Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Seeking Aid, School Districts Change Teacher Evaluations, The New York Times

Fueled in part by efforts to qualify for the Obama administration’s Race to the Top federal grant program or waivers from the toughest conditions of No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era education law, 36 states and the District of Columbia have introduced new teacher evaluation policies in the past three years, according to the National Center on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. An increasing number of states are directing districts to use these evaluations in decisions about how teachers are granted tenure, promoted or fired.

Proponents say that current performance reviews are superficial and label virtually all teachers “satisfactory.” “When everyone is treated the same, I can’t think of a more demeaning way of treating people,” Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said in a telephone interview. “Far, far too few teachers receive honest feedback on what they’re doing.”

So far, attention has focused mainly on one element of the new evaluation systems, the requirement that districts derive a portion of a teacher’s rating from student performance on standardized tests. Anger over the use of test results exploded during the strike by the Chicago Teachers’ Union last month. But most of the new state policies also include a component based on classroom observations by principals, peers or outside evaluators.

El Paso Schools Confront Scandal of Students Who ‘Disappeared’ at Test Time, The New York Times

It sounded at first like a familiar story: school administrators, seeking to meet state and federal standards, fraudulently raised students’ scores on crucial exams.

But in the cheating scandal that has shaken the 64,000-student school district in this border city, administrators manipulated more than numbers. They are accused of keeping low-performing students out of classrooms altogether by improperly holding some back, accelerating others and preventing many from showing up for the tests or enrolling in school at all.

It led to a dramatic moment at the federal courthouse this month, when a former schools superintendent, Lorenzo Garcia, was sentenced to prison for his role in orchestrating the testing scandal. But for students and parents, the case did not end there. A federal investigation continues, with the likelihood of more arrests of administrators who helped Mr. Garcia.

Pakistan’s Malala:  Global symbol, but still just a kid, CNN

Eleven-year-olds sometimes have trouble sleeping through the night, kept awake by monsters they can’t see.

But Malala Yousufzai knew exactly what her monsters looked like.

They had long beards and dull-colored robes and had taken over her city in the Swat Valley, in northwestern Pakistan.

It was such a beautiful place once, so lush and untouched that tourists flocked there to ski. But that was before 2003, when the Taliban began using it as a base for operations in nearby Afghanistan.

The Taliban believe girls should not be educated, or for that matter, even leave the house. In Swat they worked viciously to make sure residents obeyed.

But this was not how Malala decided she would live. With the encouragement of her father, she began believing that she was stronger than the things that scared her.

Child Abuse Injuries Have Risen, Study Finds, U.S. News & World Report

Despite government agency reports suggesting a decrease in child abuse cases, new data show that the number of children hospitalized due to serious abuse-related injuries actually increased slightly from 1997 to 2009.

In the new study, researchers analyzed U.S. hospital statistics from the Kids Inpatient Database. During this 12-year period, the incidence of serious injuries due to child abuse — including fractures and abusive head trauma — increased by 4.9 percent. By contrast, child protective service records showed a 55 percent decrease in child abuse injuries in that time period.

The new findings appear online Oct. 1 and in the November print issue of Pediatrics.

Many reasons could account for the apparent disconnect, said study co-author Dr. John Mishel Leventhal, a professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine.

Allison Arterberry

About Allison Arterberry

Allison Arterberry is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2011 with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish. She has spent parts of her last two summers interning at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Currently, she is a Senior Articles Editor for the Houston Journal of International Law, the Secretary for the Labor & Employment Law Society as well as a member of the Career Development Student Advisory Board and the Association of Women in Law. Additionally, last year she was the Secretary for Aggie Law Society. Allison is most interested in child victim’s rights in the criminal system.

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