M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘education

Language curmudgeons: the next generation

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Over at msnbc.com, I recently chronicled the announcement that the Queen’s English Society is disbanding after 40 years of fighting to preserve the language in amber against the impurities of modern speech and Twitterese.

In the spirit of fairness, I wanted to point you to this gloriously dyspeptic objection in defense of the society and of “proper” English by Brendan O’Neill, the editor of Spiked, an author whom I admire.

I vigorously disagree with O’Neill here, but I get a big kick out of his precocious curmudgeonry. It’s worth a read.

And from the archives, here’s an explanation of why I write the way I write, for those of you who may wonder why I disagree when my own writing seems so formal.

Written by Alex

June 10, 2012 at 8:40 am

Every copy editor’s worst nightmare

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(Thanks to KXAN-TV of Austin, Texas)

Written by Alex

May 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm

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Police Blotter of the Day: Cop twice uses Taser on mom at Mississippi middle school

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A police officer working as a school resource officer in northern Mississippi twice stunned the mother of a Guntown Middle School pupil with a Taser during a heated argument at the school Wednesday morning.

The woman — identified as Michele Lee Eaton, 39, of Saltillo, about 15 miles north of Tupelo — was arrested on disorderly conduct, public profanity and other charges.

Guntown is where Adam Mayes, who allegedly killed a Tennessee woman and one of her daughters before  killing himself earlier this month, was spotted on a convenience store surveillance camera.

Full story (M. Alex Johnson/msnbc.com)

Written by Alex

May 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Reporting: Majority of states line up to ditch No Child Left Behind

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Since President Barack Obama announced last month that he would allow states to request waivers from mandatory participation in No Child Left Behind, at least 27 have already signaled that they will ask to opt out.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan — who had to follow No Child Left Behind when he was CEO of Chicago schools — isn’t just offering the waivers. He’s actively encouraging education officials to apply for them, he says, because it’s “fundamentally broken.”

What officials want to fix is the rigidity of the current law, which set standards so restrictive that entire schools are deemed to be failing if only a relatively few students don’t meet test standards.

Under current rules, a school’s success is based on a statewide test that assesses 40 categories. If just one subcategory — such as students with disabilities or those who are economically disadvantaged — doesn’t make its federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark, then the entire school fails.

What do you think? Who should measure how well our schools are doing?

Full story (Alex Johnson/msnbc.com-NBC News special report)

Written by Alex

September 30, 2011 at 7:41 am

Teacher layoffs raise class-size tensions

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Video: NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

Video: Higher projected classroom sizes have sparked a debate on whether student performance will suffer. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

As governments struggle to reduce education deficits, they are considering closing thousands of schools and laying off huge numbers of teachers. What will that do to class sizes, and what will it mean for pupils?

In fact, research into whether smaller classes actually improve academic performance is extensive but contradictory.

“Probably few issues in education have been studied as often as class size, yet few studies have produced satisfactory or consistent results,” said researchers at Health and Education Research Operative Services, a nonprofit foundation that studies education programs nationwide.

Full story (Rehema Ellis, Victor Limjoco and Alex Johnson/NBC News)

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Written by Alex

March 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Schools cut lunch options for kids who struggle to pay

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New federal nutrition regulations are in the works that could put an even bigger strain on the finances of already-struggling school meal programs. To encourage eligible children to sign up for federally subsidized free or reduced-price meals, some meal programs are serving them shrunken “alternate” lunches, often just two slices of bread, a slice of cheese and a 4-ounce juice cup.

If a school can get more eligible children enrolled, its direct costs go down because the federal government picks up more of the bill. Slenderized lunches, administrators say, are simply part of an aggressive campaign to make families aware of the benefit and get them signed up.

“If they need assistance, we give them assistance,” said Wayne Nagy, the Lee County district’s food and nutrition services director. But “if they don’t need assistance, we expect them to pay.”

Is that a creative way to address a shortage of school funding, or is it just punishing lower-income children? Hit the comments and let me know.

Full story (Alex Johnson/msnbc.com)

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Written by Alex

February 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

Why your child’s school bus has no seat belts

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NHTSA Crash Test Video

Video: Federal crash test video may look violent, but safety officials say much of the impact is absorbed by the foam padding on the seat in front. A lap or shoulder belt could cause significant neck and abdominal injuries.

If cars have seat belts, why aren’t they generally required in school buses? Because modern school buses are already remarkably safe, and because seat belts don’t work the same way in buses as they do cars, research shows.

Designers of modern school buses don’t trust squirmy children to use seat belts properly. Instead, they use a passive system called compartmentalization. Bus seats aren’t packed so closely together just to maximize capacity (although that’s one reason); they’re spaced tightly and covered with 4-inch-thick foam to form a protective bubble.

About 440,000 public school buses carry 24 million children more than 4.3 billion miles a year, but only about six children die each year in bus accidents, according to annual statistics compiled the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About 800 children, by contrast, die every year walking, biking or being driven to school in cars or other passenger vehicles.

Full story (Alex Johnson/msnbc.com)

Written by Alex

December 29, 2010 at 7:00 am

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