Grading Games, Recess Restrictions

Purple is replacing red as the color of correction, according to this Boston Globe story.

Red is too associated with wrongness. Green and yellow don't offer enough contrast. Orange is too close to red. Purple is "friendlier." So pen makers are boosting production of purple pens and office supply stores are thinking purple.

A mix of red and blue, the color purple embodies red's sense of authority but also blue's association with serenity, making it a less negative and more constructive color for correcting student papers, color psychologists said. Purple calls attention to itself without being too aggressive. And because the color is linked to creativity and royalty, it is also more encouraging to students.

"The concept of purple as a replacement for red is a pretty good idea," said Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, N.J., and author of five books on color. "You soften the blow of red. Red is a bit over-the-top in its aggression."

The Globe quotes an immigrant mother who's taking English classes. Victoria Nedruban stands up for red.

"I hate red," she said. "But because I hate it, I want to work harder to make sure there isn't any red on my papers."

Apparently, she hasn't assimilated 21st century American values.

C for Effort

Benedict College, a historically black college in South Carolina, has fired two science professors for refusing to go along with "effort-based grading." From The State:

Benedict College has fired two professors who refused to go along with a policy that says freshmen are awarded 60 percent of their grades based on effort and the rest on their work's academic quality.

Benedict President David Swinton says the Success Equals Effort policy gives struggling freshmen a chance to adapt to college academics. He expects students to improve — the formula drops to 50-50 in the sophomore year and isn't used in the junior or senior year. But he says he's "interested in where they are at when they graduate, not where they are when they get here."

Students "have to get an A in effort to guarantee that if they fail the subject matter, they can get the minimum passing grade," Swinton said. "I don't think that's a bad thing."

Professors Milwood Motley and Larry Williams were fired for rejecting the policy. Neither had tenure.

Eventually, effort leads to success, but not necessarily in the first year of college for students who start without basic skills and knowledge. And how did students get so far behind? They've been passed through school without learning the subject matter. It's the Low Standards Equals Failure plan.

KIPP Works Harder

Wednesday was opening day for KIPP Heartwood Academy, a middle school in East San Jose.

In the Washington Post, Jay Mathews describes how novice teachers Mike Feinberg and David Levin founded KIPP, a national network of charters targeting very disadvantaged minority communities. The results are impressive.

One hundred percent of eighth-graders at KIPP Academy Houston passed the Texas state tests last year. KIPP Academy New York ranks in the top 10 percent of all New York city schools. Students at KIPP schools opened since 2001 averaged score increases last year of 39 percent in mathematics and 20 percent in reading. About 80 percent of KIPP students in 15 states and the District have family incomes low enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies, and they are all of the hormone-addled middle school age that makes even teachers at wealthy private schools tremble. (KIPP is starting an elementary and a high school in Houston this year.)

Feinberg and Levin say they want discipline, attention and steady, measurable progress that supplants the distractions of their students' homes and neighborhoods.

KIPP students go to school for as much as nine and a half hours a day, come in regularly on Saturdays and attend a mandatory summer school. They get a lot more time to learn. Discipline is enforced consistently so distractions are minimized. Despite paying teachers more to work longer hours, KIPP spends only about 13 percent more than the national average.

"In some expensive cities like New York, however, KIPP is still spending less per student than regular public schools are," Mathews writes.

Regulating Recess

Child's play is too dangerous for recess, school administrators are deciding. Josh Cohen links to a Sacramento Bee story:

Concerned about safety and injuries and worried about bullying, violence, self-esteem and lawsuits, school officials have clamped down on the traditional games from years past.

Gone from many blacktops are tag, dodgeball and any game involving bodily contact. In are organized relay races and adult-supervised activities.

At one school, children aren't allowed to push each other on the swings. Administrators worry about "bullying and potential lawsuits from parents."

Many see the recess restrictions as part of larger cultural shifts. Schools now must craft lesson plans on responsibility, honesty and violence prevention, Maeola Beitzel Principal Judy Hunt-Brown said. And those lessons, among other things, fit neatly into the structured, organized play so prevalent on today's schoolyard.

"To some degree, the school has needed to take a larger role in teaching children how to play with each other — the whole taking turns, how to deal with conflict," Hunt-Brown said.

When I was a kid — OK, I'm about the same age as Beaver Cleaver — children worked these things out for ourselves. Of course, we had competent parents who'd taught us self-control and basic good manners.


Paula Foster of Hillsboro, Ore., writes:

When we lived in California, we belonged to a "homebased" charter. Test scores were low because over half of the home-schooled kids had been two to four grade levels behind in public school. Many of the kids were picked on, had learning disabilities, or had an administration that didn't know how to maintain discipline. In the majority of the cases, these kids became one to two grade levels ahead within a year.  

Susan Wiederhold writes:

I didn't expect any teacher association or union to find charter schools good. I've had one daughter in Ridgeview Classical School in Fort Collins, Colo., for three years. I'll have one entering kindergarten there after Labor Day, and a sophomore entering after five years of homeschooling.

I've had children in schools in Texas, North Carolina and Colorado, and I will take the charter schools over the regular school district every time. I prefer having a teacher responsible to me, and principals responsible to the parents.

Beth Davis writes:

I had the honor of teaching at a charter school for three years. I found that many of the parents were serious about their child's education. The classroom size was small (16). I had several students who were significantly behind their peers. Many of my students lacked confidence in themselves. I helped those students find the confidence to excel, and they did beyond my expectations.    

Many of my students had been tested and labeled by traditional schools. The stigma of being removed from the classroom for "special" classes can be devastating to a child.  By my third year of teaching, my fifth graders were first in reading in a county that included 58 elementary schools. 

John Ashman writes:

My father was a teacher. Speak with any teacher about their school and you'll get several earfuls of how the system is broken:

Good teachers are suppressed, bad ones elevated, children untouchable, the administration suffocating. But ask about vouchers or charter schools and they suddenly fight back like a militant Iraqi nationalist that hates America more than Saddam. In the entire time my father was teaching, he complained about and fought the system until it nearly ate him up. And yet, he hated the idea of vouchers even more.

Paul Smith of Las Cruces, N.M., writes:

I'm about to start education grad school in New Mexico. It's amazing to me how politicized education has become. The campus halls are decked with radical left-wing propaganda and a creepy revisionist take on history. If I hear the word “diversity” again, I'm going to throw up. Honestly, I've had second thoughts about becoming a teacher. When I enter the classroom, I won't wear my politics on my sleeve like these bozos.

I'm not surprised to read that American Federation of Teachers’ report about charter schools was published in the New York Times, or that they seek to put blame on President Bush. I will never join the AFT, which, in my humble opinion, is more interested in its own political power than any decisive or practical means of educating our nation's young people.

Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She's writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

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