Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mass. school district under fire for condom policy

A new policy in a Massachusetts public school district that makes condoms available to all students, even those in elementary school, is drawing criticism from some who say it goes too far.

Provincetown School Board Chairman Peter Grosso says because there is no set age when sexual activity starts, the committee decided not to set an age for condom availability.

Under the policy, any student requesting a condom from a school nurse must first receive counseling, which includes information on abstinence. The policy does not require the school to contact parents.

The policy was approved by Provincetown's school committee June 10. It takes effect in the fall.

Kris Mineau, president of the conservative Massachusetts Family Institute, calls the idea absurd.


31 states seek standardized academic exam

This is reasonable as long as the curriculum is sound -- unlikely

Thirty-one states have banded together to compete for a federal grant to create a series of new national academic tests to replace the current patchwork system.

Currently, every state gives a different test to its students. In some states, including Massachusetts, passing the exam is a graduation requirement.

The federal government has said it will award up to two grants of up to $160 million to create a testing system based on proposed new national academic standards in reading and math.

Washington state is submitting the application on behalf of the group of states.

The coalition’s proposal describes a testing system different from what is happening in most states in a number of ways:

* Testing would be online and given at least twice a year to help teachers and parents track student progress.

* The exams would adapt to measure each student’s abilities. It is expensive technology that most individual states could not afford on their own.

* Teachers would be given other tools for ongoing, informal assessment to help them figure out if students are learning on a daily basis.

Individual states will still determine whether to use the high school test as a graduation requirement, said Chris Barron, spokesman for the Washington state education department.

“These funds will go a long way to building the innovative system we need to help our children succeed,’’ Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said in a statement.


Return of REAL school sports: British Tories to revive competitive games in bid to turn nation back into champions

Competitive games are to be revived in schools in a bid to turn Britain back into a nation of sporting champions. As the country holds its breath over the World Cup and Wimbledon, ministers want their new 'School Olympics' programme to end the culture of 'prizes for all'.

The sports championships are intended to give every child experience of hard-fought competition. They will reverse a decline in competitive sport brought about by Left-wing councils that scorned it as 'elitist' and insisted on politically correct activities with no winners or losers.

The competitions will involve a wide range of sports including football, rugby, netball, golf, cricket, tennis, athletics, judo, gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, cycling and volleyball. Schools will be able to nominate any sport in any age group as long as they can find opponents.

Details of the championships will be unveiled on Monday, hard on the heels of a weekend of sporting drama with England playing old rivals Germany in the World Cup tomorrow and Andy Murray today vying for a spot in Wimbledon's fourth round.

As they launch the initiative, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Michael Gove will say it is intended to ensure the 2012 London Olympics leave a lasting sporting legacy.

The first championship will take place in the run-up to the 2012 Games with further competitions planned beyond that. Paralympic-style events will be staged in parallel for youngsters with disabilities.

Mr Hunt said: 'I want to give a real boost to competitive sport in schools using the power of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games to encourage young people – whatever age or ability – to take part in this new competition. 'Sport – whether you win or lose – teaches young people great lessons for life. It encourages teamwork, dedication and striving to be the best that you can be.'

Steve Grainger, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: 'Competition has been happening on an ad hoc school to school basis since the demise of district-level sport. 'It was down to schools to sort something out with another school which is maybe a utopian view of how it might happen.

'We have built up a network of 450 school sport partnerships with every school locked in so we now have a really solid base from which to develop competitive sport up to 2012 and lever off the back of 2012 to enable every kid in the country to have a suitable competitive experience in a whole range of sports.'

Schools will compete against each other in district leagues from 2011 with winning athletes and teams qualifying for up to 60 county finals. The most talented budding sports stars will then be selected for national finals – although this currently covers England only.

The pc spoilsports

Lottery funding of up to £10million a year, distributed by Sport England, will be used to create a new sports league structure for primary and secondary schools, culminating in the 2012 finals.

But ministers also hope the championships will reinvigorate PE lessons, within-school tournaments and local leagues. Schools will be expected to host in-house Olympic-style sports days so that children of all abilities have the opportunity to compete and join teams.

The coalition government plans to publish information about schools' sporting facilities and the amount of sport and competitive sport they provide for pupils.

There would also be school sports league tables, so parents can track the success of their children's schools' sports results.

Mr Gove said: 'We need to revive competitive sport in our schools. Fewer than a third of school pupils take part in regular competitive sport within schools, and fewer than one in five take part in regular competition between schools. 'The School Olympics give us a chance to change that for good.'

Ministers hope the initiative will finally end a culture that has seen schools refuse to pit youngsters directly against each other.

In one directive to schools during the last Labour government, schools were encouraged to replace competitive races with 'problem-solving' exercises for their sports days. Teams were also encouraged to perform tasks in rotation rather than compete directly with each other.

A series of Labour initiatives aimed at reviving competitive sport were undermined by the continued sell-off of school playing fields.


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