Posts Tagged ‘ schools ’

Teacher Quits Due to Frustration with Standardized Testing

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Standardized TestingOne teacher in Massachusetts has taken a bold stand against standardized tests. Susan Sluyter was a teacher for more than 25 years before she quit last month due to the school system’s growing emphasis on standardized testing. Sluyter stated in her resignation letter that teaching for the tests was taking away from developing a healthy learning environment for her students. More from the Today show:

A teacher in Massachusetts who has spent more than a quarter century in the classroom is drawing attention after she quit her job over her growing frustration with the school system’s emphasis on standardized testing.

Because of “so many things that pulled me away from the classroom and fractured my time with the children,” kindergarten teacher Susan Sluyter quit last month.

“It takes the joy out of learning for the children,” she told TODAY. “It takes the joy out of teaching.”

In her resignation letter to Cambridge Public Schools, where she has taught for nearly 20 years, Sluyter said she was leaving “with deep love and a broken heart” but felt her job required her to focus too much on teaching to standardized tests rather than to the needs of her students.

“In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children,” she wrote in the letter, which was published by the Washington Post.

The “No Child Left Behind” set of education reforms signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush brought sweeping changes for schools and teachers, holding them accountable in new ways for the academic performance of students. But complaints quickly followed that too much focus was being placed on test preparation, rather than actual learning.

Sluyter said she has seen that emphasis has resulted in the suffering of students, whose confusion in the classroom often gets mistaken for disruptive conduct.

“I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, ‘I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!” she said in her letter.

Sluyter told TODAY her decision to quit was not an easy one to make.

“When I think about all of the children that I know in the school that I have been in for years who I never get to see anymore,” she said tearfully. “And they don’t even all know why I left.”

Jeffrey Young, the schools superintendent in Cambridge, Mass., said educators are working to finding a solution to the problems Sluyter addressed.

“I suspect that in time we will find the right way to achieve that balance between strong academic instruction and high-quality learning,” he said.

Michelle Rhee, president and CEO of StudentsFirst.org, agreed the nation places “an overemphasis on testing” but said that doesn’t discount its usefulness in the education system.

“We can use standardized testing to measure whether or not kids are actually learning what they need to learn,” she said.

She pointed to a recent international survey that ranked the United States 26th in student math scores out of 34 developed countries.

“The bottom line is that the kids who are in school today in America are going to be competing for jobs against the kids in India and China, not against the kids in the state next door, so we really do have to make sure that our kids can compete in the global marketplace,” she said.

TODAY viewers expressed sympathy for Sluyter’s stance. They overwhelmingly voted against the idea in a Facebook survey that asked whether standardized tests were the best way for kids to learn. Only 43 agreed it was, while more than 6,000 voted against it.

“As a parent, I have to say no. Schools are simply “teaching to the test” as so much rides on students scores. There is so much creative, “outside the box” learning that is sacrificed in the process,” said Michelle Swart Neely.

Kerry Murphy tried to compare it testing adults at work: “Can you imagine if we scored employees on how well they performed on their job throughout the year on a test taken in 2 days? Adults would be having nervous breakdowns left and right. But for some reason it’s totally ok to do it to kids?”

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What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School

Image: Yellow pencil on multiple choice test computerized answer sheet via Shutterstock.

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School Administrators Tell Child’s Family, She’s Not Girly Enough

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Gender RolesA family in Lynchburg, Va., decided to take their daughter out of a private Christian school and placed her in public school after the school’s principal sent a letter home suggesting the eight-year-old wasn’t “following suit with her God-ordained identity.” The little girl, Sunnie, enjoys “boy hobbies” as well as “girl hobbies,” according to her great-grandmother and legal guardian. The school argued that she didn’t live a “biblical lifestyle” but her great-grandmother said she’s too young to understand “questions of sexual orientation.” More from Time.com:

The family of an eight-year-old girl in Lynchburg, Va. has withdrawn her from a Christian school after administrators told her she wasn’t feminine enough.

Sunnie Kahle enjoys what are traditionally considered “boy hobbies” as well as “girl hobbies”, reports CBS affiliate WDBJ. She collects coins, hunting knives and baseballs along with stuffed animals and colorful bracelets.

“Sunnie realizes she’s a female, but she wants to do boy things,” Doris Thompson, Kahle’s great-grandmother and legal guardian told WDBJ. “She wants to play rough and tough.”

When Kahle turned five, she asked for a short haircut. “She had hair down to her waist and she wanted to give it to a child with cancer,” said Thompson. “After we cut her hair she started wanting to wear jeans and a t-shirt. She didn’t want to wear her frilly dresses anymore.” Classmates began to ask Kahle if she was a boy or a girl, and Kahle says she responded to questions politely and was not offended by them.

But the question did bother her school’s administration. Becky Bowman, principal of the Timberlake Christian School, sent Kahle home with a letter in February reminding Thompson that the school had religious affiliations and maintained the right to refuse a student who didn’t live a “biblical lifestyle.”

“We believe that unless Sunnie and her family clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for her future education,” Bowman wrote in the letter, which was given to WDBJ7 by Thompson.

Thompson was offended by the letter. She argues that Kahle is a tomboy and that she’s too young to understand questions of sexual orientation. “To claim that we are condoning sexual immorality in our home is nonsense,” Thompson said. “We are Christians. We understand the Bible. Sunnie knows it very well. She has accepted Christ…If my child grows up to be homosexual or transgendered, I will love her that much more.”

Thompson removed Kahle from the school and placed her in public school instead. Timberlake Christian School responded to original reports about Kahle’s relocation in a statement on Tuesday afternoon:

There is much more to this story than has been revealed related to Sunnie and the classroom environment. Our documentation shows a significantly different narrative than the one portrayed in the original news report. You can be assured that we have cared for Sunnie and worked with her grandparents for several years to assist them. Our TCS teachers and administrators love Sunnie and we can assure everyone that this has never been an issue of hair length or boots as it has been portrayed. It has been our constant desire over the last several years to work with this family and to shepherd this precious little girl in a way consistent with traditional values.

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Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying
Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying
Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying

Image: Baby is born Boy or girl? via Shutterstock

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Changing Schools Linked to Psychotic Symptoms for Some

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Changing schools can be a wrenching experience for children, especially if they are leaving a school that is full of beloved friends and trusted teachers.  Some kids, according to a new British study, even experience severe mental health symptoms, including psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.  More from Time.com:

Dr. Swaran Singh, a psychiatrist and head of the mental health division at Warwick, became curious about the connection between school moves and mental health issues after a study from Denmark found that children moving from rural to urban settings showed increased signs of psychoses. The authors also noted that the students had to deal with not just a change in their home environment, but in their social network of friends at school as well.

Singh was intrigued by whether school changes, and the social isolation that comes with it, might be an independent factor in contributing to the psychosis-like symptoms.

Working with a database of nearly 14,000 children born between 1991 and 1992 and followed until they were 13 years old, Singh and his colleagues investigated which factors seemed to have the strongest effect on mental health. The children’s mothers answered questions about how many times the students had moved schools by age nine, and the children responded to queries about their experiences either bullying others or being victims of bullying. The survey even included a look at the children’s in utero environments, and their circumstances from birth to age 2, by asking the mothers about where they lived (in urban or village areas, for example), and about financial difficulties or other family social issues.

Based on their analysis, says Singh, switching schools three or more times in early childhood seemed to be linked to an up to two-fold greater risk of developing psychosis-like symptoms such as hallucinations and interrupting thoughts. “Even when we controlled for all things that school moves lead to, there was something left behind that that was independently affecting children’s mental health,” he says.

Factors such as a difficult home environment – whether caused by financial or social tension, or both – living in an urban environment, and bullying contributed to the mental health issues, but switching schools contributed independently to the psychosis-like symptoms.

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Treating Children with Psychiatric Disorders
Treating Children with Psychiatric Disorders
Treating Children with Psychiatric Disorders

Image: Empty classroom, via Shutterstock

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Anti-Bullying Curriculum Shows Results at Elementary, Middle Schools

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

An anti-bullying curriculum that was tested at three elementary and middle schools in Illinois has shown promising results, including reported improvements in key areas including respect, positive communication and social behaviors, awareness and understanding of bullying, school climate, and self-esteem.  More from ScienceDaily.com:

“It’s just as important to teach empathy to students as it is to teach them science,” says Jennifer E. Beebe, assistant professor of counseling and human services at Canisius College. “We can increase consciousness of positive behaviors by incorporating those ideals into the educational system. Many students may not learn them otherwise.”

Beebe completed a study which involved disrespect, bullying behaviors and physical aggression with 300 elementary and middle school students in three schools in Illinois. The behaviors were negatively impacting students’ academic achievement and school attendance. In many cases, these behaviors crossed over into the cyber world. Beebe’s research was sponsored by a grant from The Canisius College School of Education and Human Services.

Students learned several tenets from martial arts during a 12-week long mentoring program which was integrated into students’ regular classroom lessons for approximately one hour. “Students were taught such concepts as loyalty, obedience and respect.” Beebe adds.

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Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying
Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying
Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying

Image: Classroom, via Shutterstock

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Doctors Urge Schools to Make Condoms Avaialble to Teens

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

In an updated policy statement, its first since 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that schools make condoms available to teenagers alongside providing instruction on sexual education topics.  More from Reuters:

There is still some resistance to making condoms more accessible for young people, researchers said.

“I think one of the main issues is the idea that if you provide condoms and make them accessible, kids will be more likely to have sex. But really, that’s not the case,” Amy Bleakley said.

“Getting over the perception that giving condoms out will make kids have sex is a real barrier for parents and school administrators,” she told Reuters Health.

Bleakley studies teen sexual behavior and reproductive health at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia but wasn’t part of the AAP committee.

She said some studies suggest teenagers with access to condoms and comprehensive sex education actually start having sex later than their peers who don’t.

Teen birth rates have been declining in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, there were 31 births for every 1,000 U.S. women aged 15 to 19.

But that number is still higher than in other developed countries.

Rates of many sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Chlamydia and gonorrhea, are also highest among teenage and young adult women.

Image: Condoms, via Shutterstock

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