Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Teens Gone Mobile

According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, millennials are changing their social networking practices as technology becomes more mobile.  A lessor percentage of teens are blogging, instead choosing to micro-blog and communicate in the form of status lines primarily using social-networking sites.  A sort of "fast food" approach to communication.

A brief summary of this latest report shows:

As of September 2009, 93% of American teens between the ages of 12 and 17 went online, a number that has remained stable since November 2006.

  • Blogging has declined in popularity among both teens and young adults since 2006. Blog commenting has also dropped among teens.
  • While blogging among adults as a whole has remained steady, the prevalence of blogging within specific age groups has changed dramatically in recent years. Specifically, a sharp decline in blogging by young adults has been tempered by a corresponding increase in blogging among older adults.
  • Both teen and adult use of social networking sites has risen significantly, yet there are shifts and some drops in the proportion of teens using several social networking site features.
  • Teens are not using Twitter in large numbers. While teens are bigger users of almost all other online applications, Twitter is an exception.
  • Wireless internet use rates are especially high among young adults, and the laptop has replaced the desktop as the computer of choice among those under thirty.
  • Cell phone ownership is nearly ubiquitous among teens and young adults, and much of the growth in teen cell phone ownership has been driven by adoption among the youngest teens.
  • Internet use is near‐ubiquitous among teens and young adults. In the last decade, the young adult internet population has remained the most likely to go online.
 You can read the entire report, including an expansion of the key findings summary at‐Media‐and‐Young‐Adults.aspx.

I would be interested in opinions on how these changes may impact schools and the resulting greater use of mobile technology in education.  Specifically:

  1. If teens are losing interest in blogging, how will this impact efforts at schools to exploit their use of technology to improve literacy skills?
  2. How can schools effectively utilize the growth in social-networking and micro-blogging to develop collaborative, problem-solving skills?
  3. Are traditional computer labs in schools going the way of the dinosaur?  Should schools even be investing in computing devices or simply finding ways to open existing networks to a variety of personal digital devices?
  4. Given the growing use of mobile technology, once and for all should bans on personal communication devices (aka, cell phones) in schools finally be scrapped in favor of responsibility-based acceptable use policies?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Persistent Presidents' Day Myth

UPDATES (2/14/16): 

USA Today - Why Presidents' Day? 

Smithsonian Institute - "Presidents' Day" Doesn't Actually Exist

The American Spectator - The Presidents' Day Myth

Christian Science Monitor - Why does myth of US Presidents Day persist? (+video)

The federal holiday observed on the third Monday in February is officially Washington's Birthday. But many Americans believe incorrectly that this holiday is actually "Presidents' Day" in honor of both Presidents Washington and Lincoln, whose birthdays are February 22 and 12, respectively. Whichever name you give it may depend on the state you live in and how much television you watch.  Retail advertisers are the biggest promoters of the Presidents' Day moniker, which just goes to show you don't have to be intelligent to be in the advertising business.

States, of course, are not obliged to adopt federal holidays, which legally only affect federal offices and agencies. While most states have adopted Washington's Birthday, a handful officially celebrate Presidents' Day.  In the late 1870s, Senator Steven Wallace Dorsey (R-Arkansas) proposed the idea of adding Washington's birth date, February 22, to the four existing bank holidays previously approved in 1870.  Although signed into law January 31, 1879, by President Rutherford B. Hayes, Washington's Birthday wasn't legally adopted as a federal holiday until 1885.  Incidentally, Lincoln's Birthday never became a legal federal holiday.

In 1968, Congress passed the infamous Monday Holidays Act, which moved the official observance of Washington's birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February in deference to the desire of federal employees to enjoy more tax-funded three-day holiday weekends. At the same time, reformers had wanted to change the name of the holiday, to Presidents' Day, but that proposal was rejected by Congress, and the holiday remained officially Washington's Birthday.  Nevertheless, there has been a persistent popular misconception that the day had been officially renamed, in effect diluting the reason for the day in the first place, which is to honor our first president.  It was Representative Dan Heflin Kuykendall (R-Tennessee) who cut to the heart of the matter. "If we do this, 10 years from now our schoolchildren will not know or care when George Washington was born. They will know that in the middle of February they will have a 3-day weekend for some reason. This will come."

Kuykendall's dire prediction came true. While the name change has never been authorized by Congress, it has gained a strong hold on the public consciousness, and is generally used on calendars, in advertising, and even incorrectly by many government agencies. Attempts have been made to legally require federal agencies to call the day Washington's Birthday, but to no avail.  The popular misconception appears to be ingrained in a society so easily misled by persistent media misinformation; the so-called "lemming effect."

According to C. L. Arbelbide, historian and storyteller specializing in federal holiday history and unique events associated with the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the National Mall, advertisers have provided the main impetus in destroying the tradition of Washington's Birthday:
For advertisers, the Monday holiday change was the goose that laid the golden "promotional" egg. Using Labor Day marketing as a guide, three-day weekend sales were expanded to include the new Monday holidays. Once the "Uniform Monday Holiday Law" was implemented, it took just under a decade to build a head of national promotional sales steam.

Local advertisers morphed both "Abraham Lincoln's Birthday" and "George Washington's Birthday" into the sales sound bite "President's Day," expanding the traditional three-day sales to begin before Lincoln's birth date and end after Washington's February 22 birth. In some instances, advertisers promoted the sales campaign through the entire month of February. To the unsuspecting public, the term linking both presidential birthdays seemed to explain the repositioning of the holiday between two high-profile presidential birthdays.

After a decade of local sporadic use, the catchall phrase took a national turn. By the mid-1980s, the term was appearing in a few Washington Post holiday advertisements and an occasional newspaper editorial. Three "spellings" of the advertising holiday ensued—one without an apostrophe and two promoting a floating apostrophe. The Associated Press stylebook placed the apostrophe between the "t" and "s" ("President's Day"), while grammatical purists positioned the apostrophe after the "s" believing Presidents' deferred the day to the "many" rather than one singular "President."

Advertising had its effects on various calendar manufacturers who, determining their own spelling, began substituting Presidents' Day for the real thing. Eventually, when printed in the newspaper or seen on the calendar, few gave thought to its accuracy.
"By George, IT IS Washington's Birthday!" in Prologue Magazine, Winter 2004, Vol. 36, No. 4

Despite this popular mistake, Section 6103 of Title 5, United States Code, currently designates this legal federal holiday on the third Monday in February as "Washington's Birthday."

"His example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read."
John Adams, Message to the U.S. Senate, December 19, 1799

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Charters Contributing to Greater Segregation?

The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice just released a new policy brief that points towards increasing segregation that may be caused by charter schools operated by education management organizations (EMOs).  According to the organization's website:

"This report, which is a comprehensive examination of enrollment patterns in charter schools operated by Education Management organizations (EMOs), finds that charter schools run by EMOs are segregated by race, family income, disabilities and English language learner status as compared with their local public schools districts."

The complete report can be accessed on the organization's website.  Here is a summary of the five key findings in this study:

• Charter schools operated by EMOs tend to be strongly racial segregative for
both minority and majority students as compared with the composition of the
sending district. Only one-fourth of the charter schools had a composition relatively
similar to that of the sending district.

• For economically challenged students, EMO-operated charter schools more
strongly segregate students than do their respective local districts. The student
population is pushed out to the extremes. Most charter schools were divided into
either very segregative high-income schools or very segregative low-income
schools. Between 70% and 73% of the schools were in the extreme categories
of the scale, depending on the comparison.

• EMO-operated schools consistently enrolled a lower proportion of special education
children than their home district. Past research has shown that charter
schools have less capacity for special education children. Thus, parents tended
to select away (or were counseled away) from charter schools. A small group
of charter schools focused on special needs children and were, consequently,
highly segregative in this regard.

• English Language Learners (ELL) were also consistently underrepresented in
charter schools in every comparison. While one-third of the EMO schools had
an ELL population similar to the sending district, the distribution was highly
skewed, with well over half the EMO schools being segregated.

• When examined for the years 2001 to 2007, the composition of the charter
schools trended closer to the public school district for each of the four demographic
groups examined. However, this phenomenon was an artifact of balancing
extremes. For both for-profit and nonprofit EMOs, the segregation patterns
of 2000-2001 were virtually identical to those in 2006-2007. Consequently,
a pattern of segregation attributable to EMO-operated schools is being

Michigan is one of the leading states as far as number of charter schools go.  Recent approved and proposed legislation take additional steps to protect charter schools from some of the same criticisms being thrown at traditional public school districts.  These include allowing charter schools to give preferences for enrollment from designated feeder schools and avoiding potential funding penalties when non-instructional costs exceed an arbitrary limit.  There are many other inequities within existing statutes and regulations but charter schools rarely draw the same scrutiny.

Many public school districts are willing to work alongside charters and private schools to ensure area students get the best possible choices that match their educational needs.  What we don't need though is more political posturing on behalf of the EMOs.  As the above findings point out, this can only lead to greater segregation in K-12 schooling.

Read what Dave Murray at The Grand Rapids Press has to say about the report.