Judge Issues Temporary Ruling in City College Accreditation Dispute

On Friday, a judge issued a temporary ruling that may allow City College of San Francisco to resubmit evidence in its fight to maintain accreditation. We'll discuss the decision and its possible effects on the college.

Oakland Calls on Charters to Revive Underperforming Schools

Citing low test scores and declining enrollment, Oakland Schools Superintendent Antwan Wilson has announced a plan to revive five of Oakland's most troubled schools. Under the Intensive Support Schools Initiative, the district will invite charter organizations and other groups to submit proposals to redesign the schools and re-launch them in 2016. What will the plan mean for students, parents and teachers?

PBS NewsHour

Dartmouth bans hard liquor in effort to address ‘at-risk’ behavior

         glasses on Darmouth College's bookstore website. Image by Ruth Tam.

Shot glasses currently for sale on Dartmouth University’s bookstore website. Image by Ruth Tam.

Dartmouth University announced that the school would ban any liquor 30 proof or higher and add a mandatory sexual assault prevention program for students to attend for all four years. Officials have also ended pledging for student organizations, where drinking-related hazing often occurs.

“Beginning today, Dartmouth will take a lead among colleges in dealing with hard alcohol on campus. Hard alcohol will not be served at events open to the public — whether the event is sponsored by the college or by student organizations,” President Phil Hanlon said in a speech Thursday. “Penalties for students found in possession of hard alcohol will ramp up. And so will penalties for those who purchase and provide any alcohol to minors.

Dartmouth isn’t the first school to ban hard alcohol — Bates and Bowdoin have similar rules — but it is the first Ivy League school to do so, according to the AP. The school is also the first outside of military schools to require sexual assault prevention education all four years.

The changes are part of a collective push to end sexual violence on campus, as Dartmouth is one of 95 schools under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases.

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Can a text message help bridge the ‘word gap’ for low income children?

girl texting. Photo by Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images

Researchers have found that sending parents a simple text message that includes tips for improving their child’s literacy can have a positive effect. Photo by Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images

Studies show that by age four, kids from low-income households will hear 30 million less words than their more affluent counterparts, who get more quality face-time with caretakers. That means the already disadvantaged are falling behind before the academic race has even begun. Educators have so far been largely unsuccessful when it comes to finding ways to bridge the so-called “word gap.”

But researchers at Stanford University think they may have found a solution. Susanna Loeb and Ben York at Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, founded Ready4K!, a program that sends parents of preschoolers in a low-income San Francisco school district weekly tips via text message on how to improve their children’s literacy. The initiative is designed to fit within the lives of families, rather than adding yet another burden.

Loeb and York tested their initiative last year with more than 500 families. Half of the families received three different text messages pertaining to literacy each week. A message might contain a tip, for instance: “Say two words to your child that start with the same sound, like happy and healthy. Then ask: can you hear the hhh sound?” The text messages started out simple and became progressively more advanced, with the topics being re-introduced throughout the year for reinforcement. Meanwhile, the other half of the test group received standard school-related announcements, such as vaccination reminders. The end result: kids whose parents received advice gained the equivalent of two to three months of classroom time. (The parents didn’t know ahead of time their children would be tested.) The program proved to be especially effective with black and Hispanic families — groups that according to the study tend to be more active texters. The estimated cost for schools to roll it out, researchers said, is $1 per family.

Traditional intervention programs often require parents to sit through multi-hour information-intensive workshops, but once they leave, Loeb points out, there is inevitably little follow-through. Not because parents don’t care — but because they fall back into their natural routines. “This program utilizes technology to bring school and home closer together,” says Pam Allyn, an international literacy expert and author of several books on the subject. “It goes right to the source.” And, sure enough, with prompting in the moment, parents were more likely to do things like tell their kids stories, work on puzzles with them or stop and point out words that start with the same letter.

Still, Timothy Shanahan, the former director of reading for the Chicago Public Schools and an urban education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says he’s only cautiously optimistic. He points out that families receiving the text messages were also part of a larger literacy outreach effort that provided reading materials as well. And much of the word gap stems from disadvantaged households not even having access to books and other texts. Plus, there are language barriers with immigrant parents. But what interests Shanahan is that unlike most of the technology he sees being developed that is aimed at creating resources, this system stimulates people to use what’s already out there. “It looks like a technology with real power,” he says.

The PBS NewsHour is sharing this story as part of our partnership with OZY Media.

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‘Baby-talk’ might not be easy to understand for kids, study finds

A mother picks lemons with her daughter. Credit: AE Pictures Inc. via Getty Images

A mother talks to her daughter while picking lemons. Credit: AE Pictures Inc. via Getty Images

Parents may be using “baby-talk” when speaking to infants with the goal of making it easier for babies to understand, but a new Japanese study shows this may have the opposite effect.

Two research teams, one in Japan and one in Paris, published their findings in Psychological Science to determine if mothers do speak more clearly to infants. Researchers in Tokyo recorded 22 Japanese mothers speaking to their children, all 18-24 months, as well as to an experimenter. Over the next five years, researchers analyzed the speech and found when talking to the experimenter, mothers spoke more clearly than when speaking to their babies.

The researchers measured the acoustics between two syllables, and looked at the 118 most frequent syllables in the 14 hours of speech.

Whether speaking more clearly boosts language retention has yet to be studied, but the findings do prove that “baby-talk” may not have the effect new parents want.

“This finding is important because it challenges the widespread view that parents do and should hyperarticulate, using very robust data and an analysis based on a study of 10 times as many syllable contrasts as previous work,” says Alejandrina Cristia, a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris.

The researchers said it’s possible mothers are speaking to their children less clearly because they are concentrating on engaging their child’s attention or communicating emotions.

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When my student told me she hates Malala, it made me rethink how I teach

         by the NewsHour's American Graduate Project

Girls return to their school in Peshawar on Jan. 12 after it was devastated by a Taliban attack that killed 145 people. Photo by Khuram Parvez/Reuters

Editor’s Note: Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai has garnered support all over the world and earned a Nobel Peace Prize last year for her work advocating for girls’ education. Below, teacher Alison Walter explains how a student’s unexpected opinion of Malala gave her a new approach to global lessons.

“Oh, Malala Yousafzai? Tsk. I hate that girl.”

teachersloungeI stared at my student, my head filling with the panicky buzz that teachers get when a child says something socially unacceptable — What do I say now? Where is this attitude coming from? Thank goodness it’s after-school tutoring and the other kids aren’t in here …

Part of my disbelief came from the fact that, until that point, I would have compared this girl to Malala — they were both Pakistani, both very conscientious students, both concerned with what was happening in the world around them and both living in different countries in order to get the education that they and their families wanted. So, since no good response came to mind, I asked, “Why do you hate Malala?”

My student launched into a very long, very well-thought-out critique of how foreign governments treated Malala as a martyr, giving her benefits like a house and money while women from her village were suffering attacks by the Taliban as retribution. [Editors' note: According to Louis Belanger of the Malala Fund, the organization advocates for girls' education in Pakistan and called on the U.S. and British governments to increase funding in the country. The Malala Fund is currently supporting several projects in Pakistan amounting to more than $1.3 million over the next three years. For more information on the Malala Fund, visit their website.]

“How is she helping Pakistan? I want to go back and help my country; that’s why I am getting an education here. She is not helping them. Why does she not ask Britain and the U.S. to give money to the Pakistan government for education?” This outburst turned into a productive conversation about the troubled relationship that the United States has with Pakistan — and with that conversation, a realization that I had been doing something wrong.

I teach Civics — the structure, purpose, and history of American government. In several of my class sections, more than half of my students were born outside of the United States, and a quarter of them speak little to no English. I had been so focused on trying to give them the background to understand American culture, politics and government that I had neglected to leave room for their own backgrounds and experiences.

I teach American government in a global classroom. My students come from five of the seven continents, and a casual count brings me to around 20 different countries of birth. My students spend half of their day on their phones, on Instagram and Twitter. My students know exactly what is happening in the world, as long as it is relevant to their friends, their parents or their news feeds. Although I am required to discuss American politics, if I do not address what drove my students from their homes and what their families are still facing, I leave half of my class in the dust.

We are teaching and raising a generation that has the world in their pocket. Since my conversation about Malala, I have made two changes to open my classroom up to the world.

First, I have stopped fighting the weird obsessions that my 8th graders bring into class with them — one day it’s the Illuminati, another day it’s an utter conviction that they will die from Ebola. Even though the standards and curriculum guidelines don’t seem to connect to global politics, I find a way to make it work. Which branch of government is in charge of health workers abroad during a global pandemic? Are conspiracy theories another tool that the media use to influence elections?

Second, I am much more careful with choice in my classroom. Frequently, I will give students a selection of three to five different reading options: newspaper articles, textbook excerpts, whatever medium I can use to get content across. Now, instead of focusing on generic high-interest topics like football or Justin Bieber, I think about what my students have brought up that week. Maybe my West African student wants to read about hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, since he was asking me why people can’t afford food in some countries. Then again, he might still choose the article about sports but if I never give him the option, I’ll never know.

In the crush of testing, standards and the pitfalls facing students in poverty, it is easy to lose sight of the incredible richness that our interconnected world can offer. So far, I have been able to find a few opportunities to pull the world into my classroom.

What other ideas can you provide to me and to your colleagues? I’m always looking for more.

Alison Walter is a middle school civics teacher in northern Virginia.

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