Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

Hang up and learn.

cellphne.jpg     Kids and parents in New York City want the school administration to lift its ban on cell phones

They are wrong. 

I can imagine that, if my children went to school in the city, especially if they went to school in, say, Philadelphia, where so many students depend on public transporation to get around, and where so many kids have to travel through some pretty rough areas to get to schol and home again, that I would probably want  them to have a cell phone.

But, from a teacher or administrator's point of view, cell phones in school are a pain in the neck.  Students – especially older ones – routinely use cell phone text messaging to, amongst other things, cheat on tests, by passing around answers.  In our school, even after we instituted a ban, kids were using picture phones to harass and abuse each other.  Phones were used to take pictures of kids while they were in school, including in the gym locker rooms, and those pictures ended up on web pages, along with abusive commentary.  Boys used camera phones to take "upskirt/down top" pictures of girls, which were then likewise circulated.  Other camera phones came to school with porn downloaded on them. 

Our school district policy now is clear and simple: If you need to bring a cell phone to school, it has to be off and in your locker during school hours.  Phones cannot be turned on or used during the school day within the school building.  If you need the phone to call Mom or Dad or whoever is at home, the one in the office is available.  If you still "need" to use a cell phone, you can't turn it on until school is over and you are out of the building.  There are consequences if you violate the policy that can lead to suspension.  Period. 

At some point, somebody somewhere is going to have to start stemming the tide that says all kids have the "right" to have access in school to all the creature comforts they are afforeded at home.  Kids at school don't need to watch a television broadcast of the news every morning, complete with commercials, ala Channel One.  Kids don't need to play video games at school.  Kids don't need to bring their iPods to school.  Kids don't  need to have access to myspace.com while they are in  school.

And, unless there's really some sort of an emergency, they don't need cell phones, either.

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Is History being “left behind”?

wheres_ben_franklin.jpg     Yes

Our state assessment for eighth graders, the dreaded GEPA, spends one day testing kids on science (although failing this section has no bearing on placement in remedial science classes in high school, because such classes don't exist), one LONG day testing math, and TWO really long days testing literacy.

Not one minute is spent on social studies.  No history.  No civics.  No geography. 

Why is that?  These are required courses in every grade of a kid's public school education here in the Garden State.  Why is it not important enough to include in standardized testing, especially the tests that determine whether or not a student graduates from high school? 

Are we really trying to, in the end, graduate educated citizens?  If that truly is the goal – and not just using schools as vocational training factories – shouldn't we be determining whether or not our students are fully informed citizens, who understand where they came from so they can have an idea of where they are going, who know how their government is supposed to work, who know what their rights are and how to protect them, who can actually find places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and, say, Nepal, on a map?

An interesting opinion piece on this from The Boston Globe.  I have my own ideas about this, but they involve wild and warped conspiracy theories, so I'll keep them to myself…

“Duck and cover” makes a comeback.

duck-n-cover-280.jpg    "Across the country, many schools hold lockdown drills because of terrorism fears and school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 that left 15 people dead. But Minnesota could apparently become the first state to require such exercises."

But not everybody thinks this is such a good idea.

"In Michigan, fire agencies have come out against a lockdown drill plan because it allows schools to cut back on fire drills. The state's Association of Secondary School Principals has concerns of its own….

"You are actually teaching the robbers how to rob the bank," said executive director Jim Ballard. "Most violent crime within schools has been student against student. If you're teaching those students what you are going to do in your lockdown procedures, they basically know what's going to happen."

I tend to agree.  I think that teachers and staff members should know the protocol, and should somehow receive professional development to prepare for this type of scenario.  I'm not sure how much good – or potential harm – comes from actually trying to "practice" this.  I'm torn. 

One of my earliest memories of school (early 1960s, now) involves practicing the old "duck and cover" drill in my kindergarten classroom.  Leave your desk, go out in the hall, crouch down on the floor, tuck down, and turtle up.  "And kiss your sweet a#@ goodbye," as a poster from the time used to say.  It was postively traumatic.  And useless.  Living within fiteen minutes of Philadelphia, with its naval base (at the time), a nuclear strike would have left us as less than a memory.  The Powers That Were did do a very good job of scaring the bejesus out of a generation of little kids, though.

My school district now has a "lockdown" procedure, and we have a policy to practice it at least once a year.  It's April.  Late April.  We have not practiced it yet.  Because of a huge wave of retirements last year, we have a large number of new staff members in our buildings.  They don't know what they're supposed to do, I'll bet.

They will have a mess to clean up, however.  The last time we practiced, we managed to make a significant number of kids very upset.  A number of kids cried during the drill (I teach middle school, remember).  A few complained of nightmares afterwards.

I'd be curious to hear from other teachers on this subject.  Do you do this?  What do you do, exactly?  And most importantly, do you think these drills have value?