Tag Archives: U.S

Tim Kaine Loves Public Schools. So Does His Wife Anne, Who is Virginia’s Secretary of Education

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Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia and his wife Anne Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina

Hillary Clinton’s choice for her running mate is Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia. Tim Kaine is one of the few people in American politics who has been elected mayor (of Richmond, Virginia), governor, and senator.

He is also a steadfast supporter of public education, even though he graduated from a Jesuit high school. His own children attended primarily black schools in Richmond. His wife is now Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina.

This is what he wrote three years ago about his life as a public school parent in Richmond.

Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education. Here are seven changes I’d like to see:

It’s about the individual!

Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs.

Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.

Early childhood education works

My daughter was able to attend a year of high-quality pre-K in our city schools. This experience made me a believer, and it’s one of the reasons why I greatly expanded pre-K for at-risk 4 year olds when I was governor.
The research is powerful — if you invest in high-quality programs that coordinate with K-12 curricula and have mandatory teacher standards, the gains from early education are lasting. It’s also important that we focus on coordinating investments made in early childhood programs — such as Head Start — to ensure we are effectively using our funding, eliminating any waste and bolstering the structure of our education system.

The article goes on to add other recommendations, including the importance of arts education and the necessity of reducing testing.

His article ended like this:

Finally, a note of gratitude. Our kids were blessed to have many wonderful teachers. There were some weak ones, but RPS teachers were mostly solid, some spectacular and a few life-changing for our children. As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers.

Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession. We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.

Better yet, Tim Kaine’s wife Anne is a long-time champion for children and for public schools. Reformers will not find an ally in her. She cares about children and has a deep commitment to improving their lives.

As a schoolgirl in 1970, she was on the front lines of the fight to desegregate Virginia’s public schools. Holton is the daughter of Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton (R), who championed integration in a state that was known for its vigorous efforts to resist it. To drive home this point, he sent his daughters to a historically all-black Richmond City public school, escorting Anne Holton’s sister to class in a gesture captured in a historic photograph.

“I have spent much of my working life focused on children and families at the margin, with full appreciation of the crucial role education can and must play in helping young people escape poverty and become successful adults,” Holton wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June 2015.

Holton and Kaine also sent their three children, who are now grown, to Richmond public schools.

The pair met at Harvard Law School, from which they both graduated. She became a legal aid lawyer representing low-income clients in Richmond and eventually a judge in the city’s juvenile and domestic relations court. She stepped down when her husband was elected governor in 2005 and as first lady made a priority of finding and stabilizing homes for teens in foster care.

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools….

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools.

Tim and Anne will be great advocates for public schools. Unlike many reformers, who never set foot in a public school, they actually know from personal experience what they are talking about.

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Feds Finally Take Action on Crumb Rubber Turf

CGbMcuqW0AAWKspOn February 25, 2015, March 11, 2015 and many other dates, Reform Sasscer Movement opposed synthetic turf from being installed in Prince George’s County Public Schools due to safety of the Children and special interests. After back and forth, the Maryland legislature overwhelmingly passed the bill providing funds for the installation of the turf fields despite the dangers involved.  Now, three federal agencies are teaming up to investigate the safety of crumb rubber artificial turf used in playing fields and playground all across the country — the subject of a series of NBC News reports.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced an “action plan” on Friday  (2/12/2016) to answer questions raised about synthetic turf made from recycled tires and possible risks for young athletes.

“Some of the government’s best and brightest scientists are working to identify what is in recycled tire crumb, identify ways in which people may be exposed to it, and determine if it is harmful,” CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said.

The agencies’ announcement said that while “limited studies” to date have not shown a danger, that research does not “comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure to tire crumb.”

Related: Watch the Original NBC News Report

The announcement came three weeks after Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked President Barack Obama to spearhead a comprehensive study of the playing surface.

“Parents and athletes of all ages want and deserve conclusive answers on whether exposure to crumb rubber turf can make one sick,” Nelson said. “Combining the resources and expertise of three federal agencies to help find those answers is the right thing to do.”

While critics and supporters of crumb rubber turf don’t agree on whether the surface poses a health risk — the industry says studies have shown no link with illness, while some parents and activists demand more testing — all sides want federal regulators to take a clear public position.

The announcement was welcome news to Jon and Laura Damm, environmental lawyers and parents who live in Fairfax County, Virginia, and have been pushing for local authorities to stop using crumb rubber in athletic fields.

“I think it’s fantastic…This really provides us with a lot of hope,” said Jon Damm, who also plays and coaches lacrosse.

He said that cities across the country should take note of the feds’ assessment that existing studies are not comprehensive enough.

“Hopefully they’ll take a pause and use one of the alternatives and see how this plays out,” he said.

The Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, also said it supports the federal effort.

“We have consistently said that we support all additional research,” the council said in a statement. “At the same time, we strongly reaffirm that the existing studies clearly show that artificial turf fields and playgrounds with crumb rubber infill are safe and have no link to any health issues.

“We hope the federal government’s involvement, which we have been encouraging for years, will settle this matter once and for all, put parents’ minds at ease, and validate past and recent due diligence by public officials,” it added.

Image: Crumb Rubber/Nike Grind
Crumb rubber pellets recovered from an artificial turf field, left, and Nike Grind rubber bits, nestled among fake blades of grass, at right. Hannah Rappleye (L) / NBC News

The multiagency action plan calls for scientists to test different types of crumb rubber to determine what chemical compounds they contain and whether they are released when a person comes into contact with them.

“Once we better understand what chemicals are in tire crumb, we will also be able to search existing databases of information to understand the potential health effects of those chemicals,” the agencies said.

The feds plan to reach out to athletes, parents and industry representatives and draft a report by the end of the year.

In 2008, the CPSC declared that crumb rubber artificial turf was safe to play on, after the agency performed limited tests for lead on artificial turf’s nylon ‘grass’ blades.

That declaration, Chairman Kaye told NBC News in a recent interview prior to Friday’s announcement, was “overstated.”

“When it came up to the political level there was an effort to say something that, in my mind, overstated the results,” Chairman Kaye said. “It provided a level of assurance that I don’t think the study warranted.”

“As a parent, you’re looking for that,” Chairman Kaye added. “You just want to know it’s OK…I don’t really care about limited studies, or qualifications. Just tell me: is it safe, or not?”

“There’s no clear cut line like, if you do this you will get cancer, and if you don’t do this you won’t get cancer,” Chairman Kaye said. “The best that I think the science can do is try to focus on creating some parameters that are defensible, and coming up with risk scenarios.”

“All that is gobbledygook when it comes to parents who just want you to tell them what the answer is,” he added. “I think the responsibility that somebody in my position faces on the front end, is to try to make sure the process has as much as integrity as possible, and the scientists are getting as much as they need.”

by , and NBC

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How U.S. Schools Can Improve Math Education

960With U.S. students regularly placing behind 20 to 25 other nations in mathematics test scores, many education experts are wondering what the sources of the problem are and how we can take steps to fix them. Here’s a look at how American schools can improve their math curricula and help struggling students:

  • Gradually reduce the amount of numbers overcrowding the curriculum
  • Design problems using relatable real-world scenarios, like subtracting specific amounts of funding from an education budget
  • Plead with teacher’s union to make exception in order to get rid of Mr. Donovan
  • Fix smudge on projector transparency sheet on isosceles triangles
  • Institute and fund a sweeping foreign exchange program that offers American children unique opportunity to visit high-achieving Singaporean schools and cheat off their students
  • Decorate classrooms with photos of famous mathletes from throughout history
  • Get students more engaged by having them act out a theorem or conjecture
  • Buddy up Alabama with Massachusetts
  • Allow students to take a few integers home with them after school

Via the ONION

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