Why We Say Save Our Schools

copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

I am but one who will stand strong to ensure an equal education for all.  All who do or plan to, will express themselves in various ways.  Some will March. Others will Rally or gather in Conference.  Several have, do, or expect to act locally.  Countless change what they can for children within the dynamics that define their family.  Nationwide, innumerable Americans join hands and embrace a common cause. Let us Save Our Schools.

Jointly, we wear our hearts on our sleeves so that our children, our communities, this country can see we care.  As our forefathers did before us, Americans invest in a shared future.  We trust that learned little ones, as well as those denied an adequate education must have a solid foundation on which to build.  Our offspring and we will suffer if, indeed, we do not work for the good of our young.  It seems our many decades long shortsighted education “solutions” have already had an adverse affect.  People from every political Party and point of view proclaim the need to teach the children well.  

The Left, “Right,” and middle muse; our education system needs reform. We must Save Our Schools.  The questions are how, which schools; charter, private or public institutions and why?  These queries lead to further reflection.  What might be preserved, reserved, reformed or left for ruin?  Would it be better to transform an arrangement that many agree fails our young?  The answers spur people to act.  It seems with little forethought, the process has already begun.  Indeed, change commenced decades ago.  

Headlines herald the news. Jonathan Mahler wrote in The Deadlocked Debate Over Education Reform. “The modern school-reform movement sprang to life in 1983, with the release of “A Nation at Risk,” an education report commissioned by the Reagan administration that boldly stated…that the United States had embarked upon a “unilateral educational disarmament…The Clinton administration’s emphasis on national standards… President George W. Bush’s declaiming of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”… ”

For some, the history is nothing in comparison to what we witness daily.  Children are being left behind.  The past was but prologue. It is now our present.  Education observer Mahler continues. “On to the current generation of reformers, with their embrace of charter schools and their attacks on the teachers union. The policies and rhetoric changed, often dramatically, but the underlying assumption remained the same: Our nation’s schools are in dire need of systemic reform.”  The debate as to how, why, when and where has become less about the little ones and more about rhetoric.  Messages are “framed” to ensure that a political agenda is maximized.

Today. Public Education has all but Perished.

The Frame; Change arrived in the form of “No Child Left Behind.” This law caused our children to languish further.  The One-Size-Fits-All tools adopted fit very few.  The state and the nation are pursuing policies that have not closed the achievement gap and have aggravated the situation for many students.  “Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s ‘get-tough’ approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ~ Bob Valiant. Kennewick School District. Education Matters. March 19, 2011

Political postures are effective, that is, for all but the young and their Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Guardians. These elders see the pain on their little loved ones faces.

Students Struggle to Survive…

Curriculums have been cut to the core.  Classes canceled. Test scores and statistics govern what occurs. “Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”  School Districts confronted with possible punishment, or the promise of financial rewards, dependent on student test scores, thought it wise to remove coursework that did not pertain to the subjects tested.  

Reading and math became the sole priorities. All other topics in a school’s curriculum, with the exception of Science, at minimum, were reduced in scope.  Some disciplines, such as the Arts, Social Science, and Literature were as the children, left further behind to the point of being lost.  For persons who care about our progeny, this point alone became the raison d’être for a Save Our Schools March, a Rally, a Conference, and a mass Movement.  The populace observed Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar. The pain became more and more palpable.

Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar.

Critical Thought, Creativity, and Curiosity are now null and void in our schools.  Public and private institutions wane.  Rather than a shared success among all students, today we have winners and losers.  Parents work to see that their children achieve.  The less financially fortunate will wait in enrollment lines for hours in hopes that by lottery, their young ones will triumph.  

Yet, few truly do.  In contrast to the much-touted claims, children who are accepted into these so-called “exceptional” charter schools are, in actuality, no better off than those who are rejected.  After a lengthy study, Senior Harvard University Lecturer Katherine K. Merseth observed, “No matter how they are measured, there are some amazing charter schools…At the same time, however, we know that there are many charters that are not successful. A further disappointment for me is that essentially given the freedom to create any form or structure of schooling, the vast majority of charter schools look just like the schools we’ve already got. ”

Religious schools fare no better.  Often seen as the savior for less than affluent parents, they also struggle with standards. Hard times push Catholic schools toward crisis.  Enrollment is down and the need to satisfy an insatiable American need for “accountability” is up.  Government sponsored voucher programs contributed to each of these truths.  Popular conventions are also the reason that Standardized Tests Taken by Nine Out of Ten Voucher Schools.

Even private schools have not fully escaped what often holds young learners back.  Standardization, in other words and ways, the testing craze is alive and well in exclusive schools.  These privileged institutions too have seen the errors of this way. Entrance exams are inaccurately evaluated. “Substantially equivalent” educations are as advertised.  Differences, in the end, are not realized,  Hence, as might be expected, most every curriculum in each locale has suffered, just as students have.  Again, as parents pour over test scores and the scours on little ones faces, in harmony, they chant “Please Save Our Schools!”

“Only two subjects [math and reading.] What a sadness,” said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. “That’s like a violin student who’s only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They’d lose their zest for music.”~ Sam Dillon The New York Times.  March 26, 2006

Students are at risk when punitive policies promote more scales, less music!

“Teach to the Tests.”

Proud Papa Barack Obama understands the problem and spoke to it in March 2011.  As the nation’s Chief Executive stood before students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network, at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, District of Columbia, the Professor turned President said, “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.  Yet, Administrations Mandate More Standards, Scores, Statistics, and School Closures.  Today, Performance is Reviewed Rigorously. “Race To The Top Requirements” rule.  Please peruse Race to the Top Program Executive Summary.  Department of Education. November 2009

While intellectually, Mister Obama understands the myriad hazards associated with “common core standards,” he and his Administration adopted these.  “Standardized-test scores can provide useful information about how students are doing  But as soon as the scores are tied to firing staff, giving bonuses, and closing schools, the measures become the goal of education, rather than an indicator.  Race to the Top went even beyond NCLB in its reliance on test scores as the ultimate measure of educational quality.” ~ Diane Ravitch. Historian and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Newsweek. March 20, 2011

Race To The Top Myths.

  • Teachers are to blame for the education crisis.
  • Business practices build solidly performing students and schools.
  • Rigor is “right.”
  • Teaching is a task anyone can do.

Race To The Top Truths.

“Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects?  The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.” ~ Marion Brady. veteran Teacher, Administrator, Curriculum Designer and Author. Washington Post

Administration after Administration administers standardized exams.  The scores reveal one truth consistently; our children are not standard.  Each is a Whole being, a child who yearns to learn more than memorize.  Indeed, to commit a fact, figure, or formula is not learning at all. Rote and regurgitate; this rhythm does not resonate in a mind, heart, body or soul.  Adults will tell you, in retrospect such an education is not an education at all.

Still policymakers are intent. Reinstatement. Rewrite. When will Legislators learn? The Race Leaves Children Further Behind. Please Save Our Schools!

National Standards. Low Expectations.

Countless concur. Standards and standardization in our schools has not helped advance humanity.  These are the cause of the stagnation we see in our schools.  Indeed, with the restrictions imposed, more students and Teachers dropout of an already diminished system.

More than five years ago, it was calculated that “Every Nine Seconds in America a Student Becomes a Dropout. Then and now we pay the cost for inadequate education structures.  

The number of Teachers who dropout of our schools in the first five years of their careers is far greater than that of students.   Studies show the most qualified Educators leave first.  Little support, poor conditions, and poverty play roles in what occurs.  Innumerable acknowledge; scarcity and the problems this puzzle presents within our society, specifically for our schools, is intolerable.  

Writer Kozol perhaps, speaks for the American people when he says,  “Good God, with all these gifts, useful energy, innocence, curiosity, why don’t we give [our children] everything we have?

This question is one every individual has asked at some time in their lives.  Even the childless are troubled by perceived injustices.  Teachers are troubled.  Parents perturbed.  A Professor ponders and shares her exploration. University of Berkeley Social Scientist Dacher Keltner reminds us of our roots.  Innately, humans hold dear the notion “survival of the kindest.” This truth is our strongest instinct. “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner.

Dacher Keltner’s research reveals that Political divides and partisanship disappears when compassion, particularly for the children, is the issue.  Possibly, this is the essence that energizes the masses to Rally, to March and to build a Movement.  The people are compelled to call for action.

Finally, as education worsens Moms and Dads put their habits and hubris aside.  Many have decided dollars can no longer dictate deeds as have been true in the past.  Compassion for the children can and must be our guide.  

Perhaps, that is the real reason people from every political Party will join hands. In Washington District of Columbia, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, California, in every State in the Union the public proclaims, we will not abandon our public schools.  This is why I will March, attend a Rally, Register for a Conference or two, and you? Will you?

References for Real and Rhetorical Education Reform . . .


To Believe

Milan – 5 Year Old Girl Basketball Star- Basketball Training

Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), [German Poet and Dramatist]

One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety- nine who have only interest.

~ John Stuart Mill [Philosopher]

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

We are born with an innate wisdom.  Each step we take helps us to grow wiser, or more full of woe.  The information we acquire often gives birth to anguish.  Too much elucidation is never enough.  As an infant, we yearn to learn.  Babies gaze, grasp, and get what they desire.  No harm comes to one who cannot move beyond, thus, thrives, in a protected environment.  Those fresh from the delivery room do not harbor expectations.  Few are placed upon them.  Existence, for the newborn, is a game of anticipation.  There are no rules, no regulations, and initially no reprimands.  The littlest children believe and thus, they achieve.  

As the babes develop, they explore beyond a crib.  Tots crawl.  They climb into this or that.  A drawer prompts a dive.  A pool promises a plunge.  When a small one wanders, a caregiver knows not where a tiny youngster will go.  Parents begin to place barriers in the child’s way, more are situated into the young one’s mind.  

Cries of caution come from elders.  “No!”  Mom might say.  “Do not do that,” Dad declares.  “How could you?” sister may scorn.  “Stop it!” the older son spurns.  Babysitters bark.  Guardians disapprovingly grunt.  The smaller sweet soul shrinks back.  He or she begins to understand knowledge is not power.  It is not good to grow the gray matter.  The more you recognize, the less you wish to realize.

“Curiosity,” a child is told, “kills the cat,” and research might end a relationship with the ones who once appreciated inquisitiveness.  A tiny world traveler, as a toddler will talk.  The most oft spoken word is “Why?”  

The inquiry may tickle a mother, father, grandparent, or other older person, at first.  However, after a time, grown-ups tire of what they perceive as too many questions.  In truth, it may be an embarrassed elder does not know the answers, and will not admit to ignorance on any subject.  Perchance, the person the youngster approaches believes the child does not truly care to gather details.  A mature man or woman might surmise to the tot, investigations are but a game.

Frequently, folks who have lost interest in discovery, or determined it is best not to be open to the novel, turn inward.  Fear of disdain from those a little one loves may have dampened a spirit.  Disparagement, invoked by strangers, can also scar an vibrant scientist.  An energetic essences is fragile in the face of foils.  Too many disappointments teach individuals not to delve into discussions or dare to do as they once thought possible.  

Yet, on occasion, a child is groomed to grow.  A nipper snaps with ability not yet quashed.  An innocent does not adopt inhibition.  Reticence is not realized, for rarely; yet thankfully, a naïve creature is given permission to be, to believe, and ultimately, to achieve.  

Some parents plum their progeny.  An instructor may provide incentives.  Inspiration can be caught, or taught.  Five year-old Milan, who dribble three basketballs with ease might remind us that a vision is worth more than money.  Words and wisdom that advance woe do not allow for accomplishments.  As the Triple Threat Academy, amongst the teachers of tiny Milan express. “Every player has the potential to be great, not only on the basketball court, but in the game of life.”

An experience that encourages, will help a little one realize that lessons learned “on the court can help shape their lives off the court as well. Education is a fundamental element” if edification, enlightenment is to be enjoyable.

If wisdom is to be wondrous, those old, and sage, must promise to teach the children well.   The more physically mature must practice as Author Napoleon Hill professed, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

Pro-Life; Pro-Choice

Rape Victim

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Her father, a male friend, a classmate, an acquaintance who she only exchanges casual niceties with when she sees him, the friend of a trusted friend who took her out on a first date, assaulted her.  She was shocked.  Never did she imagine someone who was familiar to her, a respectable gent, might do as he did.  She did not know that someone known to the victim commits almost two-thirds of rapes.  This lovely lass had not truly had a need to grapple with cruel realities.  She could not have considered the cruelest realities that would now change her life forever.  Nor have many politicians found themselves in a place as unimaginable as this.  Yet, Presidents, Vice Presidents, Senators, Representatives, and Judges appointed by one Administration or another have a decisive power to determine her future.

As the elected officials debate her circumstances and the consequences, she lives them.  The recent “pro-life” revelations offered by the potential Vice President, Sarah Palin reminds this survivor of her personal, private history, and the hell that haunts her.  Her misery may have been met when she sensed a stranger in her presence.  However, more likely she suffered at the hands of one she knows well.  

73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.?

38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.?

28% are an intimate.?

7% are a relative.

Her situation might have been as most; it could have occurred less than a mile from her home.  She may have been among the 4 in 10 who are maliciously molested in their own abode.  The young girl, older woman, middle-aged miss was attacked from behind, or perhaps, from a frontal position.  She was fondled and finally, penetrated.  Her most private parts were not merely entered.  Her sense of self was ripped from her soul.  Clinically, Jane, Joanne, Jana, or Jennifer was raped just as women, men too are violated throughout America.

In 2006, there were 272,350 victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.  (These figures do not include victims 12 years old or younger.)

Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

While the numbers of women subject to such an assault may be great, in truth, Deborah, Diane, Dina, and Dawn never thought they might be among these.  Each never expected to be a statistic.  Nor could they have predicted that they might become a vessel for another person’s personal angst.  Not one of these women wondered what might motivate someone to sexually assault them.  They were certain, they, themselves would never place themselves in a position to be brutally debased or heartlessly dishonored.

Yet, while in fear for their lives, ashamed, even mortified these frightened females unwillingly surrendered to a touch that terrified them.  Each was held tightly, not in a sensual manner, but as a means to control of their movements.  Engaged in an entanglement that was far from erotic, Sweet Sadie, Susan, Stephanie, or Sarah wondered and worried.  What might he do.  Did he have a weapon?  Until that moment, these ladies might not have fully appreciated the lethal power of language.  Yet, as the words of the perpetrator pierced their minds, hearts, and souls as a dagger might, they grew to understand.  In the United States, near eighteen (18) million have been victims of attempted or completed rape.  

1 out of every 6 American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.

9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.

While about 80% of all victims are white, minorities are somewhat more likely to be attacked.

Some of these lovely ladies, in their careers, may crack a ceiling.  They may be outwardly successful.  Still inwardly, invisible to the human eye, these daughters of Eve are emotionally shattered.  A fortunate few will work past the profound effect to the extent they are able.  Yet, they will never forget the horror they felt, the horrific crime they endured.  No Miss, Missus, or Ms will forget what changed their lives and outlook.

While they may “choose life” for the fetus, choose to give birth to the child who is the result of such a vicious, violent, aggression, it will always be a challenge to look at that little lovable being and not be reminded of when or how that beautiful baby came into being.  Humans may heal physically from an invasion into their body and being; however, the internal wounds leave serious scars.

A child, as they grow inevitably will, on occasion, error.  A mother conceived in love will hopefully understand.  She will likely be gentle with the toddler.  A prideful mother may appreciate the development.  Yet, that same potentially melodious Mom may not be quite as generous if she scorns the man who planted the seed.  The way in which a woman coddles, or cares, for an infant is influenced by her perception of the other biological parent.  Try as a Mommy might to forget the circumstances of conception, the memory remains.  A young one who ever acts in a manner that is defiant or difficult is frequently compared to the man who planted the seed .

Granted, a girl, a matron, or a soon-to-be Mom of any age, a woman who finds herself pregnant might consider adoption, as Vice Presidential aspirant Sarah Palin would advise.  However, as a new mother ponders the future, she  has faith she will never forget that she had a child and abandoned the precious being.  Sure, she may say to herself she gave her son or daughter a wonderful home, two parents, a chance at a better life.  Yet, in her heart of hearts she knows the child will wonder why his or her birth mother might desert a child so dear.  

How could she be certain that the parents who raise her baby will be the best.  The expectant Mom cannot imagine how she will live with the memory that she rejected her own . . . the baby who will also be a product of rape.  A woman torn from within may understand that the fabric of her life was torn and tattered when first the man placed his seed in her womb.

While this woman with child might trust as Sarah Palin does, birth begins at conception, she may also come to terms with the fact that a definitive death occurred within her.  As an Earthly life as she knew it ended on the day of her rape.  A female when forced to face the demon that destroyed her spirit considers the alternatives, cannot help but think of the quality of life, hers, and her baby’s.

She will wonder will the newborn be safe; will she.  Might she, as the mother, or her child, be sane in a world full of feeling provoked by a scurrilous crime.  Is a child, not conceived in love, or a Mom mortified by a memory, better off if they settle for simple survival.  A female who finds herself confronted with what is surely a traumatic decision, must weigh what no one can evaluate for her.  She must determine the significance of the events and attempt to evaluate how she and the being who may mature will thrive..  

Rape for a woman so fully developed can be as cruel as abortion is for one who is barely born.  Perchance, no one can decide what is paramount, preeminent, or the perfect choice.  If we, as a society, as people,  are to truly honor life, might humans respect an individuals right to choose how, when, or if his or her body is breached.  Could we also provide sterile and sanitary spaces for those who may ponder what is imperceptible, inconceivable to us.  Let us reflect upon life, the quality, and all that is not necessarily quantifiable.  Perchance, we might empathize with the women and the being in the womb, the two entities whose fragile feelings were ignored at the time of rape.

Sources . . . Survivors of Sexual Assault . . .

One Nation Left Behind

“One Nation Left Behind” Campaign

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Without a good education, children are left behind.  Americans understand this.  Yet, most do not acknowledge, in the United States, very few young persons receive quality instruction.  American children do not learn to think critically, creatively, or comprehensively in comparison to those in other countries.  Even students enrolled in excellent schools do not excel as children elsewhere do.  Internationally, the information published in a 2002, United Nations Children’s Fund, [UNICEF] study exposed a frightening truth; America pupils and schools receive poor grades when student performance and instruction are assessed.  Today, the American education system remains at risk.  As a recent report reinforces, today as we observe our offspring, we must consider the necessity of change.  It is time to make Tough Choices (in these) Tough Times.  This nation, left behind, must commit to teach our children well.

As adolescents, an individual who was not taught to analyze autonomously may do well.  As an adult, this same person will struggle to survive in the workforce.  While he or she may do well in school, as adults, people learn there is more to life than test taking.  Once out in the world, each of us receives the lesson rarely taught in the classroom, or at least one that is not taught as well.  Without the habit of hale and hearty intellectual activity, opportunities to expand in life are few.  A diploma deficiency can also make daily doings difficult.  Service jobs, which require little creative, innovative, and imagintive thought, will be all that is available to one who learned only how to prepare for and take tests.  

Accountability, while a noble concept, when calculated with abundant disregard for intellectual curiosity, quells a society’s greatest need.  The future is found in our youth.  Sadly, in recent years we, as a country have counted on tallies to tell us whether our children have learned.  In today’s schools our young acquire some, selective knowledge.  Teens and tots have mastered the methods necessary to improve Math, Science, and reading scores.  At least, the little ones have worked to secure these skills.  

In classrooms throughout the country, our offspring memorize and mechanically mouth the “facts” our ancestors discovered long ago.  Very few are instructed to think beyond what others in the past believed were the boundaries.  Unlike ancients who questioned accepted theories such as the Earth is flat, our progeny are trained to consent to a construct that may not be correct.  In America, people are so confident that what is currently considered the truth is accurate; we do not encourage our children to explore.

Moms, Dads, mentors, and the policymakers, who tell educators what to teach, confine children to rooms where dictums are delivered.  The statements, “Answer the question,”  “Do not ask why,” and “Do not turn the page” dominates the current curriculum.  “Silent.  Test in progress,” is a sign that hangs from many a door in educational institutions.  Pupils are told to mark a Scantron™ or bubble the circle in completely.  The only query frequently heard in American schools is, “Do you have a number 2 pencil?”

Boredom sets in amongst students whose minds crave creative activity.  Disheartened and dejected, millions of potentially scholarly pupils, dropout.  Intellectually, emotionally, and physically our offspring have dropped out in droves since No Child Left Behind was introduced in this nation’s schools.  However, this program is but an extension of a trend put in place by politicians who wish to embrace the popular notion, people must be held responsible.  Teachers, learners, and school Administrators need to document the acquisition of knowledge.

In today’s society, the focus is more on scores, tallies, totals, than it is on the child.  Hence, examinations are used to make high stake decisions.  In America, an evaluation administered on any given day in the life of a little one, determines whether a student is an achiever, or ultimately a failure.  A child’s school career can be crushed hours after he was told his parents would divorce, her father passed, or someone he or she loves is seriously ill.  

The statistics show that in the more than seven years that this policy has been law we have seen that a “high-stakes accountability system has a direct impact on the severity of the dropout problem.”  

The “original” premise behind the No Child Left Behind program or any plan that dictates a child must quash curiosity in favor of existing “factual” documentation is “Schools and students held accountable to these measures [standardized, high-stakes, test-based accountability] will automatically increase educational output.”  However, in a report titled, “Avoidable Losses: High-Stakes Accountability and the Dropout Crisis,” researchers reveal . . .

The reality is far different.  The findings of this study show that the accountability system itself is complicit in the very losses it claims to reverse.  The losses are avoidable, but not while this accountability system governs schools.

Perhaps, the possibility of better days and an improved instructional methodology is the reason educators have rallied ’round the Republican Convention and rolled out an unprecedented proclamation. America is One Nation Left Behind.  A nonprofit alliance “dedicated to increasing the dialogue about the state of public education in the United States” hopes to garner the attention of gadabouts, Convention goers, and government officials.  

Strong American Schools or representatives of this organization, also participated in the activities in Denver during the Democratic National Convention.  They understand politicians in each Party were, are, and will be responsible for reform, or the lack of change in the nation’s curriculum.

While sensitive to the source of the No Child Left Behind program the Grand Old Party President, George W. Bush, seasoned educators and experts in instruction are aware, Democrats also helped to hand down the decree that has destroyed American schools.  A bipartisan commitment to calculations over curiosity closed the doors to many an American mind.

That said, perchance, aware of the support for standardized educational plans amongst Republicans, this organization led by Roy Romer, a former Colorado Governor and Superintendent of the Los Angeles County Schools, chose this week to prominently share what they believe must be an essential message in a Presidential election year.  

Strong American Schools, the group behind the ED in ’08 campaign to boost debate about education in the presidential campaign, has a full-page ad in this morning’s St. Paul Pioneer Press that bluntly says, “Our schools are failing.”

The ad, in the newspaper’s special news section on the Republican National Convention, displays a ranking of national flags showing the United States as 21st in the world in science. (The fine print cites several assessments, including two from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.)

“The countries with the best schools attract the best jobs,” the ad says.  “If jobs move to countries like Finland and South Korea, your child’s opportunities dry up. And so does our economy.”

Although, most Americans claim the economy is the most important issue, in the first Presidential political debates, not one of the aspirants who wished to sit in the Oval Office mentioned education reform.  Those who vied for the presidency did not think it vital to speak of our students, or the American school system.  Citizens, perhaps trained to be apathetic, did not voice what must be a deep-seated source of distress if the United States is to grow truly successful children.  Curriculums must encourage  critical thought.

In the initial televised Democratic and Republican conversations with Americans, there was no mention of what citizens do not wish to consider.   In education, America is not number one.  This country is ranked at 21.  Internationally, in twenty other countries a higher percentage of students graduate from High School.  Seventy percent of eight-graders do not read at grade level.  Ninety-three percent of Middle School Science instructors are not trained in the discipline they teach.  The United States is the only developed nation to have a zero percentage increase in the number of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees awarded.

What those who wish to give birth to a strong America believe is, if America is to thrive, as a community, we must act on our awareness.  Children must be encouraged to think for themselves.  Elders must place education first if this country is to be number one, two, or even three.  Indeed, where the United States ranks on a scale is not nearly as significant as what we teach our children.

If this society is to succeed, Americans must embrace education for the Seventh Generation.  Each of us must prepare our progeny to be critical, creative, and curious thinkers.

The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.

~ Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American Author, Editor and Printer.

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.

~ Carl Rogers (January 8, 1902 – February 4, 1987) American Psychologist

Education, properly understood, is that which teaches discernment.

~ Joseph Roux (1725-1793) French Cartographer and Hydrographer


School Supplies and Sources . . .

Floridians Consider Taxes, Budget Cuts, and Effects on the Everglade State

Send Your Message?

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

On April 15, as Floridians rush to file tax forms few think of more than the burden.  The cost of living in the Sunshine State is high.  Levies are higher.  Each year, the toll these expenditures take on the lives of individuals and families increases.  Many citizens in this Southern State cry, “We need some relief!”  Representative have heard the call and responded.  Yet, the reaction may not be as thoughtful as it first appears to be.

Floridians may wish to consider the plea Democratic Party Chair, Congresswoman, Karen L. Thurman presents.  The Congresswoman discusses a stark reality.  Change may come at the expense of the common people.  A reduction in dollars and cents spent does not always equate to a savings.

Many in The Orange State are grateful.  Representatives in the State reviewed the budget and then expressed a belief cuts must be made.  Prompted by much public angst, the Conservatives may claim the people want the Legislature to be more restrained.  Few would argue that this is true.  What is equally valid is the fact that few would wish to compromise the safety, security, or sanity of the poorest people, and those who are physically most dependent on others.  If the impoverished are in need, incidental costs amass and local communities pay the ultimate price.

Our children, and their education, are vital.  The progeny are our future.  Parents are also not persons we would wish to hurt.  Throughout our lives Moms and Dads, now elderly protected us.  Now, we must help provide for their safety and security, just as they did for us.  Without the person who cared for us in our younger years, we would not be as profound and emotionally prosperous as we are.

The police and fire men and women also help ensure our safety and security.  Floridians, please ask yourself, can you afford to chance that these public servants may not be there when you need them most?

Granted, in this moment a resident of Florida may not be able to see into the future.  Today, he or she may think himself or herself healthy.  However, all living creatures must consider that cancers, heart attacks, strokes, and pneumonia does not knock on the door and ask for an invitation to enter a body.  These catastrophic illnesses creep up on a being silently, too often suddenly.  When people are fit, they need to ponder the possibility that has become more probable in many American households.  Insurers have cut coverage.  Co-pays are more exorbitant.  Businesses have eliminated Health Care benefits.  As the economy worsens and profits are negligible, this trend is likely to increase.  Floridians need to consider what might occur in hospitals as the cost of care soars .

There is much to contemplate as Floridians assess the quality of life and the proposed budget cuts.  I invite readers to respond to the impending crisis.  Planned budget cuts may not be the blessing citizens in the Everglade State thought they would be.  It is possible to remove allocations that do not serve the common folk well.  Floridians, please, let us look before we leap.  Do not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Please, ponder the profound impacts these changes may bring, rather than rely on clichés.  

Seemingly, simple solutions rarely address the specifics that are all too real in the lives of residents.  The thoughts of the Congresswoman, Karen L. Thurman  may help the people in Florida to make an informed decision.

Help if you choose.  Click on any of the links if you wish to act in the interest of those you love, Mom, Dad, son, daughter, spouse, and you .  .

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“If a state had its priorities straight, balancing a budget on the backs of the working poor, the elderly and the disabled would be the last option.  This year in Florida, it’s the first option… the Republican-led House and Senate [have] completed mutually heartless, stupid budgets…”

– Palm Beach Post Editorial, 4/15/08

Dear Florida Democrats,

Today is tax day in America, which means that we’ve all got money on the mind, even more than usual.  Times are tough.  Florida families are being squeezed, either directly or indirectly, by skyrocketing gas prices, rising health care costs, the continued housing crisis and, of course, the subprime mortgage disaster.

Moreover, the Republicans’ reckless policy of raising property taxes on middle class families to pay for special interest tax loopholes has been devastating.  You won’t ever hear them admit to raising taxes, but it’s true.  They’ve increased the required local effort – local property taxes – time and again.

Now the Republican politicians in Tallahassee want to squeeze the people of Florida even more – including the most vulnerable among us.  I’m always amazed by how heartless and self-serving Republicans in power are, but the proposed state budgets from the House and Senate mark a new low.

It’s not over yet, however.  As the “leaders” of the Republican-controlled Legislature negotiate the final budget, we must send them a strong and clear message: Get your priorities straight – NOW.

Click below to use our automated online tool to send a message to Republican Senate President Ken Pruitt, possible future Senate President Jeff Atwater, Speaker Marco Rubio and Speaker-Designate Ray Sansom today.


What do the Republicans want?  I’ll tell you:

The Republicans want to reduce per student spending in K-12 education for the first time in almost 40 years.  They want to eliminate Everglades clean-up efforts.  Though child abuse rises as the economy dives, they’re going after more than 70 child-protection jobs.

The Republicans also want to gut the highway patrol and reduce public safety.  They want to lay off almost 2,000 corrections officers, despite prisons being stretched to the limit already.  They want to cut a third of the state’s probation officers – the law enforcement specialists whose job it is to keep convicted sexual predators away from your children.

Republicans want to reduce hospice care for seniors and decimate county health departments and Area Health Education Centers, where Florida’s poorest in rural areas and underserved urban communities often go for their medical care.  They want thousands of inner-city school kids in Miami to see their doctors less often.

The Republicans want to end hospital care for 20,000 people with catastrophic illnesses and reduce access to anti-rejection drugs for Floridians who have received life-saving organ transplants.

The Republicans don’t have to do this.  Florida has a rainy day fund, and there are plenty of corporate tax loopholes that can be closed.  Democrats in the Legislature are fighting tooth and nail against the Republicans’ terrible decisions, but they need your help.

Click below to send a message to the Republicans in charge.  Write them about a personal story, and tell them to stop their recklessness before it hurts more Floridians.


They’ve spared nothing – except their special interest buddies.

Speaker Rubio secretly inserted language into the House budget to allow a friend’s company to bid for a multi-million dollar state contract.  While the Republicans want to slash financial aid and increase tuition for college students, Sen. Mike Haridopolos is accepting $75,000 a year to lecture part-time – on top of the $150,000 in state money he took to write a book that was never published.

Atwater, who thinks he should be Senate President, tried to kick bail bondsmen some cash, until he was caught red-handed by Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner.  Meanwhile, President Pruitt is allowing Atwater to take $7000 a month to train his future chief of staff – an unprecedented waste of taxpayer money.

Democrats proposed an alternative budget, and of course, the Republicans rejected it.  But that doesn’t mean we should back down.  Someday we’ll have a Legislature that works for the people again.  Until then, we have to speak up loudly.  Please take a few minutes today and write the Legislature before it’s too late.

Thank you for your commitment.


Congresswoman Karen L. Thurman

Chair, Florida Democratic Party

P.S. This Republican recession is a mess, and the Republican Legislature’s budget plans are going to make it even worse – if we don’t act now.  Send a message today:


Floridians who care thank those who also choose to do more than stress, then slice, and dice the necessary expenditures, those that ensure that inhabitants of the Sunshine State are safe, sane, and remain stable.  

School Shootings; Standards Kill Students and Society

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).  The Whole Child

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Each moment we live never was before and will never be again.

And yet what we teach children in school is 2 + 2 = 4 and Paris is the capital of France.

What we should be teaching them is what they are.

We should be saying: “Do you know what you are?

You are a marvel.

You are unique.

In all the world, there is no other child exactly like you.

In the millions of years that have passed, there has never been another child exactly like you.

You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven.

You have the capacity for anything.  

Yes, you are a marvel.”

~ Pablo Casals [Cello player, Conductor 1876 – 1973]

School shootings are in the news.  Throughout America, adults express concern.  Are the children safe when in a classroom.  Repeated rounds of ammunition affirm, they are not.  Some say times have changed.  There seems to be a consensus; we must secure our campuses,  Solutions are standard.  Society must protect the young.  Few think it possible to prevent another occurrence or attack. Let us examine the whole situation, the whole of our children.  Perchance, the problem is not as it appears.

People presumed all was well or hoped it was.  Individuals were reassured.  It was quiet.  However, the silence was broken thrice in recent days.  Correction; a forth shooter sprang out before people could take a breath.  Three dead in Louisiana campus shooting.  Student Shot During Gym at Tennessee School.  Student Wounded in Southern California Junior High.   Northern Illinois University [NIU] Shootings Stir Sense of Helplessness.  Theories abound.  Why are school shooting so prevalent?

Some say class size is the cause.  As a society, we see the effect of too many students served by too few teachers.  No single educator can connect well with each of the tens or hundreds of student they are expected to serve.  Experts argue, children are healthier when placed in smaller classes.  Judith Kafka, an Assistant Professor of Educational Policy, History, and Leadership at Baruch College, in New York City, writes It’s Guns, Not School Size.  Perchance it is neither, either, each, and much more.  

Americans recognize there is much to consider.  Legislators propose, school employees carry concealed weapons.  Some instructors already do.

High school English teacher Shirley Katz insists she needs to take her pistol with her to work because she fears her ex-husband could show up and try to harm her.  She’s also worried about a Columbine-style attack.

Katz is not alone.  Another instructor chose to protect herself regardless of District policies.  In a Washington Post editorial the statement is made . . . There are no reliable figures, but it’s a safe guess that in many or most of these instances, the guns were owned by the students’ parents.”  This may not always be so.  Other pupils’ Mom’s or Dads may own an arsenal, or a young person may have discovered other connections.  Cyberspace can be good source for guns.  We cannot be certain.  What we do know is, guns kill, and weaponry is easily and infinitely available.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job for workers in the United States after motor vehicle crashes (1). Every week, on average, 20 workers are killed, and 18,000 are assaulted (2). It is only in the last decade, however, that violence against workers has become widely recognized as an occupational health problem.

In a discussion on the topic, of guns in the workplace, Researcher and Co-author of the University of North Carolina Study, Homicide on the Job: Workplace and Community Determinants, Doctor Dana Loomis offered . . .

“[T]here was a nearly seven-fold increase in the risk of a worker being killed in workplaces that allowed guns and other weapons.” . . .

“We don’t know employers’ reasons for allowing workers to have guns on the job, but the belief that firearms offer protection against crime is obviously a possible motive.” . . .

“However, our data suggest that, like residents of households with guns, who are more likely to be victims of homicide, workers in places where the employer allows guns have a greater chance of being killed at work.”

As a nation, it is important to realize we are part of a global community.  Worldwide guns kill one-thousand people each day.  An International Action Network on Small Arms report states, “640 million guns are in circulation across the world and there are enough weapons to equip one in every 10 people.”  So, while we can argue whether students have access or not, perhaps the more important question is why a child might pick up a revolver.  What motivates or frustrates a little one or a young adult to take aim and shoot.

While conjecture continues, authentic answers have been few.  Solutions were tried; none were true.  In classrooms throughout America, teachers remain on guard.  Educators await the moment when a crash will be heard within the classroom.  Instructors trust the sound would be more than a book slammed on a desk.  Instructors know that a bang in the hallways or a blast from the science lab may not be an innocent incident.  Pupils understand this as well.  While all may appear playful, pupils seem to be joyful and learning, the troubled few may actually be the majority of the student population.  It is difficult to discern who might break first, last, or not at all.

Throughout the nation, educators engage each scholar, or attempt to, within the constraints of the curriculum.  Tim, an awkward adolescent, quivered, quaked, grunted, groaned when in the classroom.  This active lad moaned, lashed out, and laughed when he worked with his teachers.  Tim shook with joy, stumbled clumsily, stood straight, and then flopped to the floor.  The strange boy could focus; however, rarely on a prescribed lesson.  Educators labeled Tim a failure.  Even in “special” sessions, this energetic, enthusiastic young man seemed unable to learn.  There was a time when Tim was occupied and eager; however, that passed to quickly.

Elsewhere, an instructor is aware of the student in the front row.  This little lass is painfully shy.  Emma rarely participates in class.  She is plainly submissive.  On reflection, the instructor, friends, and family realized they never considered how distressed the girl was.  No one thought she would cut herself. Now, they wonder why.  

Asa was sometimes rowdy, understandably so.  He was starved for love and attention.  No matter how or what he tried, he did not receive kindness, only admonishments.  Soon Asa settled for scorn.  If people showed contempt for him, well, at least they knew he was alive.  The fourteen-year old just wanted to be acknowledged.  Asa hurt inside.  The pain poured out.  “He did seem angry. He was always angry in the face but he had no reason.”  Finally, the teen could hold his hurt no longer.  He cried out, “I cannot stand to live this way.”  Then, he ended it all.

“I thought they were joking.  I never took it seriously,” she said.  The young lads were fascinated by the infamous.  A massacre might appeal to those that crave retribution, reprisal, punishment, or some sort of popularity.  This form of expression might only be as a shout.  We cannot be certain.  Perchance, we could inquire.  The boys, Bradley, William, and Shawn, might tell us what they feel and why.  However, would busy parents, policy wonks, educators and Administrators all of whom are impressed by numbers, choose to listen if they ever dared to ask?

There are times when the opportunity to speak is gone forever.  A young boy or girl is taken from us too soon.  Countless roam the streets for without a quality education there is little left to do.  A few are institutionalized; others are medicated, imprisoned by the despair that overwhelms their minds.  Some rather die than endure the pain they feel here on Earth.  Sadly, we can no longer invite the girls over for tea.  The time to engage with a lovely lad or two will not come again.  Heads hang low as neighbors contemplate the loss of another young life to drugs, prescribed and preferred,  drink, or death.  

Words of woe pass between the people that knew him or her.  “She was barely a woman.”  “He had not yet reached the age of consent.  “They took their last breath not long after being born.”  “One more suicide in a statistical log.”  “We do not even know her name or his.  All we have is the evidence.”  There are scant clues to inform us; why might a child take their own life?

Suicide affects all youth, but some groups are at higher risk than others.  Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide.  Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 82% of the deaths were males and 18% were females.

While the discrepancy seems vast, there is still great cause for alarm.  At one time, girls were more likely to attempt the act.  Now, they frequently succeed.  In September 2007, we learned young women can conceive of, and achieve, what will end a life.

The suicide rate among preteen and young teen girls spiked 76 percent, a disturbing sign that federal health officials say they can’t fully explain . . . The biggest increase – about 76 percent – was in the suicide rate for 10- to 14-year-old girls. There were 94 suicides in that age group in 2004, compared to 56 in 2003. The rate is still low, fewer than one per 100,000 population.

Suicide rates among older teen girls, those aged 15-19 shot up 32 percent; rates for males in that age group rose 9 percent.

Our children are in pain and Americans ponder how can we protect the young [from themselves or from us.]  Each day, parents, and educators look into the face of the future and see what they or we refuse to recognize: anxiety, apprehension, depression, and even a twisted delight for what might be bothersome.  Some teens, and yes, even elementary age children have tendencies that, if consciously noticed, would be reason for concern.  Yet, there was and is no time for such “petty” pondering.  

Moms and Dads are occupied at work.  Instructors prepare to teach to the many tests.  Administrators assess an agenda that will bring more funds to their schools.  Districts implement programs that politicians think wise.  Pedagogy is not the principle concern in America; nor are the pupils.

Grades dominate in the grind known as school.  Class rankings are recorded for posterity.  Test tallies tell the tale of success.  Permanent files are kept.  A little person will be evaluated on their performance in the classroom, in the community.  The good child receives a gold star; the best school is granted gold as well.  Cash fills the coffers of an institution that appears accountable.  The construct that states, as a society adults must teach to the Whole Child is but a blip in a vast universe of significant interests.  Only a few in the field of education follow theories laid out in The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action.

To the doctor, the child is a typhoid patient;

to the playground supervisor, a first baseman;

to the teacher, a learner of arithmetic.

At times, he may be different things to each of these specialists,

but too rarely is he a whole child to any of them.

~ From the 1930 report of the White House Conference on Children and Youth

In our culture, people have priorities.  For each of us our main concern is personal.  Too often, we forget, our children determine the quality of our future.  Parents, Principals, and policy-makers invest in the immediate much to the dismay and degradation of the Seventh Generation and their progeny.

For countless careered Moms, Dads, prominence is far more important than personal passion.  Parents do what they can to ensure their child is enrolled in the best schools.  They drive hither and yon.  After-school lessons are scheduled for every hour of the day.  Families grab some food, fast, then they ready for bed.  Moms and Dads ask, “Is your homework complete?”  Parents do not inquire; “How are you?”  “What do you feel?”  “May I help?”  Mothers and fathers do not ask for the answer does not matter to those who expect children will do as they have always done, grin and bear it.  “Don’t you dare cry or sigh” is the common contention.

Teachers and Playground Supervisors may not wish to surrender a perceived dominance.  Classroom control and an organized playing field are essential if children are to learn or throw a good pitch.  For a Doctor, diagnosis is the challenge.  Few think of the emotional fractures in a child’s life.  The visible is far more viable to those with a job to do.

Besides, it seems that the young are resilient.  Elders believe that tots do not experience lasting pain, and if they do the offspring will not remember, or be harmed, nor act on the duress they encounter.  Children go through phases; nothing is permanent, or so the adults wish to believe.  

The smallest persons in society smile.  They endure; however, many hurt deeply.  Each face tells a unique story.  Rarely do we consider the distinctive existence of individual beings.  We do not ask of an individual child’s experiences, the effects of these, or the emotions each event in a young life evokes.  The current curriculum requires accountability; it demands instructors avoid the nuances.  What makes a child tick is of little consequence.  As long as he or she can perform on a test, that is all that counts.

At times, the system will make allowances for those in need of remedial classes.  A child may be defined as “special.”  Sadly, this determination furthers separates a student from classmates and often from his or her self.  Tim was one of these.

Any individual singled out, accepted as standard, or told he or she is superior will react to the identification.  Each label has its own externally imposed expectation.  Children try to aspire to what they are told they must achieve.  They go along to get along, or they resign themselves to defeat.  Even those thought to be successful by all in their community frequently feel they fail miserably.  

It is no wonder our young people seek solace in drugs, drink, sex, or death.  Our offspring, fighting to survive, to soar, to score on a test, or place well on a High School exit or college entrance exam, frequently feel dead inside.  Occasionally a child will kill others, or them selves.  Most, merely maintain a presence, as did Seung Hui Cho for a time.

Cho graduated from Westfield High School in 2003. But there is no mention of him in that yearbook, not so much as a senior picture.   The high school, which opened in 2000, is stocked with high achievers. Newsweek magazine once ranked it among the 50 best public high schools in America.  

Its football team won the state championship the year Cho graduated. But with 1,600 students then, Cho was the odd boy who never spoke, former classmates recalled. He joined the science club but just sat there.  He carried around an instrument that earned him the name “Trombone Boy.”

School officials went to some lengths to encourage students to interact.  They put round tables in the lunchroom so no one would feel left out.  The “Westfield Welcomers” club formed to help wallflowers and outcasts fit in.  But none of it seemed to work for the lonely, acne-plagued boy in glasses who was so quiet that some wondered whether he could speak at all.

Some sociologist would say Seung Hui Cho fits the profile of a mass murderer.  Were we as a nation prepared to recognize and work with the hurt being in our midst the potential killer, we might have looked at Seung Hui Cho and seen the signs.  However, indications implied after the fact, the act, are less obvious when encountered in a moment.  Indeed, at times, if not always, the invisible inspires an individual to do as he or she does.  

Pain is not painted on a face; nor does a person always scream out when they need help.  Most of us are taught to take care ourselves.  Yet, few of us know how to do this adequately.  Perhaps, those that lash out believe they are doing what they need to do to release the pressure.

In America, little “big boys” learn not to cry.   A sweet lass is told to look pretty.  Tears are unattractive.  In this country, independence is ideal.  Adults teach the children not to be too needy.  “No one wants to hear your troubles.”  When asked ‘How are you,’ answer, ‘I am fine.’  Then, move on, or pretend to.  ‘Do not expect too much.’  ‘Get good grades.’  ‘Make lots of money.’ In a competitive society, that is all that counts.

Some students do as is standard quite well.  Steven Kazmierczak did.  Steven was an outstanding student.  He was engaging, polite, and industrious.  The friendly fellow had a bright future in the field of criminal justice.  Steve, as he preferred to be called, graduated from college in 2007.  The scholar continued his studies in graduate school.  Since early adolescence, the lad was intent on helping society.  Hence, he majored in sociology as an undergraduate.  After he completed his preliminary coursework, Steven went on to pursue a Masters degree in the School of Social Work.  This gracious gent had a girlfriend.  Steve was anything but a loner, haunted with obvious hurts.

On the Northern Illinois University campus, Steven P. Kazmierczak was considered a gentle, hard-working student, who was honored two years ago with a dean’s award for his sociology work.?? Professors who taught him said it was hard to imagine he was the same person authorities identified as the gunman in Thursday’s classroom shootings.

“I knew Steve both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. I have had him in my home. I knew him as a warm, sensitive, very bright student,” said Professor Kristen Myers in an e-mail. “I never would believe that he could do this. I know that when these horrible things happen, everyone searches for roots to explain it. Here, I’m afraid I don’t have any.”

Steven Kazmierczak was an excellent student.  A former classmate called Kazmierczak “probably the best student in the class.”  Another student spoke of how helpful Steven was.  Stephanie Delhotal, 22, a former sociology undergraduate student said Kazmierczak worked as a teaching assistant in her statistics lab only a year prior.?? “I learned most of what I knew from him,” said Delhotal.  Stephanie Delhotal, who is now a professional Social Worker, offered, “He was very nice and very friendly . . . he was so into statistics. I just took him to be a computer nerd.”

Delhotal did not know him before the course, but saw him in the lab as many as three times a week during the semester, she said.?? “I was completely shocked. I just keep thinking back about how easy he was to talk to,” she said. “He had a dry sense of humor.”

However, humor and academic achievement do not necessarily bring joy.  Instruction that focuses on formulas, figures, facts, and scientific findings do little to give rise to a healthy human being, and perhaps that is the problem yet to be broached in the classroom, or even in our homes.  In educational institutions, instructors are required to attend to the parts.  Teachers and Administrators address perceive accountability.  As a nation, we ignore the whole.  Countrywide, we do not ask who a child might be.

Instruction begins when you, the teacher,

learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand

. . .  what he learns and the way he understands it.

~ Soren Kierkegaard

For the most part, curriculums are designed to pour information into a pupil, as though a human being were an empty vessel ready to fill.  If we are to truly educate our progeny, we must redefine instruction.  We need to create a culture that helps children to authentically acquire knowledge, not grades.

Learning is something students do, NOT something done to students.

~ Alfie Kohn [American Lecturer, Author, Educator]

The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action attempts to do this.  

  • Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Each student learns in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Each graduate is challenged by a well-balanced curriculum and is prepared for success in college or further study and for employment in a global environment.

This promise is contrary to the current standard initiated with the advent and implementation of No Child Left Behind.  On paper, at first blush, the newer educational program appears sound.  The policy advances practices and philosophies that have existed in society for centuries.  The populace has long endorsed gentle interpretations of “Spare the rod; spoil the child.”  Hence, in schools strategies that are thought to serve accountability were easily adopted.

Transforming the Federal Role in Education So That No Child is Left Behind

The Policy

The Administration’s education reform agenda is comprised of the following key components . . .

Closing the Achievement Gap:
  • Accountability and High Standards.
  • States, school districts, and schools must be accountable for ensuring that all students, including disadvantaged students, meet high academic standards.

    ‘Good, good, that sounds good,’ say parents, Principals, and policy makers.  All are interested in education and each wants to make certain our children receive quality instruction.  High expectations and verification are vital.  Administrators must answer for the programs the public pays for.  No one can blame the student if the school does not do as deemed necessary.  Americans believe we must reward achievement and punish those who fail.  As we age, most of us forget, in order to succeed, we must learn from our errors.  Most adults avoid the subject of task analysis.  In education, many accept the end justifies the means.  Teachers are trained to teach to the test.  Students are tutored in how to best pass an examination.  If perchance, each or either fails, the government mandates, there will be repercussions.  One consequence is so subtle it often goes unnoticed.

    Dropout rates slowly increase.  Low-achievers, in frustration, leave school behind.  Thus, the appearance of rising test scores and of a narrowing of the achievement gap is achieved.  School ratings increase, authentic education decreases.

    A recent

    study of Texas public school accountability system,
    the model for the national No Child Left Behind Act, establishes that, the longer the high stakes testing program are in use, the worse the outcome.  Children already made less important than the curriculum by this mandate are further reduced in significance.  As could have been expected, instructional personnel begin to view students not as children to educate, but as potential liabilities.  A pupil accomplished in test-taking is seen as an asset; high scores raise a school’s performance indicators, advance the careers of educators, and help to grow the funds a school receives.

    The research also indicates that Principals frequently play with pupils’ lives in order to further their professional prominence.  A child will not be allowed to advance a grade if he or she is deemed at-risk.  If a student’s grade on the exam will potentially threaten the schools status, arrangements are made.  Most students retained in this manner give up on themselves and on school.  Just as educators punish a less than perfect child, the system penalizes a struggling school.

    • States must develop a system of sanctions and rewards to hold districts and schools accountable for improving academic achievement. . . .
    • Consequences for Schools that Fail to Educate Disadvantaged Students.  Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress for disadvantaged students will first receive assistance, and then come under corrective action if they still fail to make progress.  

      If schools fail to make adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years, disadvantaged students may use Title I funds to transfer to a higher-performing public or private school, or receive supplemental educational services from a provider of choice.

    Therein lies the problem.  When an educational institution or a child does not perform “properly,” they are punished.  Punitive actions so not help better a school or a student.  Studies show punitive practices hurt a society or and the instructional staff.

    Dear reader, you may recall in your own life the times when you acted in a manner that was considered disruptive, destructive, or without regard for others.  If you were confined to your room, restricted from doing what brought you pleasure, ridiculed, or severely reprimanded you may have reacted poorly.  Resentment readies an individual for further rebellion.  Logic tell us, if a child or an adult is to learn or improve, they must be given an opportunity to reflect.  Humans acquire wisdom when others trust the learner can grow.  Reciprocal reverence, empathy is the best educator.  

    However, logic rarely rules when people are reactive.  Parent, Principals, and educators are after all, only human.  When frustrated with what they fear they cannot control, people of any age penalize those who do not perform as desired.  Rebukes realize no rewards.

    Why Punishment Does Not Work

    The research literature gives clear guidelines about the ineffectiveness of punishment as the only correction procedure for children’s misbehavior. Yelling, shaming, scolding, and corporal punishment backfire and create a mind set in the child where he misbehaves more. Some children do worse when words like “never,” “don t,” “should not,” and “It’s not okay” are used during correction. There are many negative side effects associated with being punished:
    • Punishment for aggression may stop the behavior temporarily, but may further stimulate aggressive behavior.
    • The child may stop the punished behavior but may increase another aggressive behavior.
    • Punishment may serve as a model for aggression. Children imitate what they see adults do.
    • The punished behavior may stop only in the presence of the adult and increase in other settings.
    • The child may strike back at the punishing adult or displace his anger at someone else.
    • Frequent punishment may cause some children to withdraw and regress.
    • Angry children who do not fear authority may become more angry and focus on revenge.
    • The child may feel shame and harbor thoughts of lowered self- esteem (I’m a bad person. I’m mean.)
    • Punishment merely suppresses the response but does not teach the child what to do.

    In the short term, punishment may be effective in suppressing negative behavior when the punisher is present, but it does not teach the child positive ways to act. Punishing techniques that make the child feel bad about himself may make him act out more!

    Remember Asa.  This child felt besieged, plagued, punished for being the person he was.  This young man received ample ridicule.  He was constantly punished; his presence alone was enough to bring an onslaught of attacks.  Classmates called him Jack Black.  The label referred to the vociferous, chubby, long-haired actor in the movie “School of Rock.”

    Asa could be shrill.  His appearance alone might have been classified as a cry for attention.  His hair was unkempt.  Histrionic accoutrements graced his neck, his nails, and his abdomen.  Asa adorned his fingernails with black polish.  Around his neck, he wore a dog.  A faded rock concert tee-shirt covered his chest.  A trench coat completed the composition.

    Asa often felt as though he was tormented, teased, taunted, and mocked.  The troubled lad felt victim to frequent slights.  He believed others belittled him, beguiled him.  He was deceived and ill received.  Asa Coon felt misunderstood, and he craved as all creatures do, love, not loathing.  In frustration, Asa Coon characteristically lashed out.  He was not merely a quirky lad; he was quick to anger.

    This was the Asa who always seemed to be in fights at school.  This was the Asa who slapped around his mother. This was the Asa who talked about suicide.

    And it was this Asa, authorities say, who walked into SuccessTech Academy Wednesday with a satchel full of guns and ammunition and opened fire on teachers and students. . .

    What apparently pushed Asa’s troubled young mind over the edge was an argument with classmates about the existence of God.  It happened a few days ago in reading class.

    Asa said he didn’t believe in God and didn’t respect God.

    Another kid disagreed. . . .

    After school, the two kids fought.  Asa took a beating.  Both were suspended.

    “I’m going to get you,” he warned his tormentor.  “I will get you.”

    Indeed, he did.  Asa attempted to take revenge on those he believed wronged him.  A professional, Professor Jack Levin, Northeastern University, Criminology, offered a worthy assessment of the situation.  Perhaps, the lesson Americans need to learn is often lost.  What truly occurs within our offspring is left behind as our children are today.

    There are always missed signals.  The problem is that they only become clear after the fact.  Hindsight is 20/20, and after somebody shoots a number of people, everybody all of a sudden is a psychologist and recognizes all the warning signs.  Now, the problem is that these warning signs beforehand apply to so many youngsters.  Many of these shooters hate school or they like Marilyn Manson or they black — they use Gothic clothing.  They’re rebellious.  The best predictor we have is previous violence, and in this case Asa definitely had that in his background, but my point is this, we ought to be intervening early in the life of a child because he’s troubled, not because he’s troublesome.

    On rare occasions, a child has an opportunity to authentically connect to an adult, a curriculum, life, and lessons that are given and received with love.  After Tim  met Barbara M. Stock, he became one, among the exceptions.  At the time, the two encountered each other, Barbara held a brand new doctorate degree in Psychology and education.  The young scholar was proud the knowledge she accumulated.  Upon reflection, she states, she was “full of” herself.  Shortly after she received her Ph.D., Stock and her husband moved to a small quaint town.  Jobs were few, opportunities fragile.  

    Advised by a receptionist in the Special Education Department of the local school district, Barbara Stock pursued a practical possibility.  Perchance, she could find a job within the BRAT program.  Curious and anxious to impress, Doctor Stock inquired.

    I asked the mothers, “What does BRAT mean?” The mothers gave me how-stupid-are-you looks. “BRAT,” one mother said. ” ‘Brat…’ That’s what the school people call our kids.” It wasn’t an acronym for Behavioral…Remediation …Anything.

    As Stock observed the students, she realized her mission. A lone lad came into view.  Tim was awkward, assertive, and jubilant, all at once.  He was energetic and alien in his approach to life. After a short time, Tim’s mother noticed Doctor Stock and her stare.  The parent introduced herself to the professional person in her presence. “Mom” whispered to Barbara Stock, Tim was eight years of age and had learned nothing in this half-day program. Tim’s mother wanted an afternoon tutor for her son.  She hoped that if someone special would invest in her child, one-on-one, the odd boy would excel.  There might be hope.  Stock pondered the possibility.

    Confident I could perform brilliantly, I agreed to tutor Tim. I saw this as a great opportunity: I could use the newest techniques of behavioral reinforcement and multi-sensory stimulation to teach Tim. Then I would write an article or even a book on my achievement. I’d dreamt of one day having my own school; this would give me the credentials. I’d already accumulated all sorts of learning devices-sandpaper letters, Cuisenaire rods, a balance beam. I arranged a child-size table and two chairs in our finished basement and created an inviting “learning space.” I was ready and willing to begin my major project: The Teaching of Tim.

    Weeks went by; months moved quickly.  Tortured tutor, who loved her young teacher, Tim, Barbara M. Stock, learned what most educators are reluctant to admit.  

    Tim surprised me. He excelled, though not from any lesson I planned.

    Frustrated and bewildered with the accredited approaches that proved futile, Stock embraced what was more real.  She engaged the child in a manner that allowed Tim to be Tim.

    Gradually, I had to let go of my analytical, intellectual approach. I taught Tim best on his terms, seizing the opportunities he enjoyed and encouraging him to be practical, playful, and protective.

    Although I’d wanted to give up on Tim many times out of personal frustration, I felt truly sad when I had to say goodbye to him. I had no data, no article, no book to publish. Tim could pay attention longer, express himself better, and manage his frustration more often.  But his gains were infinitesimal, impossible to measure.  I felt like a total failure.

    Tim’s mother and I became friends and to her I confessed my defeat. She saw the situation differently. “He looks forward to seeing you.  He smiles,” she said.  “With you he’s not a ‘brat.’  These are gifts beyond measure.”

    As we said goodbye, Tim hugged me.  His mother laughed out loud.  “That’s a first, and probably not listed on any test.”

    Tim’s Mom was sensitive to the whole of her child.  She observed his trials and tribulations with great care.  The concerned parent [or teacher] can recognize triumphs.  Tests do not.

    Barbara M. Stock with all her prominence, prestige, and post-graduate expertise was helped to understand what typically remains undetected.  Erudition is not necessarily visible to those who know not what they see.  

    Indeed, the manner in which each of us internalizes instruction differs.  We need only consider Emma, Asa, Bradley, William, Shawn, Tim, or ourselves to realize one size, one test, cannot fit all.  Standardize assessments do not allow for nuance.  Pedagogical practices, no matter how philosophically profound, may not be as effective as “real” life lessons are.  When individuals, teacher and student, parent and pupil, administrators and instructors, interact with authenticity, each senses they are accepted and admired.  People learn when they treasure the tutorial.

    Empathy is the best educator.  Punishment or mechanical methodology, presumed to be a practical, do not reward a spirit starved for insights.  Meaningful and appreciative acknowledgements nurture a mind, heart, body, and soul.  A healthy child is whole.  His or her education is balanced.  When a child is reactive, a distraction, or destructive, elders must acknowledge the little one is pleading for assistance.  ‘Teach me,’ he or she shouts.  If adults are to abet, they must realize penalties alienate.  Praise produces desirable results.

    What Does Work

    The research shows that praise for appropriate behavior, reasoning, giving consequences, withholding privileges, time out and teaching the appropriate social skills do help a frustrated child make better behavioral choices.

    The child who misbehaves constantly needs to hear correction statements phrased in positive language to implant alternative ways of thinking and acting in his developing value system. Telling the child with behavior problems what not to do often guarantees that he will go and do it! Instead, tell him what to do and help him to feel good just thinking about acting in positive ways. Give a choice between two alternatives.

    Teaching social skills gives a process of correcting the inappropriate behavior instead of suppressing it through punishment. Social skills training offers a more humane way of giving children tools to deal with conflict so that they can take care of themselves. Learning social skills helps children reduce aggressive and violent behavior. Teaching the prosocial skills helps all of us. When children learn and use positive reciprocal ways of interacting with each other, this adds to peace in our world.

    Processing Cues To Say After Conflict

    What you say to an aggressive child will determine the likelihood of his decreasing the inappropriate behavior the next time. To break into the child’s negative thinking patterns, process what happened and what could be different next time in a non- threatening way. The research shows that people are most ripe for change after a situation of high emotional arousal. Being corrected is generally a high arousal situation so the child should be ripe for new learning. You have a golden opportunity to help your child make the commitment to change by using this teaching approach.

    If you can get to the child’s vulnerability and sense of fair play after a situation of conflict, you can help him make changes. Show the child the consequences of his actions on others. Whenever possible, give him a choice. Ask him to make a value judgment on what he did. Give him solid information on how he could react in positive ways.  Always leave him feeling good about himself with hope for the future.

    Few of the questions posed on examinations reward a learner.  Results are not immediate.  What a child is asked to assesses is often not real or personally relevant to a young person.  In America today, on tests, in the classroom, and even in some homes, children are not required to think critically.  Nor are they given the opportunity to imagine, innovate, or invent.  Conventional wisdom dominates the curriculum, and students fall further and further behind.  Sadly, we often look at our best students and see automatons.  However, they are more.

    Today we come across an individual who behaves like an automaton,

    who does not know or understand himself,

    and the only  person that he knows is the person he is supposed to be,

    whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech,

    whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter,

    and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain.

    Two statements may be said concerning this individual.

    One is that he suffers from defects of spontaneity and individuality, which may seem to be incurable.

    At the same time it may be said of him,

    he does not differ essentially from the millions of the rest of us who walk upon the earth.

    ~ Erich Fromm [Observer of Humankind, Psychologist and Author]

    Might we begin to embrace our children and their sweet souls.  Let us no longer scold students when they struggle to grasp the essence of a standard test question.  We need not drug those whose attention span is short.  Let us, educators, and parents engage each child individually.  If perchance, we listen to what the children tell us about them selves, if we see each student as a whole child, we might learn how to best teach them.

    The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.

    ~ R. M. Hutchins [American Educator, Author, The University of Utopia and The Learning Society, Board Editor for Encyclopedia Britannica]

    Perhaps adults can take a lesson from life.  Each of the school shooting show us, our offspring are in pain.  Medications will not cure what ails the young.  Restrictions placed on guns, or access to other objects, will not make our schools safer.  More of the same and stricter standards will only serve to deaden minds that wish to soar.  That is the paradox.  Americans send their children to school to learn; then they squelch the possibility.  May we teach the offspring well and allow them to tell us what they need as a whole child.

    “To teach is to learn twice.”

    ~ Joseph Joubert [French Critic]

    In this country today, citizens are reminded that Math, Science, and Reading, the basics are essential.  Students study so that they might pass tests in these subject areas.  Teachers teach techniques that ensure success on examinations.  Facts fill the air in American classrooms.  Some scholars survive , others hope to die.

    In this nation, we forget.  There is so much more to life than Math, and more to Algebra than a correct answer.  As Mister Kupfer, a High School mentor tells his students, a correct solution does not authenticate that a student understands the process.  A problem requires more than a guesstimate, or memorization of a formula.  Mathematician Kupfer states, if a pupil cannot work through a problem, twenty years after he or she saw it in class, then they never truly learned how to solve the equation.

    Science is not as simple as a law declared absolute.  Theories also abound.  Curious souls search beyond what they know to be true and discover what is yet to be part of a standard curriculum.  A student motivated to think, rather than realize a score on a test, might take a quantum leap.  A student, trained to think as a scientist might, will not simply accept a static answer.  Analysis is not wrong; it is just not encouraged when the course of study is guided by multiple choice tests.

    Reading requires more than regurgitation of the words printed in a booklet.  Bubbles darkened in on a page, and preparation for tests do not a satisfy a sincere student.  Our children are asking to learn.  They crave a caring connection.  Let us bring education back into our homes and our schools.  May we teach our offspring well and wholly.  The  youth are our future; may we give them a strong foundation.  Research, Reflection, and reverence, these are the three R’s, the basics.

    Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.  

    ~ Albert Einstein

    Schools, Standards, Sources . . .

    Dropout Nation; Communities Can Cure The Silent Student Epidemic


    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Eva was young, full of life, eager to learn.  She was enthusiastic.  These traits were attractive to all the youthful men in her High School class.  Many courted the vibrant lass.  Eric won her attention.  Each was looking for love.  Throughout their lives, these adolescents felt less than connected to their respective families.  School was a social forum, a place where it was possible to relate to peers, if not the curriculum.  Perhaps, that is why, at such a tender age Eric and Eva mistakenly thought lust, the chemical energy experienced during their every exchange, was deeper than a mere physical desire.  The two embraced and baby made three.  

    At fifteen years-of- age, Eva felt forced to dropout of school.  As a committed Mom, she decided she must attend to her baby.  With the birth of a child, Eric too concluded he had a greater mission than school.  He must devote his life to his offspring.  In a moment of lovemaking, the lives of many changed.  Eva and Eric started a family; that entity became their future.  

    The couple is among the seven thousand [7,000] High School students who drop out each day.  Every year the silent epidemic expands.  The number of students that leave the school system is equivalent to the population of Philadelphia.  The large number of dropouts affects our nation’s neighborhoods.  If we are to slow, or stop the cycle, we must drastically change what we do in our schools.  As an individual and as a community, we must show we care.  

    Some organizations have already become involved.  Communities In Schools works to help our youth stay in school and prepare for life.  However, one alliance cannot go it alone.  We must share resources.  However, first, we need to recognize the crisis, evaluate what seems endemic.  The tale of Eva and Eric is telling.

    Early adult responsibilities. An individual’s nonschool experiences also have been found to impact dropout.  When adolescents are forced to take on adult responsibilities, it decreases their likelihood of staying in school until graduation.  Possible responsibilities range from becoming a teen parent (Cairns, Cairns, & Neckerman, 1989; Gleason & Dynarski, 2002; Rumberger, 2001), having to take a job to help out his or her family (Jordan, Lara, & McPartland, 1994), or having to care for siblings (Rosenthal, 1998).  Combining school with working at a job more than 20 hours a week significantly increases the likelihood that a student will leave school before graduating (Barro & Kolstad, 1987; Goldschmidt & Wang, 1999; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).

    Josh was a strapping young man.  He was bright; however, not brilliant.  His parents provided for him as best they could.  Nonetheless, Josh felt overwhelmed.  He often thought his Mom needed him too much.  Dad was emotionally detached.  Physically, the father tried to be there for his son Joshua.  However, he did not know how to be a good parent.  He had never seen one; nor had he experienced the unconditional love of his own mother or father.  

    While Josh felt close to his parents, he also desperately wanted to get away from their clutches.  At school, recruiters filled the halls.  These military men and women were friendly.  They strolled about campus with grace and refinement.  For such young folks, these uniformed soldiers were truly quite sophisticated.  The smiles of these servicemen and women gleamed, just as brass buttons on their gear did.  The troops that circulated throughout the school grounds wore patent leather shoes that reflected the sunlight.  Each time Josh saw the glow from the footwear dance in the air, he felt the force of fate touch him.  

    Josh looked up to the troops he knew.  They treated him a as brother, a friend.  Josh felt these fellows and gals genuinely cared.

    Ultimately, Josh was drawn in, or he was released from the obligations, the resignation, he experienced at home.  The young man saw the military as a way out and a way into a family different from his own.  Josh wanted to belong, to be a part of something, not needed, but wanted.  He joined the Armed forces before he graduated from High School.  

    Joshua believed he could not stand one more moment in his parents’ home.  He never really liked school.  He was bored, detached, and looking for something.  The Marines, Army, or Navy would surely provide the expectant adolescent lad with adventure, a sense of belonging, a job, and funds for a college education, if later, he determined that was what he wanted.  Once in the military, Josh was certain his mother and father could no longer decide what was right for him.  Josh is as one of three adolescents that do not graduate from High School.

    Family dynamics. Some studies have found a link between family processes and relationships and graduation.  The quality of early caregiving and mother-child relationships was found in one study to be significantly linked to dropout (Jimerson et al., 2000).

    Grace was a giving girl.  She was the child of immigrant parents.  Her mother and father worked multiple low-wage jobs for as long as she could remember.  Without adequate language skills, it was difficult for her parents to secure a professional position.  The family, much as they tried, was never truly stable.  They appeared solvent.  However, the cost of this façade was great.  The youthful Grace sacrificed herself daily.  She was mother to her less mature siblings.  She was father as well.  Grace was the family caretaker; yet, no one seemed interested; nor was anyone available to care for Grace.

    Grace rose each morning before dawn.  She scrambled around the house, prepared breakfast for the other brood; then, made the beds, and helped her brothers and sisters dress.  Before Grace scooted the children out the door, she forged signatures on school permission slips.  After, the children were off to class, Grace gathered her own books together, threw some snacks into a backpack, and hustled herself off to the bus.  She too attended classes.  Grace was a student.

    As Grace aged, she tired.  By the time she reached her sophomore year in High School, she was exhausted.  Grace hoped that soon this cycle would end.  Her sisters and brothers were getting older.  Perchance they would be able to care for themselves, and Grace could dedicate herself to her studies.  However, that was not her parents’ plan.

    As Grace entered her junior year her parents proposed, now that she was of age, she could help financially support the family.  

    Years of sweat and toil paid off.  Mamma and Papa were able to purchase a small business.  The demands of entrepreneurship were vast.  The store must be manned.  Supplies purchased.  Books must be kept.  Community and customer relations were a priority if the shop was to succeed.  Grace was now expected to watch over the younger siblings, continue with her schooling, care for her personal needs, and take on the responsibilities of a job.  Her family depended on her.  Grace, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually was drained.  Something had to go.  It would be Grace herself.  The teenage girl dropped out of High School.  If she could not have an education, at least she had family.

    Background characteristics. A student’s family background and home experience exert a powerful influence over educational outcomes, including dropping out of school.  One of the most consistent family background factors found to impact dropout has been socioeconomic status (SES), whether measured through parental education, income, or occupational level (Alexander et al. 2001; Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Cairns et al., 1989; Lehr et al., 2004; Rumberger, 2001; Schargel, 2004; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).  Youth in non-English-speaking homes have been found to be more likely to drop out (Rosenthal, 1998; Rumberger, 2001).

    “High school dropouts are 72% more likely to be unemployed than those who graduate.”  Many  of those that leave a formal education behind will never have a job.  Fortunately, Grace will not be among those.  For every four state prison inmates nationwide three failed to earn a high school diploma.  High school dropouts are three times more likely than high school graduates to become poor in the span of a year.  Eddy might find himself in one or all of these categories.  

    Eddy is a passionate young man, since birth, he wanted to experience everything.  He had a thirst for knowledge.  Eddy is likable.  He is fun.  This chap is animated and he desired to do it all.  At the age of five Eddy began to imbibe with his Dad.  His father may or may not have been classified as an alcoholic, for he could and did hold his liquor.  Eddy learned to handle his booze as well; he had to.  Time with Daddy was important to the youngster.  To be with his father physically [and emotionally] he needed to do as Papa had done.  

    By the age of twelve, Eddy found drugs . . . in Dad’s car.  The father, for all his life, felt the pressure of being a Black man in America.  No matter the job, this dark skinned man, was met with discrimination.  Eddy’s male role model never felt as though others could get past the color of his skin; therefore, he believed he would never be able to succeed as he yearned to do.  The pressure was great.  The desire to escape was greater.  

    Eddy admired his Dad.  He did not fully grasp the elder man’s struggles.  Eddy only wished to do as his father did.  Not long after his first “high” Eddy realized he was hooked.  His habit was costly; attendance in school and failing grades were among the debts Eddy incurred.  The teen faltered in school.  He was a slave to his drugs and to his supplier.  

    John, a gent from a good family resided in an affluent neighborhood, was of quality stock.  Jonathon’s parents were professionals, respected in the community.  John’s Dad had connections in the corporate world; his mother was a physician.  The two met in law school.  Generations of Jonathon’s family were high achievers.  The progeny of such prominent persons was expected to do no less than the dynasty that preceded them.  

    A casual observer would never know that Jonathan was out of control.  He wore elegant clothing, drove a new and sporty car; cash fell from his pockets.  John, just as Eddy did drugs.  Unlike Eddy, this wealthy wheeler-dealer sold medications, legal, illegal, and lethal quantities of narcotics.  His “business” was profitable.  John had no reason to attend school.  He was doing well without an education.  Jonathon never imagined that he might be corporally caged.  Only opiates, pills, uppers, downers, and dope incarcerated John and perhaps Eddy.  Substance abuse and attitudes associated with these activities are common among potential dropouts.

    High-risk attitudes, values, and behaviors.

    Children and adolescents may also have general attitudes and behaviors that increase the likelihood that they will not graduate.  Early antisocial behavior, such as violence, substance use, or trouble with the law, has been linked in a number of studies to dropping out of school (Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Ekstrom et al., 1986; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).

    A life of crime is common among High School dropouts.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, In 1997, more than 64 percent of inmates housed in state and federal prisons, as well as in local jails, had not graduated from high school.  Drugs were not the only reason for criminal activity.  Poverty exasperates all situations.  Burglary, robbery, assault, battery, looting, loitering, each is likely when a person is poor, out of sorts and without hope.  If America were to invest in its children’s education, authentically, the juvenile would become an autonomous adult and 1.92 billion dollars would be saved for every 50 thousand children rescued from the streets.

    Much as we might marvel at the woes of High Schoolers, we must accept that the problems begin long before our young enter secondary school.  If a young person is left behind, or held back a grade, one time, an estimated 72 percent will inevitably drop out before they complete their High School education.  If held back twice, 100 percent will drop out.

    Dropping out of school is related to a variety of factors that can be classified in four areas or domains: individual, family, school, and community factors . . .
    • There is no single risk factor that can be used to accurately predict who is at risk of dropping out.
    • The accuracy of dropout predictions increases when combinations of multiple risk factors are considered.
    • Dropouts are not a homogeneous group.  Many subgroups of students can be identified based on when risk factors emerge, the combinations of risk factors experienced, and how the factors influence them.
    • Students who drop out often cite factors across multiple domains and there are complex interactions among risk factors.
    • Dropping out of school is often the result of a long process of disengagement that may begin before a child enters school.
    • Dropping out is often described as a process, not an event, with factors building and compounding over time.

    No matter the person, or the occurrence, nothing happens in an isolation.  The decision to dropout of school does not materialize in a moment.  A student does not exit the educational system on a whim.  As we assess the supposed facts and the figures as they pertain to High School dropouts, we must accept and acknowledge the reason students leave school cannot be simply stated.  The truth is dropout rates are high regardless of socio-economic status.

    In today’s data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly 1 out of 3 public high school students won’t graduate, not just in [chose a “pleasantly unremarkable” town] but around the nation.  For Latinos and African Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50%.  Virtually no community, small or large, rural or urban, has escaped the problem.

    There is a small but hardy band of researchers who insist the dropout rates don’t quite approach those levels.  They point to their pet surveys that suggest a rate of only 15% to 20%.  The dispute is difficult to referee, particularly in the wake of decades of lax accounting by states and schools.

    But the majority of analysts and lawmakers have come to this consensus: the numbers have remained unchecked at approximately 30% through two decades of intense educational reform, and the magnitude of the problem has been consistently, and often willfully, ignored.

    In a nation known to be the world’s superpower, children suffer and have for  scores of years.  Millions endure in families that do not meet their needs.  Then they enter a school system inadequate to prepare them for a life better than the one  their parents had.

    That’s starting to change.  During his most recent State of the Union address, President George W. Bush promised more resources to help children stay in school, and Democrats promptly attacked him for lacking a specific plan.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has trained its moneyed eye on the problem, funding “The Silent Epidemic,” a study issued in March that has gained widespread attention both in Washington and in statehouses around the country.

    The attention comes against a backdrop of rising peril for dropouts.  If their grandparents’ generation could find a blue-collar niche and prosper, the latest group is immediately relegated to the most punishing sector of the economy, where whatever low-wage jobs haven’t yet moved overseas are increasingly filled by even lower-wage immigrants.  Dropping out of high school today is to your societal health what smoking is to your physical health, an indicator of a host of poor outcomes to follow, from low lifetime earnings to high incarceration rates to a high likelihood that your children will drop out of high school and start the cycle anew.

    We may be able to identify the problem for one individual or another.  However, if we are to create change, we must do more than recognize the ills of society or the difficulties within a given home.  In a recent edition of Time Magazine, Journalist Nathan Thornburgh studied the students enrolled in Shelbyville High School, 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis, Indiana, and those that were no longer registered for classes, although they were of age.  Thornburgh writes of a population ready to recognize and resolve a crisis.

    Identifying the problem is just the first step. The next moves are being made by towns like Shelbyville, where a loose coalition of community leaders and school administrators have, for the first time, placed dropout prevention at the top of the agenda.  Now they are gamely trying to identify why kids are leaving and looking for ways to reverse the tide.  

    At the request of a former principal, a local factory promised to stop tempting dropouts with jobs.  Superintendent David Adams is scouting vacant storefronts for a place to put a new alternative high school.  And Shelbyville’s Republican state representative, Luke Messer, sponsored a bill, signed into law by the Governor two weeks ago, that will give students alternatives to traditional high school while imposing tough penalties on those who try to leave early without getting permission from the school district or a judge.

    However, punitive measures might not be the answer.  Many of the children that choose to leave campus have been threatened before.  School bullies can cause a child to flee and seek sanctuary elsewhere.  Yet, for more adolescents the bigger browbeater was at home, and would be part of their lives even after they exited the educational system.  Perchance, for most of the pupils no one would punish them more severely than they did themselves.  The heart of a person that fears they failed feels much pain.  Perhaps, a child that believes they can never be their best brings great sorrow to self.

    Thirty-five percent said that “failing in school” was a major factor for dropping out; three out of ten said they could not keep up with schoolwork; and 43 percent said they missed too many days of school and could not catch up.

    Forty-five percent said they started high school poorly prepared by their earlier schooling.  Many of these students likely fell behind in elementary and middle school and could not make up the necessary ground.  They reported that additional supports in high school that would have made a difference (such as tutoring or after school help) were not there.

    Thirty-two percent were required to repeat a grade before dropping out and twenty-nine percent expressed significant doubts that they could have met their high school’s requirements for graduation even if they had put in the necessary effort.  The most academically challenged students were the most likely to report that their schools were not doing enough to help students when they had trouble learning and to express doubt about whether they would have worked harder if more had been expected of them.

    Sadly, a student in distress often acts outs and does not speak of what truly troubles them.  For decades, schools worked to push pupils out if they did not perform as expected.  This trend is accelerated under No Child Left Behind.  The Bush Administrations is happy to fund schools with high achievers.  Educational institutions unable to statistically verify that pupils learn well, or more accurately test well receive less tax dollars.  A school that ranks poorly may be subject to more severe actions.  Thus, schools are encouraged to releases non-performers.  A learning institution benefits if the number of “good” students is high.  

    For scholars bored with rote and mechanical methods of instruction, an invitation to exit campus permanently may be welcome.  Early in life, without much guidance to help an adolescent reflect on the future, a jaded student might simply feel relieved at the prospect of a presumed perpetual freedom.

    Rachel was among those pupils pushed out.  As are most intelligent individuals, Rachel was chatty.  In class, she was often told to be more considerate of others.  Teachers reminded her that her classmates were there to learn.  The implication was Rachel had no desire to develop her skills and intellectual capacity.  This was not true.  The regal in appearance Rachel yearned for knowledge.  For her, it seemed she acquired more information when she was away from school.  She certainly had more fun.

    The rebellious Rachel could be confrontational.  She was a troubled teen from a tumultuous home.  Each day she encountered another trauma.  Her parents placed her life in turmoil.  Mom yelled.  Dad hit.  The other children in her family cried.  There was much chaos in the sanctuary of her domicile.  At school, the girl did not feel cherished or treasured; she was only a bit safer.  Still, even in this setting Rachel was unwanted.

    The instructor knew that Rachel skipped class; she roamed the streets.  Friends drove her to all the sites she had yet to see.  Those a little older than Rachel were able to travel further in their automobiles.  Acquaintances took her to worlds where she could discover and explore.  A few of her pals already dropped out.  Others cut class with Rachel.  The teachers and the school Administrators were truly fine with Rachel’s absence.  Her presence was a distraction and disruption.  

    Rachel had accumulated so many tardies.  She was gone from class more often more than she appeared.  Her grades, well, there is no accounting for the taste of an “F”.  Over time, Rachel became bored with a life less than focused.  She returned to school and inquired how might she get back on track.

    A Vice Principal, the person usually responsible for pupils with behavioral problems asked Rachel if she might not wish to leave the system permanently.  After all, poor Rachel had fallen so far behind.  She obviously was not happy in school.  Perhaps it would be best for her if she just quit.  Had she thought of applying for emancipation from her parents.  Perchance that would relieve the pressure and the young woman could get on with her life.  Rachel was ripe for change.  She failed at being a student and in her mind, through no fault of her own, she botched up family life.  Hence, Rachel dropped out.

    Currently, Rachel is older and wiser.  However, she still fears she cannot succeed.  She did acquire a GED [General Educational Development] certificate.  Therefore, she was able to secure a decent, though not great job.  She married, has a wonderful husband and exceptional children.  Yet, she remains unfulfilled.  Rachel would like to enter college.  She wants to set an example for her offspring.  However, her history haunts her.  This intelligent woman, without much of a formal education, fears she cannot succeed in a University.  Rachel feels foolish enough.  The grown woman has no desire to look idiotic in front of youthful scholars.  To  appear as a dunce in the company of professors is not what she craves.  Rachel stays where she is and where she was.  She has little hope.

    A once rebellious woman is now resigned.  Rachel is content; yet, she wonders what would her life have like if only someone stopped and paid attention to her, as a person.  Rachel’s circumstance is not unusual.  

    Researchers call students like [Rachel] “pushouts,” not dropouts.  Shelbyville High’s new principal, Tom Zobel, says he’s familiar with the mind-set.  “Ten years ago,” he says, “if we had a problem student, the plan was, ‘O.K., let’s figure out how to get rid of this kid.’  Now we have to get them help.”

    These words echo in the minds of educators aware of the need for Federal funds.  No Child Left Behind leaves little leeway.  In the present, as in the past some state . . .

    [Ca]n educators really be faulted for the calculation, however cold, that certain kids are an unwise investment of their limited energies and resources?  That question quickly leads to the much thornier issues of class and clout that shape the dropout crisis.

    The national statistics on the topic are blunt: according to the National Center for Education Statistics, kids from the lowest income quarter are more than six times as likely to drop out of high school as kids from the highest.  And in Shelbyville, nearly every dropout I met voiced a similar complaint: teachers and principals treat the “rich kids” better.  “The rich kids always knew how to be good kids,” says Sarah in a more nuanced version of the same refrain.  “So I guess it’s natural the schools wanted to work with them more than with the rest of us.”  The poor kids, though, are exactly the ones who need the extra investment.

    Granted, the underprivileged among us are more likely to dropout or be pushed out and aside.  Characteristically those of little means are treated cruelly by a system that rather not know they exist.  Nonetheless, they do and in creasing numbers. The volume of dropouts and pushouts increases in the inner city and in the suburbs.  Our children are troubled; yet, we consider them as trouble.

    No one notices the distress a teen feels.  Few listen to their pleas.  Rarely are the impoverished authentically counted.  Perhaps that is why Americans did not realize the extent of this catastrophe.  Now, we might recognize the disaster.  We have become a Dropout Nation.

    Schools nationwide never imagined the calamity was as widespread as it is.  While throughout the country the populace clamors for accountability and the White House sets standards, the criterion used to establish dropout rates differs from District to District and even from school to school.  Frequently, formulas used to calculate who completed all their coursework and when are manipulated to ensure that schools will secure funds.  At times, the numbers are juggled solely to appease the citizenry.

    For years, Shelbyville [as was true in other schools] had been comforted by its self-reported–and wildly inaccurate–graduation rate of up to 98%.  The school district arrived at that number by using a commonly accepted statistical feint, counting any dropout who promises to take the GED test later on as a graduating student.

    The GED trick is only one of many deployed by state and local governments around the country to disguise the real dropout rates.  Houston, for example, had its notorious “leaver codes”–dozens of excuses, such as pregnancy and military service, that were often applied to students who were later reclassified as dropouts by outside auditors.

    The Federal Government has been similarly deceptive, producing rosy graduation-rate estimates–usually between 85% and 90%–by relying only on a couple of questions buried deep within the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.  The survey asks whether respondents have a diploma or GED.  Critics say the census count severely underreports dropout numbers, in part because it doesn’t include transients or prisoners, populations with a high proportion of dropouts.

    It is evident that not all is as it appears.  In 2001, Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, published a study titled High School Graduation Rates in the United States.  His research examined the stratum of arithmetical adroitness associated with commencement statistics.  As Greene pondered the raw education data, he began to appreciate that he could not answer the question often asked.  What percentage of students receives a high school diploma?  The response is, it depends.  After closer scrutiny, even Greene admitted he needed to revise his report.  

    The report’s main findings are the following:
    • The national graduation rate for the class of 1998 was 71%.  For white students the rate was 78%, while it was 56% for African-American students and 54% for Latino students.
    • Georgia had the lowest overall graduation rate in the nation with 54% of students graduating, followed by Nevada, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
    • Iowa had the highest overall graduation rate with 93%, followed by North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.
    • Wisconsin had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 40%, followed by Minnesota, Georgia, and Tennessee.  Georgia had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students with 32%, followed by Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina.  Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in seven states and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in eight states for which data were available.
    • The highest rate of graduation among African-American students was 71% in West Virginia, followed by Massachusetts, Arkansas, and New Jersey.  The highest rate of graduation among Latino students was 82% in Montana, followed by Louisiana, Maryland, and Hawaii.
    • Cleveland City had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 29%, followed by Milwaukee, Memphis, and Gwinett County, Georgia.  Cleveland City also had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students, followed by Georgia’s Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties.  Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in fifteen of forty-five districts for which there was sufficient data, and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in twenty-one of thirty-six districts for which there was sufficient data.
    • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds a national high school completion rate of 86% for the class of 1998.  The discrepancy between the NCES’ finding and this report’s finding of a 71% rate is largely caused by NCES’ counting of General Educational Development (GED) graduates and others with alternative credentials as high school graduates, and by its reliance on a methodology that is likely to undercount dropouts.

    Overwhelmed by the predicament, you dear reader might ask what are we to do.  I believe we must cultivate relationships.  I have long advocated that human interaction is the greatest instructor; empathy is the best educator.  If we wish to encourage our offspring, we must engage them authentically.  If they are to believe in themselves, they must trust to their core that we believe in them.

    One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety- nine who have only interest.

     ~ John Stuart Mill [Philosopher]

    In March 2006, a report sponsored by the Civic Enterprises in Association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, experts examined what they call, The Silent Epidemic, Perspectives of High School Dropouts. Researchers John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr., and Karen Burke Morison realized what dropouts and pushouts have long known.  If a child is to be motivated, if they are to truly learn, and become autonomous critical thinkers they need attention and assistance.  A caring mentor makes all the difference.

    A survey of former students revealed the children understood what would have helped them to stay in school.  Indeed, those that floundered were intelligent enough to communicate what they needed then.  Now, with thanks to this more honest examination they had an opportunity to share.  If society and schools are to save the youth of America, we must . . .

    • Improve instruction, and access to supports, for struggling students: Four out of five (81 percent) wanted better teachers and three fourths wanted smaller classes with more  individualized instruction.  More than half (55 percent) felt that more needed to be done to help students who had problems learning, and 70 percent believed more tutoring, summer school and extra time with teachers would have improved their chances of graduating.
    • Build a school climate that fosters academics:

      Seven in ten favored increasing supervision in school and more than three in five (62 percent) felt more classroom discipline was necessary.  More than half (57 percent) felt their schools did not do enough to help students feel safe from violence.  Seven in ten (71 percent) said their schools did not do enough to make school interesting.
    • Ensure that students have a strong relationship with at least one adult in the school: While two-thirds (65 percent) said there was a staff member or teacher who cared about their success, only 56 percent said they could go to a staff person for school problems and just two-fifths (41 percent) had someone in school to talk to about personal problems.  More than three out of five (62 percent) said their school needed to do more to help students with problems outside of class.  Seven in ten favored more parental involvement.
    • Improve the communication between parents and schools: Seventy-one percent of young people surveyed felt that one of the keys to keeping students in school was to have better communication between the parents and the school, and increasing parental involvement in their child’s education.  Less than half said their school contacted their parents or themselves when they were absent (47 percent) or when they dropped out (48 percent).

    In truth, we must all care for the children.  Elders must be intimately involved in the lives of our progeny.  If schools continue to be a source of statistics and a corral for our children, we serve no one, young or old.  Indeed, we hurt ourselves if we harm our offspring or hinder their growth.  

    Sarah knows of pain.  She was a happy child, a brilliant girl.  For all her life, Sarah defined “scholar.”  In her sophomore year in High School, her teachers noticed a change.  Although Sarah attended classes regularly and was still friendly, this talkative teen seemed extremely disinterested.  Sarah was distracted; yet, no one at school knew why.  

    In her junior year, a new instructor entered the lovely young lady’s life.  This educator, Miss Adams sat with the students as they worked.  She developed a relationship with each pupil.  The teacher personalized lessons.  Miss Adams understood.  Students [people] are authentically engaged when they relate to the subject, when information is personally relevant.  This instructor also trusted that adolescents truly yearn to learn.

    Sarah felt safe when with Miss Adams.  One day as the two sat at a table, Sarah reveled that her father committed suicide the year before.  He shot himself in the head, in front of this tender teen.  “The police do not clean up after such an incident; the family does,” Sarah said.  Miss Adams listened intently as Sarah shared her story.  Later, the educator was able to enlighten other teachers and counselors.  Everyone was touched.  They never knew.  

    Belatedly, the school community reached out to the sorrowful Sarah.  Slowly, this young teen worked through her worries, with a little help from those that cared.  That was everyone.  The sadness is, in a school [or society] where statistics rule, much is lost, mostly the students, our young people, the next generation.  Teens dropout, or are pushed out.  We all suffer when we do not attend to more than roll sheets and rank.

    Next time you walk past the school in your neighborhood, please listen for more than the noise.  See more than your tax dollars going to waste.  Invest in the littlest individuals more fully.  Embrace education, it is more than facts, figures, formulas, or failed students or teachers.

    References, Resources, Sources for Student Support . . .

    Exit Exams, High School Dropouts; Cause and Effect


    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    In California, students are crushed by the weight of exit exams.  Some feel defeated.  After numerous failures on test after test, pupils presume, rather than make another attempt, it is best to just dropout.  In 2006, 24,000 high school seniors dropped out, about 10,000 more than just four years earlier.

  • Please also peruse Dropout Nation; Communities Can Cure The Silent Student Epidemic.   The causes and effects of “dropping out” are explored in greater detail in that treatise.
  • Nationwide, the number of dropouts is staggering; however, in states that require the ever-popular exit exams the rate rises steadily.

    HighSchool Exit Exams Linked to Higher Dropout Rates, Researchers Find

    By David Glenn

    Since 1979, a growing number of states have required high school students to pass exit examinations before they can receive diplomas.  For nearly as long, scholars and policy makers have debated whether such exams do more harm than good.

    Proponents of exit exams say they improve learning and future employment by giving both students and school districts better incentives to succeed.  Skeptics say the exams needlessly prevent students who have otherwise completed all their course work from receiving diplomas.  They also warn that the exams could prompt some students to drop out of high school as early as the 10th or 11th grade, if they think they will fail the tests.

    The latest battleground over the issue is California . . .

    Now two teams of scholars have written papers that support the more harm than good thesis.  In a recent working paper, Thomas S. Dee, an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College, and Brian A. Jacob, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University, reported that students in states with relatively easy exit exams are roughly 4 percent more likely to drop out of high school than similar students in states with no exams.  In states with relatively difficult exit exams, students are 5.5 percent more likely to drop out than their counterparts in states with no exams.

    The effects are stronger among African American men, Mr. Dee and Mr. Jacob found.  In states with easy exit exams, black male students are 5.2 percent more likely to drop out of high school than their counterparts in states with no exit exams.  In states with more rigorous exit exams, they are 7.3 percent more likely to drop out than are their counterparts in states with no exit exams.

    Those that struggle to do well yet miss the mark by a point, two, or twenty must not be college material, or so a disheartened adolescent is led to believe.  Tens of thousands of distraught pupils give up on themselves just as their elders have done.  Young academics that do not measure up on exit exams often conclude they are misfits; they do not seem to fit in a society that demands they meet agreed upon standards, as senseless and biased as these standards might be.

    The force of mandated exams looms large over the heads of want-to-be High School graduates.  Beginning in the sophomore year, young academics are required to test for graduation.  Examinations focus on math, English, and algebra skills.  Formulaic solutions are featured.  There is no need to think deeply when faced with standardized Scantron™ answer forms.  Indeed, if a learner ruminates intensely they may be penalized.  Time is of the utmost importance.  Those that administer the exam remind test-takers you either know the correct answer or you do not.  If uncertain move on.  Your overall score matters most.

    Critical thought can consume minutes, hours, days, and months.  High School curriculums have no time for such an exercise.  Analysis is not crucial if a pupil wishes to advance.  A learner is considered capable if they are able to choose the correct bubble and completely blacken the circle.  Results are recorded for posterity.  Granted, pupils have multiple chances to pass the mandated multiple-choice examinations.  However, if a student cannot deliver after six attempts, they are done. They have “failed”

    Policymakers presume they have given pupils an equal  chance.  They think it irrelevant that the assessment rarely relates to the life of a student or the lessons received in class.  It matters not that individual learning styles are ignored or that a learners language skills are not considered.  When the school determines it is apt, a student is placed in a room and told “Perform.”  

    Administrators’ demand or command excellence.  The date, or the dilemmas that teens cope with daily is not averaged into the grade.  What occurred on that day, at that time, in that year, or within the institution are not considered applicable in calculations.  When it is convenient for the school, students must achieve.  

    Reach for the gold star.  Grab the brass ring.  Success will be yours.  Pencils down.  Pooh!  Failed again.

    Confronted with a curriculum that does not meet the needs of the student population, or of a particular pupil, many young scholars are overwhelmed with fear.  Apprehension alone is enough to affect achievement.  Language barriers also boggle a mind.  

    For a 16-year-old, Iris Padilla’s resume looks pretty good: Not only is she already a senior close to completing all the credits needed to graduate from Richmond High, she’s president of a Latin American culture club and is active in political and religious clubs at school.  Next year, Iris wants to go to college and study psychology.

    But Richmond High might not let her graduate this spring.

    That’s because Iris hasn’t passed the exit exam, and she has only one more chance before graduation day to tackle the two-day test, on March 21-22.

    Iris is one of 73,270 California high school seniors in the same pickle — unable to fulfill a new state law requiring students to pass a test of basic English, math, and algebra to graduate.  That’s 1 in 5 members of the state’s Class of 2006, says the state Department of Education.

    More than half of those who still need to pass — 40,002 students — are like Iris: They don’t speak much English.

    Iris Padilla is a superior student.  Any college would welcome a young woman so dedicated to her education, and to her community.  Perchance, in an institution of higher learning faculty and facilitators understand that, typically it takes seven years to acquire fluency in a foreign language.  A University may give Iris Padilla the opportunity to truly acquire English language skills.  However,, we may never know, for the young woman may not have the chance to apply to one of the many ivory towers, although she has prepared to do so all of her life.

    Iris is a  disciplined scholar as are most in her precarious situation.  The vast majority of teenagers that cannot pass the exit examinations have hopes, dreams, and drive.  

    Her school day begins at 7:30 a.m. with an exit-exam prep class in math.  Then it’s on to geometry, economics, computer graphics, world history, and an English-language class.  She is passing them all.  After school, Iris attends another prep class for the English portion of the test.

    Her teacher, Isidora Martinez-McAfee, has been teaching English to newcomers in the same classroom for 30 years and has seen most of them graduate, and many go on to college.

    “Some have become dentists, hygienists, nurses, psychologists, teachers,” said Martinez-McAfee.

    But now, she fears, students like Iris will stagnate.

    With one month left to go before her final shot at passing the exit exam, Iris still finds an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem on the practice test impenetrable, and word problems in math as clear as Greek.

    Does that mean Iris should be barred from walking across the graduation stage with her classmates, or that she should receive an empty envelope when theirs contains a diploma?

    State Superintendent Jack O’Connell, who wrote the exit exam law in 1999 while a state senator, calls it “immoral” to award diplomas to students who can’t pass the test.

    Time, narrowly-focused-dogmatic-dictatorial bureaucrats, and those that profit from the policies these legislators devise are not on the side of students such as Iris.  American-born Iris Padilla [and others] is punished upon her return to the homeland.  Iris Padilla, for most of her life lived with her Grandmother in Mexico.  She came back to her mother’s home only months before she shared her story with Journalist Nanette Asimov.  Iris may not receive a diploma.  Dependant on the District, she too may be defined as a dropout.  The dropout crisis is, in many ways, contrived.

    To complicate matters, dropout rates do not simply or directly translate to an accurate graduation rate.  Multiple methods and definitions can result in what appears to be conflicting information.  For example, it is possible to have a low rate of dropout based on event or status calculations, and to have a low rate of graduation as well.  The formula and parameters (e.g., age, grade, accountability period) used to determine the rate must be carefully considered and explained . . .

    A focus on measuring graduation rates is conceptually linked to recent increased emphasis on the importance of promoting student engagement to enhance school completion.  However, due to lack of standardized definitions and methods for computing dropout rates and graduation rates, interpretation must be carefully considered.  Until a standard procedure is established and used across districts, states, and national reporting agencies, reports of dropout and graduation rates can be interpreted accurately only when accompanied by explanations of how the numbers were derived.

    Rarely are the numbers reflective of what occurs within a school, a District, or a  State.  While elders stress accountability for students, they, themselves are not held to a rigid standard.  It behooves an educational facility to filter out those that lower the ranking.  No Child Left Behind laws put Administrators in a position to choose.  Punish the student or punish the school.  Most prefer to penalize the youngster.

    Administrators might justify such an act.  After all, America needs an unskilled labor force.  Those without a high school diploma can fill those slots.  Besides, once out of the system they have one more opportunity to take the exit exam.  Thus, there is no reason to worry if students dropout.

    If a pupil cannot pass the exam after five tries while enrolled, then financially, it is better for the institution if that student is no longer counted in the final tally.  Federal officials will not fund underperforming schools.  Sanctions are progressively more punitive each year.  Hence, a school benefits when those registered are able to do well on standardized tests.

    Affluent parents pour millions into test preparation classes.  Online training is also available; however, that too costs money.  Some schools also supplement schedules to accommodate students in need of more guidance.  This helps those that have access to such assistance.  However, sadly many students do not have this luxury.

    A young person that receives no one-on-one instruction at home or at school often feels lost and fears stating this aloud.  Peers can be cruel.  Yet, if parents are absent, away at a one job or another, children are left to fend for themselves.  The economically poor child is poorer still.  A Mom or Dad working multiple jobs cannot give a child the attention instruction demands.  An underprivileged parent is frequently of meager means because they are undereducated.  The two characteristics collide and all in close proximity feel the impact.

    Based on the most careful calculation of graduation rates and the longest time span, this study concluded that exit exams, and particularly the more difficult exams, did reduce high school completion rates by about 2.1 percentage points.  Furthermore, the negative effects of exams were larger in states with high rates of poverty and with more racially and ethically diverse student populations.  This conclusion reinforces results from other studies indicating that test score results and passing rates vary substantially by race, ethnicity and income.

    Young persons without the tools, left alone at home, must rely on teachers to teach them.  Most educators are preoccupied, too many pupils, too many tests.  Thus, a frustrated teenager flits and flitters.  Angst filters through the mind and body of an eager scholar stressed to the limit.  Trepidation coupled with confusion does more than merely aggravate an academic.  Aspiring adolescents in California conclude, it is better to give up, dropout, and forfeit a diploma.

    California Exit Exam Boosts Dropout Numbers

    By Juliet Williams

    Associated Press

    November 8, 2007

    Sacramento, Calif. (AP) – The number of California high school dropouts spiked in 2006, the first year seniors were required to pass an exit exam to graduate, according to a report presented Wednesday to the state Board of Education.

    The analysis found that 24,000 high school seniors dropped out in 2006, about 10,000 more than just four years earlier.

    The information could give ammunition to lawmakers and others who have criticized the exam, as well as those who have lobbied for alternative assessments.


    Currently, politicians and policymakers decide how we might evaluate learning.  These persons are rarely if ever trained professional teachers.  Nor do most recall life as a student.  Superintendents, Commissioners, community leaders ignore or forget what they once knew.  Intelligence and knowledge are fluid.  Statistical calculations are fixed.

    A child develops; wisdom expands.  Under stress, growth is stunted; intelligence wanes.  We struggle to access acumen when placed in a situation that breeds anxiety.

    Children learn well when they are not forced fed.  So too do adults.  Contemplate the myriad of facts you gathered quickly.  When a topic was of interest to you personally, you seized the vital statistics with vigor.  Consider the data you forgot over the years.  Records memorized only to recite back on a test, soon fade from memory.  

    The wonks may want us to believe that instructors can teach to a test and children will learn.  However, when we study, what has no meaning for more than a moment, we internalize little if any of what was placed before us.

    Insight is accrued slowly.  Erudition is a process.  A portfolio of work demonstrates the evolution known as scholarship.  Experts in education understand this.

    The firm that prepared the report, Human Resources Research Organization of Alexandria, Va., made several recommendations to the board, including a suggestion that California explore other ways for high school seniors to demonstrate proficiency.  In Massachusetts and Washington State, for example, students can be judged on a portfolio of their high school work.

    However, in most other regions  enlightenment is delayed.  Emissaries and executives look on from outside the classroom.  They decide what is best for those in schools.  When the voices within educational system dissent, the sound they make is often muffled.  At times, there is a small victory.  Overall, little changes.

    Exit Exam Challenged!

    POOR Magazine Youth intern who didn’t pass the Exit Exam reviews the legal challenges that were recently decided on.

    Antonio William/PNN Youth in Media?

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    “How can they talk about us standing on corners, using drugs, we are hard-working students trying to get an education,” a Latina Richmond High School Student wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke into the corporate media lens.  She was speaking outside a school board hearing in April on the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).

    Earlier this month two major legal challenges to the CAHSEE were heard and adjudicated on in California courts.  The first one: Liliana Valenzuela, et al v. Jack O’Connell, which was fought by attorneys Arturo Gonzalez and Chris Young from Morrison and Foerster on the basis of the educational, due process and equal protection rights afforded to students under the California Constitution.  We won this one.  Alameda County Judge Robert Freedman decided on Friday May 11th to delay diploma denial for the class of 2006.

    When issuing the injunction, Freedman said he was swayed by Gonzalez’s argument that low-income of color students, English language learners in particular attend low-performing schools that do not prepare them adequately for the test.

    Of the 46,700 seniors who have failed the test, 20,600 are designated as limited English learners and 28,300 are very lo-income.  I am one of those 28,300 students.

    Progress is slow, be it in learning, or in policy making.  We accept and expect adult practices to be measured.  As a culture, we believe that change must calculated.  The pace need be unhurried and deliberate.  However, in the area of education, we want assessments to be completed without delay.  The process quick and is dirty.  Children are damaged by the experience.  Still, the need to be saturated with statistics is honored and gratified.

    We have all heard the ancient axiom that discredits educators.  It seems the general public, Boards, Judges, and legislators believe anyone can do what most dare not, enter a classroom full of twenty, thirty, or forty unique, excited, expectant young persons and make a significant difference.  The accepted adage is,  ‘Those that cannot teach.’  Thus, educators have no power to determine the curriculum.  Teachers are trained to oversee tests.  That is the way their superiors like it.

    Jack O’Connell, superintendent of public instruction, has consistently opposed such an [alternative] option.

    Exit exams remain a requisite for High school graduation.  The practice is profitable for publishers and other adult professionals, [not for pupils.]  Mega millions are spent on improving evaluative systems.  

    Hidden Costs Present Challenges

    The costs are considerable for a state, as well as individual school districts, to put in place a high school exit exam and help students meet the standards required by the test.  For example, it costs Indiana, a state with an exit exam of average difficulty, $557 per student to maintain the state’s current level of performance on the exam, according to the Center on Education Policy.

    The argument is that if a student is well prepared the cost of remediation will be reduced.  However, there is no need for further instruction after graduation if a child is taught well initially.  Society invests little in schools in poorer neighborhoods, less on quality teachers for impoverished pupils, and even less on the students that sit in inadequate classrooms, and it shows.  Pupils trapped in an inner city ghetto help us to see the stark differentiation between the best of conditions and the worse.  Without well-educated parents to supplement a child’s education at home, the outcome for a student is dire.  Impoverished students suffer the consequences of their birth and station.

    The report’s findings validate the argument that the test is hardest on students who do not have access to good schools or good teachers, said Liz Guillen, director of legislative and community affairs for the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates.  That applies mostly to poor and minority students, she said . . .

    The report also highlights California’s persistent achievement gap and found an even more worrisome problem: Students who are black, Hispanic, poor or learning English did even worse when they were in schools with high concentrations of similar students.

    The disparity between the haves and “have-nots” is daunting.  The separation between the socio-economic classes is broad and widens.  As we assess dropout rates, we can see that city school students are far more likely to drop than suburban scholars are.

    Perhaps, exit exams have a purpose, albeit financial.  Institutions gain when students are encouraged to forfeit a diploma.  If those that struggle to pass the required assessment dropout, the percentage that graduate appears higher.  The books are “legitimately” cooked.  

    Thus, the accountability standards designated by No Child Left Behind are achieved.  Conveniently, children left behind fill the ranks of the lower caste.  American society remains stable; the status quo is preserved.  The haves are served and the have-nots continue to dream the impossible.  

    We may think we are comfortable as long as we, and our progeny, graduate.  However, there are repercussions, not only for the children, but also for society as a whole.  When a nation breeds a poor population, we give rise to generational poverty, people in need of assistance.  This can burden a community, as well as bring about greater resentment, rebellion, and ultimately to increased societal ills, physical, emotional, intellectual.  Welfare is but a singular, isolated, and the smallest consequence of poverty.  

    The community, as a whole, suffers when we do not care for each other. Wages fall.  There is less opportunity to work.  Physical and mental well-beings are threatened.  Poverty is a shared load. It taxes individuals, institutions, and neighborhoods.  The effects of impoverishment may be more evident among the young.  Sadly, the weakest among us, from birth, are lumped together in underperforming schools.  Through them, we might better diagnosis what affects us all.

    [T]he vast majority of underachieving students are concentrated in such [poor] schools [with minority populations.]

    Most students are able to pass the exam in time for graduation, although critics note that as graduation day approaches more students drop out of school and stop being counted.

    Poor and minority students help to remind us what occurs when we ignore or deny sound pedagogical principles.  Children must be taught and tested in a manner that mirrors the way they learn.  The acquisition of knowledge internalized occurs over time.  Elucidation occurs when we meet people where they live.  Attention to learning modalities matters.

    If a pupil acquires best information when active, we must provide them with opportunities to produce.  Then, we can evaluate the product.  Educators must recall the maxim, “Practice makes perfect.'”  One project completed does not equate to scholarship.  The process, the progression affirms full comprehension.  When an individual has a foundation, they are able to create anew.  That is excellence.

    If a child acquires knowledge aurally, that option must also be available.  Appraisals for such a child need to also accommodate this learning modality.  Once more, a young person cannot be accurately evaluated on one occasion.  We each are a mixture of moments.  Any of us may excel in the morning and fade in the afternoon, or vice versa.  We cannot be sure what a day will bring.  We can be certain that if we evaluate a pupil frequently, if a young academic is challenged to grow at their own pace, in a manner that meets their needs ultimately, they will do well.

    Again, a collection of work helps us to understand how a child performs in various conditions.  No one of us is ever the same in every moment.  We may do well with a good night’s rest, with sufficient food in our belly, and if we have had ample and exceptional opportunities to associate ourselves with the material.  However, even all these advantages will not compensate for what occurs on any given day.  Word of a parents’ divorce, a death in the family, or just dread can doom a thinker to failure.

    We all have feelings.  Perchance we, as a society, might realize our emotions often lead us to defeat.  Great angst felt at the prospect of a test, one that could shape our future and cause us to fail.  Indeed, it probably will.

    There’s no doubt that today students are under intense pressure to perform academically, but at what cost?  The Institute of HeartMath® (www.heartmath.org) and Claremont Graduate University (www.cgu.edu) released a new study that depicts the high levels of anxiety students are shouldering due to the pressure to excel intellectually.  Nearly two-thirds of the high school students who participated in the study reported being affected by test anxiety.  The study underscores the detrimental impact of test anxiety on academic performance.  Based on their findings, researchers say that students’ high levels of anxiety may jeopardize NCLB assessment validity and could be compromising testing results.

    HeartMath researchers explain that feelings of anxiety drive up the level of “noise” or mental static to such a pitch that it overloads the circuits in the brain needed for paying attention, learning, focusing, and remembering.

    Dr. Rollin McCraty, lead researcher on the study and director of research for the Institute of HeartMath, says, “When students are anxious about their test performance, their brain doesn’t function efficiently.  They can look at a test question and literally not see certain words, become confused, or miss the meaning of a question.  They can even miss seeing entire questions on the page.”

    Hence, I plead.  Policymakers, please understand, if we continue to assess our offspring in manners that befuddle them, threaten their sense of self, and serve only to generate a statistical base, we will alienate those we depend on most, our children.  The young are our future.  Do we really wish to throw them out of the schools and onto the streets?  I hope not.  

    Some may see the poorest among us a disposable, dispensable, or expendable.  They are not.  Those that consider their children a priority and lessen the worth of the poor have yet to do the math.  Compassion aside, we all pay the price for poverty.  

    A community is the sum total of the parts.  If the elite do not invest in the education of impoverished youth, the cost incurred by all will be high.  An unskilled, under-educated laborer is less likely to be secure in their employment.  Wages for manual and menial work is low.  Transitions affect economic stability.  Uneducated employees may not have adequate health care.  Bargaining for benefits is easier when you have an education to stand on.  The shared cost of medical services alone takes a toll on the rates we each pay.  Increased crime is a possibility we must consider.  The effects of emotions expand.  No one can predict with certainly what will become of our High School dropouts.  

    I invite educators and parents alike to advocate for the youth of America.  Put yourself in the place of your progeny.  Please do not be punitive and pedantic.  Provide for our pupils.  Bequeath them equal opportunities to progress over time in a manner that matches who they are.  Let us not endorse artificial proofs of learning.  May we empathize and embrace young minds while they are still in school.  Policymakers, please drop in to our schools and experience the devastation exit exams reap before our children drop out.

    Schools Days, Rigid Rules, and References . . .

  • Dropout Nation: What’s Wrong With America’s High Schools? By Nathan Thornburgh.  Time Magazine. Sunday, April 09, 2006
  • pdf Dropout Nation: What’s Wrong With America’s High Schools? By Nathan Thornburgh.  Time Magazine. Sunday, Apr. 09, 2006
  • High-School Exit Exams Boom, but Students Still May Be Unready for College. The Chronicle of Higher Education. September 6, 2007
  • High School Exit Exams Linked to Higher Dropout Rates, Researchers Find By David Glenn. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2006
  • Exit exam a test of determination, Language barrier adds unfair burden, critics say of requirement.  By Nanette Asimov.  San Francisco Chronicle. SF Gate. Monday, February 27, 2006
  • New analysis finds serious flaws in recommendations for high school exit exams.  The Pennsylvania School Boards Association. 2007
  • How are Dropout Rates Measured? What are Associated Issues? National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET).
  • The Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning, The Concept of Being At-Risk.  The Art and Science of Teaching with Technology®
  • Poverty and Community. A New Discussion for the New Millenium. By Jeff Faux.  Economic Policy institute. May 1, 1998
  • Exit Exam Challenged! POOR Magazine Youth intern who didn’t pass the Exit Exam reviews the legal challenges that were recently decided on.  By Antonio William.  PNN Youth in Media.  Poor Magazine. Wednesday, May 24, 2006;
  • Learning Modalities: Pathways to Effective Learning, By Dr. Patricia Hutinger.  Public Brocasting Services Teachers.
  • New Study Raises Concerns about Current Test-Taking Requirements. The Institute of HeartMath® and Claremont Graduate University.
  • Exit exam eludes some, By Fermin Leal, Erica Perez, and Sam Miller.  The Orange County Register. November 28, 2006
  • Overview of Second Language Acquisition.  Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. 2003
  • High school dropouts earn far less money, By Ben Feller.  Boston Globe. September 12, 2006
  • Unemployment level of college grads surpasses that of high-school dropouts. Economic Policy Institute. 2004

  • Less Homework Plus Yoga Equals Greater Stress?

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    In recent years, parents appear to be less able, or available, to assist with their child’s  education.  Moms work outside the home.  Dad is away at the office.  Either or each, flies off on business trips.  Even when the family is together, they run from one activity to another.  Few families dine together.  Less eat home cooked meals.  There is so much pressure and it is not in the cooker. 

    Stress fills the lives of everyone, young and old.  Among teens the problem many be more profound.  Depression affects twenty percent of teens.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents and teenagers.  According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), about 8 out of every 100,000 teenagers committed suicide in 2000.  Needham High School Principal, Paul Richards yearns to change these statistics.  Mister Richards is among many educators that have introduced programs to help reduce the strain, yoga classes among these.

    Students are stretched to the limit.  Society demands they prepare for college from birth.  Once a neonate takes on an earthly presence, they are force fed a schedule.  School is on the agenda, for some in the first months of their life.  Toddlers are required to talk, use a toilet, and walk as soon as possible.  Frazzled Moms and Dads are busy they have places to go, people to see, jobs to do, and so too does baby.  Once a newborn is delivered, anxiety is introduced into their lives.  Parents teach their young what they too learned at knees of those that cared for them.

    Parents are a powerful influence on their progeny .  From early childhood, to the ‘tween, and teen years mothers and fathers make the difference.  They are the a youngster’s first and foremost teacher.  Mommy and Daddy instruct through their presence and absence. 

    In March 2007, much to the dismay of many working Mom’s and Dad’s, a study substantiated that a child placed in day care for extensive periods, no matter the quality of the center, is likely to become disruptive in class.  A child away from Mom or Dad at an early age still craves an intimate connection.  Poorly paid surrogate parents cannot and likely will not offer the love, support, and attention that a guardian does. 

    Intellectually, Mommy and Daddy know this.  They fear the possibility.  Yet, what is an overwhelmed parent to do.  Few can stay home even if they wish to.  In a competitive market place, money must be made.  A need to put bacon on the table causes many an anxious Ma and Pa to leave their little loved one in the hands of strangers.

    Many guardians express their guilt and then look for a logical reason to explain away the pain.  Desperate to find evidence that nursery school is beneficial to toddlers and tots, fathers and mothers cling to the revelation, time spent in high-quality day care centers correlates to higher vocabulary scores through elementary school. 

    We all know that parents are intent.  They will do the extra work to ensure that they provide the best for their progeny.  Mothers and fathers will vigorously investigate before they enroll their prodigy in a pre-school.  Exceptional children will not be among the masses; nor will a prized child be among the norm.  A good parent can be certain, his or her brood will be the best-behaved boy or girl in class.  Ma and Pop insist on nothing less.  Children consistently rise to parents’ expectations.

    Moms and Dads across America famously cater to their children’s needs.  They provide, ever if what they feel they need to do causes them great stress.  A parent will sacrifice for his or her child.  Poorer parents often secure two jobs, so that they might provide the best for their offspring.  Local private and religious schools certainly will serve little Tim and Tina well.  Middle Class Ma and Pop move to the better neighborhoods.  They can choose from quality public establishments or academies meant for the privileged.  The affluent need not worry.  Their progeny will be properly placed and prepared.  Ivy-league schools have a prestigious list of alum.  These institutes honor legacies.  However, efforts to secure excellence for elite scholars, while often emotionally and financially taxing, have not produced the expected results.

    Study examines public, private schools
    By Nancy Zuckerbrod
    Boston Globe
    October 10, 2007

    Washington — Low-income students who attend urban public high schools generally do just as well as private-school students with similar backgrounds, according to a study being released Wednesday.

    Students at independent private schools and most parochial schools scored the same on 12th-grade achievement tests in core academic subjects as those in traditional public high schools when income and other family characteristics were taken into account, according to the study by the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy.

    While the finding is in line with a handful of recent studies, it’s at odds with a larger body of research over the years that has found private-school students outperform those in public schools.  Some of that research found a private-school advantage even when income levels are taken into account.

    However, the new study not only compared students by income levels but also looked at a range of other family characteristics, such as whether a parent participates in school life.

    “When these were taken into account, the private-school advantage went away,” the report states.

    The study looked at 1,000 low-income students from cities who are part of a nationally representative sample of kids surveyed over a period of years, along with parents and teachers, as part of a federal research effort.

    In trying to determine whether the type of high school attended by a student made a difference academically, the new study tried to separate out the effects of income; earlier eighth-grade test scores; parental expectations; whether parents discuss school with their children and whether parents participate in school activities.

    Parental expectations and involvement play a profound role in a child’s achievement.  Moms and Dads place much pressure on themselves, and then transfer the weight to the one that once resided in the womb. 

    In America today, some question whether Moms and Dads are too involved.  Parents are concerned that their children attend the most impressive schools before the actual birth of the baby.  Some Moms and Dads save for college just after conception.  Pink and blue are not the only colors to consider; green is a must.  Financial advisers suggest funds be set aside for the future at birth.  In a competitive culture, children vie for a place at a prominent day care center. 

    In primary school, nothing is elementary.  Children recognize if they do well, they will receive much attention and praise.  Hence, little ones endeavor to be the best in every endeavor.  Tikes ask if they might enroll in extra curricula activities.  Friends are registered and their parents are proud.  Approval motivates many decisions when we are small.

    In High School, the pursuit of excellence is a compulsion, a habit.  It seems almost inbred.  Young adults know that if they are to compete, Advanced Placement courses and an stellar academic standing are a must.  Adolescents ready their resumes before they apply for college.  Numerous students devote their lives to advancement, much to their detriment.  Hence, the reason that Paul Richards, and other educators, think there is a dire need to act.

    Some high schools are requiring students to get parental permission before enrolling in Advanced Placement classes.  Others are experimenting with later start times so students can get more sleep.

    [Denise Pope, a lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education and author of the book, “Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students” (Yale University Press, 2001)]  Dr. Pope advises schools to end the tradition of student newspapers publishing end-of-the-year lists of seniors and their colleges.  “We found that there are kids who are lying,” she said, “because they’re embarrassed to say they’re going to a state school.”

    Richards, among those Principals nationwide that realized the need to attend to the mental health of his students, observed as other educators have, frequently school age children, adolescents, and tots demand more from themselves than is physically possible.  The desire for prominence and recognition took its toll.  Students had no time to sleep, eat, or be.  They were busy striving for success.  Mister Richards decided the school would no longer submit the school honor roll for publication.

    When Mr. Richards stopped publishing the honor roll in the local newspaper last winter, a move aimed at some parents who had turned the lists into a public accounting, Rush Limbaugh accused him of politically correct coddling of students, and Jay Leno mocked the school on national television. He received hate mail from all over the country.

    Mr. Richards is undeterred. “It’s not that I’m trying to turn the culture upside down,” he said.

    “It’s very important to protect the part of the culture that leads to all the achievement,” he said. “It’s more about bringing the culture to a healthier place.”

    Yet, in this nation the pursuit of health is but another item to place on the time clock.  As we observe hamsters on a wheel, we wonder.  Does the animal generate momentum or does the centrifugal force move the Eurasian rodent.  A human in pursuit of health may hit the treadmill for a few minutes.

    Stress is significant in America, no matter what your age.  Parents understand that they must prepare their children for what they face, an uncertain future, and they do.  A good education is not enough to ensure economic stability.  Jobs are outsourced.  Machines replace people in the workplace.  Corporations no longer invest in the laborers, and employees are not loyal to the company.

    Income volatility has long been a hallmark of the American economy. Compared with those of workers in other developed countries, the earnings of Americans tend to bounce around drastically from year to year.  And that’s not necessarily bad.  “People don’t realize that income volatility and income mobility are the same thing,” said Peter Gottschalk, professor of economics at Boston College and a pioneer in the study of income volatility.  People who start out at the bottom of the income ladder frequently wind up at a higher rung.

    Conversely, just because you earn $300,000 this year doesn’t mean you’ll be making that much 10 years from now.  The economist Joseph A. Schumpeter, who coined the term “creative destruction,” described the upper strata of society as a hotel in which the guests are always changing.  Income volatility is the mechanism through which guests check in and check out.

    After mining data from the Panel Study of Income and Dynamics, a database produced by the University of Michigan that tracks the incomes of the same families over a 40-year period, scholars have concluded that incomes are much less stable – i.e., much more volatile – today than they have been in the past.  “There has unequivocally been general upward-trend income volatility since at least 1975,” said Bruce A. Moffitt, the Krieger-Eisenhower professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University, who, with Professor Gottschalk, wrote one of the first papers on income volatility in the 1990’s.  “It accelerated in the 1980’s, turned down in the early 1990’s, and then accelerated into the end of the 1990’s.”

    According to a measure of volatility constructed by Jacob S. Hacker, a Yale political scientist, which tracks the five-year moving average of family incomes, income volatility rose 88 percent between 1978 and 2000.

    “The problem in the past few decades,” Professor Moffitt said, “is that volatility has risen while real incomes haven’t risen.”  What’s more, income volatility has grown significantly for those who can afford it least.  A series of articles last year in The Los Angeles Times, written by Peter G. Gosselin, who worked closely with Professor Moffitt and other scholars, reported that in the 1970’s, income for middle-class Americans tended to fluctuate by 16 percent a year.  But in the 1980’s and 1990’s, middle-class incomes fluctuated an average of 30 percent.  For those whose earnings placed them in the bottom fifth, income volatility rose from 25 percent in the early 1970’s to 50 percent in recent years.

    Because of other longstanding trends in the economy, strong income volatility can wreak greater havoc now than it did in the past.

    The havoc appears to be economic, and it is. However, what devastates Americans most is not the lack of income, as much as the fear of a shortage does.  The stress caused by financial woes takes a toll on physical, mental, and the spiritual well being of Moms, Dads, and their offspring.  Stress related illnesses are abundant.

    People in this country run at an incredible pace.  They race to make the grade, to make ends meet, to make a modicum of money, and to secure a prestigious career.  Permanence is no longer possible.  Thus, there is greater tension.  Families are full of angst.

    Each baby that bounces out of the womb must be prepared to woe the world with their wisdom, their wealth, and their worth.  The latter is often determined in the formative years.  Colleges will ask, “What was your grade point average?”  Entrance, acceptance, approval all are dependent on your name and rank, or at least that is what parents teach their children. 

    Words need not be uttered.  Moms and Dads model what they feel, fear, and believe.  Actions speak volumes.  The message is get a good education.  Excellent grades are a must.  Go to the best University.  Secure an esteemed position in a company that pays well and provides benefits.  Buy a big house on the hill, travel; and did I mention make lots of money.  Then you will be a success, stressed, nonetheless, a success.  Young people, in their desire to please, and be as mother and father think best strive to achieve.  However, there is a cost.  Financial obligations accrue.  Tension mounts.

    Although there is little quality research linking debt to poor health, experts say there’s no question that being in debt can be stressful. And a wide body of research has tied stress to health problems including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stomach disorders such as colitis.

    Even those that have yet to enter the workforce feel pangs of angst.  As lads and lassies prepare to enter the adult world, they doggedly attempt to keep the dragons at bay.  In Elementary School, Middle School, and in the higher grades, there is a need to achieve.  Youngsters acknowledge it is a competitive world out there.  Our offspring train academically.  They are coached in sports, tutored in music, dance, the arts; they strive to be smart.  Long before they accumulate monetary arrears, emotionally they become out of balance.

    High School Principal Richards realized this in his current assignment.  At Needham High School, in the affluent Boston suburbs, Paul Richards, the Principal, meets with the Stress Reduction Committee.  Some students are unable to attend.  They are overscheduled and cannot commit to a consultation that takes them away from their rigorous academic schedule. 

    Mr. Richards is just one principal in the vanguard of a movement to push back against an ethos of super-achievement at affluent suburban high schools amid the extreme competition over college admissions. He has joined like-minded administrators from 44 other high schools and middle schools – most in the San Francisco Bay Area but others scattered from Texas to New York – to form a group known as S.O.S., for Stressed Out Students . . .

    High schools in other Boston suburbs – Wellesley, Lexington, Wayland – have taken steps similar to Needham’s, organizing stress committees and yoga classes . . .

    At Needham, there is some grumbling that measures like homework-free holidays could erode academic rigor.

    Principal Richards realizes it is a challenge to change.  Students and parents indoctrinated in a culture that demands that you do, deliver, and achieve external successes, cannot imagine taking time to be.  There is no time to waste in pursuit of a degree.  Ivy-league schools require exemplary résumés.  However, Principal Paul Richards realized a rigorous routine may not reap the rewards that many expect.

    Needham began an intense self-examination a couple years ago, after four of its young people – one in college, two in high school and one in middle school – committed suicide. While school officials emphasized that the suicides were not related to stress, the deaths heightened concerns about how Needham’s students were responding to school pressure.

    Even before the suicides, Needham school officials had responded to youth surveys indicating troubling rates of alcohol and drug use and depression – rates like those at other affluent high schools – by establishing an initiative, starting in elementary school, to help students develop better emotional and social skills.

    “One of our big goals is to try to help students become more resilient,” Mr. Richards said. He wants to help students learn to cope better with the inevitable setbacks, he said, “so they don’t fall apart if they get a B-minus.”

    Mr. Richards, 36, arrived here three years ago from Nantucket, where, as principal of the island’s high school, he had to push students to aim higher. For all the academic advantages of Needham High School, what struck him, he said, was the cost to all this achieving and performing.

    Many students were so stressed out about grades and test scores – and so busy building résumés to get into the small number of brand-name colleges they equated with success – that, he said, they could not fully engage with school.

    “A lot of these kids,” he said, “are being held hostage to the culture.”

    Mr. Richards, who is pursuing his doctorate at Boston College, made himself an expert in research on stress. In his office one recent morning, he grabbed a marker and drew a curve on a flip chart to illustrate scientific findings that while a certain amount of stress is necessary for learning and growth, too much interferes.

    He said he was concerned with widespread cheating, mostly by students copying homework and failing to cite sources fully. Cheating, experts say, is a problem at high schools nationwide.

    Interestingly, cheating on examinations cannot compare with the way that we cheat ourselves. American adults dupe themselves and the children into believing we can measure success.  In the minds of most, a diploma, a degree, and the dollars in your bank account documents you have triumphed.  A huge house on a hill, one that overlooks all others validates, you are victorious.  A flashy chariot communicates you have arrived.  It matters not that the person within the vehicle is void; that he or she thinks himself or herself to be nothing more than an empty vessel.

    Unfulfilled parents work to possess more and more.  Thus, they place their children in day care before the babies feel safe, secure, or have time to develop a stable sense of autonomy.  They tell themselves they must send their babies off to school.  With only one income, Moms and Dads cannot make ends meet.  Perhaps, for a very few this is true.  However, for most the desire to acquire is the dominant factor.  Parents tell themselves they must provide; whilst they forget how much their mere presence bequeaths.

    Citizens of the United States, mothers and fathers are so consumed with consumption, that they only know how to acquire possessions.  Americans are unaware; ‘How might I experience fulfillment.’  We ask our offspring what they want to “be” when they grow up.  Yet, actually, we wish to know what profession will they pursue in order to prove themselves valuable to society.  Few of our countrymen, at any age, have discovered the answer to the deeper question, “What or who do I desire to be.”

    As Paul Richards pursues a higher mission, as he works to preserve the idea [or ideal] education is about more than statistical accountability, he acknowledges as he refers to Needham’s record of academic success, “If the results aren’t there they’d run me out of town pretty quickly.”  Dear reader, as you evaluate your own community you might give credence to the truth of Principal Richards statement. 

    Apparently, in America, profound contemplation is of little if any merit.  Meditation is not suitable for those that wish to progress up the economic scale.  If achievement falls at Needham High School, even if temporarily as people adjust, stress reduction programs will be eliminated.  The rapid pace of the civilized rat race obliterates reflective reasoning. 

    In this country, current curriculums suggest critical thinkers need not be cultivated.  Unless people are able to bring in the bucks, they have no legitimate purpose.  Hence, we must teach to the marketplace.  Mathematicians and scientist are taught rote techniques.  Even artists, if trained at all, must act as technicians.  Designers can generate dollars.  Musicians have a mission. If they can please the masses, there is money to be made.  In American classrooms, curiosity is not cultivated.  There is no time to breathe deeply.  Americans have debts to pay.  Sadly, the deficit may be soul deep.

    The Sum and Stress of Less Homework Plus Yoga . . .

  • Teenage Depression Statistics.
  • Teen Suicide Statistics
  • Are There Long-Term Effects of Early Child Care? By Jay Belsky, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Margaret Burchinal, K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Kathleen McCartney, Margaret Tresch Owen.  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD] Early Child Care Research Network. (2007)  Child Development 78 (2), 681-701
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
  • The Kids Are Alright. By Emily Bazelon.  Slate. March 28, 2007
  • Study examines public, private schools
    By Nancy Zuckerbrod.  Boston Globe. October 10, 2007

  • Less Homework, More Yoga, From a Principal Who Hates Stress.  By Sara Rimer.  The New York Times. October 29, 2007
  • pdf Less Homework, More Yoga, From a Principal Who Hates Stress.  By Sara Rimer.  The New York Times. October 29, 2007
  • Poor Behavior Is Linked to Time in Day Care, By Benedict Carey.  The New York Times. March 26, 2007
  • pdf Poor Behavior Is Linked to Time in Day Care, By Benedict Carey.  The New York Times. March 26, 2007
  • Saving for College.  The SmartStudent? Guide.
  • Social Security as Dramamine  By Daniel Gross.  The New York Times. March 20, 2005
  • In Over Your Head? Ask Your Body. Persistent Stress Caused by Financial Worries Can Lead to Physical and Mental Problems Such as Hypertension and Eating Disorders, Say Experts. By January W. Payne.  The Washington Post. Tuesday, July 24, 2007; Page HE01
  • pdf In Over Your Head? Ask Your Body. Persistent Stress Caused by Financial Worries Can Lead to Physical and Mental Problems Such as Hypertension and Eating Disorders, Say Experts. By January W. Payne.  The Washington Post. Tuesday, July 24, 2007; Page HE01
  • Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math, By Sam Dillon.  The New York Times. March 26, 2006
  • Some push for arts in core curriculum, By April Simpson.  Boston Globe. July 1, 2007
  • Just Say, “No!”

    copyright © 2007 Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

    The issue of continued funding of the occupation of Iraq just won’t leave my mind today.  President Bush yesterday returned to Congress with a new request for funds to continue the occupation of Iraq and the military presence in Afghanistan.  An additional $46 billion is requested on top of the original request for $150 billion.  This request for additional funds comes on the heels of a Presidential veto of funding for children’s health care justified on the basis of costs.  The administration finds no apparent disconnect between funding a war and denying our nation’s children appropriate medical care.

    President Bush had all the fine words about supplying our troops with the supplies they need to continue the fight, bullets and such.  He did not mention buying body bags or coffins.

    US Government archival.  Public domain.

    He did not mention the costs to our society.

    Businesses driven into oblivion by outsourcing.

    New York City.  US Government archival.  Public domain.

    Children neglected and uninsured in time of health crisis.

    Swimming Pool, Brooklyn, New York.  US Government archival.  Public domain.

    Many homeless people in need of adequate housing and help finding jobs that pay the household bills.

    US Government archival.  Public domain.

    A VA system overburdened by the costs of caring for a new wave of veterans, many of whom face a lifetime needing care and support.

    US Government archival.  Public domain.

    He did not mention the 3834 dead American soldiers to date.  May the fallen rest in peace.  My sympathy to their friends and families.

    My personal anger and distress knows almost no bounds today.  It is only action on a daily basis that manages to keep me sane.  How much longer will we, the American public, let this continue?  When will we hear the anger and the distress from all of America and not just the vocal few of today?  We cannot rest in peace until we end the war and bring our troops home at long last.

    This time Congress needs to demonstrate its representation of the people of this country and just say, “No.”  No more funds for continuing the American military presence in Iraq.  No more funds for any military action in the Middle East beyond the money needed for withdrawal of all American forces.

    For far too long Congress has been a willing accomplice in allowing the administration to continue this illegal and immoral occupation.  The country is being drained of its monetary and human resources.  The costs of the war are much too high.  We cannot afford to continue the occupation one day longer than necessary to withdraw.  The time has come for a final statement of opposition from our Congressional representatives.  We, the people, can wait no longer.

    The last election demonstrated the voter resistance to the war in Iraq.  We elected a majority of Democrats to the Congress.  Polls show continued opposition in numbers as high as 70% and yet the Congress fails to listen to the will of the people.  The national debt is increasing at a rate that will take generations to resolve.  The time for ending funding for continuation of the war is here and now.  This egregious war must end.

    I am a candidate for the Democratic nomination to Congress in 2008.  I promise to support no bill that allows for the continued occupation of Iraq.  The initial invasion was based on untruths told to lead the American public astray.  The continued occupation does no apparent good.  Stability in the Mideast cannot be found so long as a foreign occupying force is in place. 

    We must withdraw and begin to apply the most stringent diplomatic efforts possible if we are to see any measure of peace in the region.  In the history of the world there has never been a democracy imposed by an occupying military force.  We have no reason to expect any such resolution in Iraq.  Diplomatic means and economic support for rebuilding the country we have destroyed have the best chance of sustained success. 

    The sooner we change our course the better.  Staying the course to date has cost nothing but increased numbers of American and Iraqi lives and billions of dollars.  We have no more children to lose.  We have no more dollars to borrow.  Our grandchildren will be saddled with a debt no one can afford to repay if we fail to stop the drain very soon.

    So much about our great country is being ignored in order to continue support of the war.  We cannot afford to let our infrastructure deteriorate any further.  We cannot afford to leave our country’s defense so thin if we are to be safe into the future.  We cannot allow our children’s education and health to be ignored as we spend money in Iraq.  We must take action soon or we stand to lose our chance to lead for a better world.