The Social-Emotional Consequences of the Authoritarian Standards & High-Stakes Testing Sham

Note: This is the second in a series of articles on the consequences of the authoritarian standards & high-stakes testing sham.

Anxious teachers, sobbing children was the title of an opinion article published in the Atlanta newspaper last Sunday.  The article, written by Stephanie Jones, professor of education at the University of Georgia, asks “What’s the low morale and crying about in education these days?  Mandatory dehumanization and emotional policy-making  — that’s what.”

Policy makers, acting on emotion and little to no data, have dehumanized schooling by implementing authoritarian standards in a one-size-fits-all system of education.  We’ve enabled a layer of the educational system (U.S. Department of Education and the state departments of education) to implement the NCLB act, and high-stakes tests, and use data from these tests to determine the fate of school districts, teachers and students.  One of the outcomes of this policy is the debilitating effects on the mental and physical health of students, teachers and administrators.

If you don’t believe that, here is a quote from Professor Jones’ article:

I’ve witnessed sobbing children in school, tears streaking cheeks. When children hold it together at school, they often fall apart at home. Yelling, slamming doors, wetting the bed, having bad dreams, begging parents not to send them back to school.

More parents than ever feel pressured to medicate their children so they can make it through school days. Others make the gut-wrenching decision to pull their children from public schools to protect their dignity, sanity and souls. Desperate parents choose routes they had never thought they’d consider: home schooling, co-op schooling, or, when they can afford it, private schooling. But most parents suffer in silence, managing constant family conflict.

The emotional and behavioral disorders that youth experience have only been amplified by the NCLB act.
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Three Web 2.0 Science Projects for Your Science Courses

The Web 2.0 science projects described in this post will enable your students to interact with students around the globe.

Web 2.0 refers to using the Web in a more interactive, and social way where students can create, share, publish and work together in collaborative groups.  Over the years, science teachers have created a variety of Web 2.0 projects for K-12 students.

This post is to announce the availability of three Web 2.0 projects that you can use with your students.  The projects are geared to students in grades 4 – 12, and they can be used in a variety of situations.  They could be used as an interesting way to begin the year (especially Project Green Classroom), individual or small teams of students could use any of the projects as a starting place for a project or a science fair investigation.  You could use any of these as part of your ongoing curriculum.

The Projects

  • Project Green Classroom—you and your students try and answer the question: How green in our classroom?  Off to the project.
  • Project Ozone–students explore the quality of the air they breathe, and also investigate two aspects of ozone: the good and the bad.  Read more…
  • Project River Watch–students learn to monitor a local stream or river, and use the data collected to make an evaluation of the quality of the stream’s water.  Further information…

Websites

Each project has its own website from which you can work with your students, and connect with students and teachers in other schools.

Access and Further Information

Please go to Web 2.0.  Here you will find details, and links to each of the project websites.

Ozone: An Inquiry into Air Quality

Atlanta leads the nation today in air quality—that is to say that it’s ozone forecast for today exceeds all other cities in the nation.  As shown in the AirNow map below, most of the Eastern part of the nation is in the moderate to USG ozone levels.  Moderate AQI (Air quality index) is 51 – 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.

UGS (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) AQI is 101 – 150. Although general public is not likely to be affected at this AQI range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.

Several years ago, Gary Short, founder and owner of Vistanomics, worked out a way to measure ground level ozone.  He invented a chemical strip which changes color in the presence of ozone, and named the device the EcoBadge.  EcoBadge because he devised a clip on badge in which you could insert an ozone paper strip, and then could clip it on to your shirt or blouse, and be a walking ozone monitor.  I’ve included a picture of the ecobadge, and picture of the ozone monitoring strip.

The Ecobadge: A device used to measure the amount of ground-level ozone in the air. A chemically sensitive strip is inserted into the badge, and then exposed to the air for 1 hour (the pink area), and 8 hours (the brown area).

At the same time I was working with American and Russian science educators on a global environmental project in which students monitored and researched local environmental problems, and then shared their findings on the Internet at a website that we had designed.  The project was known as the Global Thinking Project.

As part of my current work, and in conjunction with the release of my new book, Science as Inquiry, several environmental projects have been developed, published in the book, and also available on the Internet.  One of the projects is Project Ozone.  Project ozone uses the tools developed by Gary Short at Vistanomics, as well as other meteorology instruments to measure other parameters important when studying ozone.

If you are working this summer with middle or high school students, or students at the college level, you might be interested taking a look at Project Ozone to see if the it might be a project you might want to include in your course or program.

Screen shot of Project Ozone Homepage. Links for activities, data sharing and retrieval.

Haiti Relief Effort: Global Resources & Agencies

The Haiti relief effort is in full operation, with the United Nations, individual relief organizations, the U.S. government including the U.S. military and eight additional departments and agencies within the government, and humanitarian aid, and resources from countries around the world.  The earthquake caused widespread damage, and ruined the infrastructure of the country.  The head of the International Monetary Fund has called for a “Marshall-like Plan” to help rebuild the country, and help establish a viable infrastructure and economy.   This blog post comments on some of the efforts that are underway.

In lessons learned from the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, the United Nations developed a “Cluster System” to coordinate relief efforts.  The purpose of the cluster system is to put experts on the ground as soon as possible, and to organize them into groups based on expertise.   For example, according to U.N. officials, there are meetings every day at 3 p.m. at the Ministry of Water in Port-au-Prince, in the offices which have not been too badly damaged, so that all water and sanitation agencies will go to that meeting and coordinate how they best respond.  Although the cluster system is not without its critics, it was implemented in recent disasters in the Pakistan earthquake, and floods in the Philippines.

Port-Au-Prince Medical Infrastructure Information, Jan. 22

Another example of the cluster system is the Health Cluster, in which partners will work with the national health authorities and health partners to ensure a coordinated response to the needs of the Haitian population.

Here is a list of some of the efforts underway in Haiti, and links to further information.

United Nations Humanitarian Map of Haiti

United Nations.  The U.N. has a multi-pronged effort underway involving Children (UNICEF), Development (UN Development Program), Food (World Food Program), Health (UNAIDS & World Health Organization), Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA), and Population (United Nations Population Fund)

U.S. Haiti Earthquake Relief.  Firstly, if you go to this White House site, you will find links to many agencies within the Federal Government which are directly involved in relief efforts in Haiti.  The most visible form of assistance has been the U.S. Military, and you can visit this site to find out how U.S. Defense Department is aiding the Haitian population. You can find how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is helping at this site.  An important part of the effort is organized by USAID.  USAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State.  The U.S. Department of State has established this website that describes its activities, and how the Department of State is helping the Haitian people.  You can link to the U.S. Embassy in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti at this website.  Further assistance is provided by Department of Homeland Security, and the Interior Department.

Independent Aid Organizations.  There are many organizations that have had a presence in Haiti long before the January 12th earthquake.  These humanitarian organizations are there on the ground, working to help the people of Haiti.  There is a very extensive list of these organizations at this New York Times site for your information.

Global Response to the Earthquake in Haiti

It has nearly been a week since the devastating 7.0 earthquake struck Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and the surrounding cities and towns of this Caribbean country. The disaster is one of the worst in the Western Hemisphere, and our hearts go out to the suffering that is being experienced by so many people in this country. The response to help the people in Haiti has been a global response. Countries and organizations from all over the world have sent people and resources to Haiti.

The enormity of the task to get the needed medical services, food & water, and shelter to the victims has been hampered by the inability to traverse the roads from the airport, where food and water has been staged, to the various cities and towns.

Those of us at a distance from Haiti can try and provide monetary support, and also try and learn as much as we can about this country, its people, and what steps must be taken to restore and help the country re-build after this disaster. This will take time. At the present time, the immediate need is to save lives, and to get help to the people who have suffered so much.

As educators, our psyches are nourished by helping our students prepare for their futures. It is hope that we bring to our students through our work. In the case of our concern about Haiti, and its people, we support all of the efforts to make a future possible for the Haitian people. We look for examples of hope, or human bravery, and how help is being brought to the Haitian people.

There are some sites on the Internet that can be helpful to you and your students. Here are a few.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. This provides real-time alerts about natural disasters, and tools to facilitate coordination. At this site you will find a great deal of information about the Haiti earthquake, and what is being done to help the people.

Real time information is provided here at the GDACS Website

Haiti: The Geology and Geography. From the New York Times, here is a map showing the geology of the area, and damage sustained in various sectors.

The Charity Navigator. This is an independent charity evaluator, which analyzes the largest charities, and in the case of Haiti, provides some specific recommendations. Five charities that were highly recommended by the Director of the Charity Navigator include:

Partners in Health. This group has been working for more than 20 years in Haiti and specializes in working for the poor in health care.

Partners in Health Care

Direct Relief International. Provides direct medical help, and has already established teams to begin treatment for the people in the earthquake. Read about what they are doing now.

AmeriCares. AmeriCares delivers medicines, medical supplies and aid to people in crisis around the world. Already on the ground in Haiti, you can read about their progress.

Water Missions International. This organization provides safe, clean water in developing countries and in disaster areas.

Save the Children. The mission of this organization is to create lasting, positive change in the lives of children. You can view a short video of the work that they do.

And here is a video of Michele Obama on the Haiti response around the world.