Friday, August 19, 2005

FCAT To Be Seen On Web

The Miami Herald reports today that there are plans to release past FCAT tests online. Read about it here.

Cousins Out as Inspector General

Today's Herald reports that Herbert Cousins will no longer be Inspector General of the Miami Dade County School Board. Read about it here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Mom's Getting Way Too Much Homework

Ana Veciana Suarez writes in the Miami Herald that "with my oldest ones now in college, I'm left to wonder how much [homework] is too much. Are we micromanaging? Are we raising responsible students or perpetual dependents? At what point are we hindering their maturity by hounding them into educational excellence? Food for thought: The kids who had the hardest time adjusting to college, my children tell me, were those whose parents never trusted them enough to fail on their own. Which may be a roundabout way of saying that raising children is all about striking a balance, about learning when to step in and when to bail out."

Homework: It's Your Kid's Job, Not Yours

I have heard every teacher, including myself, lament over kids lack of consistency with submitting homework assignments. I have heard many teachers struggling over the decision to give less homework, no homework, or even voluntary homework. There are numerous books and theories regarding the importance of homework, and there are many school systems throughout the country who have tried to control the amounts and types of homework assignments. The Miami Herald's article, "Homework Experts: It's Your Kid's Job Not Yours," gives some suggestions as to how to increase student's productivity when it comes to homework. One suggestion is to "figure out your children's likes and tie them to successful school work. Then promise your kids that they can keep their GameBoy, iPod, television, sports, music -- or whatever they like doing -- as long as they finish their homework." This is a well traveled method of coercion, but does it help to build life long learners who take personal responsibility for their education. The article also quotes Barbara Byrne, who writes a column on parenting for the Miami Family Magazine, as saying "it is important for parents to keep track of grades and talk with the teachers on how the kids are doing." Here I pose my second question. Is this the proper advice? When a parent goes to the teacher to find out about a child's progress, does it not create a feeling of distrust between the parent and the child? Teacher's often receive calls from parents who are "checking up" on their child's progress. Is this the best method? Although the purpose of the article is to help parents motivate their children to do their homework, it seems to leave out the most important tool of motivation: that homework is important and valuable to the child. If parent's would help reinforce this important credo, kids may just buy into the fact that homework, or homelearning as teachers and administrators have been directed to call it, is important enough to do without threats and bribes.

School Staff Drug Ring Broken

Re: The Miami Herald's story of the five school bus drivers, 13 bus aides, two custodians, one cook and one school cashier that were arrested on charges of illegally purchasing and then reselling the highly addictive painkiller Oxycontin. "Acosta said the suspects' proximity to children was troubling and prompted federal, state and local authorities to move in before the new school year begins." First, I'd like to commend local authorities for making these arrests and working to protect the nation's children. Unfortunately, these are very difficult times for public schools, and these types of criminal wrongdoings only serve to further reinforce the negative stereotypes that shroud our cities' public education system. The headline itself, "School Staff...," is enough to indict an entire population of otherwise hardworking, valuable professionals. Let's try to keep this in perspective, however. These are the acts of a few individuals. We must look only to the criminals for explanations, we must shine revealing light on the few who lack values and morals, and we must remember that the actions of one do not reflect the actions of many. If a football player commits a crime, it does not mean all football players are criminals. We must place responsibility in the hands of only those responsible.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

We Are Family DVD: Broward County Controversy

According the Miami Herald, last Tuesday the Broward School Board met to discuss whether the We Are Family DVD starring Big Bird and Barney should be added to the current curriculum. During the diversity committee's discussion, Steve Kane, a radio talk show host and member of the committee, said, 'Even in the liberal group, they understand that these people are trying to mess with our kids' minds and introduce all kinds of activities in the name of tolerance.''

Marty Rubenstein, a first-term board member quickly pledged to remove Mr. Kane from the district's diversity committee; however, "Rubinstein has backed away from those comments." After comparing Kane's remarks to "Nazi attacks on Jews in World War II," Rubenstein has been quoted as saying, "[Kane's] been taken to the woodshed."

Kane reportedly has been quoted as saying, "This has become a distraction and that is unfortunate."

I am not sure what Mr. Kane finds unfortunate. Is it that he made bigotted and intolerant remarks, or is it that he has been called out on those remarks? I believe strongly in the protection of the freedom of speech, but I also believe that our children deserve to grow up with all of the protections that the constitution affords them. If the diversity committee is made up of people who do not support equality for everyone, then our children will continue to be left unprotected.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Herald Supports Autonomy for Schools' Watchdog

In the Monday, August 1 st editorial, "Schools' Watchdog Needs Autonomy," the Miami Herald "wholeheartedly supports the Miami Dade Grand Jury's recommendations" that the Office of the Inspector General be given more funding and freedon to investigate "without fear of retribution from the very people it might have to investigate: the board and the administration."

According to the editorial, former FBI agent Herbert Cousins, the current Inspector General, mandates that his office is to "conduct reviews and audits of district business and investigate complaints from the Ethics Advisory Committee, Office of Management and Complaint Audits and whistle-blowers." In order for this to work successfully, the auditor and the attorney must report directly to Mr. Cousins, not the school board. The Herald opinion is that an independent inspector general can keep the school district from repeating the financial corruptions of the past.