Friday, November 30, 2012

South Lyon Teacher Promoting Gay Rights is reinstated

     A student brings you a song, movie or link to You Tube and you do not check it out before playing it during the school day. Is that very smart for any professional? In the case of Susan Johnson, she used the poor judgement of using material in her classroom and played a popular song called "Same Love," which advocates gay rights in her middle school classroom. But what was the bigger mistake. Was it her giving one side of a hot button issue and presenting it as a fact or was it the South Lyon school district which at first suspended her then received communication from the ACLU's Michigan's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender project. Johnson at first was suspended for three days and two without pay before the communication and will now be paid for all three of her days off. In the story published in the Detroit News, the story is pretty one sided with no rebuttals from parents or people with a differing opinion and it might be one reason schools should stay away from this issue unless all viewpoints are presented. In the case of Johnson, having her opinion is not in dispute. Forcing it on students is quite another. The smart thing for any educator to do is to use district video sources and get any material approved. The best policy is to follow district policy and Never accept material from a student without looking at it and getting it approved. The story is below. vv
November 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm

South Lyon teacher's pay restored after suspension over gay-themed song

South Lyon — The South Lyon Community Schools teacher who was suspended without pay for playing a gay-themed song, "Same Love," is back at work.
"Her pay will be restored," district spokeswoman Melissa Baker said Friday.
Susan Johnson played the popular hip-hop song, billed as an anthem for gay marriage, during her eighth-grade performing arts class at Centennial Middle School at the request of a student.
Another student complained to administrators, who told Johnson she should have asked permission before playing the song.
Ellen DeGeneres praised the song's artists, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, as her new hip-hop heroes when they recently performed it on her show.
The district said in a statement earlier this week that the use of recorded material in class is covered by the staff handbook.
"It requires that instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom, including YouTube clips, then submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval," the district said.
Superintendent William Pearson followed up with another email, apologizing if his decision to suspend Johnson offended anyone.
"I am willing to not uphold the suspension, but the violation of the district practice regarding web-based clips and our expectations for instructions previewing materials under this will remain in writing," he said in a statement.
Gay rights groups expressed disappointment Thursday with the school district's suspension of Johnson, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said it was looking into the incident.
The ACLU said Friday it would continue looking into the situation.
"That's good news that her pay will be restored and that she's back at work, but we will continue our investigation," said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender project.
"Was it about the policy, or is it related to the school not truly wanting to have these topics discussed? We want to make sure they're not trying to censure a message of tolerance for gay people."
The superintendent addressed this concern, in part, in his most recent statement.
"If students believe this discipline is a form of bullying, will encourage bullying, or most importantly, causes any member of our school community to feel they do not belong, then I have sent the wrong message and must correct that," Pearson said. "We want all students to feel they belong and that they are valued, and our policies and procedures must support this."

From The Detroit News:

97% of Teachers are Rated as Effective- Why is everyone in a hurry to change the system?

     You go to a teacher college and student teach for free. An unpaid internship for a semester or longer awaits you and if you are lucky, you are hired out of a hiring pool of most likely 1,000-2,000 applicants and maybe ten people are interviewed for a scant few openings. You are the best of the best most personnel directors would like to think. The thing is, some in The Lansing Department of Education (DOE) would like to change the perception that 97% are effective in the classroom.  This figure is derived from data compiled by the DOE where administrators evaluate teachers and make almost everyone mildly or highly effective. When everyone passes according to Lansing, why evaluate teachers at all. In a story by the Detroit Free Press, they break down how teacher evaluations will occur as soon as next year.


Grading teachers proves difficult: Staffs at some of state's worst schools get gushing reviews

November 29, 2012  
A first look at how effective teachers are across the state provides a clear picture of just how far school districts must go to have strong evaluation systems in place that give teachers the kind of feedback they need to improve.
The new state data find that about 97% of the state's 96,000 teachers were rated effective or highly effective during the 2011-12 school year -- the first year districts had to assign one of four ratings to teachers. Those ratings were: highly effective, effective, minimally effective or ineffective.
Some of the state's worst-performing schools doled out favorable ratings to teachers: 48 of the state's 146 priority schools -- so named because they are in the bottom 5% academically -- rated all of their teachers in the top two categories. Several said all of their teachers were highly effective.
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How does your school rate its teachers' effectiveness? Search this database
PDF: Report on need for smart teacher evaluation in Michigan (2.1 MB)
PDF: Michigan Dept. of Education report on teacher effectiveness ratings
But state data also show that more teachers in priority schools were rated in the bottom categories than other schools.
The data isn't surprising given that it was the first year districts had to report the effectiveness ratings, said Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education.
The ratings will likely change, she said, "once there's a more common system and a common measurement."
That common system will come via the work of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness, a panel working to develop a statewide system for evaluating educators, as well as guidelines for districts that opt to develop their own systems.
The fact that few teachers were rated ineffective makes the work of the council crucial, experts say.
It tells the council "that districts need a lot of support and assistance in how to move forward," said Sandi Jacobs, vice president and managing director of state policy for the National Council on Teacher Quality.
That point is also illustrated in a report the Education Trust-Midwest released today. It analyzed the evaluation systems in 28 school districts and found few of the systems met a set of standards they say research indicates are necessary for a strong system.
"All of them fell short on at least one component. Many fell short on all of them," said Drew Jacobs, a data and policy analyst for the Education Trust-Midwest, a Royal Oak-based nonprofit education policy organization.
Among those standards: having annual observations; using state test data in evaluating teachers for whom the data is available; providing specific directions on how to score all criteria that teachers are evaluated on, and having a sophisticated observation process.
The observation process -- in which an evaluator comes into a teacher's classroom to observe -- is where schools tend to struggle, said Robert Floden, co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.
What's missing, he said, are resources. Teachers should be observed multiple times by an evaluator, but that's often difficult given the amount of time that goes into multiple observations.
"The system we have -- and Michigan is not unique -- says it's really important ... but the system does not invest resources in making that happen," Floden said.
Those resources are crucial, however.
"In order for this to have the kind of impact educators and families want to see ... there needs to be a significant amount of investment so teachers really benefit and grow as educators," said Nate Walker, a policy analyst at the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan.
Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651 or

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From 60 Minutes: Kids are Helping Kids Change the World

Kids can be motivated to change the world and many are doing so one at a time. Craig Kielburger started as a seventh grader many years ago and in a 60 Minutes piece, he explains how his organization "Children Helping Children"                                  is accomplishing that. As a volunteer teacher for People to People, I have witnessed first hand what projects can do when students harvest ideas, partner with other like minded people and the will to carry out the projects. 

T he following script is from "Children Helping Children" which aired on Nov. 25, 2012. Scott Pelley is the correspondent. Nicole Young, producer. Pages two and three are on the site. The video is archived on 60 minutes and the link is here. vv 

60 Minutes Web Extra

6th grader learns about poverty »

The things that we're thankful for tend to come from people who devote their lives to something greater than themselves. Many folks come to that devotion late in life. But Craig Kielburger discovered it early. He was in seventh grade when the death of a boy changed his life. It was a change so profound that, through Kielburger, it has now saved and transformed lives around the globe. In that moment, 17 years ago, Craig Kielburger was struck by a profound truth -- something as important as changing the world can't be left to grown ups.
Craig Kielburger: Kids are looking to get involved. They're searching for it. And in an era where, you know adults often are looking for meaning and purpose in their lives, kids also want to assert who they are, not just by the videogames they play or the peer groups they belong to, but by the contribution they make. And that's part of a youth self-identity in the world. And not only is it good for the child, my God, our world needs it.
For information on Free The Children, click here
Craig Kielburger was a child when he noticed the needs of the world. As a 12-year-old in Canada he read about the murder of a boy his age in Pakistan. Iqbal Masih was a slave in a carpet factory. Masih escaped to lead a campaign against servitude. But within two years he was silenced. Kielburger put down the newspaper and rose to speak.
Craig Kielburger: We're talking about labor and the exploitation of children.
He made Iqbal Masih's fight, his own. He talked to classmates, to Congress, to Parliament. To call him "precocious" is an understatement as our own Ed Bradley found out in 1996.
Ed Bradley: But what made you think you could do something about it?
Craig Kielburger: Originally, I didn't think I could, really. But the only way we're going to ever find out is try. So after doing some research, I just walked to my classmates and said, "Listen, I read this article. Here's a problem. This is what I know" -- which at that point was not very much -- and asked, 'Who wants to help?'
Turned out 11 friends wanted to help. With no money to start with, no wealthy parents or early backers, they met in his living room and started a charity called Free The Children.

[Ed Bradley: Why you?
Craig Kielburger: Why not? If everyone in the world could say, "Why me?" -- then nothing ever would be accomplished. Why me? Because I've met those children. Because I've seen them. Because I read the story of Iqbal Masih. Why not me?]
In the 1990's, Kielburger wanted to free children from slavery. So he went to Asia recruiting activists and government authorities to bust child sweatshops and sex traffickers. There were early successes. But, when we went overseas with Kielburger, he told us freeing children was much more complicated than he had first imagined.
Scott Pelley: What are some of the things that didn't work out? What have you learned?
Craig Kielburger: You know, probably the lowest moment ever was the first time in Southeast Asia, when we met children who we had freed before who are back in slavery. To see that some of those same kids would end up back in the same grinding, backbreaking, desperate poverty, there is nothing that makes your heart fall more than that.
Kids he freed were being pulled back into servitude, years later, by centuries old culture and traditions shaped by poverty and illiteracy.
Scott Pelley: At the point that you saw that your original big idea wasn't working, why didn't you throw in the towel?