~Why We Homeschool

Monday, July 29, 2002

Homeschooling in the News

Backyard Players take Shakespeare to the Neighbors
A group of Denver homeschoolers has been performing Shakespeare in their backyards for neighbors. Last week the group performed the Merchant of Venice to a neighborhood audience of some 200 people.
I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano -- a stage where every man must play a part.

Brazelton: Mixed Message on Homeschooling
Pediatrician, author and columnist T. Berry Brazelton concedes in his latest column that there are certain categories of children who might profit from homeschooling. The categories he names are those who are negatively labeled in their school settings, those who have unique learning styles or particularly difficult-to-manage temperaments, and those who live in places without adequate schools. But he then backs public schools in general, and says homeschooling parents must be concerned over autonomy (the "overprotective cocoon" argument) and socialization.
You make moths; we're busy creating butterflies.

Agreed: Take 'Em Out
Read the two original columns here and here.
A former high-school teacher agrees with columnist Joseph Farah's call for parents to stop sacrificing their children to the public schools. "Charter and home-school students far outperform public-school students on academic tests," he says.
And that's the least of it!

Research Center

Poor Rhythm 'At Heart of Dyslexia'
In another study linking dyslexia and sound (see last week's archives for related research), researchers from University College London have discovered that dyslexic children have difficulty recognizing rhythmic sound. Children who read exceptionally well for their age were found to be much better than most at spotting rhythms. The researchers conclude that an awareness of beats can influence the way young children assimilate speech patterns, which may in turn affect their reading and writing abilities.
If you can read this sentence, tap your foot.

Insecurity Haunts Girls Despite Their Good Grades
A recent study conducted by University of Illinois researchers suggests that even though girls do better academically than boys, they suffer significantly more stress and anxiety, and have less confidence in their abilities. Girls are also more likely to underestimate their abilities than are boys. Researchers found that girls had better grades in four core subjects: language arts, social studies, math and science, but the success isn't bringing much happiness. "At every level, girls are worrying more about their schoolwork,'' said the study's author. "Even the highest-achieving girls are depressed more, worrying more and have a lower self-esteem.''
So, ummm, do girls need more self esteem? Or do boys need less?

The Marriage Front: Who Remembers Fights?
Click here for more on this story
Husbands never remember marital spats, but wives never forget, says a new study conducted by professors from Stanford and State University of New York Stony Brook. The study suggests women's brains are wired both to feel and to recall emotions more keenly than the brains of men, and that a woman's brain is better organized to perceive and recall emotions.
If men really are from Mars, they probably don't remember.

From Our Mailbag

Several readers have written asking whether they can create a link to this page. Yessirree, Bob! You certainly can! In fact, if you have a Web page, you're welcome to use our darling little logo as part of your link. It comes in small and smaller varieties. And we're almost ready to announce our "Link to Us" contest. If you create a link to the Why We Homeschool Web site, and your page pops up when we run a Google search of who links to us, you could win a free copy of our upcoming Why We Homeschool book -- a great gift for skeptical friends or family members. Click the "Share" link at the top of this page for details.

And a big, big hug to a couple of readers who donated last week to this Web site. If you'd like to put a smile on the face of our hard-working kids, please click the "Make a Donation" button at the bottom of this page. Even small donations go a long way toward helping us cover the cost of operating this resource. Thanks!

This Week in the Public Schools

Drug Dogs Sniff Even 6-Year-Olds; Parents Sue
A South Dakota school board and police department are being sued by the parents of 17 children -- some as young as six years old -- for terrifying their children. Officers brought German Shepherd dogs into classrooms from high school to kindergarten to search every student for drugs. The suit contends children were frightened so badly that they cried and at least one urinated involuntarily. The school was locked down for the search and children were not permitted to leave their classrooms. A lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, who is lead lawyer in the South Dakota case, said the drug searches were especially traumatic to children like Kayedee Deverney, 11, who has been bitten by dogs three times seriously enough to require medical treatment. After the dog went to her classroom, he said, Kayedee became afraid to attend school, worrying that the dog would reappear -- as it did, in a second lockdown a few days after the first search. In one kindergarten classroom, the suit contends, the dog got away from its handler, chased students around the room, put its feet on students' desks several times and strained against the leash. Students were told to keep their hands on their desks and not to pet the dog or make sudden movements. In some classrooms, school officials warned students that sudden movements might make the dog attack.
Something they hear most days in the bathroom from bullies stealing their lunch money.

Government Turning Kids into Spies
Schools trying to control the thoughts and words of students can now turn to the federal government for funds to teach kids to spy on each other, says writer David M. Bresnahan. The Department of Education is providing funds for the "Safe and Drug Free Schools" program, which teaches middle-school students how to spy on classmates and turn them in to the local police. The program is designed to prevent "hate crimes" by reporting "homophobic" and racial slurs uttered by students. The program will begin in West Virginia schools this fall by order of the state attorney general, Darrel V. McGraw, and is modeled after a similar program already in use in Maine.
Does the program including funding for brown shirts?

Sacramento Teacher Says She Feared for Her Life
Armed with a handgun and a hit list, a 13-year-old Sacramento-area boy held a science class hostage and sent their teacher to the floor in fear for her life, according to testimony last week in Sacramento Juvenile Court. Witnesses at his trial described how the lanky teen planned on "doing a Columbine" on March 20 at Barrett Middle School in Carmichael, California. The teacher escaped, and left her students alone with the armed boy.

Cheating Teacher May Lose License
An Oklahoma City teacher who cheated on administering state-mandated tests during the 2000-2001 school year is losing her teaching license for two months. She is accused of reading the math portion of the test in violation of testing procedures, giving the test after the district's specified test dates and not having an approved monitor while two students took portions of the test they had missed.
Now what could have motivated her to do that?

Seattle Teacher Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
A Seattle-area second-grade teacher has been sentenced to the maximum five years in prison for her recent conviction on three counts of third-degree child rape and two counts of third-degree child molestation. The 38-year-old mother of three was convicted last month for sexual activity with one of her son's middle school-aged friends in the spring of 2001. The judge who sentenced her said that as an educator the woman had a special responsibility to be a role model outside the classroom.
Not to mention her responsibility as a 38-year-old adult.

California Teacher in Court over Sex Charges
A Modesto, California, high school teacher and youth soccer coach has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possessing child pornography, and is in court fighting 17 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 14, all felonies. He is also charged with two felony counts of providing harmful material with intent to seduce a minor. The teacher says he is being falsely accused because of earlier allegations he had molested a child living with him.
Tip: If you want people to believe you don't molest children, begin by not collecting child porn.

Oklahoma Teacher Resigns Over Sex Charges
A Grove, Oklahoma, history teacher and head wrestling coach has resigned after allegations he was sexually involved with a 17-year-old female student. Although police records indicate that the teacher and his student checked into a local motel May 23, and a new law makes it a crime for teachers to have sex with students under age 18, police have been told no charges will be filed in the case. Kathy Baker, assistant district attorney for the County, was not available for comment. Her office said she was out of town.
Has the coach been wrestling with the prosecutor?

Jersey Teacher's Probation for Sex Challenged
After a 43-year-old New Jersey schoolteacher had sex with her 13-year-old student, the judge let her off with just five years of probation and no jail time. The prosecution is appealing the sentence, saying the judge failed to consider the harm the teacher caused the child. In handing down the sentence, the judge noted that the relationship may have been a way for the boy to "satisfy his sexual needs."
Repeat: The 13-year-old boy.

Maryland Athletes: Pay to Play?
The Carroll County, Maryland, school board voted last week on a plan to charge student athletes $60 to play sports. The plan is expected to generate revenues of $200,000 for the Baltimore-area school system.
Why not charge the students to attend classes, too? Then you could really generate some income!

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Testing, Testing, Testing

Politically Correct Language: Book Banning and Bullet Busting
A Fox News report complains that the makers of standardized tests have become so cautious about including anything that might offend people, that all but the most inane topics are now off-limits. For example, Educational Testing Service, producer of the SAT college-entrance exam, will not use a phrase such as "settlers and their wives" because it "downgrades women's contributions to settlement." According to Fox, ETS' guidelines also caution against portraying the elderly as "dependent" or blind people as "handicapped," and warns against assuming that Western culture or Judeo-Christian morals are the norm. ACT Inc. even has guidelines on family structure: It urges test writers to show single-parent and one-child families.
All part of a subversive Martian campaign to make Americans the stupidist people on Earth.

Think Tank: More Spending Doesn't Improve Test Scores
Click here for more on this study
A Boston-area think-tank has released a new study that challenges links between increased spending and improved test scores. According to the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, raising teacher salaries and hiring more teachers to make class sizes smaller has done nothing to improve student performance on the high-stakes MCAS exam. The study suggests MCAS scores actually worsened on average in districts in which teacher salaries were raised and classes were made smaller. Analyzing data from 266 school districts across the state of Massachusetts, researchers found a decrease in district performance in places where teachers recieved significant pay raises compared with other schools. The president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association called the findings ''ridiculous.''
To the surprise of -- well -- nobody.

School Choice

National Teacher's Union Calls for End to Charter Schools
The nation's second-largest teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers, has called for a moratorium on charter schools. This Goldwater Institute response to the AFT explains six reasons the union is wrong, first among which is that the union's stance ignores parent and student satisfaction with alternative education.
Success is no excuse for change.

Chicago Teachers' Union Opposes Charters
The Chicago teachers' union is blocking attempts to expand the number of charter schools in the city, even though students at 12 of the 14 existing charters are performing better academically than children at public schools in the same neighborhoods. "It's confounding," says this Chicago Tribune editorial, "why so many influential voices remain obstinately opposed to creating more and better options for kids."
Stick with us, kid. You won't be confounded much longer.

News Briefs

Minn. Health Department Requires New Vaccines
Under a new Minnesota Health Department plan, schoolchildren will have to be vaccinated for chickenpox. The plan will also require infants and toddlers in day care to get pneumococcal and hepatitis B vaccines.
Trust-Building 101: No, this won't hurt at all.

School Chief to Be Charged With Molesting Girl
The head of a Los-Angeles-area private school has been arraigned on 15 felony counts of molesting a 13-year-old female student whose family he had befriended. Jonathan Andreas, 36, former director of Oaks Christian Middle School in Westlake Village, has also been barred from using computers and having access to the Internet because the investigation showed that he had considerable contact with the girl via e-mail.
Wanted: An electronic device that strikes dead anyone who paws children.

Boston Boarding School Investigated Over Assaults
A Boston-area grand jury has been investigating whether officials at the Groton School, an elite boarding school, broke the law by not notifying authorities after several students reported sexual assaults by other students. A former student sued the school last year charging that he was tackled and molested by a group of older boys who sexually assaulted him at least 15 times, beginning when he was 16. School officials, he alleges, ignored his complaints that younger boys were routinely sexually assaulted by groups of male upperclassmen.
See? There are worse places for your kids than public school.

Does It Teach? Who Cares?
A recent meeting of California educators decided that student academic results could not be considered when deciding which textbooks to use in the classroom. In California, and many other states, how well students respond to the textbooks -- how well they learn and perform on tests -- not only doesn't count, but is purposefully excluded from the rules and regulations governing textbook adoption. The only consideration, says this article, is whether or not the books cover the state's mandated curriculum.
Which is sort of the whole problem with mass-produced education.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Homeschooling in the News

Dobson Expands Call To Pull Kids Out of Public Schools
Author, psychologist, broadcaster and former public-school teacher Dr. James Dobson has expanded his call for parents to pull their children out of public schools. In March he made headlines for asking Christian parents in California to homeschool their children or put them into private religious schools. In broadcasts last week, he extended his call to families in the states of Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Have we reached critical mass yet?

Illinois Homeschooling Mother Doubles as Political Activist
A Chicago-area homeschooling mother of three calls herself a feminist as she fights politicians for "the choice to be a homemaker." Fran Eaton of Oak Forest, Illinois, homeschools three children while campaigning furiously to affect public policy and encourage conservative viewpoints. To effect grass-roots change, she says, "You don't have to have clout or money. Just energy."
Or plenty of envelope-licking kids.

Homeschooler Pursues Softball Dreams
A former Pennsylvania homeschooler is trying out for the USA national fast-pitch softball team. For the first time, tryouts travelled to rural Lancaster County, in an attempt "to go where the players are to find some new talent for the national team." This article describes tryouts and the high level of competition.
Farm team to arm team with farm boys with an arm.

Florida Parents Get a Few Lessons in Teaching
A North Florida homeschooling convention gets prominent play in this very positive Florida Times-Union article.
Sure. It's summer. Now the education writers like homeschooling!

Homeschooler on The Road to Stardom
A California homeschooler is starring alongside Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in a new movie called Road to Perdition. Homeschooled 14-year-old Tyler Hoechlin, and his younger brother, were among 2,000 young actors who auditioned for the role of Tom Hank's son in a depression-era mob movie. This isn't his first win: He's also an avid baseball player, and was a member of the U.S. team in the Pan American games when he was nine years old.
Where, fortunately, he didn't 'break a leg.'

Arkansas Learning Center Expands
A privately-operated drop-off center in Springhill, Arkansas offers classes and a place for homeschooled children to study and interact. The Homeschool Center sells homeschool curricula, and provides classes in sign language, Spanish, computer lab, drama and more.
It's the next-best thing to being there.

Summer School for Homeschoolers
Click here for more about Massachusetts homeschooling
School is out for the summer, says this Boston Globe article, but don't tell local homeschoolers. "For hundreds of thousands of homeschooled students throughout Massachusetts, school is still very much in session. And with the help of support groups, these children are also getting a good dose of summer fun, especially in cities and towns northwest of Boston." Another long, positive article on homeschooling.
Summertime...and the learnin' is easy...

Socialization Schmocialization: These Teens Tell It Like It Is
"Homeschooled teens are gung-ho about what they are doing," says the author of this profile of four high-achieving homeschoolers. One of these fascinating teens is even planning to become "Hollywood's first Orthodox Jewish fight choreographer."
Hey, somebody has to do it!

Research Center

Gene Flaw Causes Dyslexia, Researchers Say
A new Yale University study has found that dyslexia is caused by a genetic flaw in the region of the brain activated by reading, but that dyslexic children may compensate by using a center of the brain associated with speaking. The research suggests that sound may be key to teaching them to read. ''This is the definitive study in children that links reading with brain function,'' said Dr. Sally Shaywitz, professor of pediatrics at the Yale University School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study released July 15 in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
Hmmm...so do we non-auditory learners have a parallel genetic flaw in our speaking centers?

Study Links Child's Word Skills, Working Moms
Kids whose mothers stay home with them have better mental and verbal development than children whose mothers go to work full time, says a new Columbia University study. Researchers measured the cognitive and verbal development of children at various ages and found lower scores for 3-year-olds whose mothers took jobs working 30 hours per week or more before the child was 9 months old. The study also found that the effect of having a mother working full time before nine months was greater for boys than girls and for children in married families rather than single mothers.
Hit the print key.

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Keep the news coming! Recommend our books to other families!

Homeschooling Step-by-Step
Everything you need to know about how to homeschool legally and effectively! How does your state rank? What's your child's learning style? What about college? Find teaching tips, teaching strategies, and more than 100 solutions to homeschooling's toughest problems!

Homeschool Your Child for Free
More than 1200 free resources for teaching your child at home. Includes a complete scope and sequence, and information about teaching every subject from kindergarten to college.

Make a Donation
Your small donation helps keep this page operational. Help us help the homeschooling community document our successes!

This Week in the Public Schools

Penn. Board Bans Non-Immunized Homeschoolers
Pennsylvania's state Board of Education has changed the school code to ban homeschooled and private-schooled students from public-school facilities if they don't have proper immunizations. The Board has also banned corporal punishment, and mandated a minimum number of hours of instruction for every student.
Just keep making those rules.

Canadian Teacher Who 'Groomed' Students Still Teaching
A Toronto teacher who was fired and stripped of his license for inappropriate relationships with young female students has opened a private school, and continues to teach. The 41-year-old man is living with a former student with whom he fathered a baby. He lost his license over kissing one student and writing to another that her journal "smells like you -- which is nice."
No, those aren't bugs crawling up your arms. You're just creeped out.

NZ Principal Sacked Over Porn Viewing
A New Zealand intermediate-school principal was fired, and is now being investigated for viewing child pornography. According to the New Zealand Herald, the 66-year-old man is alleged to have been viewing porn on his computer at work. He is at least the fifth New Zealand teacher or principal sacked or charged over pornography in the past three years.
Ah, c'mon. It gives the poor fellow something to do with himself.

California Teacher Binds and Tapes Children
Alameda, California, eighth-graders had their hands bound together with masking tape and were forced to lie down where they were duct taped at the waist to the floor. The intent of the exercise was, allegedly, to help students experience what slaves felt as they were transported to America on slave ships. An attorney representing the students' parents called it "completely inappropriate to physically restrain students and potentially compromise their physical safety or emotional well-being"
They had duct tape on slave ships?

Toronto Family Sues Teacher over Kissing, Love Letters
A Toronto family is suing their son's Grade 8 teacher over a series of bizarre incidents including

  • Kissing the boy on the lips
  • Sending sexually charged notes signed "Love Mrs. Sclater" or "Your woman" and calling the then-13-year-old her "big stud" or "hottie."
  • A karate move where the teacher ended up sitting on top of the boy
  • A slow-dance at a Valentine's party where the boy kept his hands on his teacher's buttocks throughout the dance.
    Police charged the 31-year-old woman with sexual assault, invitation to sexual touching, and sexual inference with a child under 14.
    Too bad creepiness isn't illegal.

    School Choice

    US Census Study: Homeschooling It Is
    A new study from the U.S. Census Bureau says homeschoolers have overtaken charter-school students as the single largest group in the school-choice movement, says this lengthy Sun-Sentinel article. The Census Bureau study found there are at least 670,000 homeschoolers nationwide, compared to about 500,000 charter-school students. The study's conclusions were based on counts done between 1999 and 2001. "A lot of people tend to treat [homeschooling] as a fringe activity, but it certainly is a strong enough movement that you have to take it seriously," said the study's author, a Census Bureau researcher.
    So. It's -- ummm -- a con-census?

    Poll Finds Most Blacks Favor Charter, Private Schools
    Sixty-three percent of black Americans said they would prefer to remove their children from a public school and enroll them in a charter or private school. Forty-six percent supported the idea of charter schools operated by local residents, the poll conducted by the Black America's Political Action Committee (BAMPAC) last month showed.
    Well durn. There goes the "It's racist" argument against vouchers. Hmmm.

    Testing, Testing, Testing

    Students Who Fail MCAS Quit
    Students who fail the high-stakes MCAS -- the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam -- are dropping out of school in significant numbers, say Boston public-school officials. Beginning with the class of 2003, students who fail the test will not graduate from high school. Students have five opportunities to pass the exam. Students in the 2003 class have had three opportunities so far, but more than half have yet to pass.
    Pay no attention to that man behind the screen...

    Is it the Test-Takers – or the Test?
    When 53 percent of North Carolina's fourth-graders flunked the state writing test, administrators decided to throw out the results, determining the exam wasn't written clearly enough. The assignment? "Write about a time you had a great day at school."
    In other words, "Tell us again how fabulous we are. Or else."

    Utah to Dumb-Down Grad Test?
    Utah's already-easy high school graduation test probably is going to get easier. When legislators received complaints that the spring pilot test was too hard, they decided they may help the State Office of Education revise the test. Critics say the move is contrary to public discussion that the exam, which students have to pass in order to receive a high school diploma, was already dumbed down to a junior high level. Others, though, complain the test questions are ambiguous and subjective.
    Children taught at home, meanwhile, can simultaneously win national spelling bees, locate their home town on a globe, and juggle.

    Abuse Is Feared as SAT Test Changes Disability Policy
    The College Board has agreed to stop flagging the scores of disabled students who take the SAT under special conditions, such as extra time, in a legal settlement that could send tremors through the college admissions process.About 2 percent of the two million high school students who take SAT's each year get some accommodations — almost always including extra time — because of their documented disabilities. To make sure college admission boards know this, the College Board marks these tests with a notation that says, "Scores Obtained Under Special Conditions." Most of those who are accommodated have attention deficit problems or learning disabilities like dyslexia, a reading disorder. Said one critic: "This will open the floodgates to families that think they can beat the system by buying a diagnosis, and getting their kid extra time."
    Hey, here's an idea: Forget the tests, open college enrollment to everyone, and teach meaningful — but demanding — classes.

    News Briefs

    France Faces Kid-Kennel Shortage
    A recent baby boom in France is putting strain on a system where most two-year-olds and nearly all three-year-olds are enrolled in school. An unexpected rise in the number of babies born since 2000 means as many as 17,000 two-year-olds will have to be put on the waiting list come September.
    Sacre bleu!

    School District Censors Student Religious Speech
    Despite a California law specifically allowing for released-time programs for religious studies, the Pomona Unified School District has announced it will no longer allow for the distribution of permission slips for students to attend.
    Students who wish to attend must now sing an entire chorus of "Please...release me; let me go...."

  • Monday, July 15, 2002

    Homeschooling In the News

    Praise for White House Homeschooler
    Homeschooling mom Karen Hughes -- who happens also to have been a top advisor to President Bush during and following the last campaign -- gets strong praise in this letter to the editor of USA Today. The writer commends Hughes for homeschooling her son during the presidential campaign, and for being "a great role model for all Americans."
    Technically, of course, since he was travelling with his mom, the child was more of a "Roads" Scholar.

    Young Homeschooler Pacing Golf Tournament
    Golfer Cornelius Carroll, a tenth-grade Georgia homeschooler, was in second place heading into the final round of the American Junior Golf Association's Shell World Golf Village Championship in St. Augustine, Florida.
    Homeschoolers taking the lead? That's about -- ahem -- par for the course.

    A New Dawn for Cyber Schools
    Forward-thinking Pennsylvanians have redefined education in the commonwealth. Public-school advocates have been waging -- and losing -- court battles in a vain attempt to block the formation of Internet-based charter schools. At the same time, the legislature has passed a law in support of the cyber schools. In a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial, James Hanak, CEO of the Einstein Charter School, Pennsylvania's largest cyber charter, says the school has spent nearly $1 million defending itself against lawsuits that have now been resolved in its favor by the court and the new law. The school operates with 36 full-time teachers, 13 teacher aides, a support staff of 12, and "hundreds" of parents serving as "base facilitators." More than 1,600 students participate in more than 120 courses taught on-line in virtual classrooms almost every hour of the day.
    If government is going to stay involved in education -- and it will as long as you or I breathe air -- then this is how it ought to work.

    Homeschoolers Operate Cutting-Edge News Network
    A group of homeschooled teenagers have made headlines around the U.S. for their popular online news service. Conservative Press International -- or CPI News -- was the first to report that the schoolgirl at the center of the Pledge of Allegiance controversy is not an athiest like her plaintiff father, but is, in fact, a practicing Christian. Young staff members have also been interviewed in print and on the radio, and have seen their news service featured on popular Internet news and opinion sites.
    Fascinating, the things kids can do when nobody compels them to sit all day in a hard chair.

    Class Available for Washington State Homeschoolers
    Washington State is one of a handful of locations that requires homeschooling parents to meet certain minimum educational qualifications. [Editor: Our newest book, Homeschooling Step-by-Step, describes homeschooling laws in each state.] Parents who don't meet those qualifications may, instead, obtain certification through a qualifying course. This article describes one such course scheduled for this month.
    Great idea, those parental qualification laws. Because everyone knows children can't learn if their parents didn't attend college.

    Granola Conservatives -- How We're All The Same
    Says conservative columnist Rod Dreher: "In some respects, the life we [conservatives] live and the values we share have more in common with left-wing counterculturalists than with many garden-variety conservatives. What we share is a disdain for, or at least a healthy suspicion of, mass culture. It makes for interesting bedfellows." Dreher discusses homeschooling as an example of how the right and the left have, at heart, the same ideals.
    Yeah, we all share the Greta Garbo gene.

    This Week in the Public Schools

    Two-Thirds of New York School Children Flunk Math
    Schoolchildren in New York City showed improvement on city math tests this year, but two out of three still aren't making the grade, according to results released last week. The number of students in the third through seventh grades who are proficient in math rose 3.6 percentage points - to 35.3 percent from 31.7 percent. That's better than the previous years, when scores actually fell, but it still means nearly 65 percent of students flunked and can't compute at grade level. The head of schools boasted about the increase in passing scores: "The message is simple. We focused and we delivered."
    Yeah? If my milkman delivered only a third of his assignment, he'd be fired.

    Ohio Assigning ID numbers to All Students
    The state of Ohio is preparing to assign an identification number to each of its 1.8 million public schoolchildren to help track and improve academic performance. The proposal concerns the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which has asked the state for details on the plan. The Department of Education says the Statewide Student Identifier System will be in place this coming school year.
    That shiver going down your spine? Yeah, that's normal.

    Chicago Teachers Don't Meet Certification Standards
    More than 20 percent of the teacher's in Chicago's worst-performing public schools don't have all -- or any -- of their teaching credentials. At one struggling elementary school, chaos reigned for much of the school year in an eighth-grade classroom headed by a full-time substitute without a regular certificate, colleagues say. Students played board games and ran up and down the hallway, teachers said. Most eventually had to attend summer school.
    And this is the district that has the audacity to send out report cards on parents!

    2 Penn. Teachers Lose Licenses for Felony Convictions
    Two Allentown, Penn.-area teachers have lost their teaching licenses after being sentenced to lengthy prison terms. One, a 39-year-old middle-school teacher and former coach, admitted to having a yearlong sexual relationship with a 12-year-old student a decade ago. The other, a 45-year-old elementary school teacher, was found guilty of attempted murder, aggravated assault and tampering with evidence. She shot her husband in the chest after discovering he was having an affair with her co-worker.
    Who, one supposes, is still teaching.

    Missouri Teacher Gets Probation for Sex with Student
    A 31-year-old Missouri middle-school teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old student will not go to jail. Instead, she has been sentenced to complete a sex offender program and serve five years of probation.
    When I'm appointed queen, adults who prey on children will get a year in prison for every year of difference between their ages.

    N.C. Teacher, Dad Face Felony Abuse Charges
    A North Carolina school teacher and her father are fighting extradition to New Mexico on felony child-abuse warrants. The pair are wanted in connection with the September 2000 death of her 3-year-old adopted daughter. The father, who dresses as a woman and asks to be called "she," was recently seen by a neighbor trying to kill a cat. "I knew she had been acting funny," the neighbor told a reporter about the father. The neighbor walked over to the man's yard recently while the man was trying to strangle a cat with a string. "I told her not to kill that cat, and I untied the string and took the animal home with me." The father is being held under $100,000 bond, and the schoolteacher daughter is being held without bond.
    Can you spell "messed up"?

    Stop Selling Junk Food in Schools, Group Says
    Click here for an interesting counter-argument
    Declaring that student health should not be compromised for the purpose of raising money for student activities, Seattle-area public-health experts, elected officials, labor leaders and citizen activists have called for an end to the sale and promotion of junk food to students. "A world-class educational system does not ask its children to consume high-sugar, high-fat food in order to refurbish its Ping-Pong tables nor ask them to slake their thirst with caffeinated, sugary drinks in order to play sports after school," said the writers of a letter e-mailed to the city's school board president.
    Ah, leave 'em alone. Every other business is free to turn a profit. Why shouldn't the public schools?

    Support This Web Site

    Keep the news coming! Recommend our books to other families!

    Homeschooling Step-by-Step
    Everything you need to know about how to homeschool legally and effectively! How does your state rank? What's your child's learning style? What about college? Find teaching tips, teaching strategies, and more than 100 solutions to homeschooling's toughest problems!

    Homeschool Your Child for Free
    More than 1200 free resources for teaching your child at home. Includes a complete scope and sequence, and information about teaching every subject from kindergarten to college.

    Make a Donation
    Your small donation helps keep this page operational. Help us help the homeschooling community document our successes!

    School Choice

    New Teachers' Union President Vows To Fight Vouchers
    The newly elected president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, has vowed to continue the union's fight against school vouchers. He criticized supporters of school vouchers during a speech last year in Milwaukee. "These folks don't care about the education of all children. They say they don't want to leave any child behind, which is exactly what vouchers do," he said.
    Welcome to the NEA. Our motto: Get off our turf.

    Maryland Parents Avoid Public School Morass
    Page down to read a letter to the editor of the Washington Times where the author says local parents are lining up to escape "failed public schools." These parents, the writer says, "are sending their children to private schools or taking on the arduous task of home-schooling their children." Read on for more about what the author calls a "parent-driven evolutionary change in education."
    See? Homeschoolers do teach evolution!

    Voucher Backlash Lacks Mental Clarity
    In this thoughtful editorial, conservative columnist Thomas Sowell refutes arguments made by public-school advocates against school vouchers. The most insidious allegation, he says, is that vouchers are racist.
    Yeah, yeah...so you don't like vouchers either. But I'll bet your argument isn't based on charges of "racism."

    Sounding Off on Vouchers
    A letter to the editor of the Washington Post advocates closing poorly performing schools and letting the chips fall where they may. The writer suggests standardized testing as a measure of progress -- something most homeschoolers reject as intrusive and burdensome -- but it's noteworthy that parental responsibility and choice are finally undergoing serious public debate.
    Next up: A call to shut down the federal DOE.

    Testing, Testing, Testing

    Critics: SAT Changes Fail to Address Racial Bias
    Trustees of the College Board have voted unanimously to develop a new SAT, adding a writing test, beefing up the math section and making other major changes in the college-admissions exam. The new test, to be given for the first time in March 2005, will include questions based on advanced algebra, not just algebra and geometry as is the case now. The new test will replace verbal analogies with additional reading-comprehension questions. And, most significantly, it will require each student to produce a handwritten essay as part of the new writing exam. But critics of the SAT and other standardized tests said the changes will do little to address what they called the SAT's fundamental flaws, including persistent racial score gaps.
    Sample essay question: Define "race"

    In Buffalo, Low English Test Scores Dip Even Lower
    Nearly than two-thirds of public-schooled fourth graders in Buffalo, New York, failed this year's English assessment tests, and more than 80 percent of eighth graders failed. The statewide passing rate for eighth-graders is only 44.3 percent, and for fourth graders, it's only 61.5 percent. More than 300 Buffalo seniors were unable to graduate last month because they failed the math Regents exam or fell short of other graduation requirements.
    Are we having fun yet?

    News Briefs

    Missouri School Employees Leave First-Grader on Bus
    A Kansas City school bus driver was fired and a school district paraprofessional was suspended without pay after a six-year-old was left asleep on a bus following a field trip last week. When the girl's cousin and twin brother protested, says her mother, their protests were ignored. After the child was reported missing, employees found her -- outside the bus, and at about 5:15 pm -- in 91-degree weather.
    Don't worry. They won't go to jail. Child-endangerment statutes apply only to parents who space out.

    Two Arizona Educators Arrested in Incidents with Kids
    Two Arizona educators have been arrested on serious abuse and molestation charges. One, the principal of a charter school, was arrested last week and accused of molesting three of his students over the past two years. The other, a boot-camp instructor for the local chapter of the national youth program "Young Marines," is accused of binding four boys with duct tape and using cactus needles to puncture their chest and stomach. One of his victims was a 4-year-old boy whom he reportedly held over an open campfire.
    Hey, it's summer. Just park those kids anywhere.

    Computer Course for English Toddlers
    English children as young as 18 months are enrolling on a computer skills college course. The course, at Ryde College in Watford, Hertfordshire, is designed specifically for babies and toddlers aged up to three-and-a-half. During weekly lessons, the children learn how to use computer keyboards and mice while operating educational software. They are also taught basic word processing skills, and the older ones learn basic computer programming.
    Oh, no! My three-year-old daughter is already falling behind!

    Tumultuous Times for Seattle-area High School
    Interlake High School in the wealthy Seattle suburb of Bellevue is "hemorrhaging" teachers, losing half its 48-person teaching staff this year alone to infighting, resignations, and unrenewed contracts. This article is an interesting study of the conflicts that arise in trying to force kids into a one-size-fits-all education.
    If the teachers themselves hate it, why can't everyone else?

    Ninth Grade? Good Enough.
    A New York appellate court has ruled that the state is obligated to provide only a ninth-grade education to public-school students -- a ruling that has rankled advocates of higher funding for public schools.
    Shouldn't that ruling free up New York parents of high schoolers to homeschool without government interference?

    Monday, July 08, 2002

    Homeschooling In the News

    Homeschooling Family Completes 48-State Bicycle Trip
    Click here for more information
    After 8½ months and about 9,500 miles, the Dodd family's cross-country bicycle trip that passed through all 48 contiguous states is nearing an end. Gary Dodd, 44, his wife Faith, 42, and 16-year-old twins Rebekah and Andrew pedaled to Portland Head Light last week, completing a journey that got its start in Seattle last August. To accommodate homeschooling, they decided to use the family's recreational vehicle as their base. The children's education also involved visits to national parks and Civil War and Revolutionary War sites and talking to people they met along the way.
    You're jealous. Admit it.

    Louisiana has Strict Rules on Homeschoolers' Access
    For more information, click here
    Only 16 states allow homeschoolers to compete in high school athletics, says this Times-Picayune report on Louisianna's homeschool politics. [Editor's Note: Our new book, Homeschooling Step-by-Step includes ratings of each state's homeschooling access laws.] Locations such as Florida and Tennessee are studying whether or not to allow homeschooled children access to athletics and other extra-curricular activities. What concerns parent Ken Bramlett, says the newspaper, is the focus of the debate. "I think what some are worried about is making sure the rules are followed," Bramlett said. "What should be of more concern is the kids, whether home schooled or not. Playing sports is a good thing for kids. Inclusion of all is what they should work at."
    May we quote that?

    Homeschooling Humor
    You'll enjoy this jab at public education.
    Even the editorial cartoonists get it.

    Homeschooled Harvard Business Professor Dead at 93
    Pearson Hunt was homeschooled by his grandmother through the eleventh grade.
    Then he went to Yale and Harvard.
    The man known to his Harvard Business School students as "Fearsome Pearson" grew up to become an advocate of corporate decentralization. He argued that a company that doesn't let low-level mangers make decisions won't be able to rely on their judgment when they are promoted.
    Dr. Pearson died last week in Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. He was 93.
    Decentralization. Wonder where he learned that idea?

    Family Hooked on Home-Schooling
    "Class size reductions, dress codes, mandatory testing, peer pressure, low test scores, campus violence, budget reductions, competition, bureaucracy," begins this very positive article on homeschooling. The writer interviews a homeschooling family in Northern California, and has nothing but good to say about them. An interesting read.
    Ya win a few...ya win a few more.

    Homeschoolers are Responsible
    To read other responses, click here, here for the editorial, or here for the original story.
    Several articles and letters to the editor responding to proposed changes to Pennsylvania's homeschooling laws.
    Overall, positive.

    From Our Mailbag

    You might be surprised at how little feedback this column generates. But this week we actually heard from several readers on various subjects. Here are two that really stood out:

    1. "I find the commentary added at the bottom of each article to be rather annoying and occasionally offensive. In times such as these, I would think the articles would, for the most part, speak for themselves. I do think that certain cases would benefit from a footnote, but I find the sarcasm to be of no use to me." She gave, as an example, last week's article about the homeschooling coordinator of a Seattle-area public school district who has been making sex collages of students in his drop-in program. My "And you thought you were safe" comment drew fire. "I feel the last statement was rather pointless and we could have been better served had you included a link to a book or website that helps inform parents how to protect their children from pedophiles." Point well taken. As many of you know, my oldest daughter was kidnapped in the middle of the day about a year and a half ago as she was out taking a walk around our quiet little neighborhood. We were lucky. The man who grabbed her off the street and threw her in the back seat of his car got stuck in traffic about two miles from our house. She jumped out of the car and ran to the busy strip mall at the intersection. I suspect his next victim won't be so lucky.

    Since that time, I've spent quite a bit of time studying child safety. Here's what we've been doing to keep our kids safe:

    • Karate. Self-defense classes have made our kids smarter, more self confident, and more aware. They're offered through our local Parks and Rec department for a very nominal cost.
    • Partners. We're lucky to have a large enough family that nobody ever has an excuse for being alone. Now that I'm a little less naive, our kids aren't ever allowed outside without a teenaged buddy -- not even the teenagers.
    • Curfews. All of us -- even the parents -- tell one another where we are and when we'll return every time we leave the house. If anyone's going to miss their curfew, they call and notify the family. The whole family knows that if there's no call, we call the police.

    If you'd like to talk with your own children about safety, check the Education and Resources link at The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.ncmec.org).

    Our second noteworthy letter:

    2.) A very generous reader sent $25 in support of Why We Homeschool. Her letter: "I just came across your site today (via a link from Chris O'donnell's blog), and was quite impressed. I don't have children, but my best friend homeschools and my brother is planning to when his children are old enough. I very much support your efforts. I've sent the URL for the site to both my friend and my brother." Thank you, Susanna! Our family puts in quite a bit of money and more than 50 hours a week researching the news and putting together this site. Your contribution is a great help. If any of our other readers would like to help support this site, click the "Make a Donation" button below, and you can help us keep this resource alive.

    This Week in the Public Schools

    Group Sues LA School District for Rabbit Suffocation
    A seventh-grade Los Angeles schoolteacher who asphyxiated a rabbit in front of his class has triggered a Superior Court lawsuit by a group seeking to force the school district to change its policy on animal experimentation. The district has refused. The teacher placed the rabbit in a plastic bag and tied the bag shut in front of his students in September 2000. When the animal didn't die right away, he placed the bag in a cabinet and left it there over the weekend. When he returned to school on Monday the rabbit was dead.
    Let's find Peter Cottontai...oops!

    District Sued over Islamic Indoctrination
    A California school district is being sued to stop the use of "Islam simulation" materials. Seventh-grade students in Contra Costa county's Byron Union school district are required to pretend to be Muslims, wear robes, simulate jihads via a dice game, learn the Five Pillars of Faith and memorize verses from the Koran in classroom exercises as part of a World History and Geography class that's being taught to seventh-graders all over the state. The lawsuit also alleges students are encouraged to use such phrases in their speech as "Allah Akbar," which is Arabic for "God is great," and were required to fast during lunch period to simulate fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
    Public-relations coup of the year: Anger Christian and Jewish parents by indoctrinating their kids, and at the same time anger Muslim parents by teaching non-believing 12-year-olds how to mock Islam.

    Students' Private Records Found Outside City School
    Anyone walking by Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Manhattan on Friday night was free to learn students' addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, grades, disciplinary reports, educational progress and even their medical reports — just by poring through boxes and boxes of records apparently discarded with the trash. Police officials contacted by The New York Times after neighborhood residents called to report the presence of the records said that they had no jurisdiction to confiscate, remove or discard items the school had determined were "trash." The records were still on the sidewalk as of early the following day. "This is simply outrageous and unprofessional," said a parent of a special education student whose records were left outside the school.
    And now the parents know just how much their children are valued.

    Maryland Teacher Released from Jail
    A Maryland teacher who gave alcohol and nude photographs of herself to 10 teenaged boys, and had sexual relations with some of them in cars and homes during the 2000-2001 school year, has been released from jail after serving half her 18-month sentence
    'Cause she's awfully sorry.

    Sacramento Teacher Gets Jail in Sex-with-Student Case
    Five years of probation and a 365-day stay in the county jail were meted out Tuesday to a 48-year-old Florin High School teacher who pleaded no contest to having sexual relations with a 15-year-old student. The father of the victim--a female member of the ROTC group the teacher commanded at the campus--wrote a letter to the court that said his daughter, "a child who doesn't know what she is doing," became depressed and suicidal after her relationship with the teacher was discovered and had to undergo psychiatric therapy as a result. "She tried to go to another school, but her records followed her," he said. And now she is permitted only in classrooms with female teachers, "like it was her fault." Sheriff's deputies on routine patrol happened upon the teacher and the girl in a parked vehicle at a lot of a closed county park. He "appeared extremely nervous, hands shaking profusely," the report said, adding the girl appeared to be about 12 years old.
    Yeah, having deputies catch you "in flagrante delicto" with a minor child can have that effect.

    High School Coach Sentenced for Sex with Student
    A Missouri high school coach who admitted to a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student has been sentenced to six years in prison. Richard S. Wakefield, 35, pleaded guilty May 14 to second-degree statutory rape and second-degree statutory sodomy stemming from encounters with the girl from July to mid-September last year. Benton County Associate Circuit Judge Larry Burditt sentenced him Tuesday to two concurrent six-year terms. Wakefield was an assistant girls' basketball coach and part-time science teacher at Cole Camp High School before resigning from the school district.
    Maybe it's just his version of an alternative education program.

    School Insurance Rates Soar to Cover Sex Abuse
    Already squeezed by record losses, insurance companies are increasing premiums and decreasing coverage for schools, summer camps, and child care centers. Insurance companies are responding to that reality as well as to a realization that they have been keeping premiums artificially low for a decade, relying on investment results to make up the difference. This article strains to place blame on the Roman Catholic Church.
    A review of our archives should put the hat squarely on the head of the real culprit: schools that don't police their own staff.

    Schools Facing a Truly Explosive Situation
    Across the country, at least 150 students have been seriously injured in school laboratory accidents in the past four years. A chemistry-class fire at Illinois' Genoa-Kingston High School last October was just one of several similar incidents. During class, an alcohol-fueled fireball shot into the classroom, searing the skin of three junior honor students in the front row. They took the brunt of the blast on their faces, necks, arms, hands and legs. The teacher pulled burning jeans off one of the girls; scorched skin fell from the boy's face. The rest of the class scrambled for the door, leaving burned backpacks and books behind. And while teachers are protected in the workplace by state laws, students aren't covered by those laws. There's little regulation of school labs, and no government or private agency collects official data on accidents that happen there. As a result, the exact number of accidents is unknown.
    Hey, pyromaniacs have to get their start somewhere.

    US Science Education Is a Black Hole
    According to a study by the National Science Foundation, 70 percent of Americans do not understand science. The Foundation's survey of American adults turned up these low numbers:

    • 45 percent could define "DNA," the substance carrying the inherited genetic code.
    • 22 percent could define "molecule," the basic unit of a chemical compound.
    • 45 percent knew lasers don't work by focusing sound waves. Lasers use light waves.
    • 48 percent knew electrons are smaller than atoms.
    • 48 percent knew it's not true that the earliest humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs.
    You can't blame adults! We're the product of public schools!

    Child Sues Over Bus-Ride Terror
    A 12-year-old Long Island boy has filed a $1 million lawsuit, claiming his school-bus driver held kids captive on board for an hour and "clawed" and terrorized him as he tried to flee the wild ride. "This was a bus ride from hell," said the boy's lawyer. His client, a sixth-grader, was kept on the bus for an extra hour on the way home from school on June 13, along with other children from his Middle School. The boy claims the driver parked the bus at the curb and refused to allow the kids off -- and then sped through a stop sign. The driver then pulled to the curb in front of the boy's house and kept the door closed for five or 10 minutes. When his mother went outside and saw her son and other kids on the bus crying and screaming, she spoke to the driver, who refused to speak. When the boy got up to leave the bus, the driver "floored it and took off," the mom said.
    While the kids broke into a rousing chorus of "The wheels on the bus..."

    Virginia Student Arrested for Death Threats
    A Virginia seventh-grader was arrested last month after threatening to kill a teacher and a dean. The student was taken into custody without incident as he got off a school bus. He cooperated with police, and no weapons were found. A police spokesman said students overheard the 15-year-old making threats. A group of parents then notified police.
    Fifteen years old, death threats, arrest, no future...but at least he got a public-school education!

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    Homeschooling Step-by-Step
    Everything you need to know about how to homeschool legally and effectively! How does your state rank? What's your child's learning style? What about college? Find teaching tips, teaching strategies, and more than 100 solutions to homeschooling's toughest problems!

    Homeschool Your Child for Free
    More than 1200 free resources for teaching your child at home. Includes a complete scope and sequence, and information about teaching every subject from kindergarten to college.

    Make a Donation
    Your small donation helps keep this page operational. Help us help the homeschooling community document our successes!

    School Choice

    The Case Against Vouchers Crumbles
    Columnist Thomas Sowell makes good sense as he explains the truth behind arguments against vouchers, and, by extenstion, homeschooling: "The truly ugly aspect of the case against vouchers is the objection that vouchers will allow private schools to 'skim off' the best students from the public schools. Students are not inert objects being skimmed off by others. These students and their parents choose what they want to do -- for the first time, as a result of vouchers setting them free from the public school monopoly."
    Sowell's conclusion: "What we are really talking about are the teachers' unions wanting to keep a captive audience, for the sake of their members' jobs, and social engineers wanting to control low-income children and their parents, as they themselves would never want to be controlled."

    Teachers, Unions Criticize Voucher Ruling
    Teachers gathering this week for the National Education Association's annual conference criticized last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared Cleveland's voucher program constitutional, saying such programs would hurt public schools. "That is money that is earmarked for public education," said Cheryl Parker, a librarian in El Reno, Okla.
    "It's our money! Ours, I tell you!"

    Voucher Case Tells Who's Boss: Educators
    In a surprisingly supportive editorial, the Indianapolis Star lets loose on self-serving educators who put their own job survival ahead of the needs of children. "All it takes is for someone to utter the blasphemy that parents should be free to use a voucher to move their children from crummy public schools to private ones, even if they are parochial. That prompts an enraged educational bureaucracy to remind both parents and students just who is boss," says the Star. "Teachers unions tug forcefully on the leash of Democratic lawmakers they helped elect, and buy television ads vilifying those who would 'drain' funds from public schools."
    Turn off CNN. This one's a must-read.

    Educational Decisions Felt Generations Away
    School vouchers and changes to the SAT make headlines, says this education writer, but their impact won't be felt for many, many years. The writer's prophecy: "Some day the schools serving 4- to 18-year-olds will be as varied and vibrant as the schools serving 18-year-olds and up. Our K-12 system will come to resemble our higher education system,...AP or IB tests [will] replace the current crop of state achievement tests that so many teachers and parents are upset about, [and] the SAT [will be] discarded in favor of examinations that require students to think and analyze."
    And parents, not distant strangers, will oversee the education of their own children....I can dream, can't I?

    Testing, Testing, Testing

    Texas Crafting Escape Hatch for Test
    Though the law says third-grade students must pass the new Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills to be promoted to the fourth grade, Texas education officials are now working on a bypass that will get the failing students promoted.
    Aw, you knew they weren't serious.

    Proposed SAT Changes Please English Teachers
    High school students will soon have to roll up their sleeves and write an essay when they take the SAT. Not surprisingly, their English teachers are smiling. The Scholastic Aptitude Test, the nation's most widely used college entrance exam, will undergo several changes in 2005. College Board officials voted last week to add an essay, eliminate analogy questions and toughen the math section. Gathering at the National Education Association's annual conference, a handful of English teachers said they are encouraged by the changes, but worried that essay grading could be open to wide interpretations. They also worried about getting the training they need to help students excel on the revised test. Critics have called the SAT unfair, saying it tends to favor wealthy students who attend better schools or have access to private test-preparation programs.
    Not to mention, those whose parents teach them to write well.

    News Briefs

    Fla. Family Fights State Over Chubby Son
    A Florida family whose eight-year-old son is overweight, but actively involved in sports and other physical activities, is battling the state's Department of Children and Families, which wants to take control over the child's diet. The department, which has admitted to losing a number of children under its supervision, has asked Polk County Judge James Yancey to order that the child's care and diet be supervised by child welfare officials.
    Is that the sound of dominoes I hear?

    NJ Kids Charged Over Pig's Heart Prank
    Three New Jersey students who have been charged with assault for putting a preserved pig’s heart in their substitute teacher’s coffee cup. The prank occurred last month in Bergenfield, N.J., when the three boys, ages 16 and 17, put the heart in the cup during an English class. The teacher drank from the cup but did not consume the heart. The woman later left school when she began to feel ill, unaware that she had ingested formaldehyde. School officials learned of the prank after students told a staff member. Authorities said the boys got the heart from a biology class. They later removed the heart from the cup and threw it out a window, but it was found by police.
    It's sad, isn't it? Homeschooled kids missing out on all that "socialization."

    Pros, Foes Take Aim at Dodgeball
    Dodgeball -- the schoolyard game where children slam each other with rubber balls -- continues to generate controversy. The National Association of Sport & Physical Education has come out against dodgeball, with schools and districts in Maine, Texas, Virginia and Massachusetts among the first to ban it. Critics point to nicknames of "bombardment," "killer ball" and "murder ball" as evidence of the game's violent nature, saying the human-target mentality leads to injuries, humiliation and liability. Those with less skill and physical ability are often the first eliminated, forced to watch from the sidelines, opponents add. Vanity Fair, on the other hand, proclaims dodgeball to be "in." Sports Illustrated and Time columnists have also opined on its behalf.
    Sure, now that there's no chance anyone will hit you in the head!

    Teachers Union Opposes Kids at Parents' Work Day
    Click here to read more about Take Our Daughters to Work Day
    The nation's largest teachers union, complaining that too many children are missing school to shadow mom or dad at the office each April, says the annual Take Our Daughters to Work Day should be moved to June. The Ms. Foundation for Women, which has sponsored the event since 1993, will resist efforts to change the day. At its annual meeting yesterday, the National Education Association said teachers often put lessons on hold because of the annual event, which this year involved nearly 11 million children.
    The NEA battling the NOW? That's a first!

    Editorial: Keep Police In Schools
    A Hartford (Conn.) Courant editorial calls on East Hartford's police department to place and keep officers in public high schools and middle schools. Although the city's police chief told the council that he doesn't have the staff to continue assigning police officers to the schools, the paper cites school-related crimes in neighboring cities and says not putting police officers in schools is a "foolish economy."
    'Cause nothing says lovin' like cops in the corridors!

    Detroit Illegally Overcrowds Special Ed Classrooms
    Detroit schools are illegally packing children into limited numbers of special education classes, and critics say the children aren't learning. About 85 percent of classrooms for emotionally impaired students and 64 percent of classrooms for the learning disabled in elementary and middle schools exceeded the maximum number of students this past spring. Another teacher said of her classroom environment: "You are continuously a referee. You are not able to meet the goals of their (individualized plan) or the curriculum goals. It is just baby-sitting all day. They don't get the attention they need."
    Unlike, say, regular classrooms?

    Teachers Criticize 'Failing' Schools Report
    Click here for more information about the 3.5 million American children in failing schools
    Educators are swinging between confusion and anger over a new federal law that says 107 Kentucky schools are failing and their students can transfer somewhere else this fall. Those schools are among 8,652 nationwide that didn't meet their states' academic standards for two consecutive years, and that also receive federal funding earmarked for schools that serve a large number of at-risk students. Under the new federal law, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, students can transfer to other public schools in the district. "Calling some of these schools low-performing is idiotic and amateurish," said Kentucky testing expert Susan Weston. "They're taking our standards without listening to us about what they mean."
    Okay. What do you mean?

    Monday, July 01, 2002

    Homeschooling in the News

    Pledge of Allegiance Judge has Homeschooling Link
    One of the three judges who authored last week's controversial Pledge-of-Allegiance decision has also taken a shot at homeschooling. Alfred T. Goodwin, 78, wrote an opinion in 2000 that states aren't required to provide speech therapy for a home-schooled child. The San Francisco-based Federal Appeals court ruled last week that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it violates the principal of separation of church and state.
    Clear the bench!

    Columnist: Don't Fight; Switch!
    Syndicated columnist Joseph Farah has a suggestion for families who are disturbed by the Pledge of Allegiance decision. "Every American outraged by this ruling should not even raise a whimper of protest. They should not argue. They should not complain. Instead, they should remove their children from these ungodly, hostile government schools. They should do it now. They shouldn't wait until the situation gets any worse. Home school is the best option. For those who can't do that, choose a worthy private institution. It will be the best choice you ever made for your children."
    That's all we're saying!

    For Homeschooled Kids, Classes are in Session
    For hundreds of thousands of homeschooled students throughout Massachusetts, says the Boston Globe, school is still very much in session. And with the help of support groups, these children are also getting a good dose of summer fun. This lengthy article gives a positive review of homeschooling and educational co-operatives.
    Co-operation: Yet another social skill mastered by homeschooled kids.

    Seattle Homeschool Coordinator Charged over Sex Movies
    A Seattle-area public-school teacher who coordinated the homeschool programs for the Highline School District has been charged with two counts of possessing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The 45-year-old teacher runs the Manhattan Learning Center, a drop-in computer lab for homeschooled students. He was arraigned on charges that he had several sexually explicit movies on his home computer showing children as young as 11. Detectives investigating the case said they found three photo collages inside Watkins' bedroom closet, one of which included photos of Watkins' current or former students, fully clothed, interspersed with pictures of young adults performing various sex acts. They said two other collages showed nude photos of children between 8 and 14 years old interspersed with photos of adults having sex. The police said they also found several pornographic movies, between 43 seconds and three minutes in length, showing children having sex with adults.
    And you thought you were safe!

    Iowa Homeschools May Lose Help from District
    Eighty home-schooled students in central Iowa could be shut out of a Des Moines school district program that provides classes, field trips, books and other services. The district is undecided on whether to replace two teachers who retired this spring from the Home Instruction Program.
    Your Tax Dollars at Work.

    Pennsylvania Rethinks Homeschooling Rules
    Click here for more information
    Pennsylvania parents who homeschool their children would be freed from most state requirements under a bill making its way through the General Assembly. Proponents of the bill said Pennsylvania has one of the most restrictive homeschool laws in the nation. [Editor's Note: In our new book Homeschooling Step-by-Step, we grade each state's homeschooling laws. Pennsylvania earns a solid D-.] They say parents spend time filling out mandated paperwork that they otherwise would spend teaching their children. Under House Bill 2560, parents would have to notify their local school district in writing that they plan to homeschool their children -- and that's about it. Parents still must teach certain subjects -- such as English and math -- but the measure would eliminate requirements to prove to the government that their children are learning.
    If the bill passes, Pennsylvania moves into the A- range.

    Homeschooler's Carnival Aims to Help the Homeless
    A homeschooled New York girl organized and sponsored a carnival charity event this month to help the homeless in her community. Twelve-year-old Brittany Stallard volunteers at City Mission, and sponsors a child in Africa.
    See what kids can do when they have a little free time?

    This Week In the Public Schools

    Former Teacher gets 40 Years for Rape
    A former Woonsocket, Rhode Island, teacher has been sentenced to 40 years in jail for child molestation charges. The 32-year-old man pleaded no contest to four counts of first-degree sexual molestation and three counts of third-degree child molestation. His sexual relationship with his victim began when she was 12 and continued until she was 14. The relationship was discovered when police saw the two together in Millville.
    Yup, 40 years sounds about right.

    Big Penn Drug Bust Catches High School Teacher
    The largest drug bust in the history of Erie, Pennsylvania, netted a popular high school teacher who authorities said lived with a city policeman. The local police chief said Officer Joshua Ferraro was unaware of the alleged drug activity of Bart Wood, who was charged in a federal drug sweep last week. Wood, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he conspired to traffic more than 10 pounds of powder cocaine.
    Wonder where he was finding his customers.

    School Board Attacks Teacher's Jelly Punishment
    A Missouri school board is incensed over what it calls a "humiliating" punishment administered against an eighth-grad student. When the boy refused to participate in a reading exercise, his classmates were given free reign to choose his "punishment." The teacher allowed the classmates to pelt the boy with jelly. Andy said he doesn't find anything wrong with the punishment, and his mother signed a consent form.

    Denver Educator Faces New Sex Charges
    A Colorado ex-teacher who has been accused of assaulting two brothers now faces additional sexual assault charges for molesting a 12-year-old boy. Prosecutors say the teacher took the boy to camp in the summer of 1995, and the two stayed in a private cabin, where the boy told authorities the assaults took place on a daily basis. He later took the boy and his brother on ski trips and weekend visits to his home, where he encouraged the boys to play video games naked, the affidavit said.
    C'mon a my house, a my-y-y house...

    L.A. School Surveys 10-Year-Olds on Sex Practices
    Parents whose young children were given a controversial survey that asked questions of a sexual nature have filed a claim against Palmdale School District of the Antelope Valley, about 50 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The survey had asked youngsters if they thought about having sex, if they thought about "touching other people's private parts" and if they didn't trust people because they might want sex. "Parents have the statutory right to know, in advance, whether their children will be given sex education at a school, and if they choose, in their sole discretion, to exempt their children from such education. By robbing the claimants of the right to control their children's upbringing, the district simultaneously robbed the students of their innocence and the claimants of their status as parents," the claim said. Besides the sexually oriented questions, the survey also asked if the youngsters had bad dreams or nightmares, if they felt lonely or angry, or if "scary ideas or pictures just pop into my head."
    They don't "pop." They're carefully placed there by school sex surveyors.

    Arizona Schools to Screen Teens' Mental Health
    A Tempe, Arizona, school district plans to join a growing number of schools that screen high school students for mental health disorders and link them with services. The program is being billed as a response to the area's high teen suicide rate. An advocate of the program said "the problem is that there are students walking around that don't look like there's anything wrong but suffering from very serious problems." He wants mental health screening to be viewed the same as vision and hearing tests that are conducted in the schools. The TeenScreen program, developed at Columbia University more than a decade ago to prevent teen suicide, has been broadened into a tool for identifying and treating the mentally ill. So far, the program has been implemented on more than 30 campuses nationwide. In a Tulsa, Oklahoma, school, 27 of the 73 students screened by the program were identified as needing help.
    Whew. Now all we've got to do is tattoo 'em!

    New York Teacher Sues Over Teasing
    A former New York City special education teacher is suing school officials because students teased him. The teacher, who is from Sri Lanka, says students at a Queens high school mimicked his accent, tossed paper balls at him, and referred to him as "Gandhi" and "immigrant ---." School officials argue that they can't discipline special ed students for slurring a teacher.
    An immigrant who has assimilated well enough to file frivolous lawsuits needs to find something else to be unhappy about.

    N.C. Mother Sues Over Pedophile Teacher
    Following the conviction of a North Carolina gym teacher on 10 counts of sexual misbehavior with minors, the mother of a victim is filing suit against the school board, the teacher and others. The lawsuit alleges that the school should have known the man was a sexual predator because he seduced minor female students at another high school, where he worked as an assistant football coach and a teaching assistant before he was fired for his behavior. Administrators at that school didn't report the man's crimes to authorities.
    Which is perfectly understandable, because reporting pedophile teachers might cause controversy. Or something.

    Coach Who bit Off Bird's Head to Continue Teaching
    An Indiana teacher who bit the head off a bird in front of his wrestling team has quit his coaching position, but will continue to teach history and geography. Legal charges against the man were dismissed after he completed two days of community service.
    When he ran out of things to teach in history class, he decided to make some of his own.

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    Testing, Testing, Testing

    Nationwide, Students Draw a Blank on Geography
    Click here for more information
    The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a congressionally mandated exam, also found that the performance of American high school seniors in geography remained flat since the test was last given in 1994, with only one in four achieving proficiency in the subject. The test covers map reading, environmental, population and cultural trends as well as global issues such as trade that U.S. education officials call crucial in an increasingly interdependent world.
    Where in the world is...my brain?

    Boston Study Slams Testing Award System
    Awards for rising test scores lead to ''Enron-like behavior'' by schools whose good results belie higher numbers of students dropping out or being held back, testing foes said in a report released last week. The study examined Massachusetts schools that get citations or monetary awards for rising tests scores from three sources - businessman William S. Edgerly, the state Department of Education, and Mass Insight Education. The author of the report found that many of the schools that won awards one year saw falling MCAS scores in subsequent years, or had higher dropout or retention rates. The MCAS is the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam. The test is a graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2003.
    You knew there had to be trick.

    California Teens to Rally Against Exam
    California teens who are subject to high-stakes "do-or-die" testing are fighting back. Students gathering at the state capital last week hoped to demonstrate their concern about the poor quality of education in many low-income communities and the impact of the California High School Exit Examination. The class of 2004 -- students who will be juniors in September -- must pass the exit exam to receive a high school diploma, and the ramifications of failing the high-stakes test are rapidly sinking in. "The state is blaming the students for doing bad on the test, but it should be the other way around,'' said one 16-year-old. Some of the teachers in the schools don't even have credentials.'' The exit exam tests students on statistics, data analysis and probability, geometry and algebra. The English portion includes vocabulary, informational reading and two essays. Students in the class of 2004 took the exit exam in March or May, and the California Department of Education will post statewide results on the Internet by the end of September. Preliminary results show that many students are struggling. In March, 55 percent of students tested passed the English portion of the exit exam. Only 33 percent passed the math portion.
    Interesting plan: Rather than teach a subject, let's just test it!

    School Choice

    In Parents We Trust?
    Letting parents have a say in how their children are educated is a bad idea, says a report from the Cato Institute. In fact, says this report, "parents making decisions about how their children are educated may be the worst system in the world -- except for all of the alternatives." A good discussion of why parents really should have the power of choice.
    Government-run schools imposing education is as good an idea as government-run stores imposing nutrition.

    News Briefs

    When Teens Disdain Summer Jobs, Bad Things Happen
    Related story: A Generation's Wasted Potential
    In this thoughtful editorial USAToday enumerates reasons teenagers need to get out and flip a few burgers or do other menial labor. It's not just that "hard work is good for you," says the writer. Kids who work at difficult service-industry jobs learn to appreciate the luxury of working with the mind. They learn empathy for working-class adults. They learn humility, and a work ethic. And most importantly, they learn how to make intelligent management decisions that reflect the reality of working on the front lines.
    Most of all, they learn not to be spoiled brats.

    Spending Has Little Effect on Academic Results
    A study by a Minnesota newspaper says the amount of money a school spends has little influence on the quality of education. The most significant statistical factor in how children perform on tests is parental wealth.
    Follow the bouncing ball: Wealthy people can afford to stay home and parent their kids. It's that simple.

    New York Times: Teach Contraceptive Use
    A New York Times editorial harshly condemns a Congressional attempt to require abstinence education in the sex-ed programs of public schools. The editorial calls a plan to neither endorse nor promote contraceptives to students "a recipe for disaster." Says the editorial, "surely it makes sense to provide [students] with information that could avert pregnancies or protect them from a fatal AIDS infection."
    Hey, since moral choices about sexuality are fundamentally religious in nature, doesn't sex ed violate the establishment clause?

    My Brief Teaching Career
    In a poignant editorial, a New York teacher explains why she's quitting after one year on the job:
    * Double-digit student absenteeism
    * Overwhelming academic failure rates
    * Hallway and classroom violence and obscenities
    * Inept administrative support
    * High turnover and inexperienced colleagues
    * Lack of parental support
    * Inadequate supplies and materials
    Greatest irony: Educators know this, and still they campaign against homeschooling.

    PTA Addresses Sex Ed, School Prayer at Conference
    For information on declining membership, click here
    The National PTA -- faced with plummeting membership numbers -- is meeting this week to discuss topics such as sex ed and school prayer. The annual conference was told Sunday that parents want their school-aged children to learn about safe sex, not just abstinence. The survey, by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, found that while 97 percent of the parents surveyed put abstinence at the top of their list, 85 percent said students should learn more about condoms and 84 percent said they should learn more about other forms of birth control. Half of all high school students are sexually active, said a program officer with the foundation. In a separate session, an Oregon law professor talked to a group of parents about the current status of prayer in school, including a Supreme Court ruling two years ago that ended student-led prayer at high school football games. The PTA is criticized for being irrelevant, and for transforming from a wholesome and progressive force into a tool for teachers unions and groups pushing gay rights, sex education and other controversial agendas.
    It's fun to stay with the P-eee-T-A...

    Chicago Boy Wins Against 'Zero Tolerance'
    A 9-year-old Chicago-area boy expelled for a year because he unknowingly brought box cutters to school has won the right to return to school. After school shootings such as those at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, school districts around the country adopted "zero tolerance" policies for students who bring firearms to school. In turn, that has led to a rash of alleged over-applications of zero tolerance:
    * Two months ago, seven fourth-grade boys in Centennial, Colo., were sent home from Dry Creek Elementary School for pointing their fingers at each other like guns in a game of army-and-aliens on the playground.
    * In March, a Texas school district tried to expel a 16-year-old high school student for a year when a butter knife was spotted in the back of his pickup truck.
    * Two years ago, three seventh-graders in a South Side Chicago public grade school were charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, after school officials found them selling plastic bags of purple powder for a quarter each. It was grape Kool-Aid powder.
    * In the Chicago case that began in December, the 9-year-old boy brought his aunt's lunch bag to school. During his lunch period, he looked in the bag and saw the box cutter.
    Hey, *someone's* got to keep those 9-year-olds in line!

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