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Posts tagged education

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Court Orders Kansas Legislature to Spend More on Schools

Trevor Graff and John Eligon for The New York Times:

Kansas’s highest court ruled on Friday that funding disparities between school districts violated the state’s Constitution and ordered the Legislature to bridge the gap, setting the stage for a messy budget battle in the capital this year.

The debate over school funding in Kansas heated up in the 1960s when the Legislature added an article to the Constitution that read, “the Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance” of public education. That led to a court case decades later that ended with lawmakers agreeing to provide $4,492 in base aid per student.

But because of the nationwide financial crisis, the Legislature never reached that level of spending. It went as high as $4,400 by the 2008-9 school year, but under Gov. Mark V. Parkinson, a Democrat, the figure began a downward slide, which has continued under Mr. Brownback. The figure is now $3,838, and Mr. Brownback called for maintaining it in a budget proposal he released in January.

The reduction in school financing over the years led to the current lawsuit.

I hadn’t heard a single thing about this battle until right now.

School funding is unfortunately pretty atrocious across a large part of the United States. A few years ago, the governor of my state suggested diverting $300 million of school construction bonds to plug a hole in the state’s budget.

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SAT to drop essay requirement as part of overhaul

Nick Anderson, The Washington Post:

The SAT college admission test will no longer require a timed essay, will dwell less on fancy vocabulary and will return to the familiar 1600-point scoring scale in a major overhaul intended to open doors to higher education for students who are now shut out.

That only lasted eight years.

I wonder if this will have any impact on how family income and race correlate with SAT performance.

The College Board also pledged to offer new test-preparation tutorials for free online, enabling students to bypass pricey SAT-prep classes previously available mostly to affluent families looking to give their children an edge.

Well that’s cool I guess.

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How One College Is Closing The Computer Science Gender Gap

Back in May, Wendy Kaufman wrote a piece on Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe’s efforts to increase women students in their technical programs on NPR’s All Tech Considered blog:

At Mudd, about 40 percent of the computer science majors are women. That’s far more than at any other co-ed school.

… She says if you can make computer science interesting to women, empower them so they believe they can succeed, and then show them how their work can make a difference in the world, “that’s almost enough to change everything.”

Pretty neato.

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Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University

Brandon Ambrosino wrote an autobiographical piece for The Atlantic on his life at Liberty University, evangelist Jerry Falwell’s Southern Baptist university, and how it changed as he came to terms with his homosexuality. It’s quite raw at times, as he describes coming to terms with himself, but it’s also quite optimistic:

Many of us view the world as an ugly place with a few beautiful redeeming characteristics. Unfortunately, that’s also how we view humans. But what I learned at Liberty was that this idea is the exact opposite of reality: The world and the people in it are really wonderful with just a smidge of ugliness about them.

I enjoyed his story.

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Kids' suspensions renew debate over zero tolerance

Michael Rubinkam, AP:

Waiting in line for the bus, a Pennsylvania kindergartener tells her pals she’s going to shoot them with a Hello Kitty toy that makes soap bubbles. In Maryland, a 6-year-old boy pretends his fingers are a gun during a playground game of cops and robbers. In Massachusetts, a 5-year-old boy attending an after-school program makes a gun out of Legos and points it at other students while “simulating the sound of gunfire,” as one school official put it.

Kids with active imaginations? Or potential threats to school safety?

Some school officials are taking the latter view, suspending or threatening to suspend small children over behavior their parents consider perfectly normal and age-appropriate — even now, with schools in a state of heightened sensitivity following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December.

The article is more about zero tolerance policies than guns; it’s just that recent school shootings are potentially the impetus of these zero-tolerance violations.

My reaction to the incidents in the first paragraph was that this was a total overreaction, but it got me thinking: is there simulated violence that’s not okay? Play-shooting and play-swordfighting are part of the experience of being a kid in the United States I think, but are there types of violence that aren’t acceptable for children, like play-vehicular homicide or play-physical beating? Is there a difference between pretending you’re shooting someone and pretending you’re torturing someone to death?

I have a notion that there’s a cruelty aspect involved: that there’s an arbitrary line somewhere demarcating “clean” roughhousing from more vicious “games.” But I also feel like that feeling is shaped by a normalization of certain kinds of violence more than my actual sense of right versus wrong.

This isn’t an argument in any way. I’m just trying to figure out what I think.

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Steven Seagal, sheriff train Arizonans to guard schools

AP report:

The self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff” joined forces this weekend with action movie star Steven Seagal to train volunteer armed posse members to defend Phoenix-area schools against gunmen.

Seagal, best known for his roles in movies such as “Above the Law” and “Under Siege,” will lead training on hand-to-hand defense tactics, among other techniques, drawing from his expertise in martial arts, according to a sheriff’s office news release.

Steven Seagal is weird.

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Parents considering legal action over school yoga

AP report on the latest crisis gripping American schools: free yoga classes:

A group of parents is bent out of shape by free yoga classes at schools in this San Diego County beachside community, fearing they are indoctrinating youngsters in eastern religion.

"There’s a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices," the parents’ attorney, Dean Broyles, told the North County Times.

Ring the alarum-bell!