What do you do with mostly low-income students from single-parent families who need something constructive to keep them busy after school? If you’re Confluence Academy, a charter school in St. Louis, you create a table tennis team coached by a Chinese pro. Sheri Xu, a former junior champion from Shanghai, is the one who, during a dinner party, suggested forming the team to school founder Susan Uchitelle. Effusive in her praise, Uchitelle says of the sport, known more commonly as pingpong: “It ties in with achievement. [The students] have to concentrate, have agility ... practice for hours.” She’s not ...


Forget about grievance policies and transfer rules—the teachers union in Newark, New Jersey, has more important things to worry about these days. The union recently paid for six billboards in the city that read “HELP WANTED: STOP THE KILLINGS IN NEWARK.” At least 106 people have been murdered in the city of 227,000 in the past year—a wave of violence that the union says has become a grim working-conditions issue for educators. Some 100 teachers have resigned or retired from Newark schools since September, and in a recent poll, the union’s members cited improving safety and ...


Maybe you won’t need that summer job after all. A new report by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative New York think tank, finds that teachers actually have it pretty good. Who knew? The report, which looked at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that teachers’ average hourly wage in 2005 was $34.06—roughly $9 more than the average for other white-collar workers. “It’s a widely held belief that public school teachers are horribly paid,” said Jay P. Greene, one of the report’s authors. “The facts are public school teachers make more than ...


How would you feel if you discovered that a kid in your class, a seemingly shy 7th grader, was really a 29-year-old convicted sex offender? “Our staff is devastated,” says Rhonda Cagle, spokeswoman for Imagine Charter School in Surprise, Arizona, where “Casey Price” was enrolled for four months before being kicked out for attendance problems. The man’s real name is Neil H. Roderick II, and it wasn’t until after he’d attempted to enroll in two other Arizona charters that school officials alerted police, thinking, ironically, that the 5-foot-8-inch, 120-pound “Casey,” who claimed to be 12, was possibly ...


In one New Jersey district, what you do (or don't do) over the weekend will have significant consequences come Monday morning—and we're not talking about acing the big algebra test. Administrators at Pequannock Township High School recently approved a new policy to randomly test students for weekend alcohol use. The sensitive tests, which will be used starting next week, can detect drinks consumed up to 80 hours earlier. School officials assert that the specter of testing will encourage students to make better decisions when offered alcohol at weekend parties. But some students beg to differ: "No one's really taking...


Last month, after the National Science Teachers Association declined to hand out free copies of the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, one of the film’s producers announced plans to distribute the copies directly to educators via the Internet. Whether they’ll actually be able show the DVD in class is another matter. After an evangelical Christian parent complained about a planned screening of the Al Gore-narrated film in his daughter’s 7th grade science class, the school board in Federal Way, Washington, first banned and then placed rigorous restrictions on the movie’s classroom use. Among other things, ...


The opportunity for free-running self-expression is one of the big reasons people create their own pages on social networking Web sites. But the recent firing of a Florida teacher over his MySpace page calls into question how free a teacher can ever be to express his or her thoughts. John Bush, a 52-year-old physical education teacher at Landrum Middle School in Augustine, was terminated after Bush’s page turned up with a photo and text that the school board attorney said were not pornographic, but “inappropriate for school teachers in St. Johns County.” Bush, who’s fighting for his former ...


Four years running, Annapolis High School in Maryland has fallen short of meeting NCLB requirements, scoring particularly low in reading tests and graduating just 50 percent of its male African American students on time. So Superintendent Kevin Maxwell, deciding he’d had enough, announced yesterday that everyone—principal, teachers, secretaries, even cafeteria workers—would have to reapply for their jobs. Although rumors had been swirling, Maxwell’s move was seen as less than diplomatic. While the school’s principal retreated to his office and prayed, Lidia Smithers, an English and French teacher, said of the superintendent, who left no time ...


As we recently reported, performance-pay plans have been gaining popularity around the country. But educators in Houston are learning that the reality doesn’t come without a certain amount of angst. This week, more than half of Houston’s teachers are expected to receive bonuses ranging from $500 to $7,000 under a multipronged formula based on student test results. Some teachers and union leaders in the district are charging that the formula is too complicated to fully decipher and that the payout will breed dissension among teachers who fail to get bonuses—and even some who do receive them. “It’s...


If you’re one of those shocked by the MySpace-posted video of three New York teens pummeling a classmate, you may not be aware of a trend that psychologists have highlighted for years: outrageous behavior among American girls. MySpace was also the place where a clique of Texas cheerleaders posted photos of themselves flashing the camera and imbibing alcohol. And, last May, a brawl erupted after a high school girls’ soccer game in Illinois. According to the most recent federal statistics, the number of assault arrests for girls rose 41 percent between 1992 and 2003, whereas the increase for boys ...


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