Friday, April 04, 2008

'Crisis' graduation gap found between cities, suburbs

What a lot of fluff this article is! The gap is RACIAL, not a product of where you live. And the gap won't change until strategies to deal with black deficiencies are adopted. Blacks can be helped but not if you keep pretending that they are just the same as whites

The likelihood that a ninth-grader in one of the nation's biggest cities will clutch a diploma four years later amounts to a coin toss — not much better than a 50-50 chance, new research finds. Cross into the suburbs, and the odds improve dramatically.

The findings, which are being released today, look closely for the first time at the gap in high school graduation rates between public schools in the 50 biggest cities and the suburbs that surround them. Among the alarming disparities: In 12 cities, the gap exceeds 25 percentage points. Of those cities, nine are in the Northeast or Midwest.

The study was commissioned by America's Promise Alliance, a group of foundations, advocacy and non-profit organizations, and corporate and religious groups focusing on children's education, safety and health. It was founded by former general Colin Powell and is headed by his wife, Alma. The alliance plans a series of dropout-prevention summits in each state over the next two years.

Researcher Christopher Swanson, who analyzed 2004 graduation data from the Education Department, says the largest districts "contribute disproportionately to the nation's graduation crisis." Collectively, they educate 1.7 million high school students — about one in eight. Yet they account for nearly one in four students who don't graduate each year.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings calls the gap "unacceptable, especially now that 90% of our fastest-growing jobs require education or training beyond high school." She plans to take administrative steps that will require states to use the same formula to calculate graduation rates, "and that they make it public so that people nationwide can compare how students of every race, background, and income level are performing."

For the report, Swanson used urban/suburban categories from the Education Department's Common Core of Data. The value of the data is that it puts "some hard numbers behind our intuition" on the gap between urban and suburban graduation rates, Swanson says. "It's hard to act on intuition. It's easier to base policy on hard data."

Rick Dalton, president of College for Every Student, a Vermont group that helps low-income students prepare for college, says the urban/suburban gap "just speaks to the crisis in the U.S. It is about income. Family income drives it all."

Swanson, research director for Editorial Projects in Education, the Maryland non-profit that publishes Education Week, says, "If we can focus particular attention on these big-city districts, … I think it's possible to think that we'd see some movement on these national numbers." ["possible to think"!!]


Student Sues Wisconsin School After Getting a Zero for Religious Drawing

A Tomah High School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his art teacher censored his drawing because it featured a cross and a biblical reference. The lawsuit alleges other students were allowed to draw "demonic" images and asks a judge to declare a class policy prohibiting religion in art unconstitutional. "We hear so much today about tolerance," said David Cortman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group representing the student. "But where is the tolerance for religious beliefs? The whole purpose of art is to reflect your own personal experience. To tell a student his religious beliefs can legally be censored sends the wrong message." Tomah School District Business Manager Greg Gaarder said the district hadn't seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

According to the lawsuit, the student's art teacher asked his class in February to draw landscapes. The student, a senior identified in the lawsuit by the initials A.P., added a cross and the words "John 3:16 A sign of love" in his drawing. His teacher, Julie Millin, asked him to remove the reference to the Bible, saying students were making remarks about it. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project. Millin showed the student a policy for the class that prohibited any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork. The lawsuit claims Millin told the boy he had signed away his constitutional rights when he signed the policy at the beginning of the semester.

The boy tore the policy up in front of Millin, who kicked him out of class. Later that day, assistant principal Cale Jackson told the boy his religious expression infringed on other students' rights. Jackson told the boy, his stepfather and his pastor at a meeting a week later that religious expression could be legally censored in class assignments. Millin stated at the meeting the cross in the drawing also infringed on other students' rights. The boy received two detentions for tearing up the policy. Jackson referred questions about the lawsuit to Gaarder.

Sometime after that meeting, the boy's metals teacher rejected his idea to build a chain-mail cross, telling him it was religious and could offend someone, the lawsuit claims. The boy decided in March to shelve plans to make a pin with the words "pray" and "praise" on it because he was afraid he'd get a zero for a grade.

The lawsuit also alleges school officials allow other religious items and artwork to be displayed on campus. A Buddha and Hindu figurines are on display in a social studies classroom, the lawsuit claims, adding the teacher passionately teaches Hindu principles to students. In addition, a replica of Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Man" is displayed at the school's entrance, a picture of a six-limbed Hindu deity is in the school's hallway and a drawing of a robed sorcerer hangs on a hallway bulletin board. Drawings of Medusa, the Grim Reaper with a scythe and a being with a horned head and protruding tongue hang in the art room and demonic masks are displayed in the metals room, the lawsuit alleges.

A.P. suffered unequal treatment because of his religion even though student expression is protected by the First Amendment, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Friday. "Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate," the lawsuit said. "No compelling state interest exists to justify the censorship of A.P.'s religious expression."


An authoritarian government school in Sydney, Australia

A Sydney high school has been accused of intimidating students into having their fingerprints scanned for a new attendance monitoring system, and branding parents who object as "idiots". Parents of students at Ku-ring-gai High School in Sydney's north say their children have been bullied into taking part in a trial of the scheme introduced this week. According to a principal's note sent home with students last Friday, parents were permitted to opt out by sending an "exemption" letter to the school.

Parents told The Australian yesterday their children were told their fingers would be scanned anyway, and data later deleted, only if there were still objections. Alison Page said her daughter in Year 10 and other students who carried exemption letters were told "their parents were idiots for not agreeing". She said they were asked again if they would have the scans. "They were told to go home and tell their parents they were worrying about nothing," she added. Ms Page said her other daughter in Year 12 was among students required to provide finger scans without notice after an English exam on Tuesday. Her daughter had an exemption letter but had not been allowed to take it into the room. "They were not allowed to leave the room until it was done," she said. "They were told it could be deleted later if they didn't want it done."

Parent Chris Gurman said his daughter Alex was also told she could not leave the exam room until her fingerprint was taken. "My daughter was the only one who refused," Mr Gurman said. "She's read 1984. When she refused to co-operate, a teacher let her out of the room." Alex Gurman, 17, said they were told: "'If any of your stupid parents have any worries about this we will talk about it later.' I felt like crying, I felt like I was being forced to do something I didn't want to do, it was very confronting."

The Australian Council for Civil Liberties raised concerns about people being pressured into fingerprint scans, and said they posed dangers to privacy. Council secretary Cameron Murphy said: "This is exactly why the process is unacceptable, because in most cases where this biometric information is collected it is very rarely by consent."

The principal of the creative arts high school, Glenda Aulsebrook, said she was unaware of allegations that students had been forced to accept scans, saying no one was obliged to participate. Ms Aulsebrook denied fingerprints were kept on record, saying only numbers were kept on a database. She said she first became aware of the procedure at a principals' conference where she was shown how it operated.

NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca said a small number of schools had introduced fingerprint scanning with the support of parents, adding it was not a government nor department initiative. "In each case the department has ensured there are strict privacy safeguards and parental consent," Mr Della Bosca said.

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said he was worried parents who wanted to opt out might have been forced to participate. The process had also never been formally announced by Mr Della Bosca nor the Iemma Government, he said. An Education Department spokeswoman said inquiries would be made about the scheme.


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