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Penn State students camp out to protect Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium

Two students set up tent with sign reading ‘Protect the Paterno statue’


Kim Ranck touches the arm on Joe Paterno’s statue as she walks past Wednesday.

Kim Ranck touches the arm on Joe Paterno’s statue as she walks past Wednesday.

Famous sports names have called for the statue to be removed. A plane flying over Happy Valley Tuesday dragged a banner with an even more ominous threat – “Take the statue down or we will.”

But the bespectacled likeness of the late Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno has some supporters who are going the extra mile to protect the statue outside Beaver Stadium.

Several PSU students have erected a tent and fashioned signs in support of having Paterno’s statue remain, despite the recent independent report released by former FBI director Louis Freeh that named Paterno as one of four former university administrators who were part of a cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s years-long molestation of young boys.

Twitter photos posted by PSU’s Daily Collegian show a gray tent with lime green trim set up a few yards from the Paterno statue, and two students sitting nearby with a poster that says, “Protect the Paterno statue.”

Penn State spokesman David La Torre said Tuesday that a decision on the fate of the statue could be made in the next week.

Paternoville, the area around Beaver Stadium where students camp out to get tickets for football games, has been renamed Nittanyville. Many Penn State students and alumni have voiced support for Paterno ever since he was fired Nov. 9 along with then president Graham Spanier. Paterno died of lung cancer in January. Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of sex abuse of minors last month.

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D.C. high school offers $50 gift cards for high scores on tests


Like many D.C. public schools, Woodrow Wilson High School has dangled numerous carrots before students to motivate and inspire them to do their best on the DC CAS. The annual standardized test — a high-stakes event for teachers and principals who are evaluated on the results — is sometimes a less-compelling exercise for students, whose grades are not impacted. Dinners, trips, iPod raffles and other inducements have not broken through.

So this spring at Wilson, the carrots have turned to cash.

According to a story in the latest issue of The Beacon student newspaper, Wilson administrators are offering $50 VISA gift cards to the school’s 400 sophomores for every proficient or advanced score they register on the CAS, which will be administered for two weeks beginning April 17. The Beacon’s account is consistent with parent and staff e-mails I’ve received over the last couple of weeks.

In an interview Thursday evening, principal Peter Cahall said the point of the program was to spur more student enthusiasm for a test that hasgrown increasingly important to the careers of teachers. Reading and math instructors in grades 3 through 8 and ten have 50 percent of their evaluations tied to test score growth.

“I want to hold on to my teachers,” Cahall said. “I’m looking for a creative way to do that. “You have a high stakes assessment that has no bearing on the kids. There’s no reason for taking it. It’s about having good instruction and great teachers in every classroom but then you have to get kids to come and take it seriously.”

Last year 65.7 percent of Wilson sophomores scored proficient or better on the CAS reading assessment. The pass rate on the math test was 52.2 percent. The school did not make adequate yearly progress as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

History teacher Jim Leonard, the Washington Teachers’ Union field representative, said he supported the idea. He said he’s seen students come into the testing room, fill in random bubbles on the answer sheet and put their heads on the table.

“The whole testing procedure in the District has no real incentive for kids,” he said. “There’s no accountability on the part of children. This might be the carrot that makes the difference.”

According to The Beacon, Wilson business manager Ajibade DaSilva said the incentive program is being funded through federal Title 1 money, appropriated to school districts to improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. A smaller amount is coming from the Redskins Foundation, DaSilva said. Forty-three percent of Wilson students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

Cahall said that Title 1 funds are being used only to pay teachers for tutoring students in preparation for the CAS, a legitimate purpose. Funding for the $50 dollar gift cards is yet to be determined, he said, and that it could be Title I or a private source.

“We’re looking at multiple funding sources,” he said.

David Thompson a Wilson instructional coach, told The Beacon that the incentives are “a small price to pay if all of our students are advanced or proficient. If we were to get 100 percent proficient or advanced and it only cost us $40,000 to do it, that’s huge.”

Wilson PTSA president Leticia Barnes-Long said Thursday evening that she was aware of the effort and that the school had been searching for ways to build enthusiasm for the test.

“We were looking for reasons for incentives. The DC CAS is a test that isn’t really counted. The students are aware of that. But it is important data..We’ve looked at ways to really engage the students.”

Matthew Frumin, a Wilson parent and chairman of the non-profit that raises money and supports school programs, declined to comment on the cash awards.

What do you think? Give your opinion in the comments below.

D.C. high school offers $50 gift cards for high scores on tests

Education Is Key

Judged a Failure by the Data, a School Succeeds Where It Counts


Aniah McAllister was a lost girl of New York, one of tens of thousands of children edging toward an adulthood drained of hope.

At 18, she possessed just 17 high school credits; she knew the streets and little more. She wandered, almost on a whim, into Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn, a last-chance school for last-chance kids.

Two years later?

“I’m 20 years old, I have 46 credits, and I want to go to college.”

Ms. McAllister shakes her head, as if amazed to have just claimed that desire as her own. “This school made realize,” she says, “that I am much better than I thought I was.”

That’s a pretty fair bottom line for any school, although in the up-is-down world of public education in New York, it might just be an epitaph for this small marvel of a high school. Known as a transfer high school, Bushwick Community admits only those teenagers who have failed elsewhere. Most students enter at age 17 or 18, and most have fewer than 10 credits.

You can muck around quite a bit trying to find someone who has walked the school’s corridors, talked to its students and faculty, and come away unmoved. Most sound like Kathleen M. Cashin, a member of the State Board of Regents and a former superintendent. “They care for the neediest with love and rigor,” she said. “They are a tribute to public education.”

Yet Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose insistence that he has presided over an educational miracle recognizes few bounds of contrary fact, has proposed laying off the principal and half the teachers before it can reopen for the next school year. City officials complain that a majority of students fail to graduate in six years.

This bill of indictment appears math-challenged.

If students enter at 17 or 18, with less than a year’s worth of credits, the chances seem strikingly good that the students will not graduate within six years of freshman year. (The State Education Department takes the view that the metrics, rather than the high school, are most likely broken.)

The city’s Education Department has adopted a resolutely cheery tone.

“This really empowers them to take ownership of this school,” a department spokesman said. “What kind of change can they imagine?”

Public education across the nation has sunk deep into a bog of metrics. We presume to measure teaching and achievement as a chemist does a proper mixture of chemicals. To this conceit, you can add the draconian demands of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which offers millions of dollars in help for poor urban schools only if city officials adhere to the same unyielding metrics.

This is a particular problem for a transfer high school, whose faculty takes children bruised by years of neglect. Bushwick Community is run, in part, by its faculty members, who offer the usual collection of the smart, the eccentric and the deeply committed found in most schools that work.

To sit with a dozen of the students at a community center not far from the high school was to watch as one girl nursed a baby and another spoke of living with her child in a shelter. Two had been tossed out of their family homes. Another lived with her grandmother on Coney Island — she commutes one and a half hours each way to this high school in Bushwick.

These are nonlinear kids with nonlinear lives.

There are no fairy tales in public education. These teachers are their own harshest critics. Yet the Education Department’s report card compares this school with other transfer schools, and gives it a 95 percent grade in improving student attendance, 90 percent for passing the English Regents exam and 100 percent for the math Regents.

All of which is fine, though not nearly as moving as listening to these teenagers talk of lives adrift until they washed ashore here.

Justin Soto, short and muscular with a goatee, raises his hand. “I had not passed a class since junior high school,” he says, as tears roll down his cheeks and a girl rubs his neck. “I’m 21, but I’m not a man yet. This school has given me a life.”

Ms. McAllister raises her hand. A year ago, she asked her teacher if she was smart enough to graduate. He spent an hour talking to her. Next year, she will attend Medgar Evers College. She, too, is crying.

“Failure was all I knew,” she says.

What, I ask, would you like to be?

“A teacher, oddly,” she says. “I mean, it’s inspiring when you know what you were and see what you are now.”

Judged a Failure by the Data, a School Succeeds Where It Counts

Education Is Key

Male Student Shot to Death at Mississippi State University, Suspects Fled


A male student was fatally shot at a Mississippi State University residence hall Saturday night by three suspects who fled the scene and are still at large, school officials said today.

Campus police were notified of an incident in Evans Hall, a male dorm, at approximately 10 p.m. Saturday, and arrived at the scene within one minute, according to Dr. Mark Keenum, Mississippi State University president.

Police found 21-year-old John Sanderson at the scene in grave condition. He was taken to the hospital, where he died about 30 minutes later.

According to the MSU website, the suspects are three black males who fled Evans Hall in a blue Crown Victoria.

“The perpetrators fled our campus, but we’re still attempting to identify who those perpetrators are and so we’re following every lead in order to do that,” said Dr. Bill Kibler, vice president of student affairs at MSU.

Campus officials alerted students last night of the incident.

“Our local city police department and the county sheriff’s office are all participating cooperatively in patrolling our campus and conducting a full scale investigation,” Kibler said.

Mississippi State University is currently operating under advisory conditions, according to its website, and has set up a call center for worried parents.

“No one’s being admitted to the residence halls other than residents themselves. That’s all being screened very carefully,” Kibler said. “We have not locked down the entire campus.”

In a press conference this morning, Keenum said campus officials believe this is an isolated incident.

“This is the first time in our school’s history that such a tragic incident has occurred, involving a student being shot on campus,” he said. “Our campus is known as a safe place, and I want to assure students, parents, faculty, and staff that it continues to be safe.”

“I do not believe there’s any imminent threat to our students on the campus right now,” Kibler said. “This appears to be an incident that was contained there involving those that were involved.”

Male Student Shot to Death at Mississippi State University, Suspects Fled

Education Is Key

LAUSD Unveils Policies to Protect Students From Sexual Predators

The call for change is challenging the long, drawn-out process that takes place when the district wants to fire a teacher.

By Toni Guinyard and Jason Kande

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy takes his seat following a closed-door meeting of the Board of Education in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. The district has implemented new policies to protect children against sex predators after a scandal involving two teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in Florence, Calif.

Los Angeles school board members on Monday are expected to unveil two resolutions to better protect children from sexual predators in schools.

The call for change is challenging the long, drawn-out process that takes place when the Los Angeles Unified School District wants to fire teachers.

Miramonte Abuse Scandal | School Abuse Scandal

Parents want to know when a teacher’s under investigation by the district or law enforcement.

They also want to know, in some cases, why a teacher is not fired.

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A coalition of board members will present two resolutions, one calling for the superintendent to strengthen the process of notifying parents and the state credentialing commission when a teacher is being investigated.

The other resolution would do the following:

.Alter the state education code to give the district the power to remove teachers immediately from the classroom when dismissal proceedings begin;

.Permit district officials to fire teachers over the summer;

.Mandate hearings without delay;

.Allow the district to stop paying teachers during the adjudication process;

.Strip pensions of employees convicted of sexual abuse of a minor.

The first resolution aims at streamlining the dismissal process for employees “engaged in acts of moral turpitude against children.”

The second is directed at policy changes to make it easier to identify and take action against employees who abuse children and create a uniform procedure for notifying parents and guardians.

The press conference announcing the changes is expected at 10 a.m. at LAUSD headquarters.

LAUSD Unveils Policies to Protect Students From Sexual Predators

Education Is Key

Legal Education Reform

American legal education is in crisis. The economic downturn has left many recent law graduates saddled with crushing student loans and bleak job prospects. The law schools have been targets of lawsuits by students and scrutiny from the United States Senate for alleged false advertising about potential jobs. Yet, at the same time, more and more Americans find that they cannot afford any kind of legal help.

Addressing these issues requires changing legal education and how the profession sees its responsibility to serve the public interest as well as clients. Some schools are moving in promising directions. The majority are still stuck in an outdated instructional and business model.

The problems are not new. In 2007, a report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching explained that law schools have contributed heavily to this crisis by giving “only casual attention to teaching students how to use legal thinking in the complexity of actual law practice.”

Even after the economy recovers, the outsourcing of legal work from law firms and corporate counsel offices to lower-fee operations overseas is likely to continue. Belatedly, some law schools are trying to align what and how they teach to what legal practice now entails and what individuals and institutions need — like many more lawyers who can serve as advocates for the poor and middle class.

Instead of a curriculum taught largely through professors’ grilling of students about appellate cases, some schools are offering more apprentice-style learning in legal clinics and more courses that train students for their multiple future roles as advocates and counselors, negotiators and deal-shapers, and problem-solvers.

With new legal issues arising from the use of computers in business and government to manage information, some schools are teaching students software code as well as legal code to solve systemwide problems. Some are exploring ways to reduce tuitions and make themselves more sustainable. Potential business models include legal degrees based on two years of classes, followed by third-year apprenticeship programs.

In American law schools, the choice is not between teaching legal theory or practice; the task is to teach useful legal ideas and skills in more effective ways. The case method has been the foundation of legal education for 140 years. Its premise was that students would learn legal reasoning by studying appellate rulings. That approach treated law as a form of science and as a source of truth.

That vision was dated by the 1920s. It was a relic by the 1960s. Law is now regarded as a means rather than an end, a tool for solving problems. In reforming themselves, law schools have the chance to help reinvigorate the legal profession and rebuild public confidence in what lawyers can provide.

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