Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Education Law Offers Chance for Cross-Party Action, Duncan Says

This call would deserve respect if there were any sign that the Donks were prepared to compromise on any element of their agenda but there is no sign of it. The way they closed down the DC voucher system indicates that they are in fact rowing away from any concession to GOP ideas

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said there are few areas “more suited for bipartisan action than education reform,” as the Democratic administration prepares for a new, more Republican-dominated Congress.

Democrats and Republicans agree that there are problems with the “No Child Left Behind” law for schools that was passed under former President George W. Bush, Duncan wrote in a column in today’s Washington Post.

Changing the education legislation is an area where the administration of Barack Obama and Republicans can work together to reach bipartisan agreement, Duncan said. When the 112th Congress convenes Jan. 5, Republicans will take control of the House and will hold 47 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

Difficulties with the law include labeling schools “as failures, even when they are making broad gains,” insufficient ways of measuring student progress, and the concern that the law is “driving some educators to teach to the test” rather than provide a well-rounded education, he said.

“Most people dislike NCLB’s one-size-fits-all mandates,” he wrote in the op-ed column. The 2002 act mandates that students be proficient in reading and math by 2014 on state standardized tests and that schools show yearly progress toward that goal or risk losing federal money.

“Almost no one believes the teacher quality provisions of NCLB are helping elevate the teaching profession, or ensuring that the most challenged students get their fair share of the best teachers,” he wrote.

Duncan wrote that he has spoken with hundreds of Republicans and Democratic lawmakers and “while we don’t agree on everything, our core goals are shared -- and we all want to fix NCLB to better support reform at the state and local level.”


Do your kids shower after gym class? Tradition fading away for some

Today's teens aren't shocked by much. They don't blink an eye when they spot a kid with drugs or a classmate with a baby. It's not that big a deal anymore if guys or girls dye their hair pink and pierce their faces. But the idea of getting naked to shower after gym class? No way, José.

Eyes bulge at the mere mention of showering around other students, which was common — mandatory, even — in middle schools and high schools across the country just a decade or two ago.

"I wouldn't do it," said 16-year-old Adrian Alequin, a junior at Winter Park High School. "It's way too weird. I don't want to see another guy like that."

Today, students generally have the option of stripping down to wash off the sweat and grime after workouts in the hot Florida sun. Most of the time, though, they don't. Even after hours of sports practice and rigorous competitions, many kids wait to bathe at home.

It might seem odd that teens, who are notoriously self-conscious, would forgo a quick rinse to keep from stinking in class. But veteran educators explain that the behavior isn't that unusual in an era when people of all ages are becoming more concerned about their privacy.

Parents, who have their own horror stories about showering in front of their peers and undergoing shower inspections by gym teachers, have pushed for an end to the practice. And school districts, worried about lawsuits and other problems, have given in. In some cases, school officials have even begun discouraging showers.

In the early 1990s, the Hollidaysburg school district in Pennsylvania drew national attention after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue over its shower rule. A girl there got in trouble for refusing to open her towel so a gym teacher could make sure she wasn't wearing underwear into the shower.

Attorney David Millstein, who took the case on behalf of the ACLU, said the issue struck a nerve in communities far and wide. "Of all the cases I've ever done with the ACLU, this is the one case I got the most reaction from," he said while vacationing in Naples, Fla., during the holidays. "It was my belief that unless a student smelled and was drawing flies, it wasn't the school's business."

Some athletic coaches and health advocates have expressed concerns, however, about allowing teens to forgo bathing after playing sports, especially those involving a lot of skin-to-skin contact.


British universities accused of 'dumbing down' over plans to include work experience in degree marks

Universities have been criticised over plans to award students extra marks towards their degrees if they can show 'corporate skills'. Several institutions, including the University of Leicester, University College London and Durham University, are considering ways to reward experience gained in the workplace.

Undergraduates on all Leicester's courses could earn credits for showing they can run workshops or make a good presentation, while Durham is considering awarding marks for work experience. UCL's career unit has met with employers to discuss how to accredit skills.

Vocationally-orientated degrees, such as engineering, have long included compulsory workplaces skills courses, but this is thought to be the first time that the move has been planned for academic courses such as English literature.

But James Ladyman, a professor of philosophy at Bristol University, accused universities of short-sightedness and said learning to think was the skill graduates most needed in order to succeed in the workplace. 'Incorporating corporate skills into the curriculum is short-term thinking,' he told the Guardian. 'The point about education is that it equips you for the long-term. Now we have this emphasis on the cash-value of a degree.'

Mike Molesworth, senior lecturer in consumer cultures at Bournemouth University told the newspaper that some universities were now 'reducing their ambition to churning out cheap, job-ready young people to fill the immediate skills gaps identified by corporations'.


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