Monday, January 26, 2009

Education Round-Up

Interesting tidbits from the Indianapolis Star that I think are relevant to state education policy in general.

First, on cursive handwriting:
Learning to write in script is a time-honored tradition. But in today's time-starved classrooms, some around the country are questioning whether, given everything else vying for space in the curriculum and the increasing use of technology, teaching these children cursive is even necessary.
Lisa Jones, who teaches third grade at Edgelea Elementary, said she's noticed that consequence of the de-emphasis, not just by schools but by society: "The most difficult part for me is that now they can't read it, because they don't see it anywhere."
The article is pretty neutral in its coverage, but I see little reason for concern. Why do we have cursive writing in the first place? My guess (and is only a guess) is that cursive was more efficient in a handwriting heavy society because it required fewer lifts of the pen from the paper. Cursive writing is more difficult to read because many people develop different styles. Since most communication takes place in type print on the margin our time is better left to learning technology, science, and reading. Rather than being concerned that some people might not be able to read cursive, we should probably just expect others to drop cursive and leave their notes in print.

Next, on noncriminal teacher discipline:
Trina Moore lost her Greenfield teaching job in 2007 after she forged such a close friendship with one middle-schooler that they talked on the phone for 11 hours one day in June, even though the girl's mother had asked them to stop.

By all accounts, the relationship wasn't sexual, but e-mails and instant messages show that the 39-year-old and the seventh-grader had a cozy relationship. The girl's mother told the school they talked about being drunk and gossiped about students' sex lives, according to the principal's report on the conversation.


If Indiana's laws mirrored those elsewhere, the state would have known the district warned Moore in 1992 and again in 2002 against close friendships with students outside school. Her principal wrote that Moore lied to him about one relationship. Two parents sought restraining orders against Moore.

Even after Moore was fired, no one was required to tell the Indiana Department of Education about her case, and no one did. No action has been taken on her license, and she remains free to seek teaching jobs, although the state does not have a current teaching assignment on record for her.

In Indiana, school districts are required to report such information to the state only if a teacher is convicted of a serious crime. Some districts fear they could open themselves to lawsuits by sharing any other information about problem teachers, and others simply wish to keep embarrassing cases quiet.
The issue of personal privacy versus disclosure of information is certainly a interesting topic for discussion. Reputation is something that makes a lot of markets function well that otherwise would not. I don't have a suggestion here, but as a devil's advocate I would ask: If a teacher were to get a DUI, should parents of their students be informed? Should they be fired? Why teachers and not, say, safety inspectors, building architects, or mayors?

Normally the consumer would ultimately decide how these questions get answered, but the question is much more difficult in the public sector. Voters demand Angels because it is free for them to do so.

1 comment:

Hall Monitor said...

For more stories like this, check out The LEADER for crazy education headlines.