Monday, April 27, 2009

High School Graduation Requirements Updated--Keystone Exams 2.0

"The problem you've got is districts aren't doing as well as they might in getting kids educated well. If you suddenly implement high-stakes exams and kids can't graduate, you're penalizing the kids for the failures of the school system,"
Dr. Alan Lesgold, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education

There's an ongoing dialogue/debate about high school graduation requirements between the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Governor Edward Rendell's office, the Congressional Senators/Representatives who serve on respective Education Committees, the union organizations for both teachers and school board members, and member organizations of the recently formed organization called The Coalition for Effective and Responsive Testing (CERT) comprised of several organizations including the Parent Teacher Association and the Pennsylvania NAACP.

Should students be required to prove a level of proficiency in mathematics, reading, writing, science, and social studies before being granted a "meaningful" high school diploma?

The agency argument goes something like this...the costs for testing and remediation would be in the millions and a tremendous burden to school districts particularly in a national recession, not to mention the pressure on teachers to actually ensure that beginning with the graduation class of 2015 students are educated when the Keystone Exam 1.0 kicks into effect that year subsequent to the failed or successful No Child Left Behind goal of educating most of America's students to a level of proficiency in mathematics, reading, writing, and science. Of course, students who fall below proficiency in any of those core content courses would risk failing to graduate from high school and all the consequences that come with it unless they have been identified by a learning disability (like being below proficient in reading or math) and receive academic support through "special education" services.

In early March 2009, several government agencies and organizations morphed the so called Graduation Competency Assessments into the Keystone Exams, which were variations on the theme of state-mandated assessments high schoolers would be required to pass in order to graduate with a regular high school diploma (others could graduate below proficiency with a special education diploma).
Further morphing involves the evolution of the Keystone 1.0 into the Keystone 2.0, which was crafted and agreed upon by CERT members. The Keystone 2.0 shifts from accountability to being not more than a Pennsylvania Department of Education created final course exam minus the exorbitant expenses to school districts or the burden to hold anyone responsible for academic success and ensuring that high school students graduate educated and prepared for the rigors of college, a career or the workforce. In effect, the Keystone Exams would not be a high-stakes exit exam and passing them would not be a state graduation requirement since PDE would create an exam that students would take at the end of a course and would count for 20% of their final grade.
“We appreciate that the coalition has kept the dialogue open concerning the need for these high-stakes exams. However, at a time when our state is facing a $2.6 billion and growing deficit, we believe there is no need for these additional, costly tests. The last thing that we need in this budget is new spending."
Joint Statement from Senator Orie and Rep. Saylor On Alternative Graduation Tests - aka Keystone Exams 2.0 Wednesday April 22, 2009

Whew...that took the steam out of that effort to require high school graduation competency exams in Pennsylvania. Powerful lobbyists!
The CERT group includes:
American Federation of Teachers--PA, Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals, Pennsylvania Association of Pupil Service Administrators (special education), Pennsylvania Middle School Association, Pennsylvanias for the Educaton of Gifted Students, Pennsylvania State Education Association, Pennsylvania PTA (No PTA where I live), Pennsylvania NAACP (hmmm, wonder who they spoke with?)
"I applaud PSEA's willingness to join this discussion and look forward to studying the proposal. I worry deeply about the implications of one aspect of their plan. When you cap the weight of the Keystone final exam at no more than 20 percent of a student's grade, you lose the assurance that any student in any school is actually able to show they are meeting high school academic standards in English, math, science or social studies."
Chief among proponents of the Keystone Exam 1.0 version, state Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak

Stay tuned. They're not done yet!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Children and TV: Limiting your child's screen time

Children and TV often go hand in hand. Understand the effects of too much screen time — and how to enforce reasonable limits.

By Mayo Clinic staff
Are you concerned about how much time your child spends watching TV or playing video games? Although some screen time can be educational, it's easy to go overboard. Consider this guide to children and TV, including how to limit your child's screen time.
Children and TV — the effects
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting a child's use of TV, movies, video and computer games to no more than one or two hours a day. Too much screen time has been linked to:
Obesity. Children who watch more than two hours of TV a day are more likely to be overweight.
Irregular sleep. The more TV children watch, the more likely they are to resist going to bed and to have trouble falling asleep.
Behavioral problems. Children who watch excessive amounts of TV are more likely to bully, have attention problems, and show signs of depression or anxiety than children who don't.
Impaired academic performance. Elementary students who have TVs in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than those who don't.
Less time for play. Excessive screen time leaves less time for active, creative play.
How to limit screen time
Your child's total daily screen time may be greater than you realize. Start monitoring it. In the meantime, you can take simple steps to reduce the amount of time your child spends watching TV, movies and videos or playing video or computer games:
Eliminate background TV. If the TV is turned on — even if it's just in the background — it's likely to draw your child's attention. If you're not actively watching a show, turn off the TV.
Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. Children who have TVs in their bedrooms watch more TV and videos than children who don't. Monitor your child's screen time and the Web sites he or she is visiting by keeping computers in a common area in your house.
Don't eat in front of the TV. Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of the TV increases his or her screen time. The habit also encourages mindless munching, which can lead to weight gain.
Set school day rules. Most children have limited free time during the school week. Don't let your child spend all of it in front of a screen.
Suggest other activities. Rather than relying on screen time for entertainment, help your child find other things to do. Consider classic activities, such as reading, playing a sport or trying a new board game.
Set a good example. Be a good role model. Limit your own screen time.
Become an active participant
When your child has screen time, make it as engaging as possible:
Plan what your child watches. Instead of flipping through channels, seek quality videos or use a program guide to select appropriate shows. Pay attention to TV Parental Guidelines — a system that rates programs based on suitability for children. When the program ends, turn off the TV.
Watch with your child. Whenever possible, watch programs together — and talk about what you see.
Choose video games that encourage physical activity. Better yet, make the games a family experience.
It may be difficult to start limiting your child's screen time, especially if your child already has a TV in his or her bedroom or your family eats dinner in front of the TV. But by creating new household rules and steadily making small changes in your child's routine, you can make a difference.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dismantle the Cradle to Prison (from schools) Pipeline

Join Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), in the campaign to dismantle The Cradle to Prison Pipeline. CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families. This campaign is a national and community crusade to engage families, youth, community leaders and institutions and those in power in every sector in the development of healthy, educated children. The Campaign advances policies that put children on track to productive adulthood and opposes those that criminalize children at younger and younger ages.

Nationally, 1 in 3 Black and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of imprisonment during their lifetime. While boys are five times as likely to be incarcerated as girls, there also is a significant number of girls in the juvenile justice system. This rate of incarceration is endangering children at younger and younger ages.
This is America's pipeline to prison — a trajectory that leads to marginalized lives, imprisonment and often premature death. Although the majority of fourth graders cannot read at grade level, states spend about three times as much money per prisoner as per public school pupil.
CDF's vision with it's Cradle to Prison Pipeline campaign is to reduce detention and incarceration by increasing preventive supports and services children need, such as access to quality early childhood development and education services and accessible, comprehensive health and mental health coverage. Emphasis must be shifted for the sake of our children and our nation's future. Learn more--

During this political season of change, let's work to dismantle this pipeline.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Main Line Education Monologues: Dreams Deferred or Realized documentary showing on PATV

The film documentary The Main Line Education Monologues: Dreams Deferred or Realized provides viewers a snapshot of the experience of twenty African American Lower Merion School District alumni who are graduates from the classes of 1952 through 1999. First viewed in 2006 at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute to a standing room only audience, viewers can catch the film on Lower Merion and Narberth's Public Access Television on April 4, 2009 at 10:00 pm on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 34. View an introduction by the film's producer, Ellen Sall, and the president of Concerned Black Parents, Loraine Carter at 10:00 pm, the film follows at 10:24 pm. From the voices of those who lived it, learn more about redistricting, special education, parent engagement in academic success, and the affect of race in education in one of Pennsylvania's award winning school districts.