Education Roundup: Mock Slave Auctions at School

Illustration: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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  •  This week marks the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War, and GOOD’s Liz Dwyer explains how not to teach kids about slavery. Lesson one: Do not turn your classroom into a mock slave auction where white students purchase their black peers, a memo a teacher in Virginia and one in Ohio did not receive.
  • The results are in: Students are taking harder coursework and as a result are scoring higher on math and English achievement tests according to 2009’s National Assessment of Educational Progress High School Transcript, Education Week reports. But that’s only half the story. African-American and Latino students are still less likely to attend high schools that even offer high-level math courses like trigonometry and calculus. That “severely limits their ability to take the courses they’ll need to be successful,” Education Trust’s Kati Haycock reports. And sure, students of color who took higher level coursework earned higher math test scores and are more likely to get a bachelor’s degree. But students of color are still only about half as likely as white graduates to complete higher level coursework.
  • Here’s a newsflash: Breasts do more than “titillate.” But last Breast Cancer Awareness Day (Oct. 28 FYI) two Philadelphia students got in trouble for wearing “I (heart) Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” awareness bracelets, GOOD reports. Fortunately, the ACLU stepped in and a federal judge ruled in favor of knowledge.
  • In a bid to protect students from their own unhealthy food choices, a Chicago public school banned home-packed lunches, The Huffington Post reports. Another reason for the homemade lunch ban: School districts get cash from the US Department of Agriculture for each meal they serve.
  • Los Angeles Unified, the second-largest school district in the country, released new school ratings that measure school success based on students’ scores in standardized math and English tests, The Los Angeles Times reports. Thousands of teachers will also be evaluated using this value-added method that compares a student with his or her own prior test scores. This doesn’t make sense, according to a study by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder:  It is “logically impossible that a student’s future teacher would appear to have an effect on a student’s test performance in the past.”
  • But there’s more: LA Times reports LA Unified quickly adopted the value-added approach because a Times series rated teachers using the  method. But according to the National Education Policy Center: “The research on which the Los Angeles Times relied for its August 2010 teacher effectiveness reporting was demonstrably inadequate to support the published rankings.” Read the study here.
  • Will Arizona give parents public funds to send their children to private and parochial schools? Arizona Daily Star reports on the bill that could give that option to more than 1 million students in public schools—and it’s sitting on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk.
  • Another bill Arizona lawmakers love would allow parents to pull their kids out of classes and lessons they think are “harmful.” Senate Minority Leader David Schapira isn’t happy about this, Arizona Daily Star reports:

That could allow a parent to decide a child need not learn about world history and war in particular. The result, he said, is some children won’t learn “the truth” of what happened in the past.

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