NBA Star: Athletes must step up and fight for fair education in their hometowns

By the time you finish this sentence, another student in America will have dropped out of high school, TakePart.com reports. Every day, nearly 7,000 high school students across the country give up on the dream of a diploma, and by extension, a shot at a better life. A staggering number of these students are African-American and Latino, and come from low-income families. Students drop out of school for a host of reasons, from family and social challenges, to poor instruction. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: Students in our nation’s most economically deprived areas need help. No high school diploma means kids will have very limited opportunities for employment, forcing many of them into a life of crime or poverty—or both…

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Opinion: Shouldn’t more be done to prepare new teachers?

We’ve all been inside a classroom, and there’s a good chance we’ve each had at least one teacher who wasn’t prepared for the task at hand, TakePart.com reports. For far too long, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), this trend has gone unnoticed by policymakers. In an effort to propel lawmakers into action, the organization put out a report entitled the 2012 State Teacher Policy Yearbook. It grades the country, and each state, on how well it prepares incoming teachers. America was given a D+ on teacher preparedness policies, and zero states were given an A. Alabama, Florida, Indiana, and Tennessee ranked at the top of the list, each receiving a B-. Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming received failing grades. The reports points out that only 24 states require a basic skills test when screening applicants. Also, it exposes how shockingly low standards are for elementary school teachers…

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Op-Ed: I graduated from Sandy Hook, and I’m against arming teachers

I teach in an urban school in South Los Angeles. We have yearly lockdown drills and occasional real lockdowns for police activity in the neighborhood. The kids know what the “code” for lockdown is, and what to do if they’re outside the classroom when lockdown is called. I’d like to think that we’re prepared, says a reader for TakePart.com. What I wasn’t prepared for was a radio report on December 14 stating that Sandy Hook Elementary—my elementary school, the one I attended as a child—was the scene of a horrific mass shooting. Unfortunately, I have come to expect violence in the middle of Los Angeles, but Newtown? If it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. And no, we are not prepared. I am an educator and have become an expert on schools and school personnel. I do not claim to be an expert on guns, gun control, or the Constitution…

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In these 19 states, teachers can still spank kids

If John Tate, a North Carolina State Board of Education member, has his way, North Carolina will no longer allow teachers to spank their students, TakePart.com reports. Tate has asked the State Board to recommend that the North Carolina General Assembly and local school boards prohibit corporal punishment in every school in the state.

“The good news is that the vast majority of North Carolina’s districts ban the use of corporal punishment,” Tate said in an interview. “The less good news is that a handful still allow it. The preponderance of cases is housed in a smaller number still. It is time for North Carolina to stop the practice for all children.”

Earlier this month, a report to the North Carolina State Board of Education showed the number of corporal punishment cases fell from 891 during the 2010-2011 school year to 404 statewide during the 2011-2012 academic year……Read More

Will zombies keep a Philadelphia school from closing its doors?

Despite their zombie makeup, there was nothing lifeless about the members of the Philadelphia Student Union on Wednesday, TakePart.com reports. PSU members, dressed as zombies, gathered in front of the Philadelphia Public School District (PPS) building to protest the district’s plan to close 37 public schools. The students executed a flash mob dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in protest of the potential school closures. Their zombie attire, and signs reading “RIP Philly’s Schools,” symbolized their ‘dead’ futures without the education of Philadelphia public schools. The zombie students are not the only ones up in arms about the school closure proposal. When Philadelphia Superintendent William Hiite announced his plan to shut several public schools in December, the backlash from parents, kids, and teachers was immediate. To date, Hiite plans to close 21 elementary schools, five middle schools and 11 high schools…

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North Carolina: Make fun of a teacher, go to jail

If North Carolina high school students bully a teacher online, they will pay the price, Takepart.com reports. On December 1, a law went into effect that expands the state’s anti-cyberbullying statute to protect the state’s educators. Under the School Violence Prevention Act of 2012, students will be reprimanded if they make any statement—true or false—that could provoke others to stalk or harass teachers or school employees. Students will also be severely punished if they target school administration by building a fake online profile or website, tamper with their online data or accounts, sign them up to a pornographic website or post private, personal, or sexual information. The penalties aren’t a slap on the wrist either. If caught, a student could face criminal charges, stay up to 60 days in jail, and face a $1,000 fine…

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Op-Ed: It’s time we ditched the college admissions tests

Parents, high school students, and college counselors, listen up. I’ve got good news about those dreaded and bank-account-draining college admission tests and test prep programs, Takepart.com reports. What, you say? Good news in this landscape of worry? Worrying about getting in, about paying the ever-inflating college tuition, about whether the kid will be employable after the huge investments of time and money, and the accumulation of debt. Somewhere in that landscape is the worry about the SATs and ACTs. To prep or not to prep, which test to take and how many times to take it. Will the scores mean the college of the kid’s dreams is out of the question? I can’t erase all these worries, but I can certainly take the edge off…

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School encourages homophobic humiliation as student punishment

Two Arizona high school students who were caught fighting faced a controversial punishment concocted by their principal: Either endure a suspension, or sit in the school courtyard holding hands while other students shout and throw homophobic slurs at you, Takepart.com reports. The message here seems to be that there’s nothing more horrific than being perceived as gay. Student Brittney Smyers told ABC 15, “Kids were laughing at them and calling them names asking, ‘Are you gay?’” Pictures of the boys holding hands surfaced online with some singing the principal’s praises, while others denounced his tactics as shortsighted and discriminatory…

 

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Op-Ed: For students, ‘zip code does not define destiny’

As the founder and Executive Director of KIPP Delta Public Schools—a network of four college-preparatory public charter schools in Helena and Blytheville, Arkansas—I have dedicated my career to preparing some of the most underserved students in Arkansas for college and the world beyond, says a contributor to Takepart.com. Ten years after opening our doors to 65 fifth graders in 2002, we now serve over 1,150 students in Pre K-12. Critical to our growth and success is the enduring belief that zip code does not define destiny. Our students have consistently invalidated statistics suggesting those living in lower income communities are somehow less capable. Rather, 90 percent college and military persistence rates from our first three graduating classes suggest quite the opposite. With this background in mind, there is one topic I would like to discuss in greater detail: the importance of educational choice within rural communities…

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Op-Ed: True reform means ‘freeing educators of bureaucratic constraints’

At Rocketship Education, a public K-5 charter school system for low-income students, our mission is to close the achievement gap within our lifetimes, Takepart.com reports. The three pillars of our blended learning model are: individualized learning for our students, rich professional development for our teachers and school leaders, and parent and community engagement. Our system-wide score of 855 on the 2012 Academic Performance Index (API) made us the top-performing school system in California serving primarily low-income students. As we continue to grow in California and prepare for national expansion (our first school in Milwaukee will open in Fall 2013), I reflect on what has allowed us to be so successful up to this point. Of primary importance has been freedom from the traditional school bureaucracies and special interests that can often handicap districts in their efforts to implement meaningful reform. We are extremely fortunate to have always been able to operate in a way that is constantly and unequivocally geared towards student achievement so that no student has to be subject to the destiny of demographics…

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