The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

How to Protect Schools in Times When They Are Popular Places to Get Revenge: Part Two

Listening to today’s news about a new school shooting tragedy I decided to revise a piece I wrote after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School   shooting and post it again today. It certainly appears that all schools need full time protection.  But I am not advocating locking everything down or having a crew of armed police just inside the school door.   I think there is a better, less extreme way to protect any school.  Please read my suggestions below.

In these times when so many people have guns and so many schools are vulnerable to attacks like the one in Florida, it seems clear that any large school needs a full time Security Guard. Such a guard is necessary not only to confront any invader, but also to be familiar with students and teachers and gain their trust. In addition, principals, teachers, and students need to learn how to recognize anyone who might attempt to attack the school and the importance of alerting the guard.

The intelligence, persistence and likability of a Security Guard are extremely important. He or she would need those qualities to be the one who hears about any threats to a school’s safety, investigates them, informs and advises the principal, alerts the local police department, and perhaps, if others are slow to respond, takes action. Yes, it is a big job, but a guard is the one most qualified to do it.

When you look at the history of school attacks over the years, you will see that some students were aware of the others at school who were angry or depressed and might become dangerous. Although most attackers appear to be ordinary people on the outside, inside they are deeply damaged and willing to sacrifice their lives and the lives of others who happen to be handy. Many of them are also willing to reveal their feelings, and even their intentions, to family members or friends at school just as Nicolas Cruz did.  When that happens those who are aware of  possible dangers would be inclined to tell what they know to an adult who they trust and believe is the most capable person to protect them. I see that person as the school guard.

In preparing to write about my views of a school tragedy and how it might best be averted in the future, I did some research on attacks in schools in the past. The article that I  found most informative described school shootings that took place over the past two centuries and the present one so far. Not only did it list how many people were killed or injured each time, it also made clear the shooters’ motivations and their willingness to die rather than “forgive and forget”. The title of the article is “List of School Shootings in the United States” and it can be found under:





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“A Nation at Risk” Was Fake News

No, this is not a new piece from me.  Better than that it is a very important article posted today by Diane Ravitch and written by Marc Tucker.  Although I don’t usually post other people’s writing, I feel that this one is a worthwhile exception.

In his regular column at Education Week, Marc Tucker cites Anya Kamenetz’s incisive reporting on “A Nation at Risk” and agrees that the report was fake news. The commission agreed in advance that American education was in decline and cherrypicked facts to prove its conclusion. His column is behind a paywall.

Tucker says that achievement was not in decline at the time the report was written. The American people, he says, were lied to. He cites a contemporaneous report by Daniel Koretz, now at Harvard, then at the Congressional Budget Office, which “showed that there had indeed been a decline, mainly in high school performance, that had begun in the 1960s.  But he reported that this decline ended with the cohort of students that entered school in the late 1960s.  As that cohort wended its way through the grades, they continued to do better than their predecessors, and those that followed also did better.  Further, Koretz reported, the poor and minority students whose test performance was analyzed showed no dip in performance in the period in which the performance of virtually all other students of all ages was falling.

“Put this picture together and you will see that the American people were lied to.  Their children had not been falling off an educational cliff right up to the day the report was released.  Instead, the performance of American students had been doing better and better beginning with the cohort of students who had entered school in the late 1960s, FIFTEEN OR SO YEARS before the panel sounded its famous false alarm.”

Tucker notes that at least one observer thought that “A Nation at Risk” was beneficial, but he does not agree.

”At the end of her story, Kamenetz quotes Jim Guthrie, now a professor at Lynn University, who has held many prominent positions in the American education establishment.  She asked him what he thought about the lack of evidence presented by the authors of the 1983 report. “My view of it, in retrospect,” he says, “is seldom, maybe never, has a public report been so wrong and done so much good.”

“Let us leave aside the question as to whether the end justifies the means to consider, for a moment, whether Guthrie is right.  Is it true that A Nation at Risk has done the United States a world of good?  What’s the evidence for that?

“Once again, there is none.  For as long as there was a long-term version of NAEP (that is the version in which the items in the assessment did not change over time, permitting valid comparisons over the long haul), the scores of high school students changed only very slightly from the 1970s, when the survey was first administered.  The 1970s, you recall, was the decade before A Nation at Risk was released, so this data shows no change in high school performance since the report’s release.   From the time that PISA, the international comparison of student achievement administered by the OECD, was first given in the year 2000, to the present, the scores of U.S. students have been steady to slightly falling, while students in a growing number of other countries have been doing better.  PISA also surveys high school students.  So there is good reason to believe that there has been no improvement in the academic performance of high school students since the release of the report.  Guthrie might have been referring to the maelstrom of “reforms” instituted in the United States since A Nation at Risk was released in 1983, but reform is not improvement, and there has been precious little improvement.”

He writes that the negative tone of the report “delegitimized the teachers and school administrators in our public schools and ushered in policies based on a profound distrust of the very professionals on whom the improvement of the system would depend.  The subtext of the “reforms” so much admired by Guthrie and his colleagues is the charge that it is the regular public school teachers, their unions and the school administrators who are responsible for the alleged failure of the country’s schools and reform should be about circumventing or at least weakening their control of the system…

“The attitudes toward teachers and teaching, and the actions that flowed from those attitudes, have led to a steep decline in the number of high school students deciding to be teachers, the long slow relative decline in teacher compensation, the early retirement of many capable teachers, the steady decline in the average tenure of school principals and superintendents and the rise in employment of unqualified teachers. William Bennet, President Reagan’s Education Secretary, famously declared school administrators to be “the blob.”  While the United States was busy attacking its education professionals, the countries whose students are now outpacing ours were working hard to raise the status of the profession of teaching by improving compensation, raising standards for entering the profession, creating incentives for the most competent professionals to share their expertise with others and instituting myriad other measures, all of which can be characterized as investing in the profession.  Not one of these countries chose to improve their education system by implicitly attacking the competence and commitment of their education professionals.  A Nation at Risk set the tone and provided the rationale for all of this.”

He adds:”Kamenetz closed her report with another observation I have made in this space.  She wonders whether, rather than painting a picture in which the report produced important gains in American education despite the failures of American educators, it might be more accurate to paint a picture in which we see American educators succeeding despite the attacks on them stimulated by the report.  In this view of the world, one that I think has a lot of merit, we need to see the steady scores of American high school students since the 1970s as a victory.  Why?  Because they held steady in spite of a substantial increase in the proportion of students living in poverty, recent increases in school segregation by socio-economic status and race, a decrease in the equity of school funding within states and an increase in the spread between teacher compensation and the compensation of others with the same amount of education.“

Tucker closes by saying that our education system needs vast improvement to keep up with a changing world, not by looking to the past, but by looking to a different future to meet new challenges, a future in which all must be well educated.

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Personal Opinions on the Right Clothing for School

I hope that readers remember the piece I published last week  about a teen age girl who got into trouble because the shirt she wore to school showed the outlines of her nipples. At that time I asked for readers’ opinions on the matter, and I received two of them which I will post today. I will also post my own opinion. If you are still not satisfied with those opinions please let me know why, and I will publish your point of view.

P.S.  I just discovered that this response to a recent article was not published as I thought on May 2nd. I don’t know what mistake I made, but I will correct by making sure that It is published today.

Jane W’s Opinion

  1. Being sunburned certainly qualifies as a sickness. Stay home till better.
  2.  Kids with shirts with vulgar sayings must change (or put shirt on inside out, if that solves the problem) or go home.
  3. Nobody has the right to disrupt the educational process.

Plthomasedd’s Opinion

The problem is dress codes, according to research, they are sexist. Here are some opinions to read.

“Shame” is a Documentary on School Dress Codes by a 17-year-old student, available on YouTube. This could be a text in this unit or a model for documentaries created by students.

“Why School Dress Codes Are Sexist,”by Li Zhou (The Atlantic). This is a well-written work of journalism that covers the topic of sexism in dress codes well and serves as a strong model for public writing that uses hyperlinks as citation.

“Sexualization, Sex Discrimination, and Public School Dress Codes,”by Meredith J. Harbach. Here, students can examine a scholarly approach to the issues of sexism and dress codes.

“The Unspoken Messages of Dress Codes; Uncovering Bias and Power,” by Rosalind Wiseman (Anti-Defamation League). A curriculum resource and excellent overview, this can serve as a guideline for students lobbying for changes to dress codes and/or writing alternative codes that avoid bias.

“Baby Woman,” by Ratajkowski is a contemporary celebrity, model and actress, who takes a strong public position as a feminist, despite her association with provocative and sexualized media (controversial music videos and TV commercials). Her personal narrative is a strong model of the genre, but it also complicates views of feminism and female sexuality as well as objectification.

(More books were listed, but I thought these were enough.)

Joanne Yatvin’s Opinion

Having seen some really bizarre outfits on young people in public places recently, I feel that we shouldn’t have them in school, too.  They would almost certainly distract or offend students and teachers. For that reason I favor school uniforms, as long as girls can choose pants or a skirt to go with a top that fits well. Boys should have a choice of different types of pants, and all school uniforms should be washable.

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Why Parents Must Opt-Out Their Children From Yearly Tests

Too long ago I promised to tell readers why I think parents should opt-out their children from the yearly tests that all public schools  must give in order to receive federal funding. The first part of my explanation was a review of the laws that were enacted to improve school performances from 2000—to 2015 and have failed. Because it took me a lot of time and energy to get that information and report it accurately, I took time off before writing about why I believe that schools must be freed from government control in order to educate students properly.  Finally, I am ready.

My beliefs about education are borne of many years of teaching, being a school principal, serving as president of a national teachers organization, and writing about education. In addition, I spent time living in other countries, observing what young people there knew and could do and visiting many (50) European schools to study the teaching of English as a foreign language.

Among the things I learned over those years were that the assertions of “A Nation at Risk” were not valid, and the laws set over the past 18 years by the Federal government have deeply harmed our public schools rather than improving them.

Almost all the decisions made by Congress each year were based on the results of tests of questionable validity.  The things tested were students’ knowledge and skills for their grade levels as designated by the Common Core State Standards.  But the appropriateness of  the CCSS has been questioned by many educators from the very start.  Almost all of the people selected to create the standards had never been teachers, and they set the standards by stuffing every possible school skill into one grade or another, whether or not it was appropriate for students of that age or fit with their previous learning.

In addition, every new program or change in teaching methods intended to improve a school’s performance has been a failure. Large amounts of money, believed to be “cure-it-all’s”, were spent mostly on hiring “coaches” who had no experience or training.  The rest of it went for glossy new programs that claimed to make students succeed where they had continually failed before.

Although I could name and describe many more bad decisions and actions taken by Congress over the years, I think that most educators know them as well as I do.  We’re fed up with all the laws that have been made since the year 2000 and all the wasted funds spent on unfair tests, crummy programs and ignorant experts.

Since it appears that Congress has not learned anything from all its errors, it will continue down the same roads until our public schools disintegrate. I see only one action that would be effective in returning schools to the wisdom of experienced educators: large numbers of parents willing to opt their children out of the yearly tests.  Only then will the federal government  have to end its ignorant assault on schools.  That action, I believe, would leave the only real educators to do what is best for their students and parents to do what is best for their children.

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