Chicago has about 40% fewer African-American teachers than in 2001

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This month's Mother Jones examines a shocking statistic: "According to the Albert Shanker Institute, which is funded in part by the American Federation of Teachers, the number of black educators has declined sharply in some of the largest urban school districts in the nation. In Philadelphia, the number of black teachers declined by 18.5 percent between 2001 and 2012. In Chicago, the black teacher population dropped by nearly 40 percent. And in New Orleans, there was a 62 percent drop in the number of black teachers." Read the rest

Hard work and lower standards raise our national high school graduation rate

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Nationally the High School graduation rate has been on the rise. NPR reports the rise is due to a combination of hard work that benefits students, and some states simply lowering standards so they earn passing grades.

Via NPR:

While the graduation rate continues to climb, the improvement comes at a time when the scores of high school students on the test known as the "Nation's Report Card," are essentially flat, and average scores on the ACT and SAT are down.

As we've reported, the rising graduation rate reflects genuine progress, such as closing high schools termed "dropout factories," but also questionable strategies by states and localities to increase their numbers.

"For many students, a high school diploma is not a passport to opportunity, it's a ticket to nowhere," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national nonprofit that's long advocated for higher standards and graduation requirements.

Cohen points out that roughly half of states now offer multiple diplomas. Some of those credentials are rigorous, some aren't. "You don't know how many students who were in that graduation rate actually completed a rigorous course of study. We're not transparent about that. We're concealing a problem."

In many places, the high school graduation exam is also a low bar, Cohen says, while some states have dropped it altogether.

Just last month, in a major school funding ruling, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher excoriated his state for watered down graduation standards that, he says, have already resulted "in unready children being sent to high school, handed degrees, and left, if they can scrape together the money, to buy basic skills at a community college."

It's difficult to know which states earned this uptick in graduation rates through high standards and hard work and which states achieved it through shortcuts and lowered expectations.

Read the rest

Middle school teacher in trouble after administering "Pimps and Hos" math test

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Teacher JoAnne Bolser of Mobile, Alabama's public Cranford Burns Middle School was put on leave last week after administering a math test with word problems about pimps, hos, cocaine dealing, drive-by shootings, gangmembers who "knocked up" multiple girls, and other delightful subjects. The questions included:

"Tyrone knocked up 4 girls in the gang. There are 20 girls in his gang. What is the exact percentage of girls Tyrone knocked up?"

"Pedro got 6 years for murder. He also got $10,000 for the hit. If his common-law wife spends $100 of his hit money per month, how much money will be left when he gets out?"

Dwayne pimps 3 ho's. If the price is $85 per trick, how many tricks per day must each ho turn to support Dwayne's $800 per day crack habit?

Kids in Bolser's class texted photos of the quiz to their parents, sparking an investigation.

"The principal looked into it and then our school resource officer investigated it and then we immediately put the teacher on administrative leave," said the school's director of communications, Rena Philips.

Bolser was already planning to retire at the end of the school year this month.

According to Snopes, the quiz, known as the "L.A. Math Test," has circulated on the Web for years as a "joke" and Bolser is far from the first idiot to distribute it to students.

(NBC News) Read the rest

Obama to schools: let transgendger kids use the bathroom matching their gender

Public schools should allow trandgender students to "use bathrooms matching their gender identity," reports CNN on guidance to be issued later today by the Obama administration.

The announcement comes amid heated debate over transgender rights in schools and public life, which includes a legal standoff between the administration and North Carolina over its controversial House Bill 2. The guidance goes beyond the bathroom issue, touching upon privacy rights, education records and sex-segregated athletics, all but guaranteeing transgender students the right to identify in school as they choose.

"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. "This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies."

It's getting nasty out there, faster than I think anyone expected. Yesterday, one school district decided to permit students to carry weapons onto campus, with a school board member plainly suggesting they pepper spray transgender people who "follow" them into bathrooms.

The future, assumedly, seems to non-gendered bathrooms. It's an interesting architectural, legal and space-efficiency problem: not every venue can just peel off and throw away the stickers. Read the rest

Colorado school district spends $12,000 on assault rifles for guards

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Douglas County, Colorado, is to arm its security guards with Bushmaster rifles, reports the Denver Post, at a cost of more than $12,000 to the 67,000-student district.

"We want to make sure they have the same tools as law enforcement," Payne said Monday of his eight armed officers. The first few rifles should be ready for use within a month's time once officers have gone through a 20-hour training course, the same one that commissioned police officers take. The rest of the guns will be deployed in August, he said.

Spray 'n pray. Read the rest

Nobody voted in Iowa election including only person running

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Randy Richardson was the only candidate in his district running for the Riceville, Iowa Board of Education but nobody voted for him, including Richardson himself.

"I didn't vote because I was too busy," Richardson told the Mason City Globe Gazette.

The entire population of the district is less than 1,000 people. Richardson has said he'd happily take the post if appointed. Read the rest

Succeeding at standardized tests means owning the books with the answers in them

Standardized tests aren't tests of basic knowledge. They're branded products produced by textbook companies, and getting the right answers depends on whether you studied from the right books. Read the rest

Students caught tunneling out of school

Students at Nottingham's Djanogly City Academy, where the kids are 11 to 14 years old, were foiled in their attempt at a great escape by digging under fence using spoons and forks, according to BBC News. Read the rest

Students defeat iPad restrictions, LA school officials have a cow

The Los Angeles Unified School District has decided not to award 300 students for cleverness after the students figured out how to access YouTube and Facebook on the locked-down iPads the district gave them. Instead, the district "put an end to home use of the devices, and district sources say the misbehavior may delay the rollout of the full program." Read the rest

Bill to cut off funding to schools that ban brandishing a pastry in a gun-like manner

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) has introduced legislation that would cut off funding to schools whose zero tolerance policies lead them to punish children for brandishing pastries in the manner of a gun, for making gun-fingers and saying "bang" (or similar), for pointing pretend guns that are smaller than 2" in length, drawing a picture of a gun, making a gun out of legos or pencils or whatnot, or wearing a t-shirt "that supports Second Amendment rights." Read the rest

Donate to help schools purchase science supplies

From a rural Louisiana middle school that has never had a microscope, to a school in California that lacks basic laboratory safety equipment (think, nitrile gloves) — many schools in the United States aren't getting kids the resources they need to learn science. You can help by donating to these causes through Donors Choose. (Via Jaquelyn Gill at the Contemplative Mammoth blog) Read the rest

Schoolkids pay to store cell phones in "valet" trucks

Some NYC students not permitted to bring their phones or other gadgets to school shell out $1/day at "valet" trucks like the "Pure Loyalty Electronic Device Storage" vehicle and other similarly converted vans. From the AP:

Cellphones and other devices, such as iPods and iPads, are banned in all New York City public schools, but the rule is widely ignored except in the 88 buildings that have metal detectors. Administrators at schools without detectors tell students, “If we don’t see it, we don’t know about it...”

The trucks that collect the cellphones have their own safety issues — one was held up in the Bronx in June, and some 200 students lost their phones.

"A phone away from home: Some NYC students pay private ‘valets’ a dollar a day" (via Dave Pell's NextDraft) Read the rest

Rainbow school remodel

Palatre & Leclère did this spectacular remodel on the Ecole Maternelle Pajol in Paris's 18th arrondissement. As Tuija Seipell writes on The Cool Hunter: "The building has kept its 1940s brick-wall feel, yet it radiates exuberance and has an up-to-date energy. Most likely its current users feel it was built just for them."

Ecole Maternelle Pajol - Paris (via Super Punch) Read the rest