June 2011

Michelle Obama's Chefs in Schools program makes necessary strides in its first year

School lunches are supposed to be disgusting.  Hairy women serve mystery meat.  Ex-cons slop down deep fried mashed potatoes.  Hefty thighs in school uniforms quiver at the sight of a bug or a hair garnishing their barbecue sandwiches.  Or was that just my experience? 

Regardless of how pleasant tasting your cafeteria’s food was, across the board, cafeteria food is pretty bad for kids.  They are offered options of grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs.  Even if there are healthy options on the menu, most students don’t have the restraint or the knowledge to make the right choices.

Billionaire Agendas and Political Ideologies are Misdirecting Public Schools

The U.S. Department of Education is "Open For Business".

    

If there's one complaint that I have of the Obama Presidency it's his handling of education reform; which he has allowed to become the pet project for one political ideology after another, all in the service of private industry and metropolitan economics.  Venture philanthropy, so called because it invests heavily in non-profits that follow models of venture-capitalism, is one of the largest educational policy drivers in the country. The problem is when the policy doesn't use good research, and the the drivers are motivated by political ideologies regarding unregulated markets that have no bearing on quality education.

The Dangers of Talented and Gifted Programs

How programs for accelerated learners are fostering a culture of elitism and complacency.

    

Gifted and talented students are those kids that, very simply, learn faster and at a deeper level than their peers. In an effort to nurture these children's natural talents and abilities, schools employ enrichment programs or even separate classrooms for those kids that are ahead of their curve. This practice began in the sixties when particular attentionw as being paid to special needs children. Although special needs kid has come to mean kids with mental or physical disabilities or learning deficiencies, it also addresses kids on the other side of the spectrum that require special attention to foster special abilities. However, in the subsequent fifty years Gifted and Talented education (G&T) has largely been approached in one of two ways; programs that nurture children's self-concept without challenging them to hone their skills, or programs that are largely token attempts at meeting G&T needs.

The Summer Slide

Summer learning loss and how parents can fight it.

   

We all remember eagerly anticipating summer break, all of those warm, sunny days to spend outside, playing with friends, going on vacations, and never stepping foot inside a classroom. However, a number of studies in the past several years have show an increasing "loss" from the end of one school year to the beginning of the next, where children have forgotten a portion of the knowledge or skills they had mastered the previous year. This can put kids behind as they enter the next school year, and means wasting academic time reteaching, and relearning the lost content. Though some of the so called "summer attrition" is dependent on the students' socio-economic status (which generally translates to support at home and access to summer resources and programs), some is not. Here are some results of prominent studies in the field of summer learning loss.

International Comparison Testing Unfair and Misleading

How comparing nations with test scores and graduation rates is more politicking than best practice.

   

In the last ten years U.S. education has seen a massive number of federal and state mandated reforms. The largest and, some might argue most infamous, is the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act which mandated that states adopt annual standardized tests and accountability measures for the purpose of ranking schools. Likewise, the Obama Administration rolled out an equally dubious incentive called Race to the Top to promote the charter school reorganization originally championed by former D.C. superintendent Michelle Rhee. In the next two years the government will also be reauthorizing the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and have already released a blueprint for those reforms, or reforms of reforms rather.

Standardized tests affect students' futures for years to come

Standardized testing affects students’ futures.  And it’s not just ACT’s and SAT’s—they start young with state testing and grow up with GRE’s, MCAT’s, LSAT’s and more…the list could go on and on.  Truly, it’s impossible to achieve society-measurable success without mastering the art of filling in bubble A,B,C or D with a number two pencil.  But how did it come to be this way?