ANOTHER NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION THAT DIDN'T LAST A WEEK

From a paragraph Fellow wrote for school at the end of 2007, recently brought home:

"I will try hard not to hit my sister, because I don't get along with her sometimes."

SMALL FELLOW: NO LONGER AN OUTLIER . . . PART OF A TREND!

The Wall Street Journal's estimable Sue Shellenbarger borrowed the musical question from "Bye Bye Birdie" for a recent column, "What's gotten into kids these days?" (Well, close enough.) She claims, with the help of several studies, that today's pre-school and early-elementary misbehavior is a different animal than past mischief, and she advises that if your own child is not part of the problem, you'd better teach him or her to be part of the solution.

SET PHASERS FOR SPUTTERING OUTRAGE

Jeffrey T. Schwartz wins the prize for Lawyer Most Likely to Say, "Hey, Just Doing My Job," as he mounts a doomed defense of the stepfather of Nixzmary Brown in his trial for the murder of his young stepdaughter. Schwartz proposes, in re his client's repeated, brutal beating of the seven-year-old girl, Hey, moms and dads, we've all been there, am I right?, and "You don’t know you’ve crossed the line until you get accused of crossing the line."

The Times held its nose last week and put together a piece on the implications of this argument, finding that there are few laws regarding parental corporal punishment, that prosecutions for its collateral damage are rare, and that several juries have indeed acquitted parents of causing serious injury to their children in the course of punishment. Indeed:

To draw a bright line in the law, said Martin Guggenheim, a professor at New York University School of Law, would be to cross the threshold of what the United States Supreme Court once called “the private realm of family life which the state may not enter,” and to intrude on parents’ constitutional right to raise children as they see fit.

The article is worth a look before giving your own kids an extra hug tonight.

WE'D CERTAINLY NEVER DO THIS—FELLOW HAS ALWAYS  WORN HIS PATRIOTS GEAR WILLINGLY

Speaking of corporal punishment that doesn't rise to the level of prosecutable offense, a Wisconsin DA says that a local dad will not face charges for this incident:

Upset that his 7-year-old son wouldn't wear a Green Bay Packers jersey during the team's playoff victory Saturday, a man restrained the boy for an hour with tape and taped the jersey onto him.

HEY, NEW YORK CITY TEACHERS: EVER PONDER WHO'S MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR STRUGGLING STUDENTS' POOR TEST SCORES—THE KIDS, THEIR PARENTS, THE SYSTEM, OR YOU YOURSELF? STOP WONDERING: JOEL KLEIN HAS YOUR ANSWER

From the Times:

New York City has embarked on an ambitious experiment, yet to be announced, in which some 2,500 teachers are being measured on how much their students improve on annual standardized tests. The move is so contentious that principals in some of the 140 schools participating have not told their teachers that they are being scrutinized based on student performance and improvement.

While officials say it is too early to determine how they will use the data, which is already being collected, they say it could eventually be used to help make decisions on teacher tenure or as a significant element in performance evaluations and bonuses. And they hold out the possibility that the ratings for individual teachers could be made public.

“If the only thing we do is make this data available to every person in the city — every teacher, every parent, every principal, and say do with it what you will — that will have been a powerful step forward,” said Chris Cerf, the deputy schools chancellor who is overseeing the project. “If you know as a parent what’s the deal, I think that whole aspect will change behavior.”

The article details the vehement opposition of the teacher's union, as it should. But here's a few other questions: Let's say the city makes public the data of all of its teachers. Will the data be based on whether students' scores improve under that teacher (the system used for the city's recent hopelessly-out-of-context school grading system), or whether the students are simply achieving high scores (of course, also an out-of-context rating)?

And what of this: Again, say these ratings are made public. Say I'm a neighborhood activist group in an outer borough. Say I see that my kids' school has a preponderance of poorly-rated teachers as opposed to the Upper West Side. How soon do I file my class-action suit claiming that my kid and other kids in my neighborhood are being unfairly shortchanged by a system that refuses to send its best teachers our way?

Or this: I'm a lunatic Park Slope parent who only wants the best for my boy, even though I couldn't get him into St. Ann's. Then I find out that Sally Horshack's daughter got herself an A-rated third-grade teacher while my kid was assigned to the D-rated instructor down the hall. When can I start my letter-writing campaign?

This idea is 30 kinds of bad, which is several more kinds of bad than the school grading system, because its threatening individual careers, rather than building reputations. Looks like it's happening anyway.

OR MAYBE THERE'S HOPE AFTER ALL

Meet the early frontrunners for FD.com's PTAs of the year: The moms and dads of Manhattan's PS 40 and PS 116, who say they'll keep their kids out of school on the days that their classes will be aksed to take a "field test" of standardized tests—in other word, as an anti-testing advocate put it, "tests to figure out how kids will test on tests."

January 31, 2008 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS

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