Sunday, February 10, 2013

2nd-grader suspended over imaginary grenade‏

A seven-year-old boy was suspended from his elementary school for using an imaginary grenade while playing "Rescue the World" on the playground.

The story was featured on Fox 31 Denver. Second-grader Alex Evans pretended to throw a grenade into a box full of, in his words, "pretend evil forces."  "I pretended the box, there's something shaking in it, and I go pshhh," Alex explained.

Unfortunately for Alex, his exploits (heroic as they were) went against Mary Blair Elementary School rules. Those rules include no fighting (real or pretend) and no weapons (real or pretend).

Alex's mom commented that she doesn't think the rule is practical. "Honestly I don’t think the rule is very realistic for kids this age,” Mandie Watkins said. "I think that when a child is trying to save the world, I don’t think he should be punished for it."

Alex is just as perplexed as his mom. "I was trying to save people and I just can’t believe I got dispended," he told Fox 31.

A similar incident took place last month in Pennsylvania when a fifth-grade girl was reprimanded by school officials for bringing a piece of paper in the shape of gun to class.


California abandons algebra requirement for eighth-graders

By falling in line with other states, California is abandoning its push for all eighth-graders to take algebra.

Last month, the State Board of Education unanimously shifted away from a 15-year policy of expecting eighth-graders to take Algebra I. The state will allow them to take either Algebra I or an alternate course that includes some algebra. New state standardized tests will focus on the alternate course -- the same one adopted by most states under the Common Core curriculum being rolled out across the nation.

Supporters welcome the change as more in line with current practice, of schools offering two tracks of math for eighth-graders. But critics fear that the new standard will let schools avoid offering rigorous courses for all. They point to a report released last week showing that some schools are not placing black and Latino students in advanced math courses even when they're prepared.

The change is controversial because success in Algebra I is the single best predictor of college graduation.

Supporters say the state has adopted a more practical and effective way of teaching math. The new standards recognize that not all students can pass algebra in middle school.

"You have a lot of kids who get pushed into algebra when they're not ready," said Mark Stolan, a math teacher at Quimby Oak Middle School in San Jose. "Not only do they struggle, which is demoralizing, then they end up having to take it again."

Since 1997, California standards have included eighth-grade algebra. Under the new standards for algebra: "We are recommending you take it when you're ready," said Thomas Adams, executive director of the state's Instructional Quality Commission.

Competitive track

But critics say the switch could ease pressure on school districts to prepare poor and minority students for college.

"I think it's a step back," said Emmett Carson, executive director of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which has funded algebra-prep courses and has pushed for more rigor for all students.

In 2010, the state board created dual math standards: California's fast track to algebra and the Common Core approach, teaching fewer concepts in depth, leading to Algebra I in ninth grade.

But the Common Core sequence is out of sync with the progression that leads to college-bound students taking calculus in 12th grade, as expected by top-tier universities. The question of how to get kids taking the Common Core nonalgebra math on track for entrance to competitive colleges is left up to school districts.

That could mean students would have to take three years of high school math in two years. Some students do that now, said Morgan Marchbanks, assistant superintendent of the Sequoia Union High School District, but it's rare.

If more students stay on the Common Core track, she said, "It's going to have to move from rare to common."

Some say despite its goals, forcing too many students to take algebra in eighth grade has doomed them to fail in math. In Santa Clara County, for instance, two years ago only 44 percent of middle school students tested proficient in math; the figure was only 24 percent for Latino students. And studies show that almost 80 percent of students who retake algebra fail again.


Boy falls foul of British definition of "offensive"

It's offensive if someone else thinks it is

Ben Hayward, 14, was accused of making the racist hand gesture and clicking his heels while saying “Heil Hitler” to his unnamed teacher.

But the boy insisted he did not know he was being racist and was just stretching out his left arm to imitate his teacher’s gesture as she attempted to keep students quiet outside the classroom before the performing arts class.

Despite denying saying the phrase or that he clicked his heels, officials from Meopham School, in Meopham, Kent, handed him a two-hour detention.

But the schoolboy and his parents refused to accept that the incident was racist and demanded an investigation by the school, claiming the teacher was mistaken.

While the detention was initally postponed, officials later contacted his family to say Ben had to serve his punishment, despite the head teacher, Matthew Munro, admitting that the school was prepared to drop its claims that the incident was racist.

But last week, Ben returned from school and told his parents he had been in exclusion for the day. Ben’s phone was confiscated, he was placed insolation and communication with other children was “severed”.

Today, his father, Scott, 41, from Cuxton, Kent, said he now plans to lodge a complaint with the board of governors after the school failed to inform him why the punishment had "escalated".

He said the incident had left his wife, Robyn, 37 and his other teenage son, 17, who also attends the school, deeply upset. The couple also have a three year-old daughter.

"We asked the school to talk to the teacher as we thought she may have misjudged the incident as racist,” said Mr Hayward, a director of a construction company.

"At most it could have been seen as undermining her authority but definitely not racist.

"If investigated properly with witness statements from the other 20 or so children there, it would show the teacher was mistaken."

He added: “It's been upsetting because Ben has been questioned again and again because we've not been getting answers from the school. They are keeping us in the dark. But we stick by our son.

"He was being silly and was just mucking about with his mates. There was nothing in it. He understands that he has done something wrong. We have been questioning him about it to make about what has happened.

“We are quite upset about this. We feel we have not been listened to. We did really like the school.”

Mr Munro today defended the school’s handling of the incident, which occurred in November last year.

"The standard procedure when students have an after school detention is if they miss it twice they will have a day of internal exclusion in our internal exclusion unit,” he said.

"We had discussions with Mr and Mrs Hayward and we did agree we wouldn't categorise it as a racist incident but that it would be a serious incident and the punishment would stand.

"A racist incident is defined by perception of other people rather than the intention of the person who committed it and this is the point we tried to make.”

He added: "The fact remains a teacher took great exception and perceived the incident as racist. However, as I said this was a point we were willing to re-categorise and that is where we left it."

The co-educational secondary school has about 650 students and has "specialist status" as a Sports College.

Last week the school joined the Swale Academies trust as a sponsored academy. The trust principal Jon Whitcombe was unavailable for comment


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