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Little Economists

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The Economist is a goldmine for lesson plans. Witty captions and cartoons, brilliant data visualizations, and concise articles, make for a dynamic publication. The kind we want our students to be able to consume and produce (when they get older).

The Daily Charts section of The Economist website offers charts, maps, and graphs by subject (No more fish in the sea). When I come across a good visualization, I cut it out from the magazine (or print it out) and put it into a binder. Students can look through the binder for research ideas, debate research, hints about how to make their own visualizations, etc.

The Special Report section can jumpstart your expertise in a world issue (from the environmental waste crisis to the business of sport). All are downloadable PDFs on the website. I find these reports help me add current political and economic issues to my science, social studies, art, and mathematics content.

The Economist is known for its political cartoons. Look through KAL’s Cartoon Gallery to find cartoons relevant to your lesson plans. I’ve mediated great conversations and debates between students about these cartoons.

It’s important for your students to know you read – especially about issues that affect the world. I keep magazines and books around my desk and talk about issues that intrigue me while I’m reading. I hope this helps my students visualize themselves as older readers.

Have you used The Economist in your lesson plans? Are there other magazines you find useful?


Seattle Schools are Resegregating

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In “The Resegregation of Seattle Schools”  (Seattle Times) Linda Shaw discusses how demographic, economic, and political forces are resegregating schools. The news in the article wasn’t new to me – I’ve been following the debate about the resegregation of students and teachers for a few years. Many parents that I speak to don’t see an inherent flaw in segregation – they say that the race of students should not be a determinant of achievement. This ‘color blind’ rhetoric is dangerous because race and academic success are still linked in this country.

Quotation from Why Segregation Matters (Orfield and Lee, 2005):

Evidence of the Multidimensional Nature of Segregation in Education

Race is deeply and systematically linked to many forms of inequality in background, treatment, expectations and opportunities. From an educational perspective, perhaps the most important of those linkages is with the level of concentrated poverty in a school. These differences start at an early age. A comprehensive federal study of children across the country entering kindergarten shows very large differences in the acquisition of skills invaluable for school success long before the children ever enter a schoolhouse. Schools where almost all of the students come with these problems obviously face very different challenges than schools where some of the kindergarteners come better prepared.

Our study of metro Boston shows a strong relationship between segregation by race and poverty and teacher quality, test scores and dropout rates. In the entire metro region, 97 percent of the schools with less than a tenth white students face concentrated poverty compared to 1 percent of the schools with less than a tenth minority students. These differences were strongly related to the results on the high stakes MCAS state examinations.

Seattle policymakers have a hard choice to make. Voters are pushing for school choice – from charters, to open enrollment in public schools and school vouchers. Also, parents want to reap the rewards of moving into a nicer neighborhood, and are unwilling to have their children bussed to schools in poor communities. Is it possible to preserve school choice AND create a system where students all have access to resources normally found in middle and upper-class schools? What about the ’school within a school’ phenomenon: does desegregation matter if students segregate themselves in social situations or are placed on divergent academic tracks?

I am curious to see how the demographics of the schools I attended in Federal Way have changed (Federal Way is just outside of Seattle). My experiences with race in my elementary and middle school years prompted me to pursue scholarships and attend a private school (subject for another post). It is hard to draw conclusions from 3 years of numbers. The percentage of Hispanic students increased and the share of white students decreased for all of the schools. The number of students enrolled decreased as well. It would be interesting to obtain data from the past 10 – 20 years and run a few regressions.

Here is a quick check of demographic data (from schools I’ve attended):

Rainier View Elementary

Student Characteristics

Distribution of Student Ethnicity 2005 2006 2007
African American 12.75 15.65 14.80
Asian American 16.00 16.98 16.50
Hispanic 9.50 9.81 10.80
Native American 2.00 2.12 2.30
White 57.00 50.40 45.60
Pac Islander 1.00 .80 4.00
Multi-Racial 1.50 3.98 5.50
Other Student Characteristics 2005 2006 2007
Number of Students (Oct.) 400 353 375
Free/Reduced Meals 41.50% 47.3 53.0%
Green Gables Elementary:

Student Characteristics

Distribution of Student Ethnicity 2005 2006 2007
African American 13.79 13.38 11.80
Asian American 12.81 12.88 11.00
Hispanic 6.65 6.82 12.10
Native American .99 .25 .80
White 63.30 58.84 55.10
Pac Islander .49 3.54 5.40
Multi-Racial 1.48 3.28 2.30
Other Student Characteristics 2005 2006 2007
Number of Students (Oct.) 406 367 390
Free/Reduced Meals 25.1% 31.9% 33.9%
Saghalie Junior High:

Student Characteristics

Distribution of Student Ethnicity 2005 2006 2007
African American 21.31 20.25 21.90
Asian American 16.39 13.71 12.30
Hispanic 15.35 18.69 22.60
Native American 2.09 1.87 1.90
White 43.07 42.99 36.40
Pac Islander 1.19 1.25 2.20
Multi-Racial .60 .93 1.90
Other Student Characteristics 2005 2006 2007
Number of Students (Oct.) 674 632 585
Free/Reduced Meals 50.8% 52.9% 59.9%

Written by TeacherC

3 June 2008 at 1:23 am

Big lenders drop community college students from rolls

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Our economic crisis is disproportionately hurting lower-class citizens. Big lenders have cut off loan services for students of community colleges and less-selective four year colleges (NYT article here). Over 40% of college students attend these institutions. These institutions of higher education are often the bridge between the lower and middle class – they offer innovative professional tracks, serve students who do not fit into traditional educational settings (including students with disabilities, parents/caretakers, and gifted students) and provide many other important services to communities. In recent years, states have looked toward community colleges to shortages in the fields of nursing, teaching, transportation technology, air traffic control, and many other careers.

Cutting off funding opportunities for students who attend these institutions destroys another path toward economic mobility for millions. Moreover, there are may be a ripple effect felt in critical sectors of the economy.

What’s the solution? For the time being, students are able to find fallback loans with higher rates and less perks (ex – no more rate cuts for students who pay loans on time). Also, students who are not able to get as many loans as before have to assume credit card debt and/or work extra part-time jobs. This makes students less-likely to finish school or decreases their earnings once they leave college.

One solution, is to have professional organizations, nonprofits, and state/federal governments promise students repayment of loans if they finish school and take jobs in critical areas. This solution would be a band-aid for issues of equity and access that ripple throughout our education system. Lenders are dividing schools into a tiered system because they see the difference in earnings potential between ‘elite’ and ‘non-elite’ students.

Sadly Relevant/Cheesy Poster: