Who is Eduardo Lujan-Olivas and Why Did My Post Vanish?

img_3374I am going to make the charitable assumption that I have not been hacked and that my attributed quote from another newspaper about ASU pulling a young ‘dreamers’ scholarship caused leading search engines to shut down this post. So I’ll pull references to the article and the quote and see what happens. The story was about Eduardo Lujan-Olivas, a young, ‘undocumented’ student who lost a scholarship right before his classes at Arizona State University were about to start.

As a bilingual teacher, I can’t count how many Eduardos I have taught. These are the undocumented kids who came here as babies or toddlers, who grew up here attending our schools, and who now rest in a scary, legal limbo. Some of these students barely speak Spanish. They never “push 9 for Spanish” and they only go to Spanish-language TV to watch soccer.

Eduardo’s story deserves to be widely shared. The article, ASU pulls scholarship for ‘dreamer’ an hour before class, by

Our Eduardos live all over America. They include hard-working boys and girls who become medical assistants instead of nurses because they lack that critical social security number, as well as boys and girls who sometimes drop out of school because they do not believe they can succeed educationally or professionally without that number. While knowing no other country than the U.S., many kids are growing up without dreams because their parents, friends, family members, and even educators have shut those dreams down.

“You can’t be a nurse/teacher/police officer/etc. because you do not have a social,” they are told.

I am sympathetic to the many Americans who support enforcing our immigration laws. They are watching their country change around them and that change has happened at lightening speed. But I believe we need to create a rational path to citizenship for our Eduardos and their quasi-American counterparts. These kids and young adults only know America. If we sent them “home” in any spiritual sense, we would be sending them to places like Chicago, Philadelphia, Yakima, Laredo, San Jose, Oxnard, Albuquerque, Elgin, Phoenix, Providence, Allentown, Hartford, Newark, and Las Vegas, among countless other big and little burbs.

All politics aside, these children are America’s children. They are nobody else’s children. They value hard work. A number of their parents work two or more jobs to keep their households afloat. America’s undocumented children deserve a chance to contribute fully to the country they have always called home.

Eduhonesty: Eduardo managed to use crowd funding to raise the money for his education. Achievers achieve. But I thought I’d post this today because many changes have been coming at us quickly. If we want to close the borders, I will not protest. But we have left those borders porous for decades in order to get our melons picked and our burgers flipped. The children of the men and women who took advantage of our efforts to keep agricultural and factory costs down should not have to pay the price for policies that almost seem to have been designed to lure their parents across the border.*

We have created a large class of second-class citizens in this country. Now we are threatening to send them to places they don’t know, where sometimes they do not even speak the local language. Interested in a social justice cause? Consider fighting for the dreamers, young men and women who grew up here and who deserve a chance to make this country their home. I’m all for medical assistants, but we will be the better if we let our would-be nurses follow their dreams.

*In my most cynical moments, I fear that maybe those policies were designed for just that purpose — creating a useful group of indentured servants who could never buy their way free.

 

 

 

Excellence Pockmarks the Landscape

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I subbed today in a school where 83% of students passed the state’s new annual test, the PARCC test, compared to 33% of students in the state of Illinois overall. Only 2% of the students in this school fall into the low-income category. The rooms are large, walls covered with student work and cheery, inspirational posters. Happy, helpful teachers guided me through hallways. I passed out videotaping permission slips for a teacher trying for her national certification. To those who keep reading about America’s educational meltdown, I assure you nothing even glowed hot in the district where I helped out today.

We don’t read about these districts in the news. The fact that a librarian searching for the answer “Aesop” as an ancient Greek storyteller was given the wrong answer “Homer” by a third- or fourth-grade student goes unnoticed by the outside world. I noticed, though. Who taught that kid about Homer? I spent a day surrounded by impressive little eight- and nine-year-olds who knew more — sometimes much more — than seventh graders who had been passed on to me in another district about 13 miles away.

So many factors affect educational results that I tend to duck topics related to discrepancies in scores between districts. But that district where 83% passed the new state test compared to 33% overall — a 50% difference — has an extraordinarily low poverty rate. In that district 13 miles away where I once taught seventh grade, the poverty rate in the elementary school runs 90% — and only 12% of that school passed the PARCC test.

Still, I’m going to duck the issue of poverty and test results for the moment. I will simply observe that students in American schools continue to compete and beat other students from the best schools around the world — those American students lucky enough to live in the right zip codes, anyway.

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Lil Davey’s many ailments

(I wrote this post last year, but I lost track of it in my drafts file. Please share this post with new teachers especially.)

He’s thin to the point of scrawniness, a smiling kid with many friends. He’s not afraid to speak up in class and he likes to be silly. He seems young for his age, but he’s popular. The girls definitely like him. He’s behind in class and falling farther behind, and I don’t know how to solve the problem that’s been unfolding. He keeps coming up with the oddest physical symptoms to explain absences or trips to the nurse. The kids all tell me he’s skipping. I checked with the nurse recently and she did not know anything about the “notes he had to bring to the nurse” and other excuses.

I need to send Davey to the nurse shortly. His last bloodwork showed sugar problems, he said. His mom does not seem to know what is happening. He has doctors but she cannot tell me what — if anything — is wrong with him. I believe Davey tells her that he feels bad and she lets him stay home. He suffered a genuine illness around Christmas, and mom was naturally spooked by his brief hospital stay.

Eduhonesty: Every year, my school has a few of these kids. They miss day after day of school, suffering from amorphous complaints that parents indulge. Frequently, a real event kicked off the absences, often a scary illness or injury. As part of that event, our Daveys discover they like staying home. They like mom fussing over them and fixing them special food while they watch TV all day.

“She has always been sickly,” dad or mom will say to me. These parents don’t understand the academic cost of all those many sick days.

Many of my strongest students have been sick this year. I had a mild case of the flu and a long, aggravating head cold. Almost all my students have come into class hacking and sneezing. Sometimes I send students to the nurse when I suspect fevers. Sometimes she sends feverish kids home, at least when she can find a parent or guardian to take care of them. Mostly, I cringe a little and then place the hand cleaner in a prominent position. Conditions permitting, I open windows.

I support keeping feverish kids home. I encourage parents to let kids spend the first day or two of a cold at home. But Davey is going to crash and burn academically if mom does not stop him from opting out of school. To my teacher-readers: Do you have a Davey or two? I have not found a solution, but I can offer a few suggestions:

♦ If you have a nurse on the premises, talk to the nurse. Let the nurse know your concerns. If Davey is truly sick, the school needs to know what is happening. Schools are monster petri dishes in the best of times. On the other hand, if Davey does not seem to have a diagnosable illness, the nurse can then push him back into class as quickly as possible.

♦ Talk to mom and dad. Show them the effect of missed classes and tests in some concrete form. You might show them the material your Davey missed during his last absence and his subsequent failed quiz. Looking at textbook pages, activity sheets and failed quizzes can make lost schooling real for parents.

♦ Don’t be too sympathetic. I am usually among the first to express sympathy for my sick kids, but sympathy absolutely will not help Davey. Sympathy becomes another perk of being sick, like those pajama days of watching TV while eating Takis.

♦ Talk to Davey’s other teachers. A united front by the adults can help keep Davey on track. Praise Davey for being in class.

♦ Be proactive. You may have to kick the truancy machinery into motion at some point. Especially in academically-disadvantaged and urban schools, your classes may suffer from many absences, but repeated absences quickly become toxic to learning. Unless your school has received proof of a physical problem, when a student misses too many days of classes, sending the local truancy officer out may help. It can’t hurt.

♦ You might try a behavior contract in which the student promises to attend and you offer rewards for meeting attendance goals.

♦ CONSIDER BULLYING as a possible issue. Is Nadia feigning illness so she can get a day off to relax? Or is Nadia afraid to come to school? I can see the faces of two girls in particular as I write this last bullet point — both of whom were staying home out of fear. One suddenly started attending school regularly when a mean girl moved. Bullying can be especially tough to manage — but students must get the help they need. Your classroom and school should always be safe for students.

Eduhonesty: Teacher-readers might want to show this post to friends who wonder where all your time goes. I can’t imagine how many hours of my life I have spent on this one issue. Every year, I have had a few of these students. I did not always solve the problem, but I made phone calls and held parent/guardian conferences. I talked with the nurse. I talked with my students. I talked with administration. I talked with truancy specialists. I created behavior contracts and incentive systems for attendance. Hour by hour by hour…

P.S. When I express concern about planning time loss from meetings and data-gathering requirements, issues such as Davey’s attendance are part of the reason. Managing absenteeism is a necessary duty for teachers, but also an easy duty to push off for another day. When bureaucratic and data requirements suck up too much teacher planning time, our Daveys may end up on the back-burner until their absences become a chronic and intractable problem. Absenteeism can quickly become a habit. That’s why I would like to encourage new teachers to start managing their chronically absent students now. If you have not already waded into this morass, you might take a few minutes today to strategize how you will tackle absenteeism when you return to class. You can win this one. That win may get a kid through high school and beyond. I will always remember that crying mom in her lace dress with her fistful of Mylar balloons and flowers, sobbing as she thanked me for helping her once chronically-absent daughter to cross the stage and pick up her diploma.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Drama in the school counselor’s office

Sometimes I write a post that I think matters more than most. I would like to ask readers to pass this post on to parents of adolescent children. By the end of the post, you will understand why.

Taken from https://www.yahoo.com/politics/feds-offer-little-guidance-to-islamic-state-090043284.html at Yahoo, I offer the opening of that article for thought:

Aasha, 17, looked up from her hands and saw the faces of six of her closest friends staring back at her. They awkwardly sat in a circle in a small counselor’s office in their high school.

“Why would you do something so stupid?” one of Aasha’s friends, Badra, finally asked.

“We just wanted to go over there to study,” Aasha replied.

“There’s a library right here,” Badra said. “You can study all you want.”

The girls grew up together in a dusty suburb of Denver called Aurora, attending the same mosque with their families on Parker Road. They were like sisters, sharing secrets, complaining about their strict immigrant parents and talking about boys since they were in elementary school.

Intense high school friendships end for all kinds of reasons — boys, social ambition, different schedules. But what this circle faced was far more dramatic — and more hurtful. They were torn apart by the Islamic State, whose recruiters quietly seduced three girls in their group online without any of the others even noticing. Now, the six girls faced down their former friend and weren’t sure they had ever really known her.

Just a week before this conclave at the counselor’s office, Aasha, her 15-year-old sister, Mariam, and her 16-year-old friend Leyla vanished without so much as a goodbye to their family or friends. (Yahoo News has changed the girls’ names to protect their identities because they were minors when they attempted to travel to Syria. Badra’s name has also been changed to protect her identity.) They skipped school one Friday, took a cab to the airport and boarded the first flight on their lengthy itinerary to the Middle East.

The girls were on their way to Syria to join the most feared terrorist organization in the world. They had been communicating with IS recruiters and sympathizers for months using secret online identities, and their views became more radical by the day.

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Eduhonesty: I can see these girls all sitting together in the counselor’s office, young and earnest. In the end, the girls went home and the FBI told parents to monitor their internet use. They have not been charged with a crime. They will continue walking around the halls of their high school.

I recently posted about Snapchat as part of the problems created by the technology of our time. Teachers today constantly battle cellphone use, texting or gaming in class or in the bathroom. In the 91% low-income middle school where I taught last year, a number of students had newer or better phones than my iPhone 5.

How do we manage this problem? I honestly don’t see a fix here. Blocking cell calls at school helps, but what happens after school? I’d like to recommend that teachers specifically talk to parents about the hazards of phone use, especially if a student has racked up phone violations. Please suggest parents look at these phones.

Parents can be too respectful of adolescent privacy. Snapchats may disappear, but a great many details remain on a phone. If Rachelle has called her would-be boyfriend 3 times between midnight and morning, parents need to know. If Rachelle is sexting that same boy, parents desperately need to know. What phone numbers are in that phone? What contacts? What websites has Rachelle visited recently? If Rachelle’s phone history has been erased, parents should consider that erasure a huge red flag. Most students normally erase histories about as often as they clean lockers.

Parents should insist on knowing their children’s passwords and they should look at phones regularly. At some point, these children will be adults and entitled to phone privacy, but a sixteen-year-old boy or girl is too young to manage life without adult supervision. One expectation upon being given that expensive phone ought to be the understanding that mom or dad has the right to check that phone.

Before we all had phones, most parents insisted on knowing many details of their children’s daily activities. Who were you with? Where did you go? Were his parents home? Why are you late? When does play practice end? What movie are you going to see? Etc. Life was mostly transparent and the questions were simple. No one would have thought to say, “Did you contact IS? Who is your contact in Syria? How often do you talk? Why would you want to go to Frankfurt?”

These are scarier times. We can’t put our heads in that proverbial desert sand. Adolescents should not be able to regard their phones as parent and teacher-free zones. Those girls who were lucky enough to be retrieved and sent home from Frankfurt provide a perfect example.

Flutes and pianos

From Business Insider, “Science says that parents of successful kids have these 7 things in common” by Drake Baer, Mar. 30, 2015, 2:57 PM: Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/parenting-successful-kids-2015-3#ixzz3XcCjKIv6

I pulled the following text from the article’s end, a section on the benefits of teaching a growth mindset.

Where kids think success comes from also predicts their attainment.

Over decades, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has discovered that children (and adults) think about success in one of two ways. Over at the always-fantastic Brain Pickings, Maria Popova says they go a little something like this:

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of un-intelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.

At the core is a distinction in the way you assume your will affects your ability, and it has a powerful effect on kids. If kids are told that they aced a test because of their innate intelligence, that creates a “fixed” mindset. If they succeeded because of effort, that teaches a “growth” mindset.

In one study of 4-year-olds, Dweck let kids choose between solving easy or difficult jigsaw puzzles. The kids with a fixed mindset chose the easier one, since it would validate their god-given abilities. The growth-oriented kids opted for the harder puzzle, since they saw it as an opportunity to learn.

Like Popova notes, the “fixed” kids wanted to do the easy puzzle since it would help them look smart and thus successful; the “growth” kids wanted the hard puzzles since their sense of success was tied up in becoming smarter.

So when you praise your kids, don’t congratulate them for being so smart, commend them for working so hard.

Eduhonesty: Being pretty sick of testing, I thought I might (gasp!) write about another topic. I failed, but here’s my latest fail, complete with a picture of the family piano. The young man on the piano has children older than he was in that photo now, children whose feet once dangled down from the piano bench until we had a special, matching, oak footrest made.

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How do we convince kids to view their intelligence as malleable and expandable? For my own kids, the piano offered at least one direct connection to a growth mindset. Intelligence and intellectual progress are tricky to measure, while the tinkling of piano keys reflects learning in a straightforward, easily-seen dynamic. In our house’s music room, years of piano lessons unfolded; simple songs became complex sonatas, and end-of-practice chocolates became gold medals and trophies.

As we layer test upon test, packing our classrooms with strategies for score-improvement, music programs are being sacrificed in many districts because their content cannot teach to the tests. Of the three music teachers in my school, only one kept her position for next year. Music’s connection to higher math and English scores lacks immediacy in these frantic times, so administrators trade in music programs for alternative electives more likely to boost scores.

For America’s kids, these lost music programs carry costs that may not be obvious on the surface. What is the cost of not finding out that hard work and practice can result in the ability to play the string bass? The cost of never getting the opportunity to discover that persistence can make a good drummer out of somebody who fumbled those drumsticks for months? We are taking successes away from a group of kids who need successes, kids who don’t believe in themselves anymore, not after years of dodging through the data-strewn minefield that the average school represents. Those music classes might restore some cracked and battered self-esteem or, if not, at least provide students with a few hours of solace as they crash through the educational underbrush, stumbling toward their next test.

The above article discusses a critical point. Intelligence doesn’t amount to much without effort. Any teacher knows that. America’s children require palpable opportunities to create efforts that yield results. Four years in band can rescue a boy who might otherwise have dropped out of school. Choir class can be the one, bright light in a girl’s school day. Why do we need to keep our music classes? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once said, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

In the silence between, we can pause to hear the music that has been sculpted by hours of practice and hard work. In the silence between, we can make out the clear connection between effort and creation. Tests are measurements, not creations. If we want to teach effort, we have to provide opportunities for creation, and a chance to learn the connection between work and the stretching of our abilities. Some students may make that connection in mathematics, some in music, and some in track and field. Our students have innumerable talents and interests.

We talk a lot about diversity nowadays. I’ll submit one last thought: As we hone in on mathematics and English to the exclusion of all other subjects, we are damaging and even destroying much of the diversity that once made America’s schools great.

Looking through the cracks

To retain or not retain — that is the question. Should we flunk our underperformers? If we do, should we hold them back? Or send them on the next grade with a hope, a prayer and — if we listen to the research — extra tutoring? Academic studies favor social promotion, usually adding the caveat that the socially promoted should receive extra tutoring when they enter the next grade. Unfortunately, that tutoring may not happen or may be wholly insufficient: Two extra hours of instruction per week cannot begin to cover the losses from years of failure and near-failure. I’m not sure 10 hours a week could hit that target, but ten hours might be plausible for quick learners.

This post is only peripherally about retention, though. I want to briefly visit another topic. So Napoleon has failed or nearly failed his classes, quite likely not for the first time. At least one possible rescue ought to go on the table immediately, one that inexplicably may not be raised for discussion.

For parents and teachers: If Napoleon failed or has been skirting failure, please consider special education. When a parent demands that a child be tested for special education, the district must comply. Absent that demand, sometimes testing never happens. For one thing, the barriers to entering special education keep getting higher. I don’t want to start addressing those issues — they’re huge — but the amount of proof required to move a student into special education may shut the process down before it starts, especially as districts keep adding responsibilities to the teaching day. My 27 days of meetings this year take a lot of time away from possible parent calls or social worker discussions.

One of my students just entered special education. Her mom had mentioned she thought the girl needed extra help and I thought so, too. I talked to special education teachers. They told me the same thing they have been telling me for the last few years: Tell the parent to insist that her child needs to be tested. The amount of documentation a teacher requires to get that ball rolling is so daunting now that I suspect only parent interventions are likely to work in some districts. She’s not my only student who I think needs help. I have one more mission before year’s end, if I can put it together in the time that’s left.

For some kids, special education may be their only chance to graduate from high school and possibly move on to higher education. My colleague down the hall has been educated and trained specifically to work with academically and behaviorally-disadvantaged students. She has classes with eight or fewer children in them and a paraprofessional to help her. She can sit down and focus on one child, providing intensive instruction, while other children work with the paraprofessional. For any kid who is struggling to pass, year after year, my colleague’s class offers a chance to succeed.

Eduhonesty: Economic forces are in play here, something teachers and parents don’t always understand. Districts have a big incentive to keep children in the regular classroom. That special education teacher costs as much or more than her regular education counterpart, probably more since special education endorsements require quite a few college credits — this varies by area — and greater numbers of college credits usually lead to higher pay. Depending on law and contracts, one regular teacher can teach the same number of students as three special education teachers. Putting a child into special education thus represents a financial commitment that poor districts, especially, may prefer to avoid.

I need to observe that educators and administrators tend to be ethical people, dedicated to providing the best education possible to their students. While an obvious financial incentive exists to keep students out of special education, parties to the process are extremely unlikely to falsify testing data. Still, financial factors may lead to data interpretations designed to keep students in regular classrooms. A few years back, I had a student tested for special education. The man who tested her determined that her I.Q. was 78 — 3 digits too high to qualify for special education. She needed a 75 to qualify. But while psychometricians generally regard IQ tests as having high statistical reliability, the fact is that the standard error of measurement for IQ tests is commonly considered to be about three points — the very difference that might have gotten my student into special education. That test can easily be three points off. They didn’t let my girl into special education. (Bilingual education saved this former student, but that’s another story. She did graduate. She may be stranded in a Spanglish world, and she can’t spell or do math for beans, but she diligently attended school, receiving enough credits to walk the stage.)

Am I rambling here? To go straight to my point, many of our failing kids will benefit from special education; however, parents and teachers may need to force the issue. Parents — don’t trust the schools to tell you if your child needs special education. If you suspect learning handicaps, demand that your district test your child. Teachers — the mantra of this time has become, “All children can succeed!” This cheery sound bite sounds appealing but fictions often do. Not all children can succeed in regular classrooms. If they could, we would never have created special education in the first place.

Lost and struggling students deserve to get the help they need. These small classes with individualized attention allow some students to learn when regular classes do not. My colleague down the hall has dedicated her life to teaching reading to students who need extra help to put the letters together. Parents and teachers sometimes hesitate to seek special education placements for fear of labeling a child slow, but special education often proves the best possible world for at least some of our boys and girls.

Leonard Cohen put it perfectly in his song, Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

It’s all about light, the light of learning. We are here to help our children learn to love learning. We do that best when we don’t force them to go faster and farther than they are ready to travel. We do that best when we hand them books they can read with a teacher who understands the pacing and parameters they require. We do that best when we accept and love them for who they are.

For “Rick” — who lives where he works

“Rick” is my union rep. I haven’t used his services, but he takes his union position seriously. He doesn’t gossip. He’s smart and funny, a middle-aged, African-American man who eats what he wants against medical advice — trying every so often to fix his excesses with a salad or two — and sometimes says what he thinks. He’s got a gift of quiet. He listens. Every so often, he shares his thoughts.

We were talking about the new retention policy, which appears to be another version of “we don’t retain nobody, nohow.” As noted in other posts, I understand where this policy originates. The research supports social promotion. The socially promoted have better outcomes in school and life overall. That point’s no longer debatable, even given the sometimes shoddy nature of social science research.

Here’s what Rick said, though, in a viewpoint that deserves cyberspace and cybertime:

“The thing is, those people in the Board Office, they go home at night to Lake Forest or places like that. They don’t live here. They’re just passing the problem on and it’s no problem for them. They don’t see these teen-age kids who didn’t make it through high school and who can’t find a job. I see them. They are standing on the street corner outside my house. They have nothing to do. They’ve got no way to make money. They’ve got no prospects.”

Rick is a big guy and he carries a natural authority. But he’ll admit to being scared of those kids on the street corner. Those kids don’t have a lot to lose, he tells me. The numbers here are hard to tease out. Crime statistics for the area baffle local residents and have led to a number of articles on the trustworthiness of crime statistics reported by police departments. Our crime statistics, like our graduation statistics, are honestly hard to understand when you are viewing them from the local stage. If 500 people finish at a middle school and 200 graduate from the high school across the street, when the graduation rate is over one-half of students, what happened to the missing bodies on the stage?

Regardless of the numbers, I can see why Rick is worried. Gang activity runs rampant in this locale. Drug abuse has become standard fare. What do you do if you have no education, no job and no legitimate job prospects? The underground economy offers one way to scrounge up cash. We had a middle school student murdered a few years ago when he flashed a bunch of money at some older peers. I’d guess that money came from drugs. I don’t know for sure. I know I held crying teachers who had known the boy, helped them down long, sad hallways. I watched a school mourn a kid who had already begun moving toward that street corner, regularly skipping school and ignoring classes.

What happens when we pass Napoleon on from eighth grade to high school when he is reading at a fourth grade level and doing math at a third grade level? Statistically, we improve his odds of long-term success, according to the studies. But what are those odds of success? Mostly, they range from poor to abysmally awful.

How costly is the decision to drop out of high school? To quote the PBS article “Dropout Nation,” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/education/dropout-nation/by-the-numbers-dropping-out-of-high-school/,

Consider a few figures about life without a diploma:

$20,241

The average dropout can expect to earn an annual income of $20,241, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (PDF). That’s a full $10,386 less than the typical high school graduate, and $36,424 less than someone with a bachelor’s degree.

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Of course, simply finding a job is also much more of a challenge for dropouts. While the national unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent in August, joblessness among those without a high school degree measured 12 percent. Among college graduates, it was 4.1 percent.

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Among dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24, incarceration rates were a whopping 63 times higher than among college graduates, according to a study (PDF) by researchers at Northeastern University. To be sure, there is no direct link between prison and the decision to leave high school early. Rather, the data is further evidence that dropouts are exposed to many of the same socioeconomic forces that are often gateways to crime.

In Rick’s view, when we pass those kids along, we pass along our problems to the community — and he’s right. Those high school students who can’t read, write or multiply often drop out of high school. Year by year, our lowest performers may be digging themselves into deeper holes until we finally offer them an out, legally allowing them to exit school. Then many of these kids enter the underground economy, the only economy where they can make enough money to support their lives and habits.

Rick watches these kids on his street corner while administrators determining district retention policies drive safely home to comfortable, suburban houses in areas where the majority of high school kids move on to graduate from college.

Missing the euphemisms of the past

I am perusing lyrics. Sometimes I download songs to make CDs for my classroom. The kids like music but I can’t turn them loose on YouTube. They are a little unclear on the concept of “appropriate.”

I have been scanning lyrics. I had to scratch “Crank That” by Soulja Boy. I wince to read lyrics such as the following:

“Aim to fresh up in this bitch
Watch me shuffle
Watch me jig
Watch me crank my shoulder work
Super man that bitch.”

That song doesn’t belong in the classroom. I had doubts about the line where he super soaked the hoe, too. I certainly can’t include songs that employ the word “nigga” twenty times. I scratched that fellow who was running through his hoes like Draino. I am not going to download his compatriot who had too much rum and brandy and woke up with some strange woman whose face he did not know.

THIS IS THE GOOD LIST. The list created by my other class was almost a total wash-out. I am going to be able to purchase about two-thirds of this set of requests. Still, at the end I wonder, where is the romance? No wonder we had five girls pregnant, all at the same time, in the middle school a few years ago. What are these girls hearing? Songs create societal norms. More people ought to be paying attention to the lyrics of today. I actually like some of Drake’s songs but I wouldn’t want my 12-year-old boys and girls listening to him.

Eduhonesty: I’m getting old, no doubt. I sound like an elder of the tribe, bemoaning my children’s and grandchildren’s musical choices. But I’m not wrong that the music of 2015 has become raw and explicit in a way that denigrates and diminishes romance. Dogs in heat would probably write these lyrics if they used drugs and wrote music. Human beings ought to have progressed beyond a life lived in heat.

Cool kids

From ‘Cool Kids’ Don’t Stay Cool Forever, Study Suggests

By Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer
Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

“The cool kids were also at greater risk for criminal activity and substance use problems at age 21 to 23. In fact, acting old for your age in middle school was a better predictor of drug problems in adulthood than was drug use in middle school.”

Eduhonesty: I don’t find this surprising. I’ve seen it too often. Kids crave excitement in early adolescence. A few seem to live for that rush. All you have to do is stand in a hallway when a fight starts. While some kids have the sense to keep their distance, others gravitate toward fights like bugs to bug zappers. They want in on any action. Crowd control becomes imperative at the same time that it becomes almost impossible. Since fights tend to start in crowded areas, like packed hallways during passing periods, teachers may struggle to diffuse a crisis even as kids rush toward the excitement.

The cool kids tend to be the exciting kids. “May you live in exciting times,” the old Chinese curse says. A curse for middle-school students might be, “May you have exciting friends.”

I offer this post as a cautionary note for parents. Parents who are becoming worried about their kids chosen peers need to act fast. Once a kid has become part of that cool crowd, he or she has often taken up risky behaviors that will be tough to extinguish. Parents might be able to stop some kids from learning to act older than their age by diverting those kids into different recreational activities or steering them toward less mature peers. Best efforts to stop risky behaviors come early, before Tommy or Jenna know where to score and whose house is empty during the afternoon.

Different students, different dynamics

I listened to a colleague vent yesterday. He is having regular problems with a group of students. I have a few problems with a couple of those kids, but not many. Another one who is receiving multiple referrals and write-ups from him has been working hard and doing very well in my classes. But I also have problems with a number of students who behave well for my colleague. Teaching is a relationship game and many of the variables are outside our control. If Luis does not get along with his mom, that relationship may transfer into trouble for other women. Sara’s mouthiness may drive the teacher in room 203 nuts while making the teacher in 204 laugh, often balancing out any trouble. Mike may hate social studies but like science or vice versa, transferring his feelings to the adult in front of the room. Some students respond well to stricter environments, but others work better under looser regimes. (Strict tends to work better academically, I believe, but that’s not true for all kids, especially those with attention deficit hyperactivity difficulties.)

Eduhonesty: One of the great challenges of this job is trying to understand and appreciate every child. A child who feels appreciated will work harder and more enthusiastically than one who does not. A child who feels understood is less likely to throw a wrench into the classroom works simply for the fun of it.

I threw this post into the “For parents” category because I see a need to bring out a couple of corollaries: A child who feels unappreciated will often work as little as possible. A child who feels misunderstood will often challenge authority. I could extend this list of troublesome behaviors, but I am following my gut to an important point: If your child says, “My teacher does not like me,” please follow up on this. Some kids should be moved into more supportive rooms. Administrations will resist, as will offended teachers, but 180 days of being made to feel unappreciated and misunderstood by an adult who controls your day can do a great deal of damage. At the very least, your child needs support and coping strategies if you can’t fix the problem.

Fortunately, this problem remains rare in my view. Teachers mostly enjoy their students. If they don’t, they don’t last in this profession.