Sunday, March 25, 2012

NJ Middle School Now a Hug-Free Zone?

A New Jersey school superintendent says there’s no policy against hugging in the district, and says the issue of middle schoolers being told by their principal not to hug each other anymore is being blown out of proportion.

The district says Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School Principal Tyler Blackmore made an announcement that its 900 students were in a “no hugging school” following some “incidents of unsuitable, physical interactions.”

School Superintendent David Healy said the district has the responsibility to teach children about appropriate interactions. But he said no one would be disciplined for hugging.

“There is no policy specific to hugging, and we have not, nor will we be, suspending students for hugging,” he said in a written statement. “It is unfortunate that there are those who find purpose and humor in sensationalizing such a routine school-related issue at the expense and inconvenience of our children and our school community.”

The superintendent said he believes the principal acted responsibly in making the recent school announcement regarding hugging. The district’s Board of Education does have policies in place to address bullying, inappropriate relationships and inappropriate conduct, he added.

Students range in ages from 11 to 14 in grades six to eight.

This isn’t the only instance of schools trying to ban behavior that might be perceived as affectionate. The New York Times reported on a trend in 2010 of educators trying to discourage the idea of “best friends.” This trend has recently found real-life expression in the United Kingdom, where teachers have been outright telling students not to have best friends.


US education mediocrity threatens national security

The U.S. education system’s mediocrity threatens national security and economic prosperity, concludes a report out this morning from a task force co-chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former New York City Chancellor Joel Kline.

“The State Department and intelligence services lack sufficient linguists and analysts for critical regions,” the report says. “By almost every measure, U.S. schools are failing to provide the kind of education our society will need to ensure American leadership in the twenty-first century.”

While many people know how education system failure impacts the economy, few consider its impacts on national security, the Council on Foreign Relations report says. It claims 75 percent of young adults don't qualify to serve in the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or an inadequate education.

The report cites many statistics illustrating the country’s increasing deficiency: Nearly a quarter of students do not graduate from high school in four years, only a quarter rate proficient on the national civics exam, less than a quarter rate college-ready on the ACT.

Its recommendations to remedy this problem: incorporate national-security-essential subjects into national and state education requirements, increase school choice, and “launch a national security readiness audit.”

Well, items one and three sound dubious. The first requires expanding the Common Core set of grade-level education standards, an enterprise manipulated by the Obama administration and of dubious legality. And the “national security readiness audit” the report writers envision would hold “educators and policymakers responsible for meeting national expectations in education.” Not sure what that would look like, but as with the Common Core, it’s illegal and unconstitutional for the federal government to interfere with curriculum, and experience with No Child Left Behind indicates trading federal money for state testing requirements is a loser.

School choice, though, is a worthy and long-ignored idea.

“It’s an American solution to an American problem,” Klein told Bloomberg. “Competition and choice have the greatest potential to stimulate innovation.”

Little in the report is truly new. Its innovation lies in linking a decline many have observed for decades to American life and limb. This, and the obvious ties between education and the economy, is another reason education policy needs to become more prominent in the presidential and national discussion. We cannot solve national security and economy problems without solving the education problem.


British Nursery workers so illiterate they struggle to read stories aloud

Nursery school workers and childminders are being allowed to look after children despite having such poor literacy skills they would struggle to read a story aloud, a Government-commissioned review has found.

Childcare qualifications often don’t insist on basic numeracy or literacy skills while pupils with the poorest academic records are pushed towards working with children as an alternative to hairdressing.

And some nurseries are taking on staff without any qualifications at all, according to the Nutbrown Review’s interim findings which were published last week.

Anne Longfield, the chief executive of 4Children, the national charity that campaigns for children’s services, said that the findings were a “wake-up call”. “This is a shocking oversight that parents would be very unhappy about. It is shameful that you need higher qualifications to get into hairdressing or animal care,” she said.

Dr Hilary Emery, National Children’s Bureau chief executive said, 'The report echoes what our networks are telling us, that there is much confusion and concern over the level, quality and variation of child care qualifications.”

Cathy Nutbrown who wrote the report concluded that the profession was seen as “low-status, low-paid and low-skilled” and was a turn-off for the brighest pupils. Professor Nutbrown said there needed to be well taught courses leading to reliable qualifications.

“Expectations of learners in terms of literacy and numeracy are unduly low,” she wrote.

“The 'hair or care’ stereotype still exists for many considering a course in the early years, yet many other sectors have raised their expectations in relation to enrolment.”

She added: “My interim report sets out the shared concerns among the workforce about their qualifications system.”

Prof Nutbrown will set out her recommendations in the summer but has suggested raising entry requirements for courses and bringing a licence for nursery workers similar to that of nurses.

Mrs Longfield, added, “'The suggestion of introducing a licence to work in early years is brave and forward thinking and we fully support this. The care and education of our children is of utmost importance and it seems only right that we provide children and their parents with the kind of assurance of quality that we have come to expect as a norm in other professions and positions of trust.

Children’s minister Sarah Teather said, 'I welcome Professor Nutbrown’s interim report. We know the earliest years of a child’s life are so important to their development so it’s vital we have a workforce with the right knowledge and skills.’


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