By Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press

Nov. 15–Edgar Sedano-Rodriguez has wanted to be a firefighter since he was 12.

The Pontiac man just finished 10 weeks of training at the fire academy at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills. After passing his exams, he can launch his career — no bachelor’s degree needed.

“There is pressure to get a bachelor’s degree, especially during your senior year of high school,” said Sedano-Rodriguez, 22. “There seems to be a general consensus out there that you have to get your four-year-degree. I can’t speak for my other friends, but I just knew it wasn’t for me.”

Sedano-Rodriguez is far from alone in choosing a career path that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. From vocational schools and on-the-job training to one- or two-year programs at community colleges, people who can’t or don’t want to go to a university have plenty of options.

Certificates, for instance, have exploded in popularity over the last two decades, said Anthony Carnevale, a labor economist and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. They’re the fastest growing form of postsecondary credentials in the U.S., becoming the most common award after the high school degree.

Certificates recognize a completed course of study in a particular field. Many programs last a year or less, making them cheaper and quicker to acquire than a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s not automatically the case that going to a four-year college is the best for you,” Carnevale said. “If you want earnings and a job as soon as possible, you go for a certificate.”

Carnevale, who coauthored a 2012 study and report about certificate education in the U.S., said about half of certificates were found to produce a significant earnings difference over just a high school diploma.

And in some cases, a certificate was a better investment than a college degree. The study found that men with certificates in computer and information services earned more than 72% of men with an associate’s degree and 54% of men with bachelor’s degrees.

Picking a hot field is the key to success, Carnevale said.

“The crucial issue, in economic terms, is to learn something you can sell,” he said.

Among its five campuses, Wayne County Community College District offers more than 50 certificate programs. The most popular involve health care and skilled trades.

New certificates added for 2015-16 include anesthesia technology and product development and prototyping, which includes training in 3D printing. The college has also started a certificate program in craft brewing.

“It’s about the industry, it’s not for you to go home and make craft beer,” joked Anthony Arminiak, president of the Downriver campus. He’s also provost of the Michigan Institute for Public Safety Education, the college’s emergency services training facility.

Some certificates lay the groundwork for a student to continue studying and earn a related associate’s degree.

“In auto body technology, you can get a certificate and get the skills so you can start working,” Arminiak said. “But with an associate’s degree, you can become a service manager. It helps them move up the ladder at a later date.”

In Detroit Public Schools, 1,864 students are enrolled in career technical education programs in the district’s high schools and career technical centers. That’s up from 1,663 in 2014-15, according to DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski.

In September, DPS and the City of Detroit launched a unique two-year pilot program to train juniors and seniors as firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

There are about 380 places in Michigan where students can get a career and technical education while still in high school, said Patty Cantu, director of the Office of Career and Technical Education at the Michigan Department of Education. And all 28 community colleges in the state have career tech programs.

About half of Oakland Community College’s 45,000 students move on to a four-year university. The rest go directly into the workforce, said Deborah Bayer, dean of Public Services and the interim dean of Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technologies.

“We are currently seeing a significant increase in the number of apprentices in skilled trades programs and in the number of students looking for classes that will provide them with skills for the workplace,” Bayer said.

The kind firefighters who responded to a car accident Sedano-Rodriguez was involved in with his family as a child sparked an interest in firefighting. Sedano-Rodriguez earned a two-year degree in paramedic emergency services at OCC before signing up for the Oakland Fire Training Institute on campus.

“For me, being a lawyer was not a reality, and I didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day,” Sedano-Rodriguez said. “This was the best option for me and my time, knowing what I wanted to do for a living.”

___

(c)2015 the Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

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In this Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 photo fourth grade math teacher Felicia Connelly, of South Kingstown, R.I., teaches Common Core math techniques during a workshop at a community center in Westerly, R.I. The Westerly school district is running the workshop for parents to teach them Common Core math so they can help their grade schoolers with their homework. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

In this Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 photo fourth grade math teacher Felicia Connelly, of South Kingstown, R.I., teaches Common Core math techniques during a workshop at a community center in Westerly, R.I. The Westerly school district is running the workshop for parents to teach them Common Core math so they can help their grade schoolers with their homework. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

By Michelle R. Smith, Associated Press

WESTERLY, R.I. (AP) — Any adult who has tried to help a second-grader with homework has noticed math is not what it used to be. Now schools are unlocking the secrets of Common Core math for mystified parents.

They’re holding special classes or giving out materials designed for adults so they can help children with their math homework. After parents learn the strategies, educators say, they’re more willing to get on board with Common Core math amid criticism from some politicians, from fellow parents, on social media and from celebrities like Louis C.K., who complained Common Core math made his daughters cry.

Nearly all states are using Common Core learning standards, which dictate what students should know in math and English.

In Westerly, and administrators gathered recently in a classroom full of adults eager to learn. It was part of a free three-part series called “Parents Can Help With Math,” run by the Westerly Parent Academy.

Matt and Kate Ezyk are perplexed by Common Core math and have seen Kate’s sister struggle to help her daughter with homework. As parents of a kindergartener, they worried they weren’t equipped to help him when he starts bringing assignments home.

In this Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 photo parents Kate Ezyk, left, and her husband Matt Ezyk, second from right, both of Westerly, Mass., practice Common Core math techniques with elementary school principle Polly Gillie, right, during a math workshop at a community center in Westerly. The Westerly school district is running the workshop for parents to teach them Common Core math so they can help their grade schoolers with their homework. Math specialist Gina Gervasini looks on behind right. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

In this Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 photo parents Kate Ezyk, left, and her husband Matt Ezyk, second from right, both of Westerly, Mass., practice Common Core math techniques with elementary school principle Polly Gillie, right, during a math workshop at a community center in Westerly. The Westerly school district is running the workshop for parents to teach them Common Core math so they can help their grade schoolers with their homework. Math specialist Gina Gervasini looks on behind right. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“If this doesn’t make sense to us, how are we going to help him?” Matt Ezyk said.

During the 90-minute session, educators demonstrated different ways to solve basic math problems.

“How would you add these two single-digit numbers?” asked one, as she writes 7+6 on a whiteboard.

The went on to explain ways to get to the answer: “doubles,” ”count on” and “bridge to 10.”

In doubles, the student finds the closest double and works from there. So, 7+6 becomes 6+6=12+1=13.

In bridge to 10, students break one of the other numbers up to form a combination that makes 10. In 7+6, break up the 6 to make 3+3. Then, 7+3=10. 10+3=13.

In count on, the student finds the largest number and adds to it, one by one. In 7+6, the student might count on 7, 8, 9, and reach 10. Add the remaining 3 to get 13.

Parents were then put into groups to do an exercise children might do in the classroom — go through flash cards with different formulas and choose how to solve them: “doubles,” ”count on” or “bridge to 10.”

In this Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 photo Grisel Santiago, left, and Michelle Pont, center, both of Westerly, R.I., practice Common Core math techniques during a workshop at a community center, in Westerly. The Westerly school district is running the workshop for parents to teach them Common Core math so they can help their grade schoolers with their homework. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

In this Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 photo Grisel Santiago, left, and Michelle Pont, center, both of Westerly, R.I., practice Common Core math techniques during a workshop at a community center, in Westerly. The Westerly school district is running the workshop for parents to teach them Common Core math so they can help their grade schoolers with their homework. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Children will eventually learn traditional algorithms, the educators explained, but will have a solid foundation in understanding what numbers mean and being able to justify their thinking.

“We want to develop flexible thinking, so if they hit a roadblock, they have multiple places they can go,” said Polly Gillie, principal of Dunn’s Corners . “It all comes back to real-world application and mental math.”

Bill Luck, 37, is a parent of a first-grader and has an engineering degree. He always found math easy but didn’t understand his daughter’s homework after she started coming home with “10 frames,” tools used to help children learn about numbers. He found it hard to explain the basics to his daughter, and said he hoped what he learned here could help them both avoid frustration.

The school district in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has also held parent nights.

“Parents say, ‘This is crazy.’ They have a misunderstanding of Common Core. They come in a little hot with misconceptions,” said the district’s Julie Holmes.

Other parents are concerned about teaching math to their children the wrong way, but Holmes tells them not to worry.

“Ultimately, any time spent with a child talking about math is worthwhile time,” she said.

In Arizona, a foundation that works to improve schools, the Rodel Foundation, came out with a book last year, “Math Power.” Kim Rimbey, Rodel’s chief learning officer, said when she sees people complaining about Common Coreon Facebook, it’s almost always because they don’t understand representations such as number lines and 10 frames.

The book includes simple graphics that explain how to use those representations. The foundation has sold or given out 37,000 copies of the book to districts, parents and others. It’s available for $4.99 as an e-book.

Back in Westerly, Gillie said she saw the lightbulbs go off for parents as they began to understand what are asking students to do.

“They were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this makes total sense.'”

Not ONE student, EVER, at ANY point, has read a WORD of directions. I wish I were exaggerating. Be honest – you skip them, too!

So, now, I make all my assignments without them. ALL sentence starters and circling, with no clunky directions wasting ink and space.

For example, rather than writing, “Answer all questions with complete sentences, being sure to include two details”, followed by the question, “Do you predict the object will sink or float? Explain.”

I will instead write, “I think the object will (FLOAT / SINK) because…. Another reason I think this is….”

I realize this is too much scaffolding for highly capable students, and later other teachers or professors do not do this, but if they get help forming ideas nowhere else, I want them to get it in my classroom.

I teach 8th grade science, and yes, I do assign papers with somewhat less structure. It also counts as built-in scaffolding for ELL and SPED students. I know some teachers do a goofy read-the-directions assignment at the beginning of the year that ends in students just putting their name on the paper and silently turning it over, or something to that effect. But I would rather go around the problem than try to fight through it.

What do you think? Do you do this, too? Do your students ALSO not read directions? What do you think of my strategy?

I understand your frustration and you’re right they don’t read the instructions. Sometimes in class I read the instructions out loud at the beginning of a class to make a point.

I don’t like the goofy read-the-directions assignment myself. So instead, I make the first assignment we do dependent on the directions.

In the directions I explain that not following directions will result in a lower grade. So if your problem is getting them to write in a complete sentence then having incomplete sentences would severely affects the grade.

I do this on one assignment. Then before handing them back I talk to the room and explain that a large number of assignments were given lower grades than they really deserved simply because they didn’t follow the directions given. I tell them I expect the right answer in the format requested.

I explain that it’s important to learn from our mistakes and improve because of them. This one grade won’t determine their semester grade, and if I see a drastic change sometimes I drop it completely. But, it makes a big impact on my students. They read the directions and ask questions before beginning an assignment after that to make sure they understand.

I always emphasize that sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we do from doing things correctly. I think life lessons are important and what you describe is an important one.

You’re negating the problem but you’re also holding their hand to ensure they get a better grade rather than teaching them the importance of following the directions. I think it’s an easy fix for us as teachers to do what is the easiest thing for us to manage but you might make a bigger impact by using directions and then grading according to the directions given. When students ask why they got a D, you have clear instructions printed that give them your expectations for the assignment and can point at each one that wasn’t fulfilled.

It does save time to do things the way you are but I think you’re missing an opportunity to teach them an important lesson in life – that we need to follow the rules to succeed.

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question submitted through reddit.com/r/teaching and answered by TeacherAffairs

Pat Reavy; By Pat Reavy Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – Laurie Lacy, the principal at Edison Elementary School, has practiced the lockdown drill at her school many times.

But on Tuesday, when school administrators called for a lockdown, it was no drill.

An armed man with a history of federal firearms convictions who was fleeing from police tried to escape by running into the school. Lacy said school administrators could see the man through the window running to the front door.

Edison Elementary School. Image Source: Google Maps.

Edison Elementary School went on lockdown after a teacher on the playground heard what she thought was shots fired. Just a short time later the armed suspect tried to get inside the school but luckily everyone was safe inside with the doors locked. Image Source: Google Maps.

But because Edison Elementary, 466 S. Cheyenne St. (1520 West), had already gone into a precautionary lockdown situation, the front doors were locked and the man was unable to get in.

He was arrested moments later by pursuing Salt Lake police officers at the front doors of the school.

“Everything worked like clockwork. Doors were locked, students were safe, students witnessed nothing and at no point were they in any harm,” Lacy said. “Practice was very helpful and it went like clockwork.”

1

A total of two people were arrested Tuesday after police responded to a call of shots being fired about 10:40 a.m. near the school, said Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking.

A teacher outside the building with students heard what she thought were gunshots, Lacy said.

“She immediately brought the students in, alerted the administration (and) as a precaution we locked the outside of the building and called police dispatch,” she said.

Officers responding to the school spotted a man on a bicycle just west of the building. As soon as the man saw the officers, he began to pedal away, raising the suspicions of police, Wilking said.

The man rode to the nearby school where he attempted to enter the building and was arrested, he said.

Screen shot from video.

Ricky Quintana, 34, of Salt Lake City, was arrested later by Salt Lake City Police, the alleged gunman. Screen shot from video.

Ricky Quintana, 34, of Salt Lake City, was arrested for investigation of being a restricted person in possession of firearm, drug possession, fleeing and trespassing on school property.

While police were investigating Quintana, a second person was arrested at a nearby apartment complex. Details on that arrested man were not immediately available. Wilking said he was a wanted person, but could not confirm if the man was involved in the original shots fired incident or just happened to be in the area while detectives were there.

According to Utah state court records, Quintana pleaded guilty in 2010 to retaliation against a witness in exchange for two counts of felony discharge of a firearm being dismissed. After twice violating his probation, Quintana was sentenced in 2012 to a year in jail.

In 2005, he was charged with robbery, burglary and kidnapping, but the case was later dismissed when a witness did not show up for court, according to court documents. In 2002 he was convicted of theft and burglary of a vehicle. In 1999 Quintana was convicted of in two cases of theft and sentenced to one to 15 years in prison after violating his probation.

Quintana has also served time in federal prison for his crimes, including convictions of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and witness tampering in 2007 and 2009. In 2011, he was sent back to federal prison for two months for violating conditions of his release, according to court records.

As the situation unfolded Tuesday, Lacy said her only thoughts were keeping students and her staff safe.

2

“As the principal, the buck stops with me. And it’s my responsibility to keep the students safe and to make sure that families can trust us to look out for their kids. So what’s going through my head is, ‘I hope this works. I trust my staff. I trust our students, we’re going to do the right thing,’ and we did,” she said.

“Your adrenaline goes up once you stop and think about it. But in the moment, we’re concerned about doing what we know, which is keep our kids safe.”

Lacy said there were “angels on our shoulders” Tuesday. But she also said she was grateful for the efforts taken before Tuesday by her staff to prepare for such an emergency.

“You don’t know when it’s going to be important,” she said.

If the man had gotten inside the school, she said all of the classroom doors would have been locked, the lights turned out and the students moved to secure parts of their classrooms. The students, she said, were aware that something was happening, but were not told that a man with a gun had attempted to enter. They were fed lunch and kept safe, Lacy said.

(c) 2015 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

By Denisa R. Superville, Education Week, Bethesda, Md.

Oct. 28–Students across the nation are taking tests that are redundant, misaligned with college- and career-ready standards, and often don’t address students’ mastery of specific content, according to a long-awaited report that provides the first in-depth look at testing in the nation’s largest urban school districts.

The comprehensive report by the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools examines testing in 66 of the council’s 68 member school districts, looking at the types of tests administered, their frequency, and how they are used. The findings are expected to add hard numbers and evidence to the fractious national debate around whether U.S. students are being overtested.

The study found, for instance, that 8th grade students in an urban district spent an average of 4.22 school days taking mandatory tests last school year–the most test-taking time of any grade level. That’s not counting optional tests and those given periodically by teachers to gauge student progress. And the results of mandated tests were often returned to districts months after they had been taken, reducing their usefulness for classroom instruction.

While national testing debates are often characterized by finger-pointing as to who is responsible for the aggressive testing regime, the council’s report found that everyone–including classroom teachers, principals, districts, states, the federal government, and testing companies–bears some responsibility.

“The overarching take-away for us was that everybody was culpable here in one way or another,” said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools. “There were so many actors involved, and there was so little coordination across them, that you ended up with an assessment system that was not terribly strategic.”

On Saturday, the Obama administration acknowledged some responsibility for the increased amount of testing in schools and released principles to help states and school districts dial back on assessments, including ensuring that students do not spend more than 2 percent of classroom instructional time sitting for tests. It also called for Congress to scale back on testing in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Deputy Education Secretary John King participated in a panel discussion in Washington on Monday to discuss how to improve assessments in the nation’s schools.

Range of Findings

Among the report’s other findings:

–Students in the 66 districts took 401 unique tests last year.

–There is no correlation between time spent testing and improved math and reading scores.

–Students in the 66 systems sat for tests more than 6,570 times last year.

–While testing for pre-K pupils was less common, even they were not exempt.

–Thirty-nine percent of districts waited two to four months to receive state test results.

–Tests were used for purposes for which they were not designed, such as evaluating school staff.

The report found that the time students spent taking tests differed from district to district. In St. Paul, Minn., for example, which the council characterized as a “low test” district, students spent an average of 10.8 hours a year taking mandatory tests. In Detroit, a “high test” district, that number was 30.5 hours.

While testing costs made up a small portion of the districts’ total budgets, they did add up. The Hillsborough County, Fla., district, for example, spends about $2.2 million of its estimated $1.8 billion budget on testing, according to the report.

Richard Carranza, the superintendent of the San Francisco school district and the chairman of the council’s board, said in a statement that with the increased focus on improving academic outcomes in the nation’s urban schools, it was important to “have actionable data that can be used to guide instruction and help us focus on reducing learning gaps.” He called the study “an important tool that will guide how we move forward to improve our local testing environments.”

In a conference call with reporters Oct. 23, three urban superintendents from Orange County, Fla., Cleveland, Ohio, and San Francisco noted the importance of the report in the national debate around testing.

Barbara Jenkins, the superintendent of Orange County schools, said it comes at the right time to refocus the conversation around assessments, the purpose behind those assessments, “and what is really reasonable.”

Eric Gordon, the CEO of Cleveland Metropolitan School District, said district leaders believed that there was value in assessments — including to inform instruction and also to hold school leaders publicly accountable for their students’ performance.

The superintendents said that it was important that the tests provide districts with actionable data to use to help their students.

Gordon said the report also “helps us to figure out what is the right way to consider how to assess our students, as opposed to the debate in the nation of whether we should or should not.”

Carranza, from San Francisco, said the report highlights the need to have high-quality tests and high-quality assessments.

“A test for a test’s sake is not sufficient in our schools,” he said. “They must be actionable, they must be robust, they must be rigorous, but they must be tied to a defined outcome, and they must actually measure for that defined outcome.”

Nobody ‘Asked the Question’

The council’s board of directors commissioned the two-year testing review in 2013, realizing that the national discussion around testing was not always grounded in good evidence, Casserly said.

“Nobody had really asked the question before about how much testing there really was in our schools,” he said.

Opposition to testing, which increased under the No Child Left Behind Act, has grown with the advent of the widely adopted Common Core State Standards. The backlash spawned an opt-out movement, as some parents chose not to have their children participate in the tests developed to align to the newer, more rigorous standards.

National data on the extent of that movement, however, have been hard to come by. Among the council districts, opt-out rates varied from 20 percent in Rochester, N.Y., to less than 1 percent in many of the districts. The median figure across the districts was less than 1 percent.

Since the review was commissioned, many states and districts have taken steps to cut back on the number of tests they administer.

Duval County schools, in Jacksonville, Fla., reduced the number of district-required assessments at the elementary school level to 10 from 23 and at the secondary school level to 12 from 29. And a study released in June by the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Washington-based organization that represents the top education officials in the states, showed that at least 39 states were working on reducing unnecessary tests.

Next Steps

Chris Minnich, the CCSSO’s executive director, said the organization will use the new data to inform its efforts around improving the quality of assessments and reducing redundancies. (The CCSSO was a key player in the common-core effort.)

“We need to continue to work together to have a frank dialogue around which tests provide valuable information,” Minnich said.

The report comes with recommendations for the state and federal governments and local school districts. It suggests that the federal government maintain oversight for annual statewide testing for all students in reading and math in grades 3 to 8 and once in high school. It also recommends that states cut down on the time it takes for districts and schools to get test results.

It calls for revisiting the U.S. Department of Education’s policy of using test scores and student learning objectives in untested grades for teacher evaluations, and it urges extending the one-year testing exemption for recently arrived English-language learners. It also calls for more consistency in the annual assessments that states use for accountability purposes.

The report recommends that districts review their tests to reduce duplication, attend to the quality of tests before adopting them, and ensure that tests are really assessing how students are doing.

The council plans to keep monitoring how the nation tests its students. The next phase includes creating a commission of researchers, parents, and educators to develop a more “thoughtful,” “rational” and “intelligent” system. The commission members will be named within the next two weeks, Casserly said.

___

(c)2015 Education Week (Bethesda, Md.)

Visit Education Week (Bethesda, Md.) at www.edweek.org

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

I don’t teach English 101, however my students are required to write a research paper in the course. I do a few activities with them to help with citation before they have to turn in their paper so they feel like they have some understanding of citations.

In their paper they are required to visit an art museum and write a paper on a particular artwork, researching the artist and period the artwork is from.

On the day students read about evaluating art I bring in a big stack of books from the library, each about a different artist, and they break into small groups, select an artist and one of the artworks and do their best to evaluate it with the information in the book and what they know.

They write all this down and then share it with the class. I then ask them to cite their source at the end of the sheet of paper. I have a handout ready that shows how to do the citation with a book and walk around assisting as needed to flip through the book to find the appropriate information.

They work together so if a student is too embarrassed to admit they’ve never done a works cited page before they can work with their other classmates who may have.

Another thing we do is when someone mentions a particular artist or artwork that isn’t in my lesson plan I’ll google the image and we’ll discuss it. Then we work together to pull the information necessary to city the source since it isn’t already cited in my presentation. (This works two fold – they know if they take me off track they have to do extra work so they don’t try to steer me in a different direction often, but it also helps them figure out how to cite an image they’ve googled, which many of them do with their paper) I have everyone write down the citation and hand it in as part of their participation points for the day.

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By Jamie Stengle, Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — The recent arrest of a 14-year-old Muslim boy whose teacher mistook his homemade clock for a bomb led to widespread ridicule of school officials and accusations that Islamophobia may have played a part.

It earned Ahmed Mohamed an invitation to the White House, where the Irving teen will attend astronomy night Monday. But it also got him a three-day suspension, which he says the district insisted he serve even after it was clear it was just a clock.

Ahmed’s suspension — his parents have since withdrawn him from the school — reflect the rigid disciplinary policies that many U.S. schools adopted in the 1990s. But many districts, including some of the nation’s largest, have been softening their approach, foregoing automatic suspensions, expulsions and calls to the police for one-on-one counseling and less severe forms of punishment.

“When we can’t tell the difference between a serious problem and a non-serious problem with a kid in school, the problem is not the kid: It is us,” said Michael Gilbert, who heads the San Antonio-based National Association of Community and Restorative Justice, which advocates a focus on dialogue instead of punishments.

The school districts in New York, Los Angeles and Denver are just some of those that have moved away from discipline policies that relied heavily on suspensions. State governments have also been taking action: This year, Connecticut limited out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students up through the second grade, Texas decriminalized truancy and Oregon limited when suspensions and expulsions can be applied to students up through the fifth grade.

Last year, the Obama administration asked schools to abandon policies that send kids to court, issuing guidelines encouraging training school personnel in conflict resolution.

“We’re seeing a lot of change at the federal, state and local level that I think is moving us in a new direction,” said Russell Skiba, director of The Equity Project at Indiana University. But, he added, “There are still a lot of schools that don’t have the resources or are afraid to move to something else.”

Denver Public Schools started implementing a so-called restorative discipline program in 2008. District leaders were concerned about the high number of suspensions and expulsions, which the grassroots group Padres & Jovenes Unidos pointed out were being disproportionately used to punish minority students.

One such student, Margarita Atencio, said her Denver school suspended her in seventh grade — before the new policies were fully in place — after other girls beat her up and blamed her for the incident. When she returned, she couldn’t concentrate on her studies because she was afraid it would happen again. It did, and this time she was expelled, she said.

“I was just done. I thought since nobody was on my side that nobody cared about me really,” said Atencio, who had to repeat the seventh grade. Now 19 and a recent high school graduate, she has volunteered as a youth leader for Padres & Jovenes Unidos for three years.

Eldridge Greer, who runs the Denver district’s Whole Child Supports program, said the school year before the policy changes began taking effect, there were about 11,500 out-of-school suspensions and 167 expulsions. He said last school year, those figures were down significantly, to about 5,400 suspensions and 55 expulsions.

Before the change, students involved in incidents like shouting matches would receive out-of-school suspensions, but nothing would be done to address their behavior, Greer said. Now, such students might meet with a school official instead to discuss the reasons for the spat and to try to address them.

Daniel Kim, director of youth organizing for Padres & Jovenes Unidos, said that while the change in school discipline policies is benefiting all students, there are still disparities in the punishment rates for minorities when compared to whites — especially for blacks.

Outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last month that suspensions and expulsions “track too closely with race and class.”

“This is not just about explicit, obvious bias. Indeed, sometimes, when a genuinely transparent moment of bias arises, the whole country stops and takes a break. A child holds a clock. And we see a bomb,” he said. “But more often, it’s far subtler stuff.”

After Ahmed’s arrest, the police chief said there was no evidence that he meant to cause alarm. But the school district has declined to explain its handling of the incident, citing student privacy laws. A spokeswoman has said the district could provide “a different viewpoint” if given permission by the family to release his school records.

Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, said his group’s report looking at the most recent U.S. numbers found out-of-school suspension rates leveling off and racial gaps narrowing slightly.

Philip Carney said that three years after starting a restorative discipline program as principal of Ed White Middle School in San Antonio, out-of-school suspensions have dropped by 72 percent.

“We even got to the point where students are handling their own conflicts, now with us just observing and setting up the process,” said Carney, now the restorative discipline coordinator for his school district.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

I teach a composition class that focuses on writing a long (3,000 words), well-researched argument essay. The prompt is very general, letting students focus on an area of their choosing: “What is the most important problem facing us today?” I received the following essay idea for an assignment I call “Initial Planning.”

Thesis: Christians are now being persecuted for standing firm on their beliefs and exercising their religious freedoms. Topic areas: Constitution’s Bill of Rights, recent stories of Christians demonstrating their beliefs and the public’s response, how the U.S. was founded on Christian faith and principles, reasons as to why what used to be acceptable in the U.S. is not acceptable now. Sources: News and journalism websites, CBS News and TV news stations like World News Tonight, newspaper articles.

I normally let people argue what they like and don’t swat down those that come from ideological/religious positions I don’t personally hold. But this one felt way too shaky and I had to say something. What do you think of this response?

A perfectly fine topic, but as your instructor I have to encourage you to do some tough thinking on this issue. You’ve started with some base assumptions in your thesis that, themselves, might be hard to prove.
The first is the notion of “persecution” — what it means, and how to tell the difference between persecution and simply not controlling the outcome of a legal or ethical conflict. I do agree that public conscience and public opinion has shifted away from what many Christians hold to be true, but that in itself does not imply persecution. Also, not being allowed to transcend the law on the basis of religious belief does not equate to persecution. Christians aren’t being driven into hiding, banned from holding office, murdered for their beliefs, or any of the other things we associate with persecution. Even if there are isolated instances where someone has done those things, actual persecution is a society-wide movement toward oppression, and that just isn’t the case.
Another shaky area is the notion of hanging this argument on the founding of the United States. It has never been decisively proven that the framers of the Constitution were or were not Christians (which in itself demands a more specific definition) — many called themselves “Deists.” But even if they were Christian, the connection between their religion and the way they constructed the law is ambiguous at best, and quite possibly irrelevant — what does it matter what they believed? Does our country exist for the benefit of the dead, or for the living?
Things change, and our country is no different. If they didn’t, we’d all be living under the Laws of Hammurabi and speaking Indo-European, possibly. What used to be acceptable ceases to be so, what used to be forbidden ceases to be so. One ethnic/religious/gender group is dominant for a while, then the balance of power shifts. That shift in itself is not bad, except perhaps to the group who has lost the ability to control the issues.
All of this is to say: Your feelings are very valid, and I have no problem with you writing about them or coming from the position you hold. However, it seems like the goal of your essay is to redefine “persecution” in such a way as to include “losing dominance,” which doesn’t seem reasonable. An argument that sums up to “Christians should be in control” is going to be hard to prove to anyone who doesn’t already agree. Your best bet is to focus on one specific case and try to argue that the law either shouldn’t have pertained in that case or that religious freedom should have prevailed — then list specific reasons why that is the case.

Am I being too harsh? Do I have grounds for saying this? Should I go with it? Soften it? Cut it altogether and just let the student hang their own essay on flawed reasoning and “facts”? I appreciate any advice I can get from my fellow teachers. Thanks.

I’m an art professor, I teach in the studio and also teach lecture classes in art history and art appreciation. I also teach at a state college in Florida who has in legislation the Gordon Rule: To graduate, students must complete courses that involve substantial writing for a total of 24,000 words.

The lecture classes I teach are all Gordon rule classes.

The other exciting legislature they decided to pass last year was that students couldn’t be required to take an entrance exam at state schools which means that they can’t be required to take preparatory courses that are at their level before starting higher level courses, it also meant they aren’t required to take Composition BEFORE taking other Gordon Rule classes. :)

In short, now all professors teaching Gordon rule courses are required to become composition teachers so I see where you are coming from.

My students are all required to write a research paper and then develop an oral presentation on their paper. When I receive my dubious stack of papers that are bound to be painful to read I try to remain positive and then procrastinate as much as possible before grading. Their writing is often very bad and I am required to give low grades and cannot do so without an explanation because students think they should receive an A on everything and I’ve learned that the more I write to explain where their paper is deficient and argument is weak I have less students who question me about the grade they receive.

I think a thorough explanation like the one you wrote sounds excellent. However, I do agree that perhaps you are being harsh about Christianity and need to tread carefully here. At a college level I think you should question the argument being made as well as how well it is written and documented.

The fact that you are challenging the argument isn’t the problem. But how you respond to the word Christian could have another look. If I were you, in my response I’d point out that there might be some truth to the fact that Christianity in and of itself had something to do with pilgrims coming to America but that it was to escape persecution. Perhaps by researching how they were being persecuted in Europe which made them want to flee could be a good place to start with not only an understanding of persecution but how the U.S. was formed.

If the U.S. was formed by people who were forced to leave their homelands for their beliefs and wanted to form a society for all to be accepted than perhaps those Christians were actually more open to the idea of change and acceptance of alternative ideas than Christians today.

I would also offer a source for this information (just to help them get started)

I feel with this type of argument you must respond by talking about Christianity but remind her that it isn’t the only faith in America. Maybe suggesting she look to see if other faiths are facing the same issues she wants to discuss about Christians. This would negate the argument that they are being singled out and persecuted but it would also give her the opportunity to strengthen her argument on religious freedoms.

They have written laws that allow certain faiths to slaughter animals in religious ceremonies that would otherwise be illegal to the general population so she may be able to make a point that new laws are trying to force Christians to exercise rights they believe are wrong because of their faith.

I’d use the instance of Gay marriage because I’m sure this is where the topic is leading. I know of two instances in particular where Christians have been affected by standing up for their beliefs. A couple lost a lawsuit because they refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, a city worker was fired for refusing to perform a gay marriage ceremony. But they aren’t forcing the Catholic Church to do ceremonies. They aren’t imposing on the religion itself. So maybe in her argument she needs to figure out where the line is drawn. There is a difference between the religion and the believers. If they aren’t in a place of worship do they lose their rights to stand up for their beliefs? That would make an excellent topic for the type of paper you describe no matter your beliefs.

I also mention citing a source, not only to help the student get started but this then gives you some documentation that you actually are encouraging the student and trying to make sure they get the best resources to accomplish their goal, so if she does go above your head you have the paperwork to backup your stance.

Things change, and our country is no different. If they didn’t, we’d all be living under the Laws of Hammurabi and speaking Indo-European, possibly. What used to be acceptable ceases to be so, what used to be forbidden ceases to be so. One ethnic/religious/gender group is dominant for a while, then the balance of power shifts. That shift in itself is not bad, except perhaps to the group who has lost the ability to control the issues.

I’d replace it with something slightly less accusatory. I think you are trying to say that Christians have had the majority vote for a long time. However, abortion was passed even when they had the majority vote. This issue can be picketed and you can decide what you believe and it doesn’t affect your life unless you are put in a position to have to make a decision about a pregnancy and if you are pro-life then your decision has been made. Now they are losing control and our country is changing. One ethnic/religious/gender group is dominant for a while, then the balance of power shifts. That shift in itself is not bad, except perhaps to the group who has lost the ability to control the issues.

That is where Gay marriage comes into view and now people in positions who are required to respect these new laws may not agree with them (I’m not saying this is my personal view) but they have to do their job and go against their faith. So perhaps they aren’t being persecuted but there is discrimination going on and maybe she’s using a stronger word that she can prove. But, the threat of losing my job which could make me lose my livelihood, my home, my family’s security etc. might make me question if it was worth saying no rather than doing something my faith disagreed with.

However, I think that it is interesting that there are laws that do protect people of other faiths. I once held a job where we all took turns cleaning the bathroom. One person, because of their beliefs could not clean the bathroom and we had to respect that. Her argument isn’t as absurd as you might think. We are just in flux right now and haven’t figured out how to navigate a world where a big part of our population disagrees with our current politic state. We’ve dealt with it before but not on this scale and haven’t had to decide how to handle things yet.

I tried to play the devil’s advocate here for you to really think about what she is saying and taking out the word Christian. Good luck! It might not hurt to run it by your department head, or bcc him/her in an email about the exchange. Whenever I do something that I know a student might complain to the higher-ups about I send them an FYI message letting them know the circumstances and how I’m handling it. Then, if a problem arises they already have an idea of what is going on and aren’t left with just the students side of the story before reaching a conclusion.

Good luck!

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question submitted and answered through reddit.com/r/Proffesors by TeacherAffairs

A suburban Chicago school district is defying the federal government over locker room accommodations for a transgender student.

The district believes it’s trying to do the right thing for their 12,000+ students, but many say they are doing an injustice to this transgender student in the process.

Superintendent Daniel Cates says the district takes this matter very seriously. He says in a phone interview with WGN, “In the past we have not had opposite sex students in the locker room and to have opposite sex students in areas that are open, that are available for showering, that are available for changing clothes, that is a matter that we take very seriously and this policy would undo that.”

His statement comes after a student who identifies as female has asked to use the ladies room and has been denied. She didn’t just accept their decision though and has taken her concern to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The district has announced to provide her with a private changing area after she filed a complaint against the school. However the ACLU says this decision puts the school district in a precarious position where they could face losing funding and potentially face discrimination charges against a young student who is already vulnerable.

In a country where transgender students face potential bullying this type of nonacceptance from the school district breeds an environment for this student to be outcasted and unaccepted.

Neither the school or the ACLU will reveal the identity of the student, but she says she is well accepted among her peers and has identified herself as a female for many years and hasn’t faced a problem like this before.

By Michael Tarm, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — An hour after pleading guilty to her role in a scheme to steer $23 million in no-bid contracts to education firms for $2.3 million in bribes and kickbacks, the former head of Chicago Public Schools apologized Tuesday to students, parents and employees, saying they deserved “much more than I gave to them.”

As part of a plea deal, prosecutors recommended that Barbara Byrd-Bennett serve 7½ years behind bars for one count of fraud. In exchange for pleading guilty to that one count, prosecutors said they will drop the 19 other fraud counts, each of which carried a maximum 20-year term.

Addressing reporters after the arraignment, the 66-year-old’s voice quivered as she gave her brief message for the city’s 400,000 schoolchildren, their parents and her former co-workers.

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2012 file photo, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks at a news conference, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, background, listens in Chicago. The former CEO has been indicted on corruption charges following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract. Bennett was indicted Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, nearly four months after she resigned amid an investigation into the contract between the district and SUPES Academy, a training academy where she once worked as a consultant. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 12, 2012 file photo, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks at a news conference, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, background, listens in Chicago. The former CEO has been indicted on corruption charges following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract. Bennett was indicted Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, nearly four months after she resigned amid an investigation into the contract between the district and SUPES Academy, a training academy where she once worked as a consultant. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

“I am terribly sorry and I apologize to them,” Byrd said solemnly. “They deserved much more — much more than I gave to them.”

Neither she nor her attorney took any questions Tuesday. Byrd-Bennett stepped down from the third-largest school district in the U.S. in June after word spread about a federal investigation into a contract between the district and SUPES Academy, a training academy where she once worked.

Prosecutors allege the scheme started in 2012 — the year Mayor Rahm Emanuel hired the Solon, Ohio, woman to become the district’s CEO. The indictment alleged that the owners of the two education service and training firms offered her a job and a hefty one-time payment — disguised as a lucrative signing bonus — once she left CPS.

The city is looking for “further safeguards to help prevent this type of abuse from happening again,” Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said in a statement later Tuesday. Though Emanuel initially said his office wasn’t involved in the contracts at issue, he said Monday that some of his staffers had asked “hard questions” before the school board approved the contracts. He added that he was never directly involved.

“When a mayor gets involved in contracts, you have a problem,” he said. “I clearly don’t do that, because I think that’s the wrong thing to do.”

The indictment alleges Byrd-Bennett expected to receive kickbacks worth 10 percent of the value of the contracts, or about $2.3 million. It’s unclear how much money was ever set aside, though the indictment says trust accounts tied to two relatives were set up to hide the money.

In an email to one of the executives sent Sept. 10, 2012, Byrd-Bennett wrote about her apparent eagerness to make money: “I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit.”

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2012 file photo, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks at a news conference in Chicago. The former CEO has been indicted on corruption charges following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract. Bennett was indicted Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, nearly four months after she resigned amid an investigation into the contract between the district and SUPES Academy, a training academy where she once worked as a consultant. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 12, 2012 file photo, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks at a news conference in Chicago. The former CEO has been indicted on corruption charges following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract. Bennett was indicted Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, nearly four months after she resigned amid an investigation into the contract between the district and SUPES Academy, a training academy where she once worked as a consultant. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

CPS is facing a steep budget shortfall and a severely underfunded pension system, as well as lingering criticism after dozens of schools were closed in 2013 in what Emanuel and education officials argued would help focus resources and improve the school system.

In the crowded courtroom early Tuesday, a tense Byrd-Bennett stood unmoving before Judge Edmond Chang. She answered “yes, your honor,” to all of his questions. If she doesn’t fully cooperate with investigators, as pledged in the deal, prosecutors can revoke the sentencing recommendation for a stiffer term.

SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates LLC owners Gary Soloman and Thomas Vranas are accused of offering her money along with sporting-event tickets and other kickbacks in exchange for the contracts. Both suburban Chicago men face multiple charges, including bribery and conspiracy to defraud.

Soloman’s attorney said in a statement last week that Soloman has cooperated in the investigation and stands behind his companies. Vranas and his attorney didn’t comment after the indictment.

CPS suspended its contract with SUPES Academy shortly after Byrd-Bennett took a paid leave of absence in April; she resigned two months later.

As a condition of her release, the judge said Byrd-Bennett would have to provide a DNA sample. No sentencing date will be set until Soloman’s and Vranas’ cases run their course.

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