Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Guns Anywhere Near Schools

Friday, August 30th, 2019

From the mass murders by young men with a gun this summer at a busy location with lots of people, the first thing that comes to mind is how many more children won’t grow up. After the El Paso shooting, how many more children younger than three will grow up never knowing their parents?

Even though the summer shooting sprees were not at schools, the effects on children once they return to school will be traumatic, and teachers and administrators will have to deal with the difficulties of students staying on task, uncontrolled crying, withdrawal, and anger. All of which will hinder learning during the year. Does any child need to live with these consequences?

In fact, most killings called mass murders happen at home from domestic violence, at parties, or at drive-by shootings. Same difficulties, though, for children.

Does the NRA or anyone who refuses to address the gun safety issue, understand the vast dimensions of the crisis?

If we ban assault ‘rifles’, large quantity ammunition magazines, bump stocks, and printed plastic guns, there will still be murders. If we upgrade and enforce the procedures for universal background checks and make all gun owners license and register their firearms, it won’t stop someone killing someone. But it will be far better than it is now.

And it will not stop the large numbers of youth who kill themselves with guns, by accident or on purpose. No school, no college, no work, no happy days for them. So, how about stiffer laws demanding gun owners to lock up their armaments to prevent suicide or ‘accidents.’ Does such a law take away their rights?

Think about it. The registration and licensing money could be used to provide for the current president’s and NRA’s favorite culprit – lack of mental health services for shooters in this country. Believe me, all the children subjected to any shootings need mental health support. Teenagers who are thinking of killing themselves need more and better support before the worst happens.

Look at the currently collected data on shootings, arranged by the two final years of the former president’s term from 2015-2016 and the first two years of the current president’s term. Numbers differ according to source. But according to the Gun Violence Archives (with horrendous numbers), in two years from January 2015-December 2016, 28, 648 people were killed and 4,391 were killed or injured children and teens. From January 2017-December 2018 there were 30,448 killings and 7,524 were killed or injured children and teens.

The administration changed in January 2017 and that year has been considered the deadliest year with 159 killed in mass shootings. In 2019, however, up to August 29, 2019, there have already been 273 mass shootings and 9,809 total killings so far and 2,489 children and teens killed or wounded.

Look at gun safety legislation. After the 2012 Aurora shootings at which 12 were killed and 2 were aged 6 and 18, Colorado passed gun control legislation and then in the next election the two sponsors of the legislation were defeated, and the laws repealed.

In 2012 after the Sandy Hook shootings in Newton, Connecticut, when 26 were murdered, 20 of them children, Congress could not bring itself to pass gun safety legislation.

Between 2009-2016 one hundred bills had been introduced in Congress and none passed. In 2016 polling statistics, 89% of the respondents approved of universal background checks and 57% approved of a ban on assault weapons. In 2019, there has been gun safety legislation passed by the House of Representatives, but it is sitting in the Senate, not even brought to the floor.

August 21, 2019, the March for Our Lives organization, made up of student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, created a Peace Plan for a Safer America that delineates eight points for national legislation that include raising the minimum age for gun possession to 21 and the appointment of a National Director of Gun Violence Prevention.

The 2019-2020 school year has started. Now what? Are teachers going to be asked to carry pistols, revolvers, or rifles and go through firearms training, just so that in the midst of fury and turmoil and screaming they might manage to strike the perpetrator and not some innocent child?

Or will lack of needed legislation allow another unhinged young man to decide that it is his duty to kill his school mates at his former high school or children at the wrong religious site or kids at home, a festival, or shopping mall?

California is one of six with the stiffest gun legislation in the country. Still shootings are happening. So are teachers, parents, grandparents, and friends going to urge, insist, demand that their legislators in their state, both state and national, address gun safety?

 

 

 

What Has the DOE Done this Month? 

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

mailDo you remember? On September 28, 1979, Congress under President Carter established the United States Department of Education. Lots of change since then at the DOE.

Just beginning this month, Betsy DeVos, the current Superintendent, has proposed that students defrauded by for-profit colleges “show they have fallen into hopeless financial straits or prove that their colleges knowingly deceived them.” Erica L. Green, The New York Times, “DeVos Proposes Curtailing Loan Forgiveness for Defrauded Students,” July 26, 2018. The proposal, worked out by the education department, now stocked with for-profit executives and criticized as releasing the industry from oversight, is set to go into effect by July 2019.

Next, DeVos is finalizing policies to reshape the Obama guidelines which were seen to better specify the procedures to address sexual misconduct on school campuses, especially colleges and universities.  Now, the policies will strengthen the rights of students accused of sexual harassment, rape, and assault. At the same time, the rules will reduce liability for institutions, but encourage greater victim support. Surprising, since the policies narrow the definition of sexual harassment.

Take Care Schools outlined this proposal last fall when the Obama letter was rescinded. Considering the conflict in the Senate this week about the very issue of sexual misconduct and how it is viewed when each side has a completely different vision, the policy DeVos wants will continue to be inflammatory.

Last, Betsy DeVos has offered another ludicrous proposal as part of the deliberations of the Commission on School Safety. Although she said the commission was not going to consider gun issues, the proposal would allow schools to use taxpayer $$ to buy guns and pay for firearms training to teachers and staff. Her department team is examining an obscure federal policy to get around the Congress’ legislation that no taxpayer funds can be used to purchase arms, ammunition, or firearms training for schools.

What to do with Congressional funds instead? Think about protocols (which have been developed by the DOE) that address “school climate.” For instance, how to respond to student outbursts of belligerence, how to penalize without suspending or expelling. Unfortunately, there is no requirement that schools implement the protocols, nor funding to do so yet.

What about funding for more mental health services? According to numbers in the September 28, 2018 Alliance to Reclaim our Schools (AROS) newsletter, New York City, for example, has only one counselor for every 407 students. If you want school safety, reduce the school to prison numbers, and prevent school shootings, it’s a no-brainer that more counselors and psychologists available are necessary.

How about implementing ‘threat assessment teams’ in schools? Virginia K-12 schools have such teams. There are good results that show fewer student threats to injure others. Besides federal gun safety and control legislation, these reforms can provide school safety.

Why no funding support for these issues? The Schott Foundation for Public Education has figured that between 2005-2017, the United States has spent $580 billion on public school education, but the net worth of the 400 richest Americans is $1.5 trillion.

Does that make sense? No wonder Colorado has an initiative on the November ballot to raise corporate taxes and personal income tax for people making more than $150,000 and use the $1.6 billion for public schools. No wonder Maryland has a measure on the November ballot to use additional dollars raised from gambling industry funds for public schools. No wonder an Arizona initiative is on the ballot to overturn education savings accounts that allow families to draw on public school funds to pay tuition to private schools.

Another AROS newsletter (September 21, 2018) reports that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that one/half of the states in the union provide fewer total dollars to education than in 2008, the start of the Great Recession. In the meantime, the Senate passed the FY2019 appropriation bill and sent it to the House of Representatives for a vote. It only slightly increases funds to Title I, IDEA, and Pell Grants, still a big gap in funding since 2010.

For explanation, download and read Confronting the Education Debt to learn how, even with the U.S. increase to 51 million public schools, one in five students live in poverty.

Seems to Take Care Schools, the DOE should be working on how to implement the true school climate and safety issues that will increase academic success in school. Congress better implement policies and funding to decrease the number of impoverished communities.

 

 

Climb Up from the Underrepresented with STEM

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

The goal is to prepare every high school student in the United States to be college and career ready. I read Beyond the Messy Truth by Van Jones and discovered a way forward. He wrote about high school students who were capable of downloading every app that came up on their cell phones, but the rare student had any idea how to build those precious apps for every student on the block.

And he asked who is making the money? or creating something new? He wanted to intrigue students with the idea that almost anyone can join the technology field – if your school, even in a low-income community, is equipped to guide you in that direction.

So, how to get past the anxiety and anger about the achievement gap? Where the school funding issue comes in as we’ve seen in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona – but really all over the country. Of course, we want students to be good readers and writers, but mathematics and science are also going to lead to careers. It might be writing about the latest marine biology study or the newest statistical study about plastics in the oceans. If the students can’t code or know computing tech skills, needed in any field, even art and music, they will have trouble in both college and career.

A Department of Labor report says that by 2020 1.4 million computer-science jobs will be in the tech sector. Only 400 thousand students will graduate from a 4-year college or university with a STEM degree.

Look – projects to which schools can direct students or include as part of the STEM curriculum to close the gap for underrepresented people in STEM fields:

  • #YesWeCode is organized to attract disadvantaged, urban and rural, or nontraditional background youth. It runs the biggest scholarship fund in the U.S. to help students gain access to computer-science education.
  • Qeyno Group and Hidden Genius Project, both based in Oakland, California are geared to black male youth who with support can become knowledgeable tech experts and enter college with the skills needed to succeed.
  • The Ford STEAM Lab based in Michigan has the same purpose – to provide programs for low-income youth to succeed during school and after class.
  • Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code are specifically classes for summer or after-school programs to learn tech skills including building apps.
  • Code.org partners with schools to bring tech curriculum into the classroom.

Say you’re the teacher in a school that has seen the light at the end of the tunnel and has established a wide variety of high tech programs, but you’re more interested in teaching students about the physical world, not the man-made technologies that do good and evil to Mother Earth. Computer science plays a part in everything we do in the 21st century, but Clean Technology is the way that won’t destroy the planet.

Where are the students who need to learn about the ways to protect the world? Low-income communities live in the worst areas for green problems like air pollution and water contamination. 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, and 80% of Latino communities live in areas that don’t meet EPA standards of air quality.

Remember how in April 2016 three Lakota Sioux teenagers set up a prayer camp at the north end of Standing Rock Sioux reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline route to move half a million gallons of oil a day under the Missouri River – the source of the reservation’s drinking water?

Protest, but also teach about ecology and the climate changes that affect the air, water, and earth. So students will take the college/career path to be the engineer who knows the risks and plans for them. Or the biologist who watches for the leaks that affect the plants and animals. Or the tech who designs a better model that accounts for environmental factors. Or the mathematician who calculates the risks. And the environmental writer who keeps us informed.

Government jobs in the EPA, the Coalition for Clean Air, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council are just some organizations that need green energy solutions and the high school graduates from all over the country who finish college with the tech skills ready to pursue Clean Technology career fields.

For instance, since 2016 renewable energy jobs are created twelve times faster than in the rest of the economy. Three million jobs were in wind and solar energy alone.

One program oriented specifically for middle and high school students and available all over the country is the Alliance for Climate Education set up in 2010. The facilitators help the school organize Student Action teams that have started Kickstart Recycling projects and Solarize Homes projects. Do One Thing  (DOT) programs motivate students to take one action like turning off extra lights or take one-minute showers.

Take Care Schools’ suggestion is to Do One Thing: make sure your school’s underrepresented students get the high tech and clean tech teaching they need to achieve.

 

 

 

High and Low

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017
a desert high school with undocumented students

a desert high school with undocumented students

Since the last Take Care Schools post, the new tax legislation, signed into law by the president on December 23, 2017, is on the highest shelf of the “to-worry-about” list for every teacher, administrator, and parent with a child or children in public school – from pre-school to college.

Above all, lowering state, sales, and local tax deductions to $10,000 remained in the legislation. Since tax money is what state and local communities deploy to fund schools, this change in revenue in high or low tax states will lead to unfortunate choices for education, transportation, and public safety. In other words, according to the GOP, lower taxes per worker means more money in his/her paycheck, but if state and local budget choices must be made because of lower tax revenue, some of those jobs may disappear. Will that work? Let’s see.

Those well-to-do enough, and who prefer private school education, can deduct up to $10,000 from taxes to 529 college savings plans, which now can be used for K-12 private and parochial fees, and they can deduct donations made to school voucher projects organized by the state. All these loopholes help wealthy taxpayers, but not the public schools.

Also, separate legislation to change aspects of the latest Every Students Succeeds Act, sends $253 million in grants to expand charter schools with the Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter School Program. While it’s true that some charter schools have excellent models that support children who need a different approach to learning, only $52 million (just one-fifth!) of the funds are to reach 17 non-profit charter management organizations for replication and expansion of high quality programs. For example, Environmental Charter, Fortune School of Education, and Voices College-bound Language Academics in California, plus others across the country.

In addition, the Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce are rewriting the law that protected higher education students from for-profit predatory colleges’ loan repayments for useless degrees. Two Obama law regulations called assurance of “gainful employment” and “borrower defense” will be repealed and blocked from re-adoption. Other benefits for colleges and obstacles to for-profit colleges are being revised also. See “Education Bill Sweeps Away Obama Rules” by Erica L. Green, New York Times, December 13, 2017.

Consider the 365,000 high school students and the 241,000 college students of the 1.2 million eligible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA)  who came into this country with their undocumented parents. The president has left it up to Congress to consider a bill by March 5, 2018, or up to 800,000 will be subject to deportation, including twenty thousand teachers. According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, to replace the teachers will cost at a minimum $350 million to school districts and local taxpayers.

Recall that the Supreme Court of the United States, 35 years ago in Plyler v Doe said the State can’t deny free public education to any student residing in the country, citizen or undocumented. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) of 2017, establishing the right to residency for children, by Durbin and Lindsey Graham – SB 1615/HR3440 – is supported by 86% of Americans, including ¾ of the most conservative GOP in a survey by ABC News/Washington Post on November 17, 2017.

Last and not least, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been given funds until mid-January, but it must be re-authorized to support the children at the lowest level of learning – early childhood education.

What can you do? Call and email your members of Congress – it’s helped before, so don’t let them get away with inaction. Reach for the high shelf and stoop to the lowest shelf to make DACA and CHIP happen. For the future ….

 

From K on Up

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

The usual uproar has resounded in the media since the latest scores for high-stakes once-a-year testing have been released. Which state has more students at Level 3 (meets the standard)? Which has more at Level 1 (not meeting the standard)? As if, that is all that counts. I hope not.

The first error of media talk is to call the results “Common Core Scores.” Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of learning standards devised to better organize what students in the United States learn by the time they graduate from high school. CCSS is not a test/assessment/exam. Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) states have designed an assessment to see how well students have achieved as they go through twelve years of learning. Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) has also developed an assessment that some states use. It is misleading to call them Common Core tests. How about “test questions aligned with CCSS” or “test questions based on standards of CCSS”?

Second, the conflict is over the test that is used, not the standards. And part of the furor is over who takes the test. Should Kindergarteners take the test? No. Should twelfth graders take the exam. No, they are taking SAT, AP exams, ACT. They’ve already learned what they are going to learn. Schools should focus on making sure those kids graduate and maybe go to college.

Third, what do the scores show? In California, overall, students did better on the English Language Arts assessment than the Math in this year’s 2015 test which the state calls the baseline to compare with the old STAR yearly exam, baseline 2003. Have all states released their outcomes? No. They are arguing about them. Instead, the issue should be to analyze how different aggregates of students did and then adjust the school/district/state curriculum to improve.

Next, why are parents and teachers upset? Because states are using the scores to evaluate teachers as well as students and calling them low-performing. I say, you don’t need tests to know how teachers or students are performing. You should use tests only to help teachers understand how to improve the curriculum; to help students get tutoring; to create small classes with more than one teacher to work with them. For example, a representative of the non-profit Californians Together says the tests can identify English Language Learners in order to find effective programs to help increase their English learning.

Last, why are schools/districts/states obsessing over a once-a-year method of assessing students? And throwing it out and starting over in hopes of getting better outcomes? If a better process was set up to train teachers; to oversee schools; to provide help for students in need; to spend time during the school year for teachers to use smaller formative assessment that allows for curriculum adaptation during the year; I feel you would see the opportunity for critical thinking, problem solving, analytical writing — the goals of CCSS.

From Kindergarten on up the gap in students’ knowledge across the country would slowly shrink.