Colorado school bars transgendered 1st-grader from using girls' restroom
Coy Mathis, a first-grader, has been banned from using girls' restrooms at her Colorado school.
February 27th, 2013
03:00 PM ET

Colorado school bars transgendered 1st-grader from using girls' restroom

By Ed Payne, CNN

(CNN) - Just like she did during the first half of the school year, first-grader Coy Mathis wants to use the girls' restroom at her Colorado elementary school. But school officials won't let her.

The reason? Coy is transgendered, born with male sex organs but a child who identifies herself as female.

She dressed as a girl for most of last year. And her passport and state-issued identification recognize her as female.

In December, the Fountain-Fort Carson School District informed Coy's parents that Coy would be barred from using the girls' restrooms at Eagleside Elementary in Fountain after winter break.

Transgender kids: Painful quest to be who they are

She could instead use the boys' bathroom, gender-neutral faculty bathrooms or the nurse's bathroom, the district said.

In making the decision, the district "took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls' bathroom would have as Coy grew older," attorney W. Kelly Dude said."However, I'm certain you can appreciate that as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls' restroom."

Coy's parents see it differently.

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January 3rd, 2013
09:57 AM ET

Sandy Hook students return to class for first time since Newtown shooting

By Olivia Smith and David Ariosto, CNN

(CNN) - For the first time since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Christine Wilford plans do something remarkable on Thursday that once was routine: drop her child off at school.

The last time her 7-year-old son, Richie, was in class was on December 14, when a gunman smashed his way into his school in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 26 children and adults.

As shots rang out, Richie's teacher locked the door and huddled her students into the corner as the shooter roamed the hallways, wielding an AR-15 assault rifle and firing.

When it appeared safe, the children were then hurried away to a nearby fire station, where teary parents either reunited with their sons and daughters or learned that they had been killed.

Nearly a month later, Wilford said her son still has trouble sleeping and is often scared by loud noises.

Newtown chooses faith, charity, hope

But on Thursday, he will join hundreds of other Newtown students returning to class for the first time since the tragedy.

"We think it's good he's going back," Wilford said. "If I leave my child anywhere, I'm leaving a piece of my heart, so it's difficult to leave him."

But Richie apparently isn't afraid and says he's looking forward to seeing his friends, she said.

They won't be attending Sandy Hook Elementary, which police say remains part of an ongoing investigation into Adam Lanza, the gunman who also killed his mother before opening fire at the school.

Instead, Richie and his classmates are expected to travel to Chalk Hill Middle School in the nearby town of Monroe, where a green-and-white banner greeting the children hangs on a fence.

Read the full story

December 13th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

270 students from 30 countries in 1 school

By Radina Gigova, CNN

Decatur, Georgia (CNN) - Most students are not exactly thrilled when it comes to school and homework but three international fifth-graders might be an exception to the rule.

Igey Muzeleya, 11, grew up in Tanzania. His family moved to the United States six years ago to escape the wave of violence.

Eleven-year-old Aung Zawl is from Myanmar, also known as Burma. He has been living in the U.S. for about two years.

Paria Foroughi, 10, was born in Iran. Her parents wanted better educational opportunities for their children and the family also immigrated to America.

Muzeleya, Zawl and Foroughi are students at the International Community School in Decatur, Georgia, and they rarely miss a day of school.

"I like the school, because it's a fun place to be, fun place to learn and it's really cool to be in the school with all your friends," Muzeleya said.

“I like all the classes,” Foroughi said. “They all teach you something interesting, something that I haven’t learned before.”

The charter school enrolls about 270 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The real challenge, though, is educating students from more than 30 countries, some of whom have never before attended school or don't speak English.
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Overheard on CNN.com: Should you hold your child back?
November 19th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Should you hold your child back?

by John Martin, CNN

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community. Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.

(CNN) – Donna McClintock, the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. wrote last week's op-ed on redshirting kindergartners. You may have heard the term applied to college football players, but this isn't a sports story. Academic redshirting means holding a child back from school until he or she is ready. In the U.S., most kindergartners are five-year olds, so a redshirted kindergartner is usually six. McClintock says that when asking whether to redshirt a young child, "parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend."

Some readers questioned whether any child should ever be redshirted:

Rob Breisch: I can honestly say by my own example that it's far better not to redshirt your children – you are causing a life of issues from being not good enough for anyone's standards,and your children will face ridicule all their lives about it. So do them and yourself a favor – advance them and if required spend more time helping them learn.You can destroy a child by just setting them back like it's no big deal. Your child is not a toy nor a rat – so treat them with more respect and dignity and reach out and help them along – but don't make them repeat any grade!

Scott B: I know holding my kid back would be a very last resort. Regardless of what the article says, I went to school and remember how some of those held back kids were treated. About the only time it was a good thing was when they had a car before most of the class. Also, unless the kid simply can't cut it, I'd rather they be in a learning environment that challenges them more than I would want them to get better grades.

Amy: Everyone says "each child is different," and that's certainly true to some extent; however, there is a tendency for some parents to think that their child is particularly unique, different, special, etc. and must be treated differently (i.e. holding him/her back) because of that dazzling uniqueness.... With respect, I think some parents (especially moms) need to stop obsessing about this. Kids are more capable than many parents give them credit for.

Jeanne: What really annoys me is the parents who hold their kids back, so their kids are more than a year older than my kid, and then they claim that the curriculum isn't challenging enough. That is because your 7 1/2-year-old is supposed to be doing second grade work, not first grade.... So then the kid needs differentiated instruction, special trips to the library, and reading enrichment. Meanwhile my age appropriate 5-year-old summer birthday learns at the pace of the curriculum, because that is the age it is designed for. No, she's not special or advanced like your kid, but hey, she's a year and a half younger, and would have gone nuts being stuck in preschool another year. I still think my kid is getting the better end of the deal.

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My View: Kindergarten redshirting different for each child
November 12th, 2012
03:51 AM ET

My View: Kindergarten redshirting different for each child

Courtesy Barbara McClintockBy Donna McClintock, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Donna McClintock is the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. She has served in a leadership role in early childhood education for more than 29 years and has been in a senior executive leadership role for more than a decade. She has authored several books on the topic of early childhood education, including “The Heart Connector Series.”

I often read materials that approach a subject as if there were only one solution. Such is the case of “redshirting” children for kindergarten, which is the practice of holding a child back from school until he turns six. There is certainly a best answer for each child, and parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend.

No matter WHAT you decide to do, we know for sure that parents must understand that a child’s brain cannot be redshirted or held back. The child’s experiences during the fifth and sixth year of life are extremely important because the brain continues to develop and form synapses, and learning is at an all-time high.

It is the responsibility of parents and educators to challenge, nurture, inspire and ignite in our children a love of learning and exploration during this critical time. How do you do this when formal education in a school system begins as an individual choice for each child? There are several key factors to consider, but the child’s individual needs are the trump card in this decision.

Most research clearly shows that any gaps in levels of success between younger and older children are usually bridged by the third grade. This leaves parents to wonder if there is an advantage to holding their child back. I offer the position that the type of program your child is in during the first year of formal school is really the key to success.

Each child deserves a developmentally appropriate setting that understands how children 5 to 6 years of age learn, whether that is a formalized kindergarten program, the home environment provided by parents, or another alternative.
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5 tips for a better parent-teacher conference
October 18th, 2012
04:20 AM ET

5 tips for a better parent-teacher conference

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) - For many parents and teachers, it’s the first opportunity of the school year to sit down face to face and discuss everything from curriculum to issues that arise in the classroom.  Here are some tips from both sides of the desk on how to make the most of a parent-teacher conference.

Do your homework

Talking to your child before the conference to find out if he has any questions or concerns of his own can give you ideas of what to address with the teacher.  A good next step:  having a physical list of questions.

The National PTA says that the “questions you ask during the conference can help you express your hopes for the student’s success in class and for the teacher.”

It’s an idea echoed by Ryan Koczot, an award-winning middle school teacher in North Carolina.  “Parents should come to the conference prepared (note pad, pen, list of questions) - just like teachers should be prepared (information on the child, progress report, questions for the parent).”  This will help get everyone on the same page.
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5 things teachers want parents to know
October 10th, 2012
04:18 AM ET

5 things teachers want parents to know

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) - During the average school day, teachers are with children as many waking hours as parents are. But many educators believe there’s a short in the communication lines between themselves and parents. When asked what they’d want parents to know about education, not all of the teachers we spoke to wished to be named - but they did share many common concerns from the classroom.

1. We're on the same team

First and foremost, teachers want students to thrive in the classroom, and they could use your help.

Jennifer Bell, a 7th grade social studies teacher in Tennessee, suggests that parents do all they can to ensure that students are doing their homework, exercising, eating well and sleeping. Whether students come to class tired or ready to learn can hinge on parents’ involvement. “We need their support,” she says. “We can’t do this on our own.”

In the words of an elementary school teacher from Georgia, “We are professionals. Teaching children is our area of expertise. Your child benefits more when you support me.”

And while educators expect students to make mistakes, Mississippi teacher Beth Wilbanks Smith asks parents to help them learn from those mistakes. “They will grow to be productive citizens if we all work as a unified force,” she writes.
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The power of parents in a public school
Parent Vicki Sando reads to a group of students on the P.S. 41 Green Roof.
October 4th, 2012
04:16 AM ET

The power of parents in a public school

By Rose Arce, CNN

Editor’s note: Rose Arce is a senior producer in CNN’s New York Bureau who is also a regular contributor to Mamiverse.

(CNN) - I walked into Room 308 this year and made a beeline to see Luna’s contribution to the Art Wall, a rosy-cheeked self-portrait with an essay on her personal goal: learning to say hello to strangers. Her teacher has no such problem.

“Hello, everyone!” Clare O’Connell said brightly before telling parents about the hurdles in the second-grade curriculum.

She had me at “hello.”

My daughter’s teacher has the bandwidth to worry about her social development and teach beyond the test? And that’s not all the good news at school this year. Looming behind “Ms. Clare,” like the screen at an Apple product launch, was a gleaming new smart board, a silver-toned Mac and a camera that can shoot and project documents. There was also a calendar listing all the days the children of Room 308 will have classes in art, dance, chess, science (twice a week!), music and gym and a lunch program that provides fresh vegetables and fruits from recipes suggested by famous chefs.

My second-grader has that elusive part of the American dream: a good local public school. It’s not sponsored by IBM. It doesn’t live off a Gates Foundation grant. It’s not a charter or a magnet or a choice school with a crazy admissions process or breathtaking lottery. It isn’t part of a social experiment devised by the U.S. Department of Education and “seeded,” as government people love to say, with public money. It doesn’t qualify for Title I or any other numerical or alphabetical federal program with a pot of cash that resulted from a court decision or congressional act. The parents made it happen.

Our daughter was only 3 the first time we stepped into P.S. 41. There was a Class A auditorium, two playgrounds with artists’ murals, a fully stocked library, morning tutoring and afternoon chess, classrooms devoted to arts and sciences – all organized or paid for by parents. One of the parents, Vicki Sando, had launched a project to transform the roof into a huge science garden.

So far the efforts at environmental education were some big planters in the middle yard. Mysteriously, Principal Kelly Shannon talked about the rooftop garden as a sure thing. “The thing that makes this a great school is that the parents are so involved,” she said.

But it soon became clear that the conversation was going to be less about why you chose this school than whether to opt out. Ominous leaflets rallied parents to storm City Hall over rising class sizes. A woman spoke passionately about the wait lists that would send children to neighboring schools to avoid overcrowding. Grim scenarios were painted of staff layoffs, overworked teachers and scant supplies.
FULL POST

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Back to school by the numbers
September 4th, 2012
04:10 AM ET

Back to school by the numbers

By Amy Roberts and Caitlin Stark, CNN Library

(CNN) - It’s back to school time. Starting dates around the U.S. vary by state and district: Some schools started on different dates in August, while others start this week.  As we embark on the 2012-2013 academic year, here’s a numerical snapshot of education in the U.S.

Grades K-12

54.7 million – Number of students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools, both public and private, in the U.S. in 2011.

3.7 million – Elementary and secondary school teachers working in U.S. schools in 2011.

$11,467 – The estimated average amount a typical public school will spend on each student in 2012-2013.

31.8 million – Number of children who received free or reduced price lunches through the National School Lunch Program in 2011.

3.4 million – Students expected to graduate from high school in the 2012-2013 school year.
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August 24th, 2012
02:25 PM ET

Florida's last one-room schoolhouse endures

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN)–Rebekah Lester will be Duette Elementary school's new teacher this school year. With only one teacher, Duette is the last school of its kind in Florida.

"You could call it a one-room schoolhouse but essentially the students are in one room with one teacher," Lester told CNN affiliate WTSP. The elementary school serves 18 students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

The building, which was built in 1930 by volunteers, has five rooms, but only one classroom. But the school is equipped with technology – each student has his or her own laptop – and the students will be prepared for Florida's standardized tests, says Lester.

For several years, prinicipal and former teacher Donna King went without a salary as she managed to keep the school open. Now she says she hopes to focus on fundraising for the school, which reimburses the district for Lester's salary.

Before King recruited Lester, parents were worried that the school might have to close when King announced her retirement from teaching last year.

Lester is no stranger to Duette, either. Her oldest child is a Duette alumnus who went on to be a high school honor student and her youngest is enrolling at the school this year.

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