Sunday, April 24, 2005


This article is another blast from the past that should not be forgotten

Pupils work harder and are less disruptive if they sit in rows rather than in groups around tables, according to researchers at the University of Birmingham. A team led by Dr Kevin Wheldall, of the university's department of educational psychology, found children spent up to twice as long concentrating on their work when seated in rows and teachers found it easier to praise them and to refrain from disapproval.

In fourth-year junior classes in two urban schools Dr Wheldall and his colleagues observed the extent to which children remained "on task" when seated normally around tables in groups and then when desks were rearranged in rows for a week or so. "On task" was defined as doing what the teacher instructed; looking at and (apparently) listening to her when she was talking to them, looking at their books or work cards when required to do work and only being out of their seats with the teacher's permission. Calling out, interrupting and talking to neighbours were regarded as "off task" though some teachers might regard talking as a legitimate classroom activity.

On task behaviour as defined rose by 15 per cent when pupils were seated in rows in both classes and dropped by the same amount when put back into groups. A few children also complained at the return to tables as they preferred rows. A similar study in a special school for children with behavioural difficulties found that on task time doubled in rows and disruptions were reduced to a third of their former frequency.

Dr Wheldall says: "I must emphasise that I am not advocating a return to rows for all work - only for academic work which requires the child to concentrate on the specific academic task in hand without disruption. Rows would be totally inappropriate for small group discussions." Dr Wheldall is now looking into the horseshoe arrangement of desks. He says that in some cases groups around tables might prove more effective, but he criticises the complete abandonment of rows. "Seating around tables has become the norm apparently because it was believed that this facilitated learning by discovery and project work. To my knowledge no empirical evidence was produced to justify this change, but then education is like this; strong on theory and speculation, weak on evidence and objective data."

Article originally from the "Times Educational Supplement", reprinted in the "Sydney Morning Herald", Feb. 16th., 1982 p. 12.


Even to the top one third of High School graduates! It's like something out of "Alice in Wonderland" but it is no wonderland

"The students are among the tens of thousands of California State University freshmen who required courses in remedial English, math or both when they arrived at one of the system's 23 campuses last fall. Placement exams showed they hadn't mastered a range of skills, from solving quadratic equations and using the Pythagorean theorem to having a command of vocabulary, grammar and techniques to write essays and papers. It's a troubling and expensive trend for the nation's largest public university system, which draws most of its freshmen from the top one-third of high school seniors in California.

Now, after years of focusing almost exclusively on helping students catch up once they get to college, CSU has pledged to drive down the demand for remediation before the freshmen ever get to their campuses. In partnership with California's public high schools, officials are testing juniors, creating courses for college-bound 12th-graders who need to improve their English and math and training teachers to better prepare students for the demands of CSU.

They are motivated in large part by expense: In the 2003-04 school year, remedial courses in math and English cost CSU nearly $30 million. Last year, 47 percent of the 39,000 freshmen at CSU campuses needed remedial English; 37 percent required basic math. At CSUS, more than 1,600 freshmen (out of 2,345) enrolled in remedial courses in English, math or both. "We are talking about students who come to us from high school with a 3.2 (grade point average)," said Betsy Kean, an education professor at CSUS who is working with high schools in the region to stem the need for remedial courses. "These are students who have reasonable grades, but for a variety of reasons did not master the mathematics and English they need once they get to college."

University officials and faculty have been working for nearly a decade to reduce the numbers of freshmen who aren't prepared for college-level work, a move that began in 1996 when the CSU Board of Trustees learned that the university was spending $10 million a year on remedial education. The trustees cracked down on lagging students, adopting a policy to dismiss those who hadn't reached proficiency in English and math within the first 15 months of entering CSU. But in the years since, the numbers improved little. CSU officials realized the problem was rooted more in a mismatch between what students were learning in high school and what they needed to function at college.

So this month and next, thousands of high school juniors will take a short exam designed by CSU faculty and high school faculty -- called the Early Assessment Program -- to gauge their college-level English and math skills. The test, introduced last spring, consists of 15 English questions and 15 math questions and is offered to juniors when they take the mandatory California Standards Test. The EAP exam is voluntary, but participation last year exceeded CSU's expectations: 150,000 juniors took the English portion and 115,000 opted to answer the math questions. Questions on the EAP are similar to those on the English and math placement exams that incoming CSU freshmen must take, said Roberta J. Ching, director of the Learning Skills Center, CSUS' remediation program.

For juniors who score poorly and demonstrate a need for more English and math skills, CSU officials and high school faculty members are designing courses to help them catch up in their senior year. CSU campuses also are beginning to offer courses to high school English teachers to train them to teach students how to write in an explanatory or expository style".

More here


Charges filed yesterday against a math teacher in Brooklyn were the latest in a string of five cases said to have involved criminal or inappropriate behavior by school employees that have stunned parents and school officials. The teacher, Joanna Hernandez, 27, surrendered to face misdemeanor charges of kissing one of her students, a 15-year-old boy, in an empty classroom at Intermediate School 55 in Brownsville during school hours, the police said.

Ms. Hernandez's arrest came a day after Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein issued an extraordinary warning to principals throughout the city. "I will use all means at my disposal to see that sex offenders are removed from our school system and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Mr. Klein said in an e-mail message. He warned faculty members to be on the lookout for school employees who make lewd or inappropriate remarks, and those who have sexual or romantic relations with students. Mr. Klein also called for a tightening of state laws that he said now make firing sexual offenders "far too cumbersome and protracted."

A spokesman for the Department of Education, Keith Kalb, said last night that Ms. Hernandez, a teacher in the city school system since 2001, had been reassigned to administrative duties away from students. He said each of the other school employees facing charges of sexual activities, including two other women in their 20's, had either resigned or been reassigned away from classroom duties. Pending formal disciplinary proceedings, he said, "We will move to fire every one of them."

The succession of charges, brought by the New York Police Department and Richard Condon, the special schools investigator, began last week. The police said another teacher came upon Ms. Hernandez and her student kissing on April 12. The identity of that boy, like those of the other students involved in the cases, have not been made public. Mr. Kalb said the principal of I.S. 55 was immediately informed, and Ms. Hernandez was reassigned last week to a regional operations center in Queens. The police said she surrendered yesterday to face charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a minor, both misdemeanors.

Two female faculty members at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services in Manhattan were also removed from contact with students last week after investigations by Mr. Condon's office. Mr. Kalb said that one of the women, Rhianna Ellis, 25, had given birth to a son whose father was an 18-year-old in her social studies class. The other case at the same high school involved Samantha Solomon, a 29-year-old guidance counselor, who had sex with a 17-year-old student, school officials said. Mr. Kalb said last night that Ms. Ellis had indicated that she planned to resign, and that disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Solomon were pending. Neither of the women was charged with criminal activity. Both liaisons were with students over 16, which state law deems the age of consent, and both students had described their relations as consensual.

Two other cases last week involved male school employees. Mr. Condon charged that Jermaine Reid, 27, a high school English teacher, had engaged in sexual relations with two female students, 16 and 18, over a period of many months at two schools in Queens. He had become involved with the younger girl while teaching at August Martin High School, and the 18-year-old at Richmond Hill High School, where he had been transferred, Mr. Kalb said. Mr. Reid has not reported for work since he was confronted last week with the charges against him, and it was not clear yesterday whether he intended to resign before facing disciplinary proceedings. Mr. Kalb said his case has been referred to the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, but it was not known whether criminal charges would be brought.

Last Friday, Joseph Morales, 28, a teacher at I.S. 24 on Staten Island, was charged with public lewdness and endangering the welfare of minors after witnesses told the police he exposed himself to many people, including teenage girls, at several places since February. In his remarks to principals on Tuesday, Chancellor Klein reiterated his call for lawmakers in Albany to make it a criminal offense for any school employee to have sex with a student, even if the student has reached the age of consent. State Senator Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, introduced such a bill in January.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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