California is Unable to Identify a Logical Solution

“SACRAMENTO — The Assembly approved on Thursday legislation that would ensure students could participate in school activities and use facilities like bathrooms based on their gender identity, not their physical sex.”   (Megerian Chris. “Assembly Approves Bill on Gender Identity in Schools.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 09 May 2013. Web. 23 Aug. 2013.)

This whole thing is stupid. You want to eliminate the “I feel like a woman” vs “I’m still a guy” problem? Then make single stall dressing units, with solid walls and a closing door like a clothing store’s dressing room.

Wow. That was hard.

Make 10-15-20 of these in a row in a wide, hallway-like area with benches for kids waiting to change out. Have the PE teacher waiting in the “hallway” with all the fully-clothed kids. They are supervised as well as private. I NEVER liked dressing out for PE, from 6th grade up. Most of us huddled in corners or waited patiently for 1 of the 3 bathroom stalls to become available.

In fact, I’d bet most of you didn’t like it either. Let’s see:

I’m already hearing people say, “Private dressing-room-like stalls for changing into PE clothes will be expensive!” Seriously? How about 15 million law suits as an alternative when all these boys figure out they can go into the girls’ locker room. And please tell me you didn’t just think, “No they won’t. They would know that wasn’t why this law was created.”

According to my husband: if the stall was built with an inexpensive plywood, covered on all sides by sheets of Formica laminate, with a full-sized door giving the occupant complete privacy while changing,  allowing for some hooks for clothing, and also a bench to sit on it would cost about $500 a stall. Ok, so give me 20 of them in a row for, what? $10K. What does it cost to build a locker room? How much bullying have you prevented? How many kids who weren’t participating now start dressing out? What about the effect of self-image? Teasing? Or, heck, what about the fact the girls can’t stand around talking to each other and not coming out for the start of PE class?

Well, there’s that problem solved.

Now to tackle the toilets:
Your daughter still wants to try to pee standing up? Your son wants to investigate the feminine hygiene trash bins (AKA: Treasure Boxes)?
Again the solution is simple:
Make single stall restrooms that have a urinal and a toilet. Put 5 or 6 (or more) side by side where you might normally have girl/boy restrooms. Slightly more expensive? Yes, but realistically not that much more. I’m picturing Porta-Potties, only nicer. Or nicer until the kids scratch graffiti and gang symbols all over the laminate covered plywood. And again, the walls have got to go ceiling to floor like they do for the adult bathrooms, with the revision that there must be a short 1-tile-high “base” for the wooden wall to rest on so that it doesn’t absorb liquids spilled, splattered, or leaked onto the floor. If you want to be nice and install one of those fake “I’m a piece of shiny metal pretending to be a mirror,” go for it. You’re still only talking about $750 a stall, $1,000 for the handicapped versions. sink
Put these side by side with a sink outside the toilet stalls (a lot of schools already do this) where teachers can supervise student water-play, and you eliminate the cost of putting the sink in each stall along with the fascination in knowing what the other side has in its bathroom.

Done. Gender crisis demoted to personal adolescent decision making skill test.

You need one stall per every 50 students, with several of those being handicapped stalls. Realistically, the single stalls along a wall are about the same cost as a multi-user, single sex restroom, only there are no girls watching the boys pee in the urinal and on their shoes (which will happen when they see the girl watching).

Weighed against the illogicality of the new “law” and the many lawsuits to follow, Building individual stalls for both PE changing rooms and for restroom use is a more viable and less complicated, less intrusive, response to a child who doesn’t feel like Carter is a boy’s name anymore.

Plus, kids like privacy, even if they’re confused about who they are (and what kid isn’t?).

Posted in Boys vs Girls, Supervising Students | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Uniform Issues

I read a blog that inspired me to post a rather long comment, so I wanted to share my thoughts here as well.

If uniforms were the solution to the problem, then there would never be a repeat offender in our justice system. Uniforms are mandatory in jail/prison and have been for over 100 years, yet it does not curb prison violence nor help them become successful when released from prison. Do you think if we forced prisoners to wear suits in jail they would become business entrepreneurs once returned to society?

Schools are using uniforms to escape having to admit that we DO have PARENTS that either  A) lack a sense of modesty OR B) lack control over the child.

Either parents do or do not understand that a girl with exposed cleavage or buttocks is a distraction for boys aged 10 & up.

Either parents do or do not realize that when a student sits down in very short skirts/shorts other people can see up the clothing to private areas. And either they do or do not know this is inappropriate viewing for school.

Either parents do or do not realize that the sagging pants is a stereotype for slovenly behavior and gang associations and creates a safety hazard as the child is incapable of walking, much less running, without holding on to the clothing. This is a cultural battle schools have been fighting for 15 years.

Either the schools have the right to explain this to parents, or schools enforce dress codes in attempt to “educate” the immodest/ineffective/impotent PARENT on proper attire for school students.

Until we give schools the power to educate the PARENT, we will continue to see schools create more and more rules to circumvent the real problem.

My suggestion
Create very few rules-

1) Clothing (jewelry) should have no writing on it and cover all areas considered indecent exposure if shown bare in public (e.g. cleavage, buttocks)

2) Clothing should not create a safety concern in a case of emergency (if you had to run for cover, nothing should be in danger of falling off, open, or down nor trip up others- such as strings from pant cuffs or untied/unlaced shoes)

When the student comes to school inappropriately dressed, immediately CALL IN the parent and child. Explain why the clothing violates either rule 1 or 2. The second time the student comes to school inappropriately dressed they are given a gown/robe (Graduation style) to cover up whatever it is they are wearing. The robe will be that child’s uniform for however long the school decides; maybe it will make for a successful high school graduate (uniforms are supposed to do that – right?).

Posted in Dress Code | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Solving Dress Code Issues

In the past 6 days school dress code issues have come to my attention 4 times, from 4 very different sources.

INFORMATION:

1) An email from the school where I teach reminded us that Jean Day is coming up  and went over the  rules and regulations for allowing our students to wear jeans (we get these days twice a month). Denim is not typically part of student attire at my public school, and it invites an entire new set of dress code issues– not in the least limited to which students are or are not allowed to wear jeans based on whether the student has earned the privilege. On the front end, granting a Jean Day twice a month based on a student’s good behavior sounds like a positive incentive, however it creates a new set of rules and guidelines for a teacher to learn and enforce. This is a rule at a select few of the middle schools in my district. It is NOT the school district dress code policy (link), but rather the school‘s dress code (link).

Cedar Bluff High School (in Alabama) 1921

2) A clip out of Mary Janes Farm magazine quoted The Farmer’s Wife, 1921 (!),  where at the National Congress of Mother and Parent-Teacher Associations, “they established the Department of Dress…to study the problems of young girls…paying particular attention to the question of simplified dress for high-school girls.”

Parents and School Administrators picture this, but it is a challenge to enforce in the classroom

3) An article from The Greenville News announcing that Bryson Middle School officially adopted a strict dress code (link) that the principal says is designed to “create a positive learning environment for students,” but as seen with a teacher’s perspective amounts to instruction time lost as teachers checks for tucked-in shirts, belts, holes in pants, undershirts being the “right” color, sizes of shirt logos, socks of matching color, and other minutiae. Further instruction time is lost to the student as he or she either goes to ISS for being out of dress code or waits in the office for a parent to arrive with a change of clothes. Again, this is the SCHOOL’S dress code (link), not the DISTRICT’S dress code (link).

4) Fox Carolina News at 7am ran a story (link) on a judge overruling a middle school’s ban of “I ❤ Boobies” wrist bands saying students have the right to free speech and that it doesn’t violate their dress code. In the video, 3 middle school boys tried not to giggle as they said they said the word “boobies,” I only point this out because the newscaster did.

School officials claim the term “boobies” is not appropriate language.

With that much public attention given to dress code in public schools, it is TIME for some TRUTH about the MYTHS and INFORMATION surrounding DRESS CODE, as well as the ultimate SOLUTION.

MYTH: Dress Codes and Uniforms decrease student disruptions and violence at school.

INFORMATION: According to the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, there is no empirical proof (data, statistics) that uniforms do either of the above (link). Research compiled by Richard Wilson (link), shows decrease in disruption and violence is a matter of perception by students and parents, not a matter of statistically driven fact.

MYTH: School dress codes make it easier to enforce the rules and establish guidelines for students/parents to follow.

Teacher-time required to write a referral and Administrator time required to contact a parent must be caluclated in with the amount of instruction time lost to the student when an official referral is written.

INFORMATION: Once a rule has been written, it must be enforced. The stricter the dress code, the more effort it requires to maintain it.  Barbara Bush Middle School, in Irving, Texas, pulled data from its discipline referral logs and found that for the first 3 weeks of school over 60% of discipline referrals were dress code related. Referrals mean the student was sent to ISS or sent home– missing out on class time in either circumstance (link).

The number of referrals directly correlates to the amount of class time that is lost by students. If a student has been sent to the office to deal with their clothing, they are not in class learning. Dress code referrals are especially time-consuming because they often involve students changing clothes or waiting for parents to bring them new clothes. It can sometimes take more than 2 hours for a parent to leave work, stop by their house, grab clothes and bring them to school. This is valuable class time that is lost for the student. This is the reason for investigating, collecting data and reporting on the number of referrals that pertain to student dress.

As the school year continued, BBMS found the number of dress code violations resulting in referrals diminished, but still remained as high as 40% of discipline referrals written. See above link for further documentation of this statistic.

According to [Kerry] White (link), “Research on the effects of school uniforms has been inconclusive…Much of the evidence on both sides is anecdotal, not empirical. The survey of principals conducted by NAESP seems to bear this out (link to this survey). It found that although some schools maintain statistics, most rely primarily on informal observations by principals and staff to ascertain whether uniforms are making a difference.”

INFORMATION: Discipline referrals of all kinds, dress code violations included, are required to be documented to the state and federal governments and count against a school system in national, state, and district standings. (link 1) (link 2)

INFORMATION: Many schools hesitate to mandate a uniform due to the fact that once required, the school system might be responsible to provide the uniform or make funds available for the purchase of the uniform if a parent/guardian requests it. You won’t find any links to that information. As you can imagine it could become very expensive and schools do not want it publicized. This is the same reason no teacher will tell you your child can’t see the board (i.e. needs glasses) or hear what is being said  from the back of the room (i.e. needs his hearing tested). If a public school employee suggests it, the school system and tax payer money could be obligated to provide it.

SOLUTION: JK Rowling got it right- robes. 

Skip the hat, skip the tassles. Get the gown.

Laugh first, swear you wouldn’t do it or make your child do it, then consider the logical results. Bear in mind, I think teachers should follow the same dress code as students.

Simplification-

1) I suggest a solid color robe, either in standard collegiate black or in the more typical high-school fashion of school colors. Except for white. For obvious reasons it would be ridiculous to put students in white robes. They can be purchased in heavy or light-weight fabrics for seasonal differences. It needs to be thick enough that whatever the student wears underneath will not show through. School has 2 colors? Girls can wear one, the boys the alternate, or teachers can wear one color while students wear the alternate. For identification purposes, teacher could also simply wear black.

2) The robe needs to zip from the bottom to the top, with the opening of the zipper large enough to slip over a half-inch button at the top of the zipper teeth where the collar opens. The button will then fasten closed through a button-hole supporting the zipper between the 2 layers of fabric and preventing it from accidentally coming open during the academic day.

3) Length made easy. The fact that these robes could potentially last more than one year means they need to be long enough to accommodate student growth. Robes should be past the knees at least as long as the student’s hand is wide.
Easy to measure- method 1: Kneel. There should be as much fabric on the floor as the student’s hand is wide.
Easy to measure- method 2: Sit. put your hand (student) on the back of your thigh where the knee bends. Bend your lower leg against your hand, squeezing your hand between your thigh and calf. Use a pen to trace against your leg where the pinkie finger rests. The robe should be at least that long.

What to wear underneath it- Keep it Simple

1) Shoes: Hard-soled, closed-toe, closed-heel shoes. I don’t want to fight the laced/unlaced, fastened/unfastened frustration. Is it a flip-flop or is it a sandal? Are those socks or are they shoes or are they bedroom slippers? Shoes need to provide covering over the feet for safety. Period. If the back-of-the-ankle support moves or can be removed (like in Crocs or high heel dress shoes) they do not meet the dress code. If the shoe can easily be folded in half, like a bedroom slipper, they do not meet the dress code.

2) Socks: If socks are visible, they must match the  color of the robe.

3) Jewelry: In light of the “I ❤ Boobies” complications, visible jewelry is limited to a watch with no writing on the band. Upperclassmen and teachers may wear a class ring. Engaged/married teachers may wear an engagement ring and/or wedding ring. Engaged/married students (in case the situation occurs)  may wear an engagement ring with parent endorsement or a wedding ring provided they show a marriage license.

4) Clothing that shows through the at collar or at the legs. The collar can be hidden with the cover-ups that come with robes, if the school wants to address that issue or simply mandate that it be a solid color or that no writing is visible. At the leg, keep it limited to a solid color. Anything that is visible outside of the robe must be a solid color with no writing. That’s easy to enforce, easy to address, and easy to rectify.

Realistically, a student can comfortably wear a sweater and jeans with boots or a t-shirt and shorts with tennis shoes under the robe. The child could feasibly wear the same clothes every day and no one would know it.

Out of Compliance-

1) Students who are out of dress code simply go to the restroom and remove the out-of-code article of clothing. The robe is thick enough to accommodate wearing it with nothing underneath. The offensive article is placed in the office and returned to a parent whenever the parent is able to come pick it up. If the student is uncomfortable with wearing nothing under the robe, they can always put on their PE uniform or call a parent to bring something else. Very little class time need be lost addressing this circumstance.

2) Shoes are the only factor complicating this process, and I personally think it ought to be a fine on the parent the second and subsequent times a child is out of dress code for shoes. The parent and/or student can either pay the fine or complete community service at the school to pay for the fine at the going minimum wage rate of pay for work.

Logical Results

1) As a teacher I no longer have to check for nor address:

  • inappropriate, offensive, or suggestive language on clothing
  • shirt untucked
  • pants sagging too low
  • shirts too big/long
  • belt loops
  • belts
  • multi-color socks
  • undershirt matching dress code
  • logo/brand name on shirt too large or is visible
  • hoodies
  • shirts too short, showing bare skin
  • shirt-sleeve vs. cap-sleeve vs. tank top
  • bra straps showing
  • underwear showing
  • holes in clothing
  • patches under holes in clothing
  • shirt collars too low, showing too much cleavage
  • pants gaping open in back, showing bare buttocks
  • one pant leg up, one pant leg down
  • sweat pants or athletic pants
  • drawstring or elastic waistband
  • are those leggings or really tight pants

2) As a parent I no longer need to buy a set of school uniforms and a set of at home/play clothes. Robes cost from $15 each for the light-weight material to $90 for the heavier, more winter-weather appropriate materials. Prices generally average $25 dollars per well-made multi-use gown. If the school orders them in bulk, they can be discounted even further. It would be economical to purchase 2 of each type of robe with the plans for the student to wear them for 2 years.  At an expense of $100 for 2 years of school clothes, I have saved money and even if the school ends up having to provide the robes, it would be feasible to reuse robes from year to year and to loan them out rather than give them away.

3) As a school administrator I could color co-ordinate the robes per grade level and quickly identify a student who might be in an out-of-area situation. Or, I could have all the students wear the same color and make it less obvious which students are 6th graders and which are 8th graders, which are freshmen and which are seniors so that less negative peer interaction occurred. Honors students or students with perfect attendance might be rewarded with bars on sleeves.

4) As a student

  • I can wear my PE uniform under my robe, and I never have to be embarrassed about dressing out in front of my peers again. I take off my robe for PE and put it back on after PE, probably with a lot of deodorant added. Or more realistically, I wear my PE uniform under my robe, bring a clean change of clothes for after PE and I only have to change one time at school.
  • If I play sports I can wear my practice clothes or game uniform under my robe.
  • If I’m older and have an after-school job, I can wear my work uniform under my robe and make it faster to get to work when I finish classes for the day.
  • If I’m a girl and I have an “accident” at school, no one will see it because my robe will cover up my pants.

Finally, if I want to bring the whole ensemble together with a student ID, the badge can easily be clipped onto the button-hole at the top of the zipper/collar and the student is clearly identified by the colored robe and identification at his or her neck.

The idea of wearing a robe as the students do in JK Rowling’s novels seems laughable, but when given the amount of time dedicated to establishing a complicated dress code along with time spent enforcing a complicated dress code, it is undeniable the robes eliminate 90% of the problems and work load. Even parents are released from the burden of buying name brand clothing since it won’t be visible anyway. This is something public school uniforms attempt yet fail to do since wealthier students purchase uniforms from Land’s End or Gap or Old Navy while poorer students receive Walmart and Kmart gift cards from the schools in order to buy $100 worth of uniforms.

As a teacher, I want to do whatever it takes to make the enforcing of rules less of a burden. My focus should be teaching, not checking for holes in the wrong places or measuring large logos on shirts. And ultimately I don’t want to be held responsible for determining whether or not “boobies” infringes on anyone’s freedom of speech or points me out as not supporting the fight against breast cancer.

Posted in Dress Code | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Surveillance Cameras PART 2

In this blog I will address increasing productivity through camera use. Future blogs will address rights of privacy for parents/teachers who prefer not to have the room recorded, and cost of this system. The previous entry focused on the benefits of the camera on decreasing unwanted behaviors.

In review: Many child care facilities use surveillance cameras to monitor the classrooms and play areas. We need to move this tool into the elementary and secondary classrooms as well.

We need 2 cameras in every classroom.
Camera 1 pans the student desk area
Camera 2 follows the teacher and/or records the lesson

INFORMATION:

In the first Surveillance Cameras blog we eliminated or reduced many of the negative elements of the typical school day (discipline, bullying, teacher bias and other inappropriate teacher conduct), let’s move on the positive benefits of placing a camera in a classroom to record the lesson for each day.

Student did not understand, needs to hear/see it again:
Nothing is more frustrating as a kid than feeling like you know how to do something, really and truly know it, until you get home and suddenly you cannot remember what step comes next. Homework comes to a screeching halt. With the camera recording the classroom lesson and a transfer/downloading of the lesson to a podcast format, it is simply a matter of looking up the lesson on the Internet and playing it back. The student can pause, rewind, fast-forward, etc.

Maybe the student doesn’t understand doesn’t “get” the way her teacher explained the story or math problem or science lesson. So she searches for another teacher’s explanation, watches, listens, learns, and now understands it given a different view of the same material. It is even possible to make the podcasts searchable by keywords.

And it might not be necessary to create podcasts of each lesson for each teacher. If the teacher has the same class/level all day, it might only be necessary to make one class session for that teacher available for each day.

Wait! Who’s going to create this podcast?
I suggest making an elective technology class especially designed for just this sort-of thing; let the students do it (I promise to address my re-organization of the school curriculum as a future blog).

Wait! Homeschooled kids might watch this and they aren’t even having to go to school! They’re just sitting at home, freeloading on this teacher’s hard work!
So what? If a child gets an education, that’s one more educated adult. Why do you care that it didn’t cost you, the tax payer, any money to bus the child to school? It didn’t require your tax dollars to pay the teacher to instruct this child nor grade his papers. It didn’t cost your tax dollars to feed him breakfast or lunch, provide him with physical instructional materials, nor did you have to pay to put that child on a bus and transport him back home. Your own child did not surrender part of his academic time with his teacher while the teacher redirected the home school student’s behavior or re-explained the assignment. You’re upset that the home-schooler watched a teacher teach? Are you serious?

Still not happy about it? Then password protect your school’s teachers’ podcasts and be selfish that way.

Student is absent:
The student may watch and re-watch the lesson in order to get caught up on missed work. The majority of teacher-direct instruction is given in 10-20 minutes “chunks” with time for the teacher to evaluation student comprehension in-between. This makes it relatively simple for the absent student to view only the lesson itself and thus stay caught up with classmates.

Student is assigned In-School-Suspension (ISS):
Rather than sit unproductively in a detention cubicle doing what usually amounts to busy-work or make up work, the student can access the class material via a live-feed, only accessible through an intra-net connection while logged in to an on-site school computer. This means the student is isolated from peers as deemed necessary for a discipline concern but that the student is NOT falling further behind by missing the instruction of the classroom.

We are now using these cameras in a positive manner. There is a benefit to be gained beyond merely reducing negative behaviors. These cameras are being used as teaching tools rather than simply punitive tools.

Update 4/24/2011: I read an article this morning on “Reverse Instruction” that exactly explains further benefits of using cameras to record teacher instruction, and I wanted to add that link for using technology in instruction. This takes the whole adage of, “Read chapter 2 and outline the main points for discussion in class tomorrow” into the modern era.

Posted in Teaching techniques | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance Cameras in the individual classrooms are the answer to a great many problems today’s educators and school systems face today.

We have them in most schools for recording the main hallways & offices, cafeterias, and entry-ways. Most school buses are equipped with them. We just need more, and we need them in the individual classrooms.

INFORMATION:
Many child care facilities around the nation are making productive use of the available technology in relation to monitoring the classrooms and play areas at these schools. We need to move this tool into the elementary and secondary classrooms as well.

In case you don’t know about this, let me summarize what the day-care centers have that the school systems, public and private, need to obtain-

  1. Full-color video cameras are set up in the classroom
    The director(s) of the facility can access these cameras at any time from any location.
  2. The “feed” from the cameras is stored off-site, it is a digital media and is stored the way banks store your credit information, so employees/parents cannot tamper with the recordings.
  3. Parents can pay a fee at a cost potentially around 55 cents a day, to receive a user name and pass code that allows them access only to the areas their child occupies. The cost of this fee can be maintained by the day care or can be run through the surveillance company  depending on the set-up of the system. I prefer this latter path, and I will explain why further along.

It’s that simple.

We need a minimum of one camera in every classroom. I suggest 2.
Camera 1 pans the student desk area
Camera 2 follows the teacher and/or records the instructional area.

In this blog I will address the benefits of the camera on decreasing unwanted behaviors. Future blogs will address increasing productivity through camera use (link), rights of privacy for parents/teachers who prefer not to have the room recorded, and cost of this system.

Discipline:
In my previous discussion about School Safety and perceived lack of discipline in schools, information was given that despite a decrease in fighting and theft at school, most adults feel schools lack discipline.

Putting cameras in the classroom will have 2 immediate effects in relation to that statistic
1) Parents will be able to SEE for THEMSELVES that the schools are disciplined, orderly, and safe.
2) Discipline issues from minor classroom infractions like disrespect, horseplay, and off-task behavior to more violent acts of fighting, bullying, and gang-related crime will decrease as parents, teachers, and administrators are able to see first-hand on a daily basis the events taking place in the classrooms and hallways.

There are many articles that reference teachers ignoring bullying, fights, and other hostile interactions between students and between students and teachers. (Link) Having a camera in place will unequivocally record that incident for viewing by parents, teachers, principals, supervisors, police, etc. A teacher cannot physically monitor all student activity at every moment. It isn’t humanly possible to monitor what students in the back of the room are doing as you lean over another student’s shoulder to re-explain how to work a math equation or to rewrite a sentence for an essay. Teachers are typically expected to monitor hallway behavior between classes, standing at the door of the room and somehow simultaneously supervising the classroom behind them and the hallway in front. It is not humanly possible. A camera, however, can.

Inappropriate Conduct:
There are also increasing numbers of claims against teachers for sexual or inappropriate conduct with a minor. A camera would very nearly eliminate this- whether or not the claims are true or false. Having a camera in the classroom, constantly monitoring the room would ensure that no child was alone with a teacher to be placed in a compromising situation. The teacher loses the potential to trap or isolate a student in order to hurt the child, and the student loses the potential to falsely accuse a teacher. Both are real situations and while neither occurs frequently (despite media hype), they don’t have to occur at all. Both can be eliminated with a camera that is recording 100% of the time.

Teacher Bias:
Students frequently blame teachers for discipline issues, poor grades, missing work. While this is typical child-like behavior, it can be easily justified or refuted by a camera. Here’s the situation: The student gets in trouble at school, the teacher calls home or sends home a note, the student tells his guardian, “The teacher picks on me! It’s always just my fault! Other kids are doing it, but I’m the only one who gets in trouble!” This is a non-issue with a camera. There is no sense dragging either a child or a teacher in for a he said/she said conference. Have the conference, yes. Eliminate the “my child said…” vs. “the teacher’s version.” Just pull up the camera footage and play back several days of class time. Either the teacher is ignoring other off-task behavior and focusing in on one particular student or the teacher is not. It is that simple.  And I’m not trying to tell you teachers never pick on one child. I’m just telling you we can remove the uncertainty of the situation. We may can remove the situation entirely because an adult, knowing he or she is being monitored, is much less likely to take shortcuts or resort to that base-level behavior. The child, not so much, but that’s part of growing up.

Putting the cameras in more locations does create a “big brother is watching” atmosphere. Is that such a bad thing when we are dealing with watching over the safety and education of our children?

The impact of installing cameras to photograph drivers running red lights has been so effective in cities that use them, the number of accidents have decreased by 24%, in some cases to a level that

“… many of the cities that had installed the cameras as a safety tool have removed those tools because they were no longer profitable.” (link)

Is this a bad thing? NO. Neither will be decreasing undesired behavior in the classrooms and hallways of our schools.

Posted in Discipline, Supervising Students | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

4 Day School Week

This is not the post I intended to present next; I wanted to post on how we can productively use surveillance cameras in classrooms. However, I am waiting to hear back from a few sources so that my information is correct and true. In the interim, I want to address the new panic that is flooding the FaceBook pages of my friends: SCHOOL SCHEDULING CHANGES.

INFORMATION:
Here is one headline-

Budget writers could cut 10 school days
On Thursday The South Carolina state of House’s top budget writer said that cutting 10 days out of South Carolina’s school year could save $210 million and help with a $800 million deficit.

And here is the other-
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Reading, writing and arithmetic are basic skills of education, but a money-saving measure proposed by South Carolina lawmakers could cut into the time that students have to learn them. A bill introduced at the legislature this session would cut the school week from five days to four.

South Carolina is NOT the only state considering this. Several other districts/states either have or are considering the same measures:
California
Georgia

Kentucky
Oregon

And that’s just what I found on the 1st page of a Google Search for Reduced School Day.

Concern One:
Teachers understand the 1st proposal will reduce their paychecks by 3%.

INFORMATION:
This follows several years of similar reductions to the effect of an over-all decrease in teacher pay of about 20% in the past 5 years. And that information comes from my personal paycheck. In the 2006-2007 school year, with 10 years of experience, a Masters Degree in Education, and having teaching certificates to cover middle grades math, social studies, & language arts, as well as English grades 7-12, I earned  nearly $53K a year. In the 2011-2012 school year, as a full-time teacher my annual salary (with this cut) would be just over $42K.

Want to know what teachers really get paid? Google Teacher Pay Scale <your school district’s name> (For example: Teacher Pay Scale Dallas ISD). It’s public information. There are sites that offer teacher pay scale by state, but those aren’t accurate as each district pays differently.

Concern Two:
Parents realize the 2nd option will impact their pocketbooks. Here’s a quote from a  FaceBook page when I posted a link to the proposed 4-day school week:

Parent Concern over 4-day School Week

This parent is not alone in concern over daycare cost. Here is another quote pulled from a news article on the 4-day school week idea in Georgia:

Click image for link to news story

INFORMATION:
Most schools in the United States have school years that are 175-180 days long. Let’s do the math based on a 180-day school year, mostly because that’s what I’m used to, and it divides nicely.
-> It’s approximately 36 weeks.
They may not shorten the weeks that are already short, such as Thanksgiving Break, or the weeks of MLK’s holiday, President’s Day, Memorial Day, or Labor Day. If the students were already only attending school for 4 days that week, nothing would change. In my district, that makes 5 weeks that would not be reduced.
->We are now talking about 31 weeks, which means 31 days that would be taken off the calendar.
-> Disregard the 10 days students are going to lose either way (Something I have yet to encounter is the realization that shortening the school year by 10 days will also involve a cost to the parent. Two weeks worth of daycare/babysitting fees, actually.)
->We are now looking at 21 more days that parents will need to pay for some kind of childcare/babysitting services for students in kindergarten to about 6th grade (5-11 year-olds). I am assuming parents of children under 5 are already paying daycares/sitters and children 12 & up will be capable of staying home alone.

INFORMATION: The average daycare charges $30 a day for drop-in type services; I placed a poll on FaceBook and here is the graph correlating to the responses I received:

Across 4 states, the average "drop-in rate" is $30 per child per day

Multiply $30 by 21 days, and the parent of one child will realize an expense of $630 more than the cost of daycare/babysitters needed when the entire school year is cut by 10 days.

You read that correctly: $630, as an added expense, per child.

I want to say, “That’s it! That’s actually very little in the grand scheme of things!” But I must take into account large families. The woman quoted above, Letitica, said she has 6 children and would be looking at a  weekly expense of $180 for her 6 children to be on a 4-day school week. I wonder what she does during regular school breaks? Over the summer?

INFORMATION:
The most common requirement for length of school day is  to have 300-360 minutes (5- 6 hours) of instruction, not including time for class changes or lunch, though it varies state to state.

To make up the missed days if the states shorten the school year by ten days the schools systems- WAIT! There is NO make up time. The American School Student loses at least 3,000 minutes of school (300 minutes X 10 days) time.

How do we fare in comparison to European and Asian schools?

Germany, Iran, and  Australia require 200 days of school. Even Kenya, in Africa attends 3 more weeks, and in Mexico it is not uncommon for children to attend half a day on Saturdays as part of their 200 days. So cutting the school calendar by 10 days puts us even further behind world competitors, but it does save a state $210 MILLION dollars through teacher salary reductions and fewer days to provide electricity to schools, run buses, or feed children.

INFORMATION:
By reducing the school week to 4-days, the school systems can spread out the missed 300-360 minutes over a 4 day period, adding about 75-90 minutes to each day, considering time to change classes.

Midlothian Independent Schools in Midlothian, TX rings its first period bell in middle school at 8:35, though children are admitted as early as 7:20, and more than half the student body is present by 8:am due to parents needing to be at work by 8:00 or 9:00 themselves. By adding 60 minutes to the front of the school day, these students are no longer merely herded into the cafeteria or gymnasium, but are making academic progress soon after arriving.

Elementary schools in Bartow County, GA, release students at 2:30, sending daycare busses scurrying across the county picking up children and charging parents $10-$15 a day for their services. Since elementary schools often begin much earlier than middle and high schools, there may not be a need to add much time to the front of their day, though by adding 75 minutes to the end of the day, parents might not need the day care services, further lowering the overall cost of daycare.

On the 4-day week, teachers salaries are maintained, student realize NO LOST TIME and schools still save on the cost of heating/cooling buildings, save on the cost of fuel for busses, save on the cost of purchasing and preparing food for students; overall the State Department of Education possibly saves as much as $50o MILLION dollars.

Reduced  Year by 10 Days 4-Day School Week
Tax Money Saved $210 million $500 million
Teachers’ Salaries cut by 3% no change
Academic Time cut by 50 hours no change
Electricity costs reduced by 3% reduced by 10%
Fuel costs for busses reduced by 3% reduced by 10%
Food Services costs reduced by 3% reduced by 10%

Take a step beyond the financial picture and think about the Carbon Footprint impact of reducing the school week to 4 days. How many Styrofoam trays won’t be thrown into landfills? How much diesel exhaust won’t be emitted into the Ozone? How much energy won’t be used to heat up cold classes after HVAC systems have been shut down for the night.

In comparing a personal, parental cost of $630 per child to a possible savings of $500,000,000 in tax revenue, while also reducing the Carbon Footprint, and taking a large step towards becoming “green,” the general population owes itself the consideration of a 4-day school week.

Potential Solutions:

ONE: If neither reducing the school year by 10 days nor by resorting to a 4-day week appeals to you, there is another option: cut competitive sports programs from the educational budget. Allow these programs to be picked up by local recreation departments.  The United States is one of the only countries in the entire world to maintain a competitive sports program at middle school, junior high, and high school levels.  Europe, Asia, Central America, and Canada leave sports to the local communities and sports clubs. Cobb County, GA, has already done this at the middle school levels. Bartow County Schools once made it policy to only allow 7th & 8th graders on football and basketball teams, encouraging 6th graders to play for the recreational department or the local YMCA.  It is worth discussing the fact that schools are much quicker to cut arts and music rather than cut football or basketball.

I am guessing the majority of people will respond with a MYTH like this:
Why does this need to come out of the educational funding? How is it that the kids playing for the rec leagues, local YMCAs, sports clubs, and churches aren’t still going to learn life lessons about being team players? Are college talent scouts not capable of going to see a recreational division game just as easily? The Little League World Series is a big deal. The Dizzy Dean division accepts players up to 19 years of age.

INFORMATION: The money made by athletics stays in athletics. Schools do not take money earned at the Friday night football game and use it to purchase ink for the language arts teachers. Ask your school’s principal or athletic director what the monies raised at games goes towards. Athletic directors, head coaches, assistant coaches all have stipends added to their salaries for the extra time they put in for sports.

North East High School football stadium: "The final Board Approved Budget for the project was established at $33,300,000.00 based on the construction costs trends in the San Antonio area." Click image for a link to their budget.

What about all the facilities schools have built around their sports programs? The school systems can rent out the gymnasiums and stadiums for use by recreational teams. Teachers would no longer be pressured to pass players whose “only ticket to college and a better life” is through playing sports. These children are still playing sports, just not at the expense of the school system. Many recreational leagues affiliate with local schools, and the teams can be formed that way deliberately if this is to become a viable option.

TWO: Allow the PTA to arrange “babysitting pools” the way many of them arrange carpools. Perhaps a group of 4 families can rotate taking the  off from work, allowing the children to play together. Teachers, who are also now not working on that day might take part in this “pool.”

THREE: Encourage local colleges, technical schools, and universities to make childcare part of its program. Many of these schools already have tutoring labs where education majors get practice teaching while providing free services to their peers or local students. In a symbiotic relationship between elementary schools and universities, college students can fill the gap created by a 4-day school week. High schools might work to pair older teens with parents in need of sitters.

FOUR: Under the current tax system it would be possible, at the state level, to offer tax breaks to businesses that make provisions to allow employees flexible schedules or that made available some system that worked with parents of elementary children rather than penalizing them.

FIVE: Work within the communities/churches to connect neighbors. There are stay-at-home moms, retirees (the largest generation ever conceived is in the process of retiring right now), and high school teenagers who can be organized into a rotating pool of babysitters. No one wants to be obligated every week, but if it only falls to be your turn the second week of each month, you might be more likely to volunteer or to accept the obligation for low pay.

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Discipline

If you’re going to talk education, then the most serious thing to address is lack of discipline. I don’t care what else you’re trying to do in a school, if you cannot keep the students orderly and safe you cannot teach them.

INFORMATION:
The Gallop Polls of Public Attitudes Toward Education
shows that since its inception in 1969 Americans say the biggest problem facing schools is lack of discipline or a combination of discipline related areas. Let me be specific: if you combine Lack of Discipline with Drug Use, and Fighting/Violence, this triumvirate takes the top spot 37 times in 40 years of asking, “What is the major problem facing schools?” It is not until 2005 that Lack of Financial Support wins out over the combination of disruption factors. This has only happened 3 times in the past 40 years, and all 3 of those years have been during our recent recession: 2005, 2007, & 2009. Otherwise- DISCIPLINE combined with its related issues takes the lead.

Gallop Poll Quality of Education Questions: Section 3 Question 1: What do you think are the biggest problems that the public schools of your community must deal with? Click the table for a link to the Gallop Polls.

MYTH:
Since schools lack discipline (the common belief) they  are more dangerous now than in years past.

Recent School Discipline Incidents Highlight Crazy New Approach (click image for link to story)

Media hype will try to tell you schools lack discipline and as a result are out of control, but this is not true. Might I direct your attention to our spasmodic, knee-jerk reaction called ZERO TOLERANCE? If anything, the Zero-Tolerance policy has tightened discipline in some systems to the effect that schools suspend 1st graders for kissing on the cheek on grounds of sexual harassment. Now, you might ask what caused us to go to such extremes. I can answer that very simply.

*Ahem*

LAW SUITS.

That’s it. School systems want to be able to say, in the event that there is a real instance of violence, there are set rules and we  follow them. Period. No questions. No exceptions. Has this has caused some schools to create unrealistic discipline procedures? Yes. However, it makes it easy to deal with the parents who try to find a way to excuse their child bringing a real gun or real knife to school. The kid did it. Now we suspend him/her. Done.

Click image for link to story stereotypical of media hype and school's unusual use of "Zero Tolerance"

You don’t think parents make those kinds of excuses in a very real and very serious situation? Then you are in denial.

Okay. So the public myth perpetuates that discipline is lacking in our schools and as a result the schools have become increasingly unsafe. The information provided by solid evidence is that schools are tightening down on discipline, in sometimes insanely counter-productive ways, while further data shows that serious student discipline issues are DECREASING.

14.5% in 1992 vs. 5% in 2008. That's called a DECREASE. Click the table for a link to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The perceived increase of school violence and lack of discipline or classroom control is really the issue here. And it’s a MYTH, folks. The US government has been tracking this

AERA Report considers Bullying to be a Violent Crime in its count (Click on table for a link to their full report)

erroneous impression since the 1950’s due to the resentment this fear creates towards its own schools. In fact, the American Education Research Association was asked to make a presentation on Capitol Hill to this end. Follow this link to read their suggestion which says, ultimately, “we should develop a long-term strategic plan for school safety” for the purpose of assuaging the American hypochondria that school-children are in more danger now than in any time past.

And speaking of Times Past…

MYTH:
Students were better behaved because of stricter discipline in “the good ol’ days.” (Which must be the case if Americans persistently rank Lack of Discipline as a major problem in schools today.)

INFORMATION:
In The Evolution of School Disturbance in America, Gordon A. Crews and M. Reid Counts move from present day school disruptions through the colonial day disruptions and state unequivocally, “In any historical examination of school disturbance and juvenile delinquency, two concepts become immediately apparent. First, juvenile delinquency has existed as long as juveniles have existed. Second, school disturbance and violence have existed for as long as schools have existed.”

It is stereotypical to look back at the way things are said to have been 50, 100, 500 years ago as see a prettier picture. Let me provide you some information on the reality of schools as we have forgotten them.

1) Go back to 400BC and let’s start with Socrates, who said, “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.

2) Is that too far back? How about 1300?
Keep in mind that students began University Studies at age 14, when I tell you Oxford had to ban students from keeping prostitutes in their rooms, along with bears and falcons. This was in addition to punishing students for assaulting faculty members. Follow this link if you’re interested in the full story.

Even Uncle Sam himself can't control a classroom

3) And in Colonial America? Crews & Counts aren’t the only ones with negative opinions. In a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Studies Association, 1984, John Petry’s research tells us “colonial schools were not pleasant places…and sometimes the children overcame the teachers physically.” This was such a problem that “in some instances, schools were closed because of the inability of teachers to remain in charge.”

4) An 1833 memoir includes details about a classroom revolt  where the teacher was tackled, taken outside, and flung down an icy hillside.

5) Continuing through the end of the nineteenth century, one needs only turn to classic literature to find more tales of appalling student behavior. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about a group of 5 older boys who “came to thrash the teacher and break up the school. They boasted that no teacher could finish the winter term in that school, and no teacher ever had.” Fortunately, readers of Farmer Boy, will discover Almanzo’s father loans his whip to Mr. Corse who uses it to horse whip the big boys into submission and out of the schoolhouse.

6) Mark Twain’s tales of Tom Sawyer’s schoolhouse behavior are equally disruptive, and in The Great Brain,  John D. Fitzgerald recounts a story of the students creating an elaborate plot to set-up their teacher, Mr. Standish, as an alcoholic because he paddled a boy.

The point of fictional accounts of disruptive student behavior? Art imitates life. These authors wrote about it because it happened that way.

To summarize what we’ve covered–
Information: Consistent public perception is that schools lack discipline
Myth: Schools are more dangerous due to lack of discipline
Information: Empirical data proves schools are safer and more disciplined
Myth: School students used to be better behaved
Information: 2,500 years of records prove: “school disturbance and violence have existed for as long as schools have existed.” The Monitoring the Future study conducted annually by the University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research, gives data from 1976 showing 13.3% of seniors were sexually active at school; in 1996, that statistic drops to 11.7%. Don’t tell me my parents were better behaved.

So, what now?

Also from the AERA Report to Capitol Hill, April 8, 2010

1) The best thing you can do for our  schools (public or private) as parents, guardians, relatives, businesses, and a tax-paying public is to fight against the negative and false accusations. When someone tells you how bad students are now, how much better things used to be, give them the facts. Do NOT perpetuate the myths. There are a great many issues we need to resolve to provide a better school for our children, but the fact is they are safe at school. Safer than when not. This is why administrators and government officials don’t like to suspend or expel problematic students, keeping them at school keeps everyone safer. I know, it sounds backwards.

2) The best thing we can do as school systems, administrators, teachers, and politicians, is to suck up the cost and install video cameras everywhere in schools. You know, the way many child daycare facilities are now doing? Yep. Everywhere except inside the bathroom stalls. I’ll explain how to make the best use of this next, but rest assured despite all your complaints about privacy and student rights, video cameras (used the way I’m going to detail) will eradicate the lack-of-discipline myth, provide immediate parent feedback and involvement, and passively enforce better student behavior.


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