
Recently, a number of schools have started using a program called CourseSmart, which uses e-book analytics to alert teachers if their students are studying the night before tests, rather than taking a long-haul approach to learning. In addition to test scores, the CourseSmart algorithm assigns each student an “engagement index” which can determine not just if a student is studying, but also if they’re studying properly. In theory, a person could receive a “satisfactory” C grade in a particular class, only to fail on “engagement
This immediately reminded me of Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel, Snow Crash where a government employee’s reading behavior has been thoroughly warped into simulacrum by a lifetime of overbearing surveillance:
Y.T.’s mom pulls up the new memo, checks the time, and starts reading it. The estimated reading time is 15.62 minutes. Later, when Marietta does her end-of-day statistical roundup, sitting in her private office at 9:00 P.M., she will see the name of each employee and next to it, the amount of time spent reading this memo, and her reaction, based on the time spent, will go something like this:
Student Perspectives on Race and Education in Tuscaloosa
“Skin color doesn’t define your intelligence.”
“I am not what society thinks.”
“Looking forward, not to the past.”
These are just a few of the six-word essays written by high school students in Tuscaloosa, Ala., when asked to describe their perspectives on race and education in America today.
The essays are all the more poignant when paired with photographs by the same students documenting everyday life at two schools on very different sides of the resegregation equation. Sixty years after the Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawed official segregation, nearly one in three black students in Tuscaloosa now attends a school more reminiscent of the Jim Crow South.
When my colleague Nikole Hannah-Jones set out to report the story of the dismantling of court orders, closed-room deals and school district decisions that paved the way for resegregation in Tuscaloosa, she knew some of the most important voices would be from students living the consequences of those decisions. So we hatched a plan to enlist them in telling their own stories. As the engagement editor at ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative newsroom, my job is to help build an audience for our work and get the community to participate in our journalism. We wanted the students’ stories to be a vital part of this story from the start.
UCLA prof says stats prove school’s admissions illegally favor blacks
Public universities in California are barred from using race as a factor in admitting students, but a UCLA professor who once served on its admissions oversight team says he has proof they do it anyway.
While the first round of admissions consideration is handled fairly, African-American students are nearly three times as likely to make it out of the “maybe” pile than equally-qualified white students, and more than twice as likely as Asians, according to Tim Groseclose, a political science professor at the school and author of a new book titled, “Cheating: An Insider’s Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA.”
“UCLA is using racial preferences in admissions,” Groseclose, who made his case using data from 2006-2009, told FoxNews.com.
After a first look results in most applications being either accepted or rejected, a handful of senior university staff sift through those marked for further consideration, according to Groseclose. That’s where the alleged bias happens. He found black applicants were accepted at a 43 percent rate in the second round, while whites were accepted at a 15 percent rate and Asians at an 18 percent rate.
For Sale: Student Profiles
Each year, more than 2 million middle school and high school students fill out comprehensive surveys for the National Research Center for College & University Admissions detailing their academic records, their athletic skills, their religious leanings, their aspirations.
In short, it’s “their hopes and dreams,” said Ryan Munce, the group’s vice president. He compiles profiles on each child.
Playbook: Brock launches Koch unit
Poll: Clinton sweeps GOP in Ohio
Report: Sterling calls Obama ‘flippant’
For sale: Student ‘hopes and dreams’
Are student files private? It depends.
Fannie, Freddie reform to get harder
Then he sells them.
The recent flurry of interest in updating federal privacy law focuses on preventing children’s personal information from being sold without parental consent. Left unnoticed: The huge and lucrative market of peddling profiles with student consent — even when that consent may not be entirely informed.
The DOJ and Wisconsin’s private-school choice program: a storm is brewing
Last week, the Wisconsin Reporter reported that the United States Department of Justice is still conducting an “ongoing investigation” into whether Wisconsin’s private-school choice program discriminates against children with disabilities and, as a result, violates federal disability law.
In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint with the Justice Department accusing the Wisconsin school-choice program—as well as two private schools in the program—of discriminating against children with disabilities. In April 2013, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department sent a letter and legal memo to the state of Wisconsin accusing the school-choice program of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They concluded that unless Wisconsin drastically changes its choice program, the United States will take legal action.
Among its numerous demands, the Justice Department wants private choice schools to be forced to adjust their programming to accommodate all children with disabilities, so long as the accommodation does not “fundamentally alter” the school (an extremely onerous legal standard). Federal disability law, as traditionally interpreted by the U.S. Department of Education, applies a different, less exacting standard to private schools in the choice program. Private schools must only make “minor adjustments” to accommodate students with disabilities. Given that private schools do not receive the same government funding for special education as public schools and may wish to take distinctive approaches to students with behavioral problems, this is perfectly appropriate.
Via Alan Borsuk.
Much more on vouchers, here.
Illinois: Different standards for different students
Under a dramatic new approach to rating public schools, Illinois students of different backgrounds no longer will be held to the same standards — with Latinos and blacks, low-income children and other groups having lower targets than whites for passing state exams, the Tribune has found.
In reading, for example, 85 percent of white third- through eighth-grade students statewide will be expected to pass state tests by 2019, compared with about 73 percent for Latinos and 70 percent for black students, an analysis of state and federal records shows.
The concept is part of a fundamental and, according to critics, troubling shift in how public schools and students will be judged after the federal government recently allowed Illinois to abandon unpopular requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
A key NCLB measure long considered unreachable — that 100 percent of students must pass state exams — will be eliminated.
But the complex new approach of different standards for different groups is troubling to civil rights activists, who are not convinced that school districts will be held accountable for failing to educate minority students, and to some local educators, who say the lowered expectations will send a negative message to students.
“You’re potentially sending a message that it’s OK for some kids to not do as well,” said Timothy Truesdale, assistant superintendent in Cicero’s Morton High School District 201, where almost all students are Latino and low-income, and test scores have been dismal for years.
Via: Kaleem Caire.
Harvard to adopt student honesty pledge
Harvard University is going to introduce an “honour code” in which students will promise not to cheat.
It will be the first time the prestigious US university has asked students to make a public commitment not to plagiarise or cheat in their coursework and exams.
In 2012 the university faced its biggest-ever cheating scandal.
The proposals will mean students at Harvard from 2015 agreeing to an “affirmation of integrity”.
“Honour codes” – or “honor codes” in the American spelling – are used by a number of US universities as a way of discouraging students from cheating in exams or submitting material that has been copied from the internet.
Aspen to Students: Your Property Book is Not Your Property
EFF has been fighting for years for the principle that if you bought it, you own it. The first sale doctrine – the law that allows you to resell books and that protects libraries from claims of copyright infringement – is crucial to consumers. Unfortunately, first sale has been under threat in the digital realm, as copyright holders increasingly insist on saddling “sales” with onerous restrictions. You may think you are buying a product (like software, music and ebooks), but as far as they are concerned, you are just renting it, on their terms, whether you know it or not.
The latest attack on first sale comes from Aspen Publishers, and the target is the lucrative textbook market. Aspen is insisting that students who are assigned and purchase physical textbooks Aspen published cannot resell those books to recoup some of the expense.
In Pursuit of Knowledge, and Profit How universities aid and abet patent trolls
A few weeks ago, administrators at Penn State University did something they believed had never been attempted in American academia: The school put about 70 engineering patents up for auction and tried to sell them to the highest bidder. They weren’t so successful—not many patents sold—but the project has disturbing implications. What if all this intellectual property, based on research done at a public institution, were to end up in the hands of someone less interested in innovation than in hauling companies to court? What if Penn State auctioned its inventions to a greedy patent troll?
It wouldn’t be the first time that an institute of higher learning had partnered up with patent trolls, or mimicked their behavior. Universities and patent trolls have some major traits in common: Both make money off of legal rights; both let other businesses implement ideas and then pinch a portion of the revenue; both purport to bring that money back to those innovators who most deserve it. Looked at from a distance, and with squinted eyes, a school might seem to be a patent troll itself—and that resemblance is growing stronger.
“Check Your Privilege” is Actually Just a Lousy Argument
Like you, I’ve read Tal Fortgang’s piece, “Why I’ll Never Apologize for my White Male Privilege.” And like you, I’ve enjoyed watching him get skewered by blog after blog in the never ending one-upmanship that is the who-had-it-worse awards. As the internet froths at the mouth, I hereby declare that, like you, I think he made a big mistake! He should have elaborated on his first sentence and stopped there.
The point he should have made, but skipped over instead, was that the “check your privilege” riposte is not relevant to almost any discussion in which it is invoked. It is a rhetorical flourish used to discredit the proposition based on the identity of the speaker, and not the merit of the proposition itself. There’s a word for this logical fallacy: ad hominem. When employed, it can pack a powerful punch, but in reality it is lazy, lousy, and liberally lobbed in lieu of any legitimate point.
Although I’ve rarely heard the literal words “check your privilege,” I have been exposed to many, many forms of this non-argument. You might recognize these examples from your own experience:
How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance
There’s a popular forum on the Reddit online service called ‘‘Explain Like I’m Five,’’ in which redditors pose difficult and esoteric questions whose settled answers are beyond their comprehension, and ask their fellows to simplify these answers to the point where a five year old could follow them.
Parenting is a long-running game of ‘‘Explain Like I’m Five’’ (actually, it starts with ‘‘Explain like I’m a pre-verbal infant,’’ and I imagine it ends somewhere around ‘‘Explain like I’m a post-adolescent young adult’’). My daughter, Poesy, is six, and she’s turned me into a skilled player of ‘‘Explain Like I’m _______,’’ starting when she was about two and a half and found out about death and was consumed with existential terror. For about a year – a very long, very difficult year – I found myself explaining death and the circle of life, over and over again, to my kid. It’s the only time I’ve ever regretted being an atheist. I’m pretty sure that if I’d floated the idea of harps and robes and eternal paradise in a cloudy heavenscape, I could have avoided a lot of grief. But it was worth it, if only for the weird misunderstandings that my attempts engendered, like when we visited a friend’s farm and Poesy explained that the celery in the garden was made of dead people.
Since then, we’ve tackled a variety of substantial topics, from globalism, to climate change, to racism, to the Holocaust, to evolution, to the Enlightenment, to monarchism, to cosmology and quantum uncertainty. We talk about Ukrainian politics and we talk about global aviation logistics. We talk about Chinese labor migration and we talk about proportional systems of governance.
“White Privilege” as the Neutron Bomb of Moral Warfare
The growing popularity of “check your privilege” and “white privilege” at Universities and in political debates is interesting.
Why is it interesting? It’s not a force for progress or positive change, it’s a form of moral warfare. That means it’s not a constructive remark that improves the debate, rather, it’s an attack that does damage the target. However, it doesn’t damage the target directly. Instead, the damage is done by weakening or breaking the moral bonds that allow the target to function in a social context.
In other words, the attack disconnects the target from the moral support of others. You can see that disconnection at work in how groups within the target group “white privilege” are fleeing from it, rather than rejecting the concept outright. For example, I’ve seen “white male privilege” as a form of attack now. I’ve also seen “white straight male privilege” being used. This divisibility of the attack makes it the neutron bomb of moral warfare. The kind of attack that’s meant to surgically remove a specific target group from the debate without doing damage to your own group.
Google ends “creepy” practice of scanning Gmail education apps
Technology giant Google has ended its practice of scanning its users’ Apps for Education accounts for advertising purposes after being sued by students and other Gmail users last year, the company announced Wednesday.
The Google Apps for Education tool suite is a service the company provides for free to more than 30 million students, teachers, and administrators globally. The service includes access to Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and cloud storage.
Users of the Apps for Education tools suite and other Gmail users have alleged that the company’s data scanning practices violated federal and state anti-wiretapping and privacy laws, according to the suit filed in a California federal court.
The plaintiffs have further claimed that the company crossed a “creepy line” by using scanned information to build “surreptitious” profiles of students, according to Education Week. The users who filed suit have sought money damages and an injunction preventing further scanning of accounts. The suit is ongoing, and, after a preliminary hearing in February, the court denied a motion for certification as a class action lawsuit in March.
“Trust but verify”.
Parent to Obama: Let me tell you about the Common Core test Malia and Sasha don’t have to take but Eva does
We have something very important in common: daughters in the seventh grade. Since your family walked onto the national stage in 2007, I’ve had a feeling that our younger daughters have a lot in common, too. Like my daughter Eva, Sasha appears to be a funny, smart, loving girl, who has no problem speaking her mind, showing her feelings, or tormenting her older sister.
There is, however, one important difference between them: Sasha attends private school, while Eva goes to public school. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support your decision to send Malia and Sasha to private school, where it is easier to keep them safe and sheltered. I would have done the same. But because she is in private school, Sasha does not have to take Washington’s standardized test, the D.C. CAS, which means you don’t get a parent’s-eye view of the annual high-stakes tests taken by most of America’s children.
I have been watching Eva take the Massachusetts MCAS since third grade. To tell you the truth, it hasn’t been a big deal. Eva is an excellent student and an avid reader. She goes to school in a suburban district with a strong curriculum and great teachers. She doesn’t worry about the tests, and she generally scores at the highest level.
Much more on the Common Core, here.
A Lack of Affirmative Action Isn’t Why Minority Students Are Suffering
To this end, the Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action upholding the ban on affirmative action in public-university admissions takes America one step closer to President Kennedy’s dream. In a 6-2 decision, the Court held that a ballot initiative by Michigan residents to bar the use of race preferences as a factor of admission was constitutional.
On a Court that has consistently issued closely contested opinions—often in 5-4 decisions—the overwhelming majority of the Justices recognized the importance and the legality of people in several states like Michigan to prohibit the use of race as a factor in admissions. Despite the commentary to the contrary which is likely to follow in the coming days, the Court did not address whether colleges or universities could use race as a factor of admission—they wisely left the decision to the voters in individual states to make such a decision.
Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy opined:
Here, the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible when certain conditions are met is not being questioned…. The decision by Michigan voters reflects the ongoing national dialogue about such practices.
Diversity and Dishonesty
EARLIER this year, a column by a Harvard undergraduate named Sandra Y. L. Korn briefly achieved escape velocity from the Ivy League bubble, thanks to its daring view of how universities should approach academic freedom.
Korn proposed that such freedom was dated and destructive, and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. No more, she wrote, should Harvard permit its faculty to engage in “research promoting or justifying oppression” or produce work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.” Instead, academic culture should conform to left-wing ideas of the good, beautiful and true, and decline as a matter of principle “to put up with research that counters our goals.”
No higher-up at Harvard endorsed her argument, of course. But its honesty of purpose made an instructive contrast to the institutional statements put out in the immediate aftermath of two recent controversies — the resignation of the Mozilla Foundation’s C.E.O., Brendan Eich, and the withdrawal, by Brandeis University, of the honorary degree it had promised to the human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The home-school conundrum Meeting the German Christians who claimed asylum in America
Civil disobedience does not come easily to Morristown, a conservative spot of almost 30,000 souls. Yet city fathers swore to endure jail time, if necessary, to shield Uwe Romeike, his wife Hannelore and their seven children, from federal agents with orders to expel them from Morristown, where they have lived since fleeing Baden-Württemberg in 2008. A stand-off seemed likely when, on March 3rd, the Supreme Court declined to hear a final appeal against the Romeikes’ expulsion, handing victory to the American government, which had always rejected the family’s claims to be refugees from religious and social persecution. However, a day later federal officials put the family’s deportation on indefinite hold—thereby allowing them to stay without setting a legal precedent (and without insulting Germany, a close ally).
German laws forbid parents from educating their children at home in almost all cases, citing society’s interest in avoiding closed-off “parallel societies”. Germany’s highest court calls schools the best place to bring together children of different beliefs and values, in the name of “lived tolerance”. In plainer language, the Romeikes believe that, if they return to Germany, their children face being taken to school by force. This happened in 2006: the youngsters wept as they were driven away in a police van. (On the next school morning supporters showed up and officers backed off.) Worse, their children might be taken into care—this is the family’s greatest fear, prompting their flight from Germany. As the Romeikes scanned the globe for options, the Home School Legal Defence Association, a Virginia-based group, urged them to apply for asylum in America. The hope was to cause a fuss in the press, says an HSLDA lawyer, Michael Donnelly, and to “fuel the flame of liberty in Germany”.
Campus Stung by Controversial Video Moves to Ban Recordings in Class
The Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater has responded to a controversy over a surreptitiously obtained classroom video of a guest lecturer lambasting Republicans by moving to bar students from recording and disseminating such … – See more at: http://m.chronicle.com/article/Campus-Stung-by-Controversial/145595/#sthash.6FchW4pm.dpuf
Illustration by Stanley Mouse Field Trippin’ One high school teacher’s account of a trip he didn’t mean to take
We were barely past MacArthur when I felt it beginning to take hold. It was a big Friday for me, taking 40 students on a walking field trip to our local bookstore, then a tour of the Community Center and, if there was enough time, a little sit-under-a-tree-and-read time for the students in the Plaza.
I was in my 10th year of teaching in the only alternative high school in the town of Sonoma. Fall semester I was teaching English, algebra, science and art to students who usually hate each of those subjects. My primary task was engagement: get the kids understanding why knowledge is power and why they should give a shit, and then fill in the blanks as they appear.
It was the beginning of the year, and my office manager had informed the staff two weeks ago that we suddenly had $4,000 to spend. “But spend it fast,” she warned, “because you never know.” Budget distribution in the district frequently means no money for long periods of time, then a big wad to be spent within two weeks before it disappears into another pot. I quickly scheduled a Friday walking field trip to Readers’ Books, telling each student they had $15 to spend on a book of their choice. The only catch was that they would have to complete a book report. It’s an excellent way to spend $600, as most of my students have never been in a bookstore, much less bought or read a book of their own.
Public Schools Can’t Help but Curb Freedom of Expression
It was trending on Twitter all day on Tuesday: #ReligiousFreedomForAll. The impetus was the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby case being argued before the Supreme Court, and disgust over government forcing people to pay for medical treatments they find immoral. But if people cared about public schooling as much as they do Obamacare, hashtags defending all kinds of freedom would be the daily norm on Twitter.
Just like Obamacare, public schools — government institutions for which all people must pay — regularly violate basic rights. They have to: Among many curbs on freedom, to avoid chaos schools have to have rules about what students and teachers can say, and decisions must be made about what is — and is not — taught.
Consider the nationally covered Easton Area School District v. B.H. case (colloquially known as “I (Heart) Boobies”), which the Supreme Court refused to hear a few weeks ago. It involved two students in Easton, PA, who were suspended for wearing pink, breast-cancer-awareness bracelets that carried the “boobies” message. The district argued that the bracelets, with their intentionally attention-grabbing message, threatened school“decorum” and “the civility of discussion in the classroom.”
Dance of the lemons Reformers want to make it easier to sack bad teachers
JOSH, a young social-studies teacher working in a tough part of Los Angeles, had been on the job for less than a year when word came that it might not last much longer. Its public finances in ruins, California was slashing budgets and laying off thousands of teachers. Josh’s headmaster fought to keep him, but his hands were tied; under the state’s strict “last in, first out” seniority rules, enshrined in statute, the most recent recruits had to be fired first, regardless of ability.
Luckily Josh found a job at a charter school (funded by the state but run independently). Three years later, he says he can understand why experienced teachers deserve protection; as a newbie, the help he received from veterans at his first school was invaluable. Yet others seemed to be serving time; it was hard to see them “chuckle on” in the cafeteria when he was being told to leave.
The Drugging of the American Boy
By the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. Millions of those boys will be prescribed a powerful stimulant to “normalize” them. A great many of those boys will suffer serious side effects from those drugs. The shocking truth is that many of those diagnoses are wrong, and that most of those boys are being drugged for no good reason—simply for being boys. It’s time we recognize this as a crisis.
If you have a son, you have a one-in-seven chance that he has been diagnosed with ADHD. If you have a son who has been diagnosed, it’s more than likely that he has been prescribed a stimulant—the most famous brand names are Ritalin and Adderall; newer ones include Vyvanse and Concerta—to deal with the symptoms of that psychiatric condition.
The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies stimulants as Schedule II drugs, defined as having a “high potential for abuse” and “with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” (According to a University of Michigan study, Adderall is the most abused brand-name drug among high school seniors.) In addition to stimulants like Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta, Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, Demerol, and OxyContin.
Vergara case inside court, dueling press conferences outside
As lawyers in the Vergara v. California case made their closing arguments inside the court room for the benefit of an audience of one – Judge Rolf Treu – their dueling press conferences held outside were directed at a statewide audience, to be broadcast by a number of television cameras.
The state defense team got their side of the story out first at an early morning event with the message that state laws that offer employment protections for public school teachers help California public schools “keep the American dream alive.”
Catching a Cheater Online
For the past month, about a hundred college professors have been embroiled in an online sting operation. It all started with a Seattle Craigslist ad:
Are you good with college level math? I need a taller college aged brunette female student to take a math placement test for me in person as I am out of state currently. If you believe that you can be of help please respond to this ad and let me know your math qualifications. Must know college level math. Willing to pay a neg fee. This could turn into more work in the near future if interested. Serious inquiries only as I need this done ASAP! Thank you!
The teachers, who all belong to a private Facebook teaching group, were not shocked by the fact that students might be cheating in their courses. They already knew that. They were shocked by the brazen nature of this student’s attempts to hire someone to cheat for her. J.C., one of the professors, who happens to be a tallish, brunette, English professor in Seattle, contacted the student using a pseudonym to dig around for more information. The student replied, saying she needed someone to help her get a place in a college-level online math class by taking the ACT Compass exam in person at a local testing center, and once she’d placed into the appropriate math class, possibly take the online course for her:
Google sued for data-mining students’ email
Google is in hot water for scanning millions of students’ email messages and allegedly building “surreptitious” profiles to target advertising at them.
According to Education Week, a “potentially explosive” lawsuit is wending its way through US federal court, now being heard in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
In court filings, plaintiffs charge that Google data-mines Gmail users – a group that includes students who use the company’s Apps for Education tool suite.
German home-school family will not be deported from US
A family who left Germany so they could home-school their children in the US will not be deported despite being denied asylum, officials say.
US immigration officials confirmed the Romeike family have been granted “prosecutorial discretion”.
In Germany, parents who refuse to send their children to state-approved schools face fines, imprisonment and the removal of the children.
The family sought asylum in the US, saying they feared persecution at home.
Gifted in Math, and Poor
New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up” (“Numbers Crunch” series, editorial, Dec. 15): Educators know that when the curriculum is set at an optimal difficulty level, students learn to persist, attend carefully and gain self-confidence. For mathematically gifted students, the curriculum must move more quickly and in greater depth so that they can become disciplined, resilient students.
When the mathematically gifted sons and daughters of affluent, well-educated parents are not challenged, their parents spend considerable amounts of time and money finding tutors, summer programs and online courses. As a psychologist who has worked for more than 20 years with the families of gifted students, I have seen how much time and money is required for this effort.
For mathematically gifted students from poorer families, there is neither the time nor the money to seek educational opportunities outside the public schools. A weak public school system without flexibility or adequate challenge can seriously limit the educational experiences and lifetime employment opportunities of these students. A weak public school system ultimately limits quality education to those few whose parents can pay for it privately.
JULIA B. OSBORN
Brooklyn, Dec. 19, 2013
Related: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine — NOT!”
Florida Teen Charged with Felony for trying Science
The Urban Scientist, Scientific American
News of Kiera Wilmot’s arrest has seriously unnerved me. She is the Florida high school student who was experimenting with common household chemicals in science class that resulted in a minor explosion. There were no injuries and no damage to school property; however, she was taken away in handcuffs, formally arrested and expulled from school.
I acknowledge that too little information has been provided on the case. We have NO idea what was happening in the class. Where was the teacher? Were students involved in a laboratory activity at the time? I have spent time in the high school classroom. I know the shenanigans (and havoc) these pre-adults can cause. It is no laughing matter. Even if this were a prank, say something akin to my generation’s idea of setting off smoke bombs in the hall during the passing of classes, my gut reaction stands.
I don’t like what our public education (and justice) systems do to urban youth (e.g. the discipline gap with Black kids). I worry about urban kids who don’t (tend) to have access to social capital that advocates for them and gives them a chance after stupid mistakes. I worry what this will mean to her family financially. What will it mean for her future? Will graduating from an alternative school prevent her from attending college? Will she be marked as a trouble maker? Will she have a criminal record that prevents her from gainful employment and a meaningful life? More immediately, will she get locked away for 20 years? Shit like that happens to kids who look like her.
Boston Schools Drop Last Remnant of Forced Busing
Katherine Q. Seelye
New York Times
BOSTON — The Boston School Committee, once synonymous with fierce resistance to racial integration, took a historic step Wednesday night and threw off the last remnants of a busing system first imposed in 1974 under a federal court desegregation order.
Instead of busing children across town to achieve integration, the plan adopted by the committee is intended to allow more students to attend schools closer to home.
That was the objective sought by Mayor Thomas Menino, who appointed a special advisory group last year to overhaul the system. He said that keeping students closer to home would encourage more parental involvement, develop neighborhood cohesion and ultimately improve the schools.
“Tonight’s historic vote marks a new day for every child in the city of Boston,” the mayor said in a statement.
But numerous parents and activists complained during a hearing before the committee’s deliberations that the new system would leave some children — mostly black and Hispanic — in the lowest-performing schools.
“No way we can stand around the playground and say, ‘Yeah, we’re all getting a fair shake,’ ” one father testified.
They were angry, too, that the committee had not tackled what many agree is the district’s fundamental problem — the scarcity of good schools.
Judge sets trial date in Loudoun school-tardiness case
Amy and Mark Denicore are headed to a full-blown trial to defend themselves against charges that they violated Virginia law by making their kids late to elementary school too often.
The Loudoun County couple was arraigned Monday morning in juvenile and domestic relations court. Judge Pamela L. Brooks set a trial date of March 14.
The Denicores are each charged with three Class 3 misdemeanors, each of which carries a maximum fine of $500. Their three children, ages 6, 7 and 9, have been late to school almost 30 times since September. Most of their tardies were three minutes or less.
School expulsion law challenged as unconstitutional
A state law that allows school districts to deny enrollment to students expelled by other districts is unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Dane County Circuit Court.
The suit was filed against the Oregon School District, which denied enrollment to a middle school student after the Janesville School District expelled him in November.
The student was expelled after serving suspensions last October for an alleged sexual assault and possession of tobacco on campus, according to the complaint. The student denied both charges, the complaint states.
Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin. said his organization disapproves of the expulsion law, which has been on the books since 1997. The state constitution guarantees a free education to all students between the ages of 4 and 20.