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Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

18 April 2017

For Academic Success, We Need to #ProtectPE [sponsored post]

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

My favorite class was gym or PE. Even though I got As in math & science, gym was still my favorite. I loved being able to run around, hit balls, jump, & just move. Now I know I can thank gym class & recess for my good grades. See, research shows that kids who are physically active, even for just an hour a day, do better in school. For many years my daughter’s school did not have recess and only weekly gym class. That is why I joined the Protect PE campaign as I see all physical activity as part of restoring and maintaining our children’s overall health.

Sadly, when our public schools have their budgets cut, physical exercise – gym and recess - is one of the first things to go. According to the Voices for Healthy Kids, only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. And we all know whose budgets get cut first – the schools in communities of color. With those budget cuts come no PE and perhaps after a doubling up on reading and math because these are the same schools that likely score low in those areas. It’s a vicious cycle for children of color. The less PE they get, the less likely they can focus to score well on tests, and then the more likely time sitting at desks in those classes increase. Not to mention, less PE sets our kids up for a more sedentary lifestyle that can lead to an increase in heart disease and diabetes later in life.

This is why it is encouraging that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes PE in its guidelines. ESSA is different from previous federal education laws because it includes PE and health as part of a well-rounded curriculum.

This federal law requires that all states must develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. ALAS! This does not mean that all states must include PE in the plan. That is where we come in. As parents, teachers and community leaders, we can advocate for PE to be included in our state’s plan. We need to advocate to our state leaders that they must not just create a plan of action, but they need to put physical education into the plan and get access to significant federal funding to support PE.

First step is to find out if our kids are getting enough PE. We can do that by joining the PE Action Team. If we find out our kids are not getting enough PE, then start working in your community to increase PE. For resources, please visit http://physicaleducation.voicesforhealthykids.org/

We need to talk to our principals, school boards, fellow parents, and elected officials.

We can do this! This is not about world peace! This is getting our kids the necessary PE they need to be successful students and reach their fullest potential.

So PE on three…ONE…TWO…THREE!!! PE!!!!!!!!

19 May 2014

Book Review: This is Not a Test by José Vilson

My family is privileged, especially in terms of education. We live in Chicago, home to the much-maligned Chicago Public School system. She has caring teachers who push her to be her best, encourage her when she is still learning a skill and remember us by name (at least first, some still fail to remember my daughter & I don’t share a last name). Outside of the weight of her backpack, we have little to complain about. For her.

Yet we understand that where we are privileged, we know it is not an even distribution across the city.

When I was pregnant and even throughout the first years of Ella’s life, we would field the question, “So you’re going to move to the suburbs right?” No. As a kid who grew up in the suburbs, I dreamt of moving to “the big city” of Chicago when I was old enough. And I did. I love Chicago and the fact that despite the economic segregation we live under, we still manage to have a diverse group of people in our lives. My husband and I are also committed to public education. For me it is an easy commitment. I went to a good elementary school that funneled us into a college prep public high school. Throughout my 13 years in public school, I found mostly supportive teachers who went out of their way to get to know me, push me, and support my dreams. My husband was not as lucky as I was, but we agreed that Ella would go to public school. We would fully invest in the system. We simply lucked out that Ella scored well enough on her entrance exam, at the age of 4, to earn a spot in the selective enrollment arm of CPS.

Teachers have always been my champions and that is why I requested a copy of “This is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education” by José Vilson for review. I have followed José’s banter on Twitter for some years now. He has said things that I have agreed with and other things that challenged how I view our education system. The same thing happened as I read his edu-memoir.

Clearly something is wrong with our collective public education system. Rather, as Vilson points out, the way we manage our public education system is deeply flawed. Like an onion, there are many layers to “the problem.” Where Vilson shines is, obviously by the subtitle of the book, peeling back the layers to the race and class challenges our public school system faces.

Far too many people still believe that the biggest problem with inner city students of color is that they are headed by a single mother and/or parents are not engaged. Vilson deftly points out that by seeing these as challenges, we are imposing middle-class values on working class or poor families. And the problem with this is that we then ignore the values the students and families bring to the classroom. “When we assume poor kids behave as they do just because of their poverty and not as a manifestation of their frustration with poverty, we do an injustice to their humanity (p 86).” Ever been grouchy when you have to skip breakfast? Imagine if you had little to eat for dinner and then breakfast? No wonder some of our kids are hellions by the time they get to their desks.

Now don't take that analysis as an excuse, because Vilson does not. He wants every child to excel in school and do their best. But he challenges us to look beyond the acting out to dive into the why a child acts out. Our current policies are set up in a manner that punishes and attempts to put the child "back in line" versus getting to know them and why they are acting out. Vilson shows us that sometimes acting out truly is a cry for help.

And this is where Vilson struggles. He knows so many of the kids that come into his life, especially those who are “bad kids” just need more attention, love and support, but he can’t save them all. There is a touching chapter where he discusses the 10% who will always fall through the cracks despite his attempt to catch them all.

Vilson's grasp of the racism that is inherent in our public school policy may blow your mind - especially his discussion of microaggressions. Microaggressions are those tiny everyday things that happen that are racist or classist, but because they are so small, some people will ignore them, shrug them off, or be told "it's just a joke!" They happen not just our every day encounters with people, but also then written into laws and policies. CPS has a policy that parents must pick up report cards twice a year. The hours for this are about 12 pm - 6 pm. One would think that parents can plan well ahead to be there, but one neglects the fact that some parents work in jobs where they may not be in control of their schedule or know it until the week before. Our daughter attends school 45 minutes away from home, what if we relied on public transportation to get us there and back? I am sure the policy is in place to "ensure that parents are engaged" with their children's education and to see their teachers twice a year. But I know parents, mostly parents of color, who are racing around the city during those 6 hours because there is no guarantee that all of your kids are in one school. Some schools hold back up to one full classroom to accommodate sibling requests.

But "This is Not a Test" is not just a book about our broken public school policy, but also a tale of his journey from a young person who allowed doubt to stand in the way of his innovative thinking to a veteran teacher who will not be silenced. Vilson's self-discovery should be inspiration to any of us who struggle to meet our expectations. Social media is flooded with "no excuses" memes as inspiration to run a marathon or finally start that small business, Vilson's tale explains how challenges are real and our struggle to overcome them are not excuses, but our reality.

If you have ever doubted the commitment of teachers or taken as evidence of the many, a story of a teacher who can't do simple math, but because of the unions cannot be fired, this book is for you. A simple tale of one man who gets up every day to teach our youth, but also fight for a system that does not test them to boredom, values them as humans, respects their heritage instead of stripping it from the history books, and above all wants every child to not just race to the top, but grasp their dreams and be happy.

As Vilson points out time and again, teachers are not simply complaining, they are not complaining that they have to do something new, rather most teachers complain when they feel their voices are not valued in a national debate over education. They are the ones with education degrees and we continue to ignore them. What other career do you here that as a solution to a problem? Instead of shutting teachers out, we should be listening to them as they implement innovative education policy. They are the ones implementing and witnessing how well it is or is not going. Why not listen to them?

And that is the question you will want answered when you are done with this book. So grab your favorite micro brew and dive in.

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book through Powells or Indiebound.

Disclaimer: I requested a copy of the book from the publisher. 

10 December 2013

This and That Tuesday

This is what you get when I'm trying to clean out my inbox and no time to write a lengthy piece about these stories:

    • Voto Latino and Planned Parenthood Federation of America convened a panel discussion on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the Latino community. The event was especially timely as the federal government and community partners on the ground prepare for the rollout of the Spanish language enrollment website, www.cuidadodesalud.gov, this month. Every year, more than 600,000 Latinos -- mostly Latinas -- visit Planned Parenthood health centers to access health care services, including important preventive services like well-woman exams, breast health services, and cervical cancer screenings.

    • Soroptimist, the global women's organization, presents the annual Women’s Opportunity Awards, which provides cash grants to women for education and training. The 2013 Women’s Opportunity Award winner is Aziza Kibibi.  Aziza was held prisoner and sexually abused by her father, an MTV award winning director affiliated with The Fugees, who was recently convicted to 90 years in prison because of what he did to his daughters. TW: rape, sexual abuse

    • Women left behind in the economic recovery: A short video discussion with Kate Gallagher Robbins of the National Women's Law Center with Nia-Malika Henderson about women's economic struggles since the recession ended in 2009, and the dramatic rise in their ranks among low-wage workers. (The Washington Post)

    • There's no better way to start debating the state of public education in the US than the PISA results. This is an international assessment of 15-year-olds on their math, reading and science knowledge. According to this assessment the US is getting smoked. But the Education Trust reminds us that if we look "deeper at the data from within the U.S., gaps between African American students and their white peers are equal to more than two years’ worth of learning in math, while gaps between Latino and white students exceed one year. Gaps between U.S. students in low-income schools and those in wealthier schools are even more alarming: Students in the lowest income schools lag behind their peers in the highest income schools by about two and a half years’ worth of learning in math." Dan Montgomery, the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, claims if we rank results by poverty rates, the US actually comes out on top. This is both awesome, but depressing. Awesome that we can do so well despite our lack of addressing the roots of poverty, but depressing that the US ranks #1 in those who participate in PISA.

    • The US Department of Labor is marking its 100th anniversary by creating a list of "Books that Shaped Work in America" and they want your suggestions!  

    08 November 2011

    It's Time for Women to Stand Together Against Nukes

    A special message from Naomi Watts and former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson

    Over the next decade, the US government will spend $600 billion on nuclear weapons. That's while the government cuts budgets for teachers and schools suffer from overcrowding. Then, when our kids are ready to go to college, they'll face ongoing tuition hikes and less financial aid.

    With education, health care and social services on the chopping block, now is the time for us to speak up.

    14 September 2011

    Help out an Illinois school

    DonorsChoose.org or a school in your part of the U.S. of A.

    This is the second week of classes for Chicago Public Schools and about the 4th or 5th week for other schools. In other words, class is certainly back in session. While there are a lot of debates happening in my lil part of the world about length of school day, school year, teacher pay and on and on, one thing is perfectly clear:

    Some schools simply lack basic supplies to educate our children.

    We can have the kids in school all day, all year around, but if they don't have basic supplies, all the reforms in the world won't do jack.

    That is why I am encouraging you to take a peek through the Donors Choose database to see if there is a school near you or a teacher requesting supplies for your favorite subject that you can support.

    The beauty of Donors Choose is that even a small donation can do a long way. You also get thank you notes! If you are lucky, you get a photo too. That is my favorite part. Last year my family supported a class field trip to a play and we received a photo of them in the audience. Just heart warming and evidence of our small donation making a world of difference to the kids and helping the teacher make her curriculum whole.

    I'm all up in the debates our public schools, but while we're debating what the best path to walk is, we still need to get our kids music, books, art supplies, field trips and science equipment.

    Come on, what are you waiting for? Post links to your favorite project too!

    13 January 2011

    Searching for a new Mayor: Part 2 - Libraries

    I know I'm totally slacking on this mayor thing here. I did add some informational links over on the sidebar (so click on over RSS readers) to help my fellow Chicagoans make their decision. I had planned to go a little crazy blogging over the semester break, but the lure of books won out.

    And I know that in part one of this series, I touched on libraries, but are forcing me to revisit:
    If he had to choose between giving every Chicago Public School a library or every public school student a lap-top computer, he would choose: “A laptop. It opens you to the library of the world. Instead of a teacher saying, ‘Open your books, we’re going to learn about India’, she could say, ‘Pull out your lap-tops. We’re going to Skype with your fifth-grade colleagues in Mumbai.’
    The purpose of a library is not to simply have access to books, but to have access to a trained librarian who can teach and guide children as they learn to be researchers and consumers of media. A laptop does none of this.

    Yes, I would love for every child in Chicago to have access to the internet. But I also want them to have access to a library and a trained librarian.

    In academic circles Wikipedia is a double-edged sword. If you mentioned Wikipedia early on, eyes would roll. Now not so much. More and more academics are learning that like it or not students, like anyone on the internet, will type in a phrase or term into a search engine and find themselves at a Wikipedia page. So it's not a classic encyclopedia - that's the point. We need to teach children as early as possible that Wikipedia is a tool, not so much a source for gaining information. In other words, go there to start your search and use the references section, but do not simply quote JFK's Wikipedia page in your report.

    Who is going to teach that? A classroom teacher? On top of the standardized test she is tasked to teach our kids? (That's a dig at the system, not teachers!) Why not a librarian who say went to library school and has been taught how to teach children the methods of research and analyzing sources? How else did we know that we can quote a book, but not the National Enquirer? Seriously, that is what our children are deciding when they go online to do research.

    In the internet age we have to allow for students to quote websites, but are we teaching them how to figure out if the site they are quoting is a talking out of their ass or writing a well researched article? That's what librarians are doing on top of making sure our kids have access to books and magazines.

    If you haven't guessed by now, I'm terribly disappointed in
    Gery Chico for falling into a this or that trap. Our children need both access to libraries and laptops. Plain and simple.

    05 November 2010

    Searching for a new Mayor: Part 1 - Schools

    While not as shocking as Daley's retirement, the timing of Ron Huberman's decision to quit on the Chicago Public Schools was a bit shocking. But it's one that many of us looking forward to a new Mayor and new head of CPS are moving past quickly. There are a lot of issues in CPS, some obvious and urgent, some not-so-obvious, but still in need of attention. I hope to write a little bit about those issues here and encourage Chicagoans to make it a priority to ask all Mayoral hopefuls not just about their dedication to public schools, but what plans they have to address certain needs such as:

    • The scattering of CPS students: The recent decision to allow any and all siblings to go to the same magnet school is AWESOME. There are far too many parents who are shuttling all over this city to take 1 kid here and another one there. That said, why don't we go back to the idea that a school is a community center, that kids in the neighborhood go to a school down the street and then families know each other in the neighborhood? I know one family who live in Hyde Park and one kid goes to school on the near West Side and the other on the far South side. Thankfully there are two parents to shuttle these kids. Why shuttling? Because CPS doesn't bus kids who live farther than 4 miles away from the school. Um, aren't these the students who SHOULD be bused in? Instead they are shuttled by parents or take the CTA at a younger age than most parents plan. This issue is always raised when talking about gang fights but the current mayor says he won't let gangs draw school maps. Nice dodge. 
    • The drop out rate: Why do we need hip hop stars to come in and tell kids they need to stay in school? I love the idea, don't get me wrong, but I think it signals that we aren't providing certain students with a good view of what their future holds....Or others in power are painting them a picture that they are rejecting and thus see no use in education. 
    • RECESS: My daughter's school does not have recess as a regular part of their day. Sometimes they go out before school, but if it's before school, is it recess? There are far too many studies that say recess is key to academic success. Not to mention Michelle Obama wants out kids to be moving.
    • Libraries for all: The Whittier Moms should not be forgotten. Not when we have 164 schools without libraries and some schools have sorry excuses for a library. I talked to one mom whose child goes to a school with a literature focus that does NOT have a library. 
    I'll cover more in future posts. Cause I didn't even mention capital issues.

    But as we move towards these changes, I would like to see one thing changed. The way we view schools on the CPS website. Take the Jane Addams Elementary School. We can click around and see when they were inspected for asbestos, how well they recycle and demographics. But you have no idea if you are applying to school without a library, that keeps their students inside for 6 hours without fresh air and how long they give kids to eat their lunch. But you know there is a dress code. Jane Addams was a bookworm. If there isn't a library at her namesake school, she's rolling in her grave. But you don't know these things unless you think to ask (why would anyone think otherwise until the Whittier moms brought the issue to light?) or you find out when your child comes home to report there is no library.

    This is a critical time for public education, especially in Chicago. We have a new mayor coming in soon and eventually new leadership for CPS. In DC "No Child Left Untested, er, Behind" needs to be revamped so that the top schools can go back to being totally awesome. Honestly, is it a surprise that NCLB reform is now all the rage once the top schools start failing?

    But I'm rested from Tuesday...Gotta be. Mayoral hopefuls are having fund raisers and signatures are being collected. We need to get a hopping!

    22 October 2010

    What I learned from Whittier

    Media reports say that the Whittier moms have come out victorious. That Whittier will soon get a library INSIDE the school and that La Casita will be renovated and leased to the Whittier parents for community use.

    My daughter & I returned to Whittier a few weeks ago to drop off some supplies and a few Spanish-language books. It was day 27, as the photo to the left indicates, and Columbus Day (ironic, I know). The place was far quieter than I was expecting on a school holiday.

    The plan was to drop off items and then return to our hectic day of errands. Instead my daughter took off for the playground. It was a nice day and me being the push over I am let her play. That's when I took the opportunity to snap a picture of the 27 Days banner. And that's when a girl playing took the opportunity to come say hi and ask if she could take some pictures too.

    "Can I take a picture of you?" And obviously I let this little girl who looks like she could be mi familia. She then started to walk off with my smart phone snapping photos of everything on the playground. The pictures below are of Lucky, her new puppy.
     As the girls and Lucky ran around the playground, I sat and chatted with one of the girls' step-grandfather, J. Yes, as soon as we started chatting, I thought, "Shit. Why don't I have my digi-recorder with me?" Then again, perhaps it was best that we didn't have that between us.

    J told me that he takes care of Girl 1 and her cousin Girl 2. He drops them off at school in the morning, then heads out on his seemingly-never-ending search for a new job. In the afternoon he picks up the girls and watches them. At one point one of the girls is clearly doing the potty dance. J tells the girl to ask the Whittier Moms if she can use the bathroom. The girl hesitates...J says that it's because she doesn't speak Spanish.

    "Right now they are 5 & 6, they need to focus on learning English. They can pick up Spanish when they are older."

    I told J the abbreviated version of my life and how for some of us *AHEM* it's actually quite hard to pick up another language later in life. I also told him that I understand where that decision is coming from.

    Here I was at Whittier to show my solidarity in their fight for a library and yes, there are plenty of injustices in our public school system, but to come against this English-first feeling at Whittier wasn't expected. As a dual-language school, I assumed a lot. Too much in fact.

    And I bet that same assuming way is what made CPS think they could say that La Casita could be torn down, land sold to a private school and turned into a soccer field. Instead the moms said, "Hell no!" They are still keeping vigil in La Casita until Tuesday's CPS Board of Education meeting where, dear Goddess hopefully, the deal will be finalized and in writing. Because if this deal falls apart a lot more than just La Casita will be lost - the children who saw their moms, tias and neighbors fight and then get shafted will be lost. Thankfully their fight has grabbed attention of local news, blogs and national media outlets. Hopefully this will buffer any ideas of backing out or screwing them over on details.

    So what did I learn?
    • That being cynical isn't productive.
    • That change can happen, but you'll have to pull up your sleeves too.
    • That moms are certainly a force to be reckoned with - soccer, security, or whatever label.
    • That kids do want to learn. Talk all you want about electronics, online stuff but kids are naturally curious and want to learn. 
    • That some people are so broken by the all the injustices in this world that they can't muster enough outrage when something like Whitter happens. I get that. Hopefully this will help revive them because...
    • The system wants us to accept injustice because there is so much of it. How else can you explain why CPS would respond to the Whittier mom's demands with "there are 160 other schools without libraries." They want us to accept our place on their timetable. These moms, this community said, "No. You work for us." 

    Congrats mujeres!

    17 October 2010

    URGENT: Whittier Parents Need Your Support

    I just received a call from La Casita that Whittier parents will be protesting outside of Chicago Public School main office:

    WHAT:: Support Whittier Parents at protest outside of CPS Main Office
    WHEN:: Monday, October 18, 2010
    TIME:: 7 am - 10 am
    WHERE: CPS Main Office, 125 S. Clark Street

    If you cannot attend in person, Whittier parents are asking for you to call CPS CEO Ron Huberman and ask him to sign the letter given to him by Whittier parents in order to end the sit-in and start renovation of La Casita. His number is 773.553.1550

    Keep up to date at Save Our Center.com 

    I took the above photo almost a month ago when my daughter & I first visited Whittier.

    10 October 2010

    Who needs Superman, when you have these moms?

    Just under a month ago, a group of full-time working outside the home, single, Latina moms began sleeping in a field house outside of their children's school, Whittier Elementary, on the southside of Chicago.


    They believe that their children deserve a library. No, correct that, that all children deserve a library. Anne Elizabeth Moore on GritTV sums it up nicely:

    A few weeks ago I took my daughter out there so we could sit in solidarity. My plan is to visit again tomorrow with some Spanish-language children's book and perhaps some treats for the kids.

    Sadly, part of Chicago Public Schools response to this demand is "160 CPS schools are without a library." Really? That's their response? That's just sad.

    We don't need Superman to come in and swoop up these kids. We need Wonder Women, like these moms, who are willing to save their school themselves.

    I'll report back after our visit tomorrow.

    29 September 2010

    Kendall College and gender roles in education

    I got this in the mail today.

    I get a lot of educational direct mail. I dunno if it's me or the fact that Chicago has so many schools. Either way, I usually just toss the mailers in the recycling box. But the kiddie drawing caught my eye. Congrats marketing artist! Then I did a double take...WTF?

    Yup, Kendall College, an institution of higher education was trying to convince me to give them $250 a credit by using gender stereotypes. Um, yeah. Not so much.

    23 December 2009

    Girls Rule... Boys Drool?

    This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog. 

    Maria Shriver says that the battle of the sexes is over, but I think she's wrong. Not because I think that women and girls are better than those of another gender, but because there are still battles to be fought.

    The SAT released their latest findings in gender differences on the standardized test and some want to interpret it as more proof that girls can't do math and science. OK, to explain why there aren't more women in science at least. Same conclusion in my eyes. Of course the flip side of that argument is that there aren't any gender differences. But wait a minute; medical science continues to prove that there are biological differences between men and women, this time in the arena of heart drugs. So what's the real deal with gender differences then?
    Dr. Lise Eliot tries to answer that question in a tome of a book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain. What I found in PBBB is simply yes, there are differences between the genders, but how those differences are interpreted is often within our control.

    Eliot spends a lot of time in the book looking at gender differences in the womb and in early infancy, where there is minimal influence by meddling parents and the society. As the mother of a girl and two boys, Eliot was just trying to filter out bad media reports and misused scientific reports. She told me that she is a feminist who believes that there is a boys crisis, that classrooms need to be more boy-friendly and that competition is good for girls, too. But she also believes that the way we socialize infants and toddlers plays out in how well they do with caregiving and spatial tasks in the future.

    So where does that leave us?

    I guess that depends on whether or not you think that girls will be girls or you can raise a boy to be equally adept at math as he is at changing diapers. AND if you think you can have any effect on that outcome. As I said in my review, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, is a lengthy book, but I do think it's a fair book about the issues. As your parents told you about dinner, take small bites and chew slowly. That sage advice applies to exploring gender differences as well.

    28 October 2009

    Book Review: The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre

    The problem with The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre is that it is a good book wrapped up in so many stereotypes it is difficult to find the true nuggets of knowledge.

    As a grown up tomboy who ended up marrying a man who sat still as a young boy, I find dealing in stereotypes completely unhelpful to the conversation. In fact I am so allergic to them that it takes a lot of data for me to say uncle. Tyre claims to want to rip the myths to shreds, but I fear that she merely reinforces them.

    One myth that needs to die is that boys are violent. Boys may be rougher than girls in their play, but violent shouldn't be tolerated. There is a line and we need to keep our boys on the proper side of that line. Tyre correctly blasts against zero tolerance rules, but we still need to deal with violence in our classrooms or the emergence of violence. Star Wars = ok, bloody murder scenes NOT ok.

    Hands on learning is essential to all students, girls as well as boys. Tyre repeatedly talks to teacher after teacher about how boys learn better when they get their hands on something, they run around or put theory into action. Just because girls learn better than boys in a "sit down and be quiet" way does not mean that they can't also benefit from hands on activities. In fact it is hands on activities that will help girls break thru the glass beaker ceiling.

    And this is where recess comes into play. Or rather a discussion of how recess is becoming more of a luxury than a staple. Yes, boys need to run the ants out of their pants, but girls need exercise too. From just learning to discover the power of their bodies to staying healthy, we shouldn't paint recess as a solution just for boys. But this was one point where I did learn how horrible our boys do have it with the quick to diagnose ADHD and the insistence that they have the wild rumpus medicated out of them. Again, this is where girls do benefit for being "good" and it sucks. That said, my daughter can't sit still to save her life, so I'm a bit worried of the ADHD verdict as well.

    Tyre does tackle the "reading is for girls" stereotype by calling men out for not doing more reading with their sons and the boys in their lives. Her example of a firefighter coming in to read to classes is an excellent way to address the issue. Much different than say my nephew who improved his grades once he saw that some of the pretty girls were also smart! Or the teacher on Donors Choose who sought to entice the boys to read by getting the girls to fall in love with women authors. Oh, the bad well-meaningness of it all!

    On the other hand Tyre blames those who championed "children are all the same" for the ramblings of Michael Gurian. Gurian's theory is that boys and girls brains are fundamentally different, so different that single-sex schools are needed. The problem is that no well-regarded scientist will back him up. Tyre's explanation for his success and popularity? That parents of boys NEED to have validation that their boys are different. OK, your boy is different than my girl, but difference can be managed.

    And here's where I agree with Tyre. Our schools are in trouble. Boys and girls are suffering from standardized testing and the ramping up of education that goes along with it. Yes, I want all of our kids to read at grade level, do math well and graduate on time. But that doesn't mean that we need to have our first graders doing third grade work or pre-schoolers in professional tutoring to prepare for kindergarten.

    Tyre spends a lot of time trying to discredit anyone who claims that the boy crisis is overblown (which I agree). On page 43 she takes Kim Gandy, past President of NOW, to task for drawing a line between how boys (men) are reacting to the changing role of girls (women) and rape. "How can concern about boys in the classroom be linked, even tangentially, with rape?" It's pretty simple to a woman who was pinned to a classroom desk in biology class by a boy while the teacher just stood there. It's about power. Girls are exerting their power in the classroom, yet a boys will be boys mentality still rules in life. Yes, there are zero tolerance policies, but I'll get to those later. Rape is a tool of power or more precisely a lack of power. It's really not that hard to see that aggression against women and girls can start right in the classroom.

    Tyre does a great job at running the college admissions numbers. There has been a lot of whining about how hard it is to get into college, but the simple fact is that we have a record number of men and women entering college period. Colleges, especially state schools just cannot handle the increased capacity and thus making colleges even more competitive to get into.

    Ironically we are at a point where we can say that boys just might be the canary in the coalmine when it comes to schools. Schools are so scheduled that there is little time for physical activity that is critical for boys and girls. Art and music is pushed out in favor of double reading and math time. Administrators can't fully grasp what it means to have actual sexual harassment occur so they set up zero tolerance rules rather than work to address the reason why boys (more often than not) feel entitled to touch or harass girls.

    Boys are different, yes they are. But as Lise Eliot (her book is next!) says in Pink Brain, Blue Brain, the different among boys is far greater than between girls and boys.

    I do recommend this book for those of us without sons. It is amazing what our society has done to boyhood, not just in trying to squash it, but also to romanticize it ala a conservative right-winger longs for a return to "Leave it to Beaver" days. If you can keep licking that block of salt, you will learn things that will knock your socks off. For those of you with sons, I fear this would only feed into your fears. Eliot's book is more up your alley.

    Need to get yourself a copy? Try an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

    13 September 2009

    What is Chicago teaching its students about personal health? - From AWEARNESS

    On one hand Chicago Public Schools is telling parents and students that they should stay home or will be sent home if they have a 100-degree temperature in an on-going effort to stem the swine flu.

    On the other hand, Chicago Public Schools uses absences, even illness absences, as one way to choose which student is allowed to enter into the top college prep schools in the system:

    [Celia Hensey] was a straight-A student who aced the selective enrollment high school entrance exam. She scored in the 90th percentile on her middle school tests and tallied 984 points out of 1,000 on the overall admissions scale.

    But Celia did not get in.

    Her likely downfall? A nasty flu bug in 7th grade that kept her out of school for five days. In the complex and competitive world of selective enrollment scoring, Celia was docked 10 points for five absences.

    The years that students are earning their way into the top high schools are 4th through 7th grade. When my daughter began kindergarten last fall, there were stories about kids not getting into a selective high school due to one sick day.


    21 October 2008

    Feeling sick kid? Suck it up

    My daughter got some sort of cold the 3rd or 4th week of school. It was something that I thought wasn't bad enough that she needed to stay home, some Tylenol and she seemed much better. We had been thru bouts like this when she was in her pre-school/day care just a few months ago. Well, for two days she was totally wiped out by lunch time. Her fever would spike back up by dismissal around 3 pm and when I would pick her up, she was in very sad shape.

    What as the difference?


    OK, the school does have one, but like many schools in Illinois and around the country, there isn't a full-time nurse anymore.

    The Illinois Administrative Code mandates that nurses working at schools must be registered professionals.

    The code requires school boards develop and keep a job description of a school nurse's duties.

    The code also talks about preventing communicable diseases, maintaining health records, conducting vision and hearing screenings, and acting as a liaison between homes, schools and communities.

    It says nothing, however, about requiring a nurse to be a part of a school's staff.

    WTF? I still remember dragging my sick butt down the hall to the nurse's room and taking a nap on her padded cot. I remember doing that in freakin' high school! I had heard murmurs of this phenomena for the past few years, but alas, I let myself ignore it until my daughter was hurt by this policy. And all she had was a cold for a few days.

    But that's not 100% true.

    During her first week she fell when I picked her up, right in front of two teachers and I asked for the nurse. They pointed me to the gym to see if a teacher was in with a first aid kit...Yet there wasn't anyone I could find. I grabbed a wet paper towel with the knowledge that I had a bandage in the car. A few weeks ago she fell again but this time was a gash...to her forehead. Our babysitter picked her up and all the kid had was a wet paper towel. *sigh*

    I know it's not the teacher's control and I don't blame them. I blame the system and us for allowing this problem to get this bad. Again, she had a cold and two fairly minor falls. Her head gash healed pretty well. I canNOT imagine what parents do if their child has to take medication on a schedule (I couldn't bring in Tylenol for her to take at lunch, I drove to school to do it). I figure that if my daughter ever breaks her leg, they'll call 911. Alas, I haven't actually asked that question...My bad, I know.

    But this isn't about my daughter in the end. It's about all the kids, especially the ones who need more help than a bandage or baby aspirin.

    The National Association of School Nurses provides guidelines that one nurse should be provided for every 750 healthy students, one nurse per every 125 students with complex health care needs.

    Yet, more than half of public schools across the country do not have a school nurse, according to the association.

    In Illinois, a 2008 study by the association found that the nurse-to-student ratio is 1: 2,030.

    "We have a lot of people practicing nursing at schools that are not nurses," National-Louis' Gibbons said. "Medication errors in this country are at an all-time high. Research tells us that when non-nurses and aides (are dispensing medication) the rate of error is much higher."

    Recent legislation, introduced in June by U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, would provide grants to states through the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to improve the nurse-to-student ratio.

    Taking this issue even further, it's an aspect of homeland security...If bird flu breaks out, it might be the school nurse who figures it out first. Also with what seems to be a rise in people opting out of vaccinations, measles breakouts could be identified earlier.

    But coming back to my daughter, it does make me nervous to know that it could be a matter of luck that a nurse is on duty if something bad were to happen to her. And considering that she runs, climbs, and wrestles without much thought, the chances that something will happen is greater than normal.
    Don't forget that VLF is participating in the DonorsChoose Blogger Challenge. We already have one class funded, let's get that second one funded! The teacher is requesting funding to buy books by women authors. Also don't forget that I'm giving out goodies to a few select peeps who donate!

    16 October 2008

    Gifted students and challenge: A parent talk with Jerry Schecter, PhD

    This is a cross-post from Hormone-colored Days:

    I'm blogging a gathering at Kim's place with Jerry Schecter, Ph.D. Despite what Kim says, this is a party...A party of parents, mostly moms & one lone dad, coming together to learn more about how to "best" raise our children who have academic gifts.

    Dr. S's background includes being a school psychologist in CPS and was at the ground floor for the CPS gifted program. He helped work with underachieving gifted students - those who can do the work, but weren't.

    Dr. S's definition of a gifted kid is someone with an IQ in the upper 5-10% of the population. That's one way, but more typically we are talking about upper 2% - 130 and above. Upper 5% - 125, you are bright, quick and still relate well. When you get to 140 - you are a little bit more different - harder to fit in, see the world differently, get labeled as ADD 'cause their minds are racing. You should ask the school if your child is "getting it" before accepting the ADD label. They might gifted!

    They are also dramatic - feel things deeply, worry about justice, etc. Nervous habits. Imaginational. Great fantasy life. Hyper-sensitive to sound, touch, noise. Intellectual - Deep curiosity. Emotional - going from one extreme to the next.

    Asynchronistic development: Unevenness in development. Could be 6 one minute, 8 the other, back to 6. If you ask a gifted child to tell you 3 wishes, they will usually list one thing that is altruistic.

    High degree of perfectionism - They also need to be in control. If there is something out of control in their life, they know that their academics are something that they can control. Perfectionism takes a lot of different turns - intolerant of others making mistakes, it's an all or nothing thing (get an A or not try at all), always need to be right, or the workaholic.

    Kids who have it too easy in the early grades and then get to junior or senior high and they fall into the imposter syndrome, don't know how to study, and think they aren't really that smart. (That was me!!)

    As parents we need to remember that just because they are bright, they are not always bright in everything. When our kids are challenged, they are not as challenged as other kids because so many things come easy. Thus our kids have a hard time learning grit and academic frustration.

    Linda Silverman wrote a piece about being a 6yo girl, but reading at a 3rd-4th grade level. "A child would have to learn how to explain things to her peers, learn to wait patiently while others catch up or something challenging, how to delay gratification by not answering all the questions the teacher asks." When you are that different in an environment where others aren't as bright, it is lonely.

    Thus, there are a lot of reasons why we need to be our child's advocate. Getting all A's and getting by is not good. We need to help them learn that falling on their face isn't the end of the world.

    It is not always better in the more affluent school districts - They can be less willing to work with parents for gifted students. You should get your child evaluated & then work with the teachers and administrators to get your child what they need. YOU have to push the school.

    When your child does "fail" you have to help them learn how to deal with frustration, learn from their mistakes and more on. Don't focus that they know the material - lazy mistakes are learning moments. (My HS freshman algebra teacher would never accept my quizzes or tests before I checked it at least 2 times.)

    Some insensitivity that parents get is that by the 3rd grade they will all be the same, we don't have gifted children here, don't push your child, teacher has child help other children when they are done early, there is no need for grouping, gifted children are role models and need to be spread out between classes.

    A lot of gifted kids are better at adapting to skipping grades and being in with older peers than staying in their original grade and not fitting in. Will they ever fit in? It depends. If you can't be in a school with supplemental programs, seek out other programs like at Northwestern & National Louis so that they can be with students who are like them.

    What can we do as parents?

    When they are frustrated, you can't rescue them. You really not want to take ownership of the problem. Validate their feelings and listen to their words not just their actions. A parent is adding in: If your child has meltdowns, talk to them later when they are calm, and help them learn self-soothing. This was taught to me by a very wise person. How do you praise them without over praising? Praise the work not the final product. Acknowledge your own mistakes and role model for them.

    A parent suggests a book called "Mistakes that Worked." It really shows kids that mistakes are ok and sometimes actually are better than the original destination.

    What do you do with a child who seems ok, but there are signs that they really aren't ok in school? They are happy staying under the radar...You need to ask the school to step up and provide the challenge. It's harder when you do it, than if the school does it.

    What is our goal? Is it achievement? Are they happy kids? A parent responds with I want my child to be happy/independent/at peace with themselves, if they happen to get good grades, that's great, but that's not my goal. We need to listen to our children. That's the best form of communication. It is also a sign of respect and when you give them respect, they will give it to you.

    Dr. S. leads parent support programs in the mornings. No evening sessions. A lot is based on the book "???? ." Also does evaluations for children who are underachieving and will write a report for the schools. Also suggests "Teaching Gifted Children in Regular Classroom." There is no easy answer, each school district is different.

    What about homeschooling? It all depends on where your child is when they are ready to enter school. A lot of parents of gifted students do homeschool, but it may not be the best option. You need to be in a group that is supportive.

    Is there a good time to start the process? Skipping kindergarten? Skipping later grades? Some have been encouraged to skip kindergarten, but some parents didn't want to do it based on socialization issues. Skipping all depends on the school. You should have them tested when you are ready to make a decision about schooling. One principal told a set of parents that she could enrich him, but could not give him a group of peers. Another told a set that you need to remember that your child is gifted all the time.

    Parent: There is no such thing as a perfect school. There will always be something that you are homeschooling. This country doesn't support arts.

    And that was the gist of our discussion.

    Don't forget that VLF is participating in the DonorsChoose Blogger Challenge. We already have one class funded, let's get that second one funded! And don't forget that I'm giving out goodies to a few select peeps who donate!

    04 August 2008

    Work it, Mom! Monday

    This week I spew about the kid's pending entrance to the world of kindergarten and "official" school. It's kinda funny that I'm taking this transition hard. I didn't cry when I dropped her off for daycare after my maternity leave. She does drop off perfectly.

    One thing that I didn't mention in my post is that for kindergarten we literally drop them off. No more walking her to class and leaving with a hug. That's gotta happen in the car. I also won't be picking her up. We have a babysitter to do that most days.

    T-minus one month. I seriously need to stock up on tissues!

    20 May 2008

    The Boys' Crisis is BUNK

    The AAUW released a new report today detailing education trends between girls and boys for the past 35 years. And you know what? BOTH are succeeding...BOTH are going to college. Despite cries of terror from certain circles fueled by the media, boys are NOT being left behind.

    The NY Times covered the report (and astonishingly NOT in the style section!):

    • The report points out that a greater proportion of men and women than ever before are graduating from high school and earning college degrees. But, it says, “perhaps the most compelling evidence against the existence of a boys’ crisis is that men continue to outearn women in the workplace.”

      Linda Hallman...said the report was an effort to refocus attention on what she said were the real problems of education for poor and minority children, and away from a distracting debate about a so-called boys’ crisis. Ms. Hallman said the group’s members were concerned about arguments by conservative commentators that boys had become disadvantaged and were being discriminated against in schools intended to favor girls.

    As the good feminist/blogger/science nrrd I am, I read the entire report today and here are some highlights that I don't believe are in the executive summary, but you should know:

    • Gender differences cannot be fully understood without attention to race/ethnicity. (VLF: This is uber-important to note. The AAUW is calling out every data collection agency that they must be collecting as much data as possible including family income and ethnicity AND report it out that way. Don't hide those intersections.)
    • Boys' advantage in math does not supersede the more substantial advantage of students from higher-income families over students from lower-income families.
    • Among 12th graders in the 2006-07 school year, 1.5 million students, almost half of all graduating high school seniors (46 percent), took the SAT, and about 1.3 million (40 percent) took the ACT.
    • Gender gaps on the SAT and ACT math exams are most pronounced among Asian American, Hispanic, and white students and are much smaller among African American students.
    • Across races/ethnicities, boys tend to outscore girls in math
    • Girls earn more credits than boys earn in high school math and science and have a higher combined GPA in these courses. (VLF: ARGH!!!!! And yet we still have people who claim that girls don't like or want to do science!
    • While gaps by race/ethnicity are evident, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who have college degrees is generally increasing for every gropu except Hispanic men, who show no clear trend. The number of Hispanic men earning college degrees, however, is increasing.
    • The college enrollment rate of young women, 66.0 percent, was approximately the same as that of young men, 65.5 percent. (emphasis by VLF)
    And I will leave you with that last statistic. Men and women are going to college in record numbers. Oh...and all the lines above can be found in the report with their appropriate citations.

    What the AAUW is trying to tell us all, once and for all, is that education is not a zero-sum game. Yale and Harvard might be, but education itself is not.

    Technorati tags: education, equity, feminism, AAUW, boys crisis

    16 May 2008

    There is too much, let me sum up

    Because I have a presentation on gender equity on Thursday, found out about another extension on a chapter I was writing & gave up on, AND the hubby is out of town meaning I have less time for me this weekend, I present you with a bullet point blog post. Enjoy!

    • Help some awesome Radical WOC get to the Allied Media Conference. I swear, I'd be there myself to represent the not-so-radical WOC contingent, but I have to attend another conference that weekend. Oh...and if you've ever wondered where the super kewl WOC bloggers are, start with this list!
    • Peggy Simpson from the Women's Media Center sums up the fallout from the NARAL Pro-Choice endorsement. As does Scott at RH Reality Check is also following the fallout. (Is it me, or does he look like Bobcat Goldwaith? But of course, far less scary!)
      • My reaction? Award for the worst timing EVER! While I did give NARAL kudos earlier this month, I gotta say that I was shocked at such poor timing. I know that Kate Michaelman is an Obama woman, but come on...it's not like you were trying to submarine Lieberman! *sigh* I'm on a listserv with a lot of second wavers & 99% of them are working their tails off for Hillary. The heartbreak is unbearable.
    • The NY Times has a great piece on women in science and the hurdles they have to jump through AND why sometimes they just pack up their microscope and go home. KUDOS! But...there's always a but, eh? The article is in the fashion/style section. I mentioned it on another listserv I'm on and someone pointed out that perhaps instead of being in a more "serious" section, it's getting more attention. Thoughts?
    • Noemi reports, "In at least one case, a guard reportedly got a female detainee pregnant. It’s all happening at the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall. News 4 Trouble Shooter Brian Collister brings you the fall out from his investigation." Read more.
    • Want to evacuate from a hurricane? Better have your papers ready!
    • The Ask a Working Woman Survey 2008 is out! "The survey is an opportunity for working women in America to tell decision-makers what it's like to be a working woman in America in election years. Opinions will be collected through June 20, 2008. The findings will be announced to decision makers and released in nationwide media in order to highlight and help improve the status of the working mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and nieces in all of our American families." Go take it!
    • Chicago Public Schools are tauting an increase in the number of graduates attending college. Parents United for Responsible Education isn't so sure we should be celebrating.
    • June 2nd is the 3rd Annual Blogging for LGBT Family Day!
    • Ward Connerly's Super Tuesday is losing steam. Maybe he can rename it Good Tuesday?
    • An interview with Amy Richards (not to be confused with one of my BFFs) at RH Reality Check is a must read.
    • Today Google had another special holiday logo, this time about the invention of the laser. So it got me thinking...have they tipped their hat to a woman? Answer, outside of recognizing International Women's Day in 2005, nope.

    03 April 2008

    New Schools Aisle 7!

    In case you haven't heard, the Chicago Public Schools will be opening a few new schools next year and they are magnets plus a gifted center. So you CPSers know what that means - LOTTERY TIME! More choices in that whole "school choice" thing. In reality we know it's more school luck than choice, but put as the commercials say, you can't win if you don't play. So read on about the new schools and how you can try to get your lil one in them.

    Here's the skinny from CPS themselves:

    Dear CPS Community,

    We're very excited about five new elementary magnet schools and a new regional gifted center that will open this fall, expanding school options for students in a variety of neighborhoods.

    * *Disney II Magnet School*
    3815 N. Kedvale Ave., will offer a fine/performing arts and technology integration curriculum.
    * *LaSalle II Magnet School*
    1148 N. Honore St., will provide a world language program that allows students to learn one of four different languages.
    * *Sir Miles Davis Magnet Academy*
    6730 S. Paulina, a brand new facility, will offer the district's first-ever children's engineering program.
    * *Joshua D. Kershaw Magnet School*
    6450 S. Lowe Ave., will offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme for children in kindergarten through fifth grade and the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme for students in sixth through eighth grade
    * *Oscar Mayer Magnet School*
    2250 N. Clifton Ave., will offer the Montessori Program for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme for sixth- through eighth-graders.
    * John Coonley Regional Gifted Center, 4046 N. Leavitt, will receive a new regional gifted center for academically advanced students.

    These schools will offer a variety of highly coveted academic programs in neighborhoods that haven't always had access to these kinds of high-quality education options.

    The CPS Office of Academic Enhancement will accept applications until April 25 for the 2008-2009 school year. The magnet schools will not require academic testing, but will accept students from the neighborhood and through a citywide lottery. Students will have to test into Coonley Regional Gifted Center.

    For an application, please click on the school name (Coonley applications will be available in the fall for the 2009-2010 school year); to read the press release about this project, please click here: http://www.cps.k12.il.us/magnet_pdf/magnet_schools_final_release_letterhead.pdf


    Arne Duncan

    This is post is crossed posted to Chicago Parent.

    Technorati tags: CPS, chicago, education, Chicago Public Schools


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