Sunday, April 29, 2012

Maryland school's zero-tolerance policy reversed: safety requires honesty and common sense from administrators and board members

See all posts re zero tolerance.

The safety issue requires officials to use a little common sense. They should never play politics with this issue, as was done in my school district, Chula Vista Elementary School District, during its Libia Gil-Lowell Billings years with board members Pam Smith, Larry Cunningham, Bertha Lopez, Patrick Judd and Cheryl Cox. These officials made a mockery of school safety.

In Maryland, a rare reversal of suspensions for two lacrosse players
By Donna St. George
Washington Post
April 28, 2012

The search was a surprise. The high school lacrosse team in Easton, Md., had boarded its bus when the principal and other administrators arrived, announcing that gear bags would be checked. A tip had come in about athletes carrying alcohol.

Near the front of the bus, Graham Dennis, then a 17-year-old junior, asked whether he should remove the pocketknife he always used to cut and tighten strings on his lacrosse stick. It was tucked inside his oversized duffel bag, along with cleats, pads, socks, duct tape and medical supplies.

That question — to which he says he gave little thought — set off a year-long odyssey in school discipline that ended this month with a rare outcome: The state stepped in and reversed a local school board’s decision on student punishment.

In a unanimous ruling, the Maryland State Board of Education expunged the disciplinary records of two lacrosse players suspended from school after the search in April 2011.

The state board also raised questions about a decision to call the police on Dennis, who was led away in handcuffs for having two small knives. His teammate Casey Edsall, also a 17-year-old junior, was suspended for having a lighter, used to seal the frayed ends of strings. School officials deemed it an explosive device, his family said.

“This case is about context and about the appropriate exercise of discretion,” the state board said in its ruling — stressing that knives and lighters do not belong on campus but that Talbot County school officials went beyond their own rules in punishing the students.

It was a blow to the get-tough culture of zero tolerance that has taken hold in U.S. schools in the past 20 years. And for Maryland, it is another moment in the discipline spotlight. In February, the state board drew wide notice for proposals to reduce suspensions and require districts to remedy racial disparities. A vote is expected within the next few months.

“What we’re seeing is that Maryland is stepping up in a leadership role and putting common sense back into discipline,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights group.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the decision culminated an often-frustrating quest for the two families involved. Along the way, they received crucial support from the lacrosse team’s assistant coach, who is also commander of the homicide unit of the Maryland State Police.

But the case came as both players were on the brink of college applications, which ask about disciplinary history. One teenager did not apply to certain universities, thinking the offense would take him out of the running. The other wrote detailed explanations and hoped for the best.

“It kind of destroys your reputation,” Dennis said. “People think there is more to the story than what you’re saying.”

...In written arguments, the school officials had agreed that the knives were meant for repairing lacrosse equipment but said their presence posed a danger to students and staff members...

“We consider bringing a knife to school one of the most serious offenses that a student can commit,” the officials said. The case reflects continuing tension about tough rules intended to keep students safe. Critics say they often go too far and don’t make schools safer. Supporters say that strong lines need to be drawn and that too much discretion can lead to preferential treatment.

The school system in Talbot County, with 4,500 students and a long stretch of Maryland shoreline, does not have policies that call for zero tolerance. Its rules give leeway to first offenders, allow for discretion by educators and see suspension as a last resort.

Both teenagers say the principal at first told them not to worry, that the issue would be addressed at school the next day. Bring home a win, Dennis recalled Principal David Stofa saying after the search.

Then, according to the families, a school system administrator intervened.

Dennis and Edsall were asked to step off the bus. Parents were summoned. Dennis was suspended 10 days, with a recommendation for expulsion, and Edsall was suspended one day. A police officer drove Dennis to the station, where he was fingerprinted and booked for possession of a deadly weapon.

Laura Dennis arrived at Easton High on April 13, 2011, confused about why her son was in trouble. He always carried tools to fix his stick. It did not make sense, she thought.

“I’m sorry,” she recalled a school administrator telling her, as the administrator explained that Graham had to be suspended. There was no choice.

“I’m sorry,” she recalled a police officer telling her, as the officer explained that he had been asked by an administrator to make the arrest.

Laura Dennis spent the first of many nights reading everything she could find on the Internet about school discipline and the code of conduct in Talbot County. A few days later, she pressed the issue at her son’s hearing: Where was zero tolerance written into the code of conduct? Why couldn’t she find it?

The administrator left the room, she said, and returned to say that it was not a policy — only a practice — so it did not have to be written down. Her son missed two weeks of school, three lacrosse games and a tournament. He grappled with uncertainty about whether he would be expelled or sent to an alternative learning center. He faced criminal charges, which his family said took a month, a lawyer and some strategizing to be dismissed.

“It affected his outlook on absolutely everything,” Laura Dennis said. He told his parents that he would drop out if he were moved from Easton High School.

“I questioned who I was,” Graham Dennis recalled. He felt labeled as a criminal, he said — and ripped away from his team and school. “That was my lowest point.”

Joe Gamble, the assistant lacrosse coach, had stepped up quickly to make the players’ case. Gamble, the state police homicide commander, was in the bus the day of the search, and his statement was quoted in the state school board’s 12-page opinion...

Being picked on at school can have serious consequences in the teenage years

Bullied 'more prone to self harm'
Being picked on at school can have serious consequences in the teenage years
27 April 2012

Children bullied during their early years are up to three times more likely to self harm than their classmates when they reach adolescence, a study suggests.

It found that half of 12-year-olds who harm themselves were frequently bullied.

The researchers are calling for more effective programmes to prevent bullying in schools.

The study is published in the British Medical Journal.

The research, from King's College London, also showed that victimised children with mental health problems were at greater risk of self-harming in later life.

In their paper the authors suggest that efforts should focus on improving the ways in which children cope with emotional distress.

"Bullying by peers is a major problem during the early school years," they said.

"This study found that before 12 years of age a small proportion of children frequently exposed to this form of victimisation already deliberately harmed themselves and in some cases attempted to take their own lives.

"Frequent victimisation by peers increased the risk of self harm."

Persisting problems

The researchers also raised fears over the long-term implications of bullying which, they said, could result in psychological issues, serious injury or death.

"This study adds to the growing literature showing that bullying during the early years of school can have extremely detrimental consequences for some children by the time they reach adolescence," they wrote.

"This finding is even more concerning given that studies have suggested that early patterns of self harm can persist through adolescence into adulthood and increase the risk of later psychological problems."

The authors looked at more than 1,000 pairs of twins - born between 1994-1995 in England and Wales - at five, seven, 10 and 12 years old.

The children were assessed on the risks of self-harming in the six months prior to their twelfth birthdays. Data from 2,141 participants showed that 237 children were victims of frequent bullying and, of that number, 18 (around 8%) self harmed.

This involved cutting or biting arms, pulling out clumps of hair, a child banging its head against walls or attempting suicide.

Of 1,904 children who were not bullied, 44 (2%) self harmed.

It also showed bullied children who had family members who had either attempted or committed suicide were more likely to self harm than others.

"Although only a small proportion of bullied children in this sample engaged in self harm, this is clearly too many and victims need to be provided with alternative coping strategies from a young age," the authors said

The trust molecule: Why are some people trustworthy, while others lie, cheat and steal?

The Trust Molecule
Why are some of us caring and some of us cruel, some generous and some greedy? Paul J. Zakon the new science of morality— and how it could be used to create a more virtuous society.
Wall Street Journal
April 27, 2012

Why are some people trustworthy, while others lie, cheat and steal? Part of the answer may reside in a hormone called oxytocin. Claremont Graduate University's Paul Zak talks with WSJ's Gary Rosen about how a "vampire wedding" helped him understand how this chemical works to control trust, empathy and virtue.

Could a single molecule—one chemical substance—lie at the very center of our moral lives?

Research that I have done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted louts, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life, why some husbands are more faithful than others, and why women tend to be nicer and more generous than men. In our blood and in the brain, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large.

Known primarily as a female reproductive hormone, oxytocin controls contractions during labor, which is where many women encounter it as Pitocin, the synthetic version that doctors inject in expectant mothers to induce delivery. Oxytocin is also responsible for the calm, focused attention that mothers lavish on their babies while breast-feeding. And it is abundant, too, on wedding nights (we hope) because it helps to create the warm glow that both women and men feel during sex, a massage or even a hug.

Since 2001, my colleagues and I have conducted a number of experiments showing that when someone's level of oxytocin goes up, he or she responds more generously and caringly, even with complete strangers. As a benchmark for measuring behavior, we relied on the willingness of our subjects to share real money with others in real time. To measure the increase in oxytocin, we took their blood and analyzed it. Money comes in conveniently measurable units, which meant that we were able to quantify the increase in generosity by the amount someone was willing to share. We were then able to correlate these numbers with the increase in oxytocin found in the blood.

Later, to be certain that what we were seeing was true cause and effect, we sprayed synthetic oxytocin into our subjects' nasal passages—a way to get it directly into their brains. Our conclusion: We could turn the behavioral response on and off like a garden hose. (Don't try this at home: Oxytocin inhalers aren't available to consumers in the U.S.)

More strikingly, we found that you don't need to shoot a chemical up someone's nose, or have sex with them, or even give them a hug in order to create the surge in oxytocin that leads to more generous behavior. To trigger this "moral molecule," all you have to do is give someone a sign of trust. When one person extends himself to another in a trusting way—by, say, giving money—the person being trusted experiences a surge in oxytocin that makes her less likely to hold back and less likely to cheat. Which is another way of saying that the feeling of being trusted makes a person more…trustworthy. Which, over time, makes other people more inclined to trust, which in turn…

If you detect the makings of an endless loop that can feed back onto itself, creating what might be called a virtuous circle—and ultimately a more virtuous society—you are getting the idea.

Obviously, there is more to it, because no one chemical in the body functions in isolation, and other factors from a person's life experience play a role as well. Things can go awry. In our studies, we found that a small percentage of subjects never shared any money; analysis of their blood indicated that their oxytocin receptors were malfunctioning...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is Bridgepoint Education targeting veterans for easy money?

Profits and Scrutiny for Colleges Courting Veterans
The New York Times
December 8, 2010

When Congress moved in 2008 to sweeten tuition payments for veterans, it was celebrated as a way to ensure that military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could go to college at no cost and to replicate the historic benefits society gained from the G.I. Bill after World War II.

Now, a year after payouts on the so-called Post-9/11 G.I. Bill started, the huge program has turned into a bonanza of another kind for the many commercial colleges in the United States that have seen their military revenues surge.

More than 36 percent of the tuition payments made in the first year of the program — a total of $640 million in tuition and fees — went to for-profit colleges, like the University of Phoenix, according to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, even though these colleges serve only about 9 percent of the overall population at higher education institutions nationwide.

As the money flows to the for-profit university industry, questions are being raised in Congress and elsewhere about their recruitment practices, and whether they really deliver on their education promises. Some members say they want to place tighter limits on how much these colleges can collect in military benefits, a move certain federal officials say they would welcome...

Amid this debate, the industry’s powerful lobbying forces are pushing for even more, including a change in the law that would allow veterans who sign up exclusively for online classes to also get government housing subsidies, even if they live at home, which would make online education even more attractive.

With their multimillion-dollar advertising and recruitment campaigns, these colleges have pitched themselves as a natural choice for veterans and active-duty personnel, given their extensive online class offerings, accelerated degree programs and campuses spread across the nation, including near many military bases.

...ECPI College of Technology, a Virginia institution with a major online program and campuses in three states that collected $16 million in G.I. Bill benefits in the first year.

Active-duty personnel are eligible for free tuition, which explains why the for-profit colleges have received about $200 million in Department of Defense tuition reimbursement benefits and fees in the last year, mostly for online classes, in addition to money collected from the G.I. Bill. But high dropout rates at some of these colleges, difficulty in transferring credits, higher tuition bills than at public colleges and skepticism from some employers about the value of the degrees are all creating unease among some in Congress.

“For-profit schools see our active-duty military and veterans as a cash cow..."

It is a concern echoed by eight current and former recruiters from some of the nation’s largest for-profit chains, who in interviews said the intense drive to enroll veterans had led them, at times, to sign up military personnel for classes when they were all but certain they would drop out or fail.

“There is such pressure to simply enroll more vets — we knew that most of them would drop out after the first session,” said Jason Deatherage, who worked as military admissions adviser at Colorado Technical University until this spring, when he was fired, he said, for not meeting his quota. “Instead of helping people, too often I felt like we were almost tricking them.”

...“I felt like I made a horrible, horrible decision,” said Jason Longmore, 31, a Navy veteran...forcing him to repeat classes elsewhere before he could transfer credits to a Colorado state university...some of the for-profit colleges hounded active-duty personnel there as they pursued “hot leads,” calling them repeatedly to get a piece of the military tuition grants.

Mr. Songer said that he was not opposed to the colleges, but that they often enrolled Marines in classes of limited educational value. In some cases, the colleges even take out high-interest-rate loans on behalf of the Marines to cover extra costs, he said.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We seem to have a problem with a "code of silence" in our schools

We seem to have a problem with "a code of silence" in our schools, and not just on the athletic fields, as seen in the Scott Eveland case. Kudos to those who had the courage to tell the truth about what happened to Scotty. Sadly, teachers also lie to cover-up wrongdoing by other teachers. And perhaps the biggest, and most harmful, cover-up of all is the effort to conceal the student test scores of teachers.

What Does It Take to Break the Athlete's Code of Silence?
By Bruce Anderson
The Atlantic
Apr 24 2012

Sports has an unwritten "no snitching" rule, but it comes at a price.

Ty Cobb called George "Buck" Weaver the best third baseman he had ever seen. But when the switch-hitting, sweet-fielding Weaver is remembered today, if he's remembered at all, it is for being a member of the Chicago Black Sox, the eight players who conspired to throw the 1919 World Series, nearly derailing the national pastime just before it reached its Golden Age. Weaver, like his seven teammates, was banned from baseball for life by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. But Weaver alone was banished not for taking money from gamblers or playing less than his best but for knowing the fix was in and not coming forward, for possessing "guilty knowledge."

How much truth is there in the notion, popularized by JFK, that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"?

Because doing nothing is exactly what's expected in sports, where a version of the Mafia's omerta, or code of silence, holds sway. Snitching runs completely counter to the accepted notion of taking one for the team. Better to let a grounder roll under your glove in the 10th inning than to let slip the fact that your teammate's bat is corked.

Rare is the sports scandal, whether it's blood doping on the Tour de France or Tiger's sex life, in which complicit silence does not lie at or near the heart of events. It played a key role in the NFL's Bountygate. And in last fall's nightmare at Penn State. If baseball's antisnitching poster boy is not Weaver, it's Greg Anderson, the longtime friend of and personal trainer for Barry Bonds. Anderson was willing to spend time behind bars rather than testify against his friend. The blind loyalty of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil can give lots of cover for doing evil.

MORE ON SPORTS Should Fans Care About the Saints' Bounty Scandal? Joe Paterno's Disappointing Last Decade at Penn State The Barry Bonds Trial: Was It Worth It? An Open Letter to Lance Armstrong's Lawyers

Nancy Sherman is a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and the author of the 2010 book The Untold War, which examines the ethical quandaries of the modern soldier. She was brought to the U.S. Naval Academy in the wake of a scandal in the 1990s that saw 133 midshipmen accused of cheating on a third-year electrical engineering exam or covering up for those who did. Sherman came to Annapolis to help midshipmen understand, as she puts it, "that the ship comes before shipmate."

Sherman doesn't underestimate how powerful the pressures can be for young men and women to remain silent. "So much in the life of a midshipman or an officer hangs on covering each other's back," Sherman says. "Building a cadre, developing esprit de corps, fighting for each other are all drilled in. So is loyalty and fighting against ratting, snitching—the less-charged term is whistle-blowing." She notes that when money and careers are at stake—and they usually are—the silence becomes even more pronounced.

No less a personage than Charles Barkley, commenting on the Saints' bounty program recently, said: "You have to be a punk to snitch that out." When the Round Mound of Expound, Expand, and Expatiate is speaking out against speaking out, the expectation for silence prevails.

Given all the forces in play, is it possible to get athletes to reconsider the code of silence? Sherman thinks so, but says that it requires getting athletes to consider their behavior beforehand, to develop what she calls a "moral imagination." At the Naval Academy, Sherman designed a military ethics course that is now required for every midshipman. She also laid the groundwork for the Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership.

"It sounds a bit simple-minded, but it requires a lot of serious reflection and leadership and thinking about what kind of individual do you want to be," Sherman says. "Often, in the case of sports and athletic scandals, you don't think about what the moral toll is, just will your conscience hurt tomorrow."

Silence isn't always golden. One wonders if Buck Weaver would have remained quiet if he could have clearly seen the years of not playing or coaching stretching out before him. What would he have done if he truly understood the loss of income, prestige, and face that would be his price for silence? Or if he could have pictured the almost irreparable damage the Series fix did to the game he loved so much? Would Buck Weaver, like Joe Paterno, have wished he had done more?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rachel Maddow Demands Dismissal of $50 Million Defamation Lawsuit

It seems clear that Rachel Maddow accurately quoted Bradlee Dean. But that didn't stop him from filing a frivolous and abusive defamation lawsuit. Rachel Maddow Demands Dismissal of $50 Million Defamation Lawsuit
In court papers, rocker/preacher/radio host Bradlee Dean is said to want to punish the MSNBC host for espousing “leftist, socialist, activist ‘gay rights’, pro-choice, pro-government and anti-religious” ideals.
by Eriq Gardner
Hollywood Reporter

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has hit back hard against a $50 million defamation lawsuit brought by heavy metal rocker-turned-radio host and conservative preacher Bradlee Dean. Maddow and NBC Universal are looking to punish Dean for bringing an allegedly meritless suit by filing an anti-SLAPP motion to end the case and force him to hand over legal fees.

According to court papers filed this week in D.C. federal court, the defendants say, "With this lawsuit -- his second -- Dean seeks to move one step closer in his self-described mission to stop the 'radical gay agenda.' The law does not permit him to use the judicial process in this fashion."

Dean brought a defamation lawsuit in July, arguing that Maddow twisted Dean's words in an effort to undermine Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. On The Rachel Maddow Show, Dean's comments on his own radio show were clipped to become:

"Muslims are calling for the execution for homosexuals in America. ... They themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible, the Judeo Christian God. They seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do. Because these people are livid about enforcing their laws, they know homosexuality is an abomination. ... If America won't enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that's what you're seeing in America today."

Maddow then ran Dean's later disclaimer that he has "never and will never call for the execution of homosexuals," and followed it up with some commentary, but it was enough for a defamation lawsuit -- first filed in state court, then dropped, then filed again in federal court to escape the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act.

For Dean's full quote on his radio show, and a video clip of how Maddow treated it in her show, see our post at the time the first lawsuit was filed...

Sheriff Joe Arpaio pals disbarred for perjury and intimidation

Sheriff Joe’s world crumbles
The controversial Arizona cop is prepping for a possible trial. But already, his closest allies have fallen
By John Dougherty
Apr 18, 2012

With fresh calls for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to face a federal criminal trial, many are predicting the end of his controversial career. What few people realize outside metropolitan Phoenix is how much Arpaio’s world has already fallen apart around him.

One-by-one, Arpaio’s closest allies have been forced from power or severed support, leaving the combative 79-year-old sheriff seeking his sixth term increasingly isolated and vulnerable as emboldened foes sharpen their attacks.

The latest Arpaio political supporter to fall is former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas, who was disbarred April 10 for engaging in unethical conduct to intimidate and smear his and Arpaio’s political adversaries.

A stinging 247-page opinion written by a three-member Arizona state Supreme Court disciplinary panel supporting the disbarment ruling also concluded there was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Thomas had violated federal civil rights laws.

While Thomas, a Republican, has not been criminally charged, the opinion made it crystal clear that his unethical and allegedly illegal conduct was the result of his “unholy collaboration” with Arpaio, also a Republican, to use their law enforcement powers to retaliate against critics.

Thomas and an assistant prosecutor, Lisa Aubuchon, were disbarred for violating perjury and intimidation laws when they filed criminal charges against Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe and two county supervisors, Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley.

All three of the criminal cases, filed in 2008 and 2009, were later dismissed for lack of evidence and conflict of interest issues.

The Supreme Court panel’s opinion stated that evidence indicated Arpaio had conspired with Thomas and Aubuchon to file the charges against the judge and two supervisors.

The Thomas disbarment opinion comes at the same time the Department of Justice has been conducting a three-year grand jury criminal investigation into allegations that Arpaio abused his power to go after opponents. And the federal grand jury criminal investigation is running parallel to a DOJ civil rights violations probe into claims that Arpaio’s deputies routinely targeted Latinos for arrest in an effort to round up and deport illegal immigrants.

Arpaio’s critics are now seizing on the Thomas disbarment opinion to put pressure on DOJ to bring criminal charges against Arpaio, or walk away...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Testing the teachers

It's rare that I completely agree with David Brooks, but I think he's right that college professors should make an effort to motivate students--particularly during their first two years of study. Basically, colleges need to do the job that high schools failed to do.

Testing the Teachers
April 19, 2012

There’s an atmosphere of grand fragility hanging over America’s colleges. The grandeur comes from the surging application rates, the international renown, the fancy new dining and athletic facilities. The fragility comes from the fact that colleges are charging more money, but it’s not clear how much actual benefit they are providing.

Colleges are supposed to produce learning. But, in their landmark study, “Academically Adrift,” Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that, on average, students experienced a pathetic seven percentile point gain in skills during their first two years in college and a marginal gain in the two years after that. The exact numbers are disputed, but the study suggests that nearly half the students showed no significant gain in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills during their first two years in college.

This research followed the Wabash Study, which found that student motivation actually declines over the first year in college. Meanwhile, according to surveys of employers, only a quarter of college graduates have the writing and thinking skills necessary to do their jobs.

In their book, “We’re Losing Our Minds,” Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersh argue that many colleges and universities see themselves passively as “a kind of bank with intellectual assets that are available to the students.” It is up to students — 19 and 20 year olds — to provide the motivation, to identify which assets are most important and to figure out how to use them.

Colleges today are certainly less demanding. In 1961, students spent an average of 24 hours a week studying. Today’s students spend a little more than half that time — a trend not explained by changing demographics.

This is an unstable situation. At some point, parents are going to decide that $160,000 is too high a price if all you get is an empty credential and a fancy car-window sticker.

One part of the solution is found in three little words: value-added assessments. Colleges have to test more to find out how they’re doing.

It’s not enough to just measure inputs, the way the U.S. News-style rankings mostly do. Colleges and universities have to be able to provide prospective parents with data that will give them some sense of how much their students learn.

There has to be some way to reward schools that actually do provide learning and punish schools that don’t. There has to be a better way to get data so schools themselves can figure out how they’re doing in comparison with their peers.

In 2006, the Spellings commission, led by then-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, recommended a serious accountability regime. Specifically, the commission recommended using a standardized test called the Collegiate Learning Assessment to provide accountability data. Colleges and grad schools use standardized achievement tests to measure students on the way in; why shouldn’t they use them to measure students on the way out? Many people in higher ed are understandably anxious about importing the No Child Left Behind accountability model onto college campuses. But the good news is that colleges and universities are not reacting to the idea of testing and accountability with blanket hostility, the way some of the members of the K-12 establishment did.

If you go to the Web page of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and click on “assessment,” you will find a dazzling array of experiments that institutions are running to figure out how to measure learning.

Some schools like Bowling Green and Portland State are doing portfolio assessments — which measure the quality of student papers and improvement over time. Some, like Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, use capstone assessment, creating a culminating project in which the students display their skills in a way that can be compared and measured.

The challenge is not getting educators to embrace the idea of assessment. It’s mobilizing them to actually enact it in a way that’s real and transparent to outsiders...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

CVESD gets an award from San Diego Health and Human Services, where board member Pam Smith is a director

Oddly, the story below never mentions the very close connection between CVESD board member Pam Smith and the San Diego Health and Human Services agency, which gave an award to CVESD. Pamela B. Smith is AIS & East Region HHSA Deputy Director.

The new owners of the Union Tribune are continuing the newspaper's tradition of concealing serious problems in Chula Vista Elementary School District while providing frequent puff pieces about specific board members and administrators.

In the story below, the UT touts the award that CVESD board member Pam Smith's employer gave to her school district, and also mentions an award given to Smith's cronies at San Diego County Office of Education. But we are left to wonder about the identities of twelve of the sixteen winners of the awards given in the chambers of the Board of Supervisors.

Chula Vista school district honored as "health champion"
Caroline Dipping
April 13, 2012

The Chula Vista Elementary School District was among 16 entities honored recently by the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency at the 11th annual Public Health Champion Awards.

The awards are a component of Live Well, San Diego!, the county’s 10-year plan to improve the health and safety of local residents and communities. They reflect achievements related to the 2012 National Public Health Week theme: A Healthier America Begins Today. Join the Movement!

Chula Vista’s 27,400-student district was recognized for several recent accomplishments. It has begun implementing the Healthy Eating Active program aimed at reducing childhood obesity; it mentors other school districts to develop school wellness policies; and it has partnered with WalkSan Diego to provide Safe Routes to School workshops to students, school staff and parents.

“It is an honor to recognize the extraordinary achievements of these individuals and organizations,” said Nick Macchione, director of the health and human services agency at the April 2 ceremony held in the chambers of the Board of Supervisors. “They have made lifelong commitments to educate our residents to make healthier lifestyle choices and create a safe environment, which help prevent disease, injury and disability.”

Among the Public Health Champion honorees this year were UCSD’s Division of Child Development and Community Health, San Diego Association of Governments, and the San Diego County Office of Education.

More bizarre antics from Tri-City Hospital: refusing to release medical records to heirs in elder abuse case

Tri-City also tried to keep records out of the hands of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

A bizarre cover-up seems to be proceeding in an elder abuse case in North County Superior Court in which a dying man who was taking approximately 20 medications signed away his property to one of his nine children. Another of his children is suing to have the property returned to the man's surviving wife.

Tri-City Hospital apparently wants to cover up its actions in the case, in which Tri-City Hospital and the daughter who arranged the transfer of property concealed from other siblings the fact that the father had terminal cancer.

Tri-City offers three objection to the subpoena for the records. the first and second reasons for not providing the records are standard.

The third reason however reads:

"Third, the subpoena is unduly burdensome or oppressive, since deponent is not in possession of the records sought..."

Tri-City is claiming that it does not have the patient's medical records!

The daughter who obtained the property is represented by attorney Roland Achtel.

See entire pleading filed by Nicole Wells on behalf of Tri-City Medical Center.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Fourteen of 20 Largest Districts Report No Bullying, Harassment

"It just does not sync with what we know to be the unfortunate reality for many school children in this nation."

Fourteen of 20 Largest Districts Report No Bullying, Harassment
By Christina Samuels
April 6, 2012

From guest blogger Nirvi Shah:

Analyzing new data from the federal Education Department, the American Association of University Women has found that 14 of the 20 largest school districts in the nation reported no incidences of bullying or harassment.

In particular, the report found that the districts reported no allegations of sexual harassment, no disciplinary actions as a result of bullying or harassment on the basis of sex, or no students who reported being bullied or harassed on the basis of sex.

"These reports of no sexual harassment and bullying happening in a school district are impossible to believe,"
AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman said. "It just does not sync with what we know to be the unfortunate reality for many school children in this nation."

Another AAUW report, "Crossing the Line" Sexual Harassment at School," noted that nearly half of all surveyed students in middle and high school reported they had been harassed during the 2010-11 school year. About a third of girls and a quarter of boys said they had witnessed sexual harassment at school...

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: Inside Dartmouth's Hazing Abuses

"This "culture of silence," as some on campus describe it, is both a product of the Greek system's ethos and the shield that enables it to operate with impunity...

"Having a 3.7 and being the president of a hard-guy frat is far more valuable than having a 4.0 and being independent when it comes to going to a place like Goldman Sachs. And that corporate milieu mirrors the fraternity culture."

[Maura Larkins comment: The secrecy and the social politics don't sound completely different from the teachers' lounges in public elementary schools I've taught at, or, for that matter, from the politics in most schools and offices. I suspect the difference is mainly one of degree.]

Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: Inside Dartmouth's Hazing Abuses
A Dartmouth degree is a ticket to the top - but first you may have to get puked on by your drunken friends and wallow in human filth
Rolling Stone
March 28, 2012

Long before Andrew Lohse became a pariah at Dartmouth College, he was just another scarily accomplished teenager with lofty ambitions. Five feet 10 with large blue eyes and the kind of sweet-faced demeanor that always earned him a pass, he grew up in the not-quite-rural, not-quite-suburban, decidedly middle-class town of Branchburg, New Jersey, and attended a public school where he made mostly A's, scored 2190 on his SATs and compiled an exhaustive list of extracurricular activities that included varsity lacrosse, model U.N. (he was president), National Honor Society, band, orchestra, Spanish club, debate and – on weekends – a special pre-college program at the Manhattan School of Music, where he received a degree in jazz bass. He also wrote songs; gigged semiprofessionally at restaurants throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut; played drums for a rock band; chased, and conquered, numerous girls; and by his high school graduation, in 2008, had reached the pinnacle of adolescent cool by dating "this really hot skanky cheerleader," as he puts it.

That fall, he enrolled at Dartmouth, where he had wanted to go for as long as he could remember. His late grandfather, Austin Lohse, had played football and lacrosse for Big Green, and both Andrew and his older brother, Jon, a Dartmouth junior, idolized him as the embodiment of the high-achieving, hard-drinking, fraternal ethos of the Dartmouth Man, or what Lohse calls a "true bro." A Dartmouth Man is a specific type of creature, and when I ask Lohse what constitutes true bro-ness, he provides an idealized portrait of white-male privilege: "good-looking, preppy, charismatic, excellent at cocktail parties, masculine, intelligent, wealthy (or soon to become so), a little bit rough around the edges" – not, in other words, a "douchey, superpolished Yalie."

A true bro, Lohse adds, can also drink inhuman amounts of beer, vomit profusely and keep on going, and perform a number of other hard-partying feats – Dartmouth provided the real-life inspiration for Animal House – that most people, including virtually all of Lohse's high school friends, would find astounding. This, like the high salaries that Dartmouth graduates command – the sixth-highest in the country, according to the most recent estimates – is a point of pride. "We win," is how one of Lohse's former buddies puts it.

On January 25th, Andrew Lohse took a major detour from the winning streak he'd been on for most of his life when, breaking with the Dartmouth code of omertà, he detailed some of the choicest bits of his college experience in an op-ed for the student paper The Dartmouth. "I was a member of a fraternity that asked pledges, in order to become a brother, to: swim in a kiddie pool of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar, which in one case caused a pledge to vomit blood; drink beer poured down fellow pledges' ass cracks... among other abuses," he wrote. He accused Dartmouth's storied Greek system – 17 fraternities, 11 sororities and three coed houses, to which roughly half of the student body belongs – of perpetuating a culture of "pervasive hazing, substance abuse and sexual assault," as well as an "intoxicating nihilism" that dominates campus social life. "One of the things I've learned at Dartmouth – one thing that sets a psychological precedent for many Dartmouth men – is that good people can do awful things to one another for absolutely no reason," he said. "Fraternity life is at the core of the college's human and cultural dysfunctions." Lohse concluded by recommending that Dartmouth overhaul its Greek system, and perhaps get rid of fraternities entirely.

This did not go over well. At a college where two-thirds of the upperclassmen are members of Greek houses, fraternities essentially control the social life on campus. To criticize Dartmouth's frats, which date back more than 150 years, is tantamount to criticizing Dartmouth itself, the smallest and most insular school in the Ivy League. Nestled on a picturesque campus in tiny Hanover, New Hampshire, the college has produced a long list of celebrated alumni – among them two Treasury secretaries (Timothy Geithner, '83, and Henry Paulson Jr., '68), a Labor secretary (Robert Reich, '68) and a hefty sampling of the one percent (including the CEOs of GE, eBay and Freddie Mac, and the former chairman of the Carlyle Group). Many of these titans of industry are products of the fraternity culture: Billionaire hedge-fund manager Stephen Mandel, who chairs Dartmouth's board of trustees, was a brother in Psi Upsilon, the oldest fraternity on campus. Jeffery Immelt, the CEO of GE, was a Phi Delt, as were a number of other prominent trustees, among them Morgan Stanley senior adviser R. Bradford Evans, billionaire oilman Trevor Rees-Jones and venture capitalist William W. Helman IV. Hank Paulson belonged to Lohse's fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, or SAE.

In response to Lohse's op-ed, the Dartmouth community let loose a torrent of vitriol against him on The Dartmouth's website. Lohse, it was decided, was "disgruntled" and a "criminal." His "blanket and bitter portrayal of the Greek system" was not only false, complained one alumnus, "but offensive to tens of thousands of Dartmouth alumni who cherished the memories of their fraternities." Another alumnus put it this way in a mock letter to a human-resources manager: "Dear Hiring Manager, do yourself a favor: Don't hire Andrew Lohse... He will bring disgrace to your institution, just as he did when he embarrassed Dartmouth and SAE." The consensus, as another alum put it: "If you don't want to be initiated, don't pledge."

Though two of Lohse's SAE brothers have confirmed his allegations are generally on the mark, the fraternity has turned on Lohse, portraying him as a calculating fabulist who bought into the Greek system wholeheartedly and then turned against it out of sheer vindictiveness. In a letter to Rolling Stone, SAE's lawyer, Harvey Silverglate, labeled some of Lohse's most extreme allegations "demonstrably untrue" and compared Lohse to the stripper who falsely accused a number of Duke lacrosse players of raping her in 2006. "Lohse is... a seemingly unstable individual," Silverglate wrote, "with a very poor reputation for truth-telling and a very big axe to grind."

This is not the first time that SAE has come under fire for hazing abuses, or the first time the house has closed ranks against an attack: In 2009, a member of the Dartmouth faculty accused the fraternity of making pledges chug milk and vinegar until they threw up. According to Lohse and two other SAE alums, the brothers agreed to deny the charges, and discussed in detail how to respond when questioned by college officials. This "culture of silence," as some on campus describe it, is both a product of the Greek system's ethos and the shield that enables it to operate with impunity.

"The fraternities here have a tremendous sense of entitlement – a different entitlement than you find at Harvard or other Ivy League schools," says Michael Bronski, a Dartmouth professor of women's and gender studies. "Their members are secure that they have bright futures, and they just don't care. I actually see the culture as being predicated on hazing. There's a level of violence at the heart of it that would be completely unacceptable anywhere else...

"Dartmouth is a very appearance-oriented place," sophomore Becca Rothfeld tells me when I visit the campus in February. "As long as everything is all right superficially, no one is willing to inquire as to the reality of the situation... "People don't really talk about things at Dartmouth, let alone argue or get outraged about them."

This winter, in the wake of Lohse's op-ed, 105 Dartmouth professors, concerned about this entrenched mindset of avoidance, signed a letter condemning hazing as "moral thuggery" and urged the college to overhaul the Greek system. It was the faculty's third concerted effort to reform the system since the 1990s. Dissent, a signature part of the undergraduate experience at many liberal-arts colleges, is, at Dartmouth, common only to the faculty. "No matter what your actual 'Dartmouth Experience' is, everyone usually falls in line and says, 'Yes, we all love Dartmouth,'" laments English professor Ivy Schweitzer... "It's really a very corporate way of thinking."

Within the Ivy League, Dartmouth is considered the most "corporate" of the schools, with a reputation for sending graduates to Wall Street and the upper echelons of the corporate world. Statistics show that roughly a quarter of each graduating class find jobs in finance and business – a figure many students consider low, given Dartmouth's prominent ties to its Wall Street alumni, who often come back to campus to recruit. "I've been at our house when a senior partner from a financial-services firm and a chief recruiter from someplace like Bain are standing around drinking with us as we haze our pledges," says senior Nathan Gusdorf...

"Presumably, you would find a lot of drinking and plenty of frat boys at any university," says Gusdorf, "but here, drunk frat boys are handed so much power right off the bat. People do incredibly bad things to one another here, because they know they're going to get away with it."

That attitude of inherent entitlement often carries over after graduation. "One of the few dependable ways into the one percent is via these elite feeder systems, like Dartmouth," says David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the author of Power Inc., which examines the influence wielded by multinational corporations in the global era...