Utah lawmakers vote for abstinence-only sex education
March 13th, 2012
06:09 AM ET

Utah lawmakers vote for abstinence-only sex education

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) – When I was a senior in the late 1980s, my high school brought in a woman from Planned Parenthood to talk to my health class. I remember her because she had props a condom and a banana. Utah may outlaw lessons like that one very soon. The state's legislature passed a bill mandating that when it comes to sex education, public schools must teach about abstinence, and almost nothing else.

If the bill is signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah's teachers will not be allowed to inform students about contraceptives, "the intricacies of intercourse," homosexuality, or sexual activity outside of marriage. The bill says teachers would have to inform students that, "abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases." Teachers would still be allowed to provide instruction on male and female physiology and anatomy, as well as health issues like AIDS/HIV. The proposed law does allow schools one other option: not to teach anything about sex at all.
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Filed under: Curriculum • Kids' health • Policy • Politics
Walton Family Foundation gave $159 million to support school reform in 2011
March 8th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

Walton Family Foundation gave $159 million to support school reform in 2011

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) – On Wednesday, the Walton Family Foundation announced that it had made $159 million worth of investments in education reform and school improvement in 2011.

The Foundation said it focused on 16 lower-income communities that didn't already have school choice programs in place. Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado, the top three recipient communities, each received more than $7 million from the Foundation. A press release stated that the Foundation's goal "is to raise student achievement and close the persistent performance and attainment gap between low-income children and their affluent peers."

The Foundation announced strategic investment in three key initiatives: Shaping public policy, Creating quality schools and Improving existing schools. Among the largest grants awarded were to The Charter School Growth Fund, Teach for America, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Kipp Foundation and GreatSchools.

Sam and Helen Walton, who founded the Arkansas retail chain Wal-Mart, started the Walton Family Foundation.

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Filed under: Charter schools • Policy • Practice • School choice
February 29th, 2012
12:02 PM ET

Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Preserving the Dream

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - Howard, Morehouse, Spelman, Tuskegee, Xavier – these are just a few of America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities, known as HBCUs. HBCUs are accredited historically black institutions of higher learning established before 1964. While many of these colleges are located in the South, there are HBCUs as far north as Michigan and as far west as Oklahoma. While some HBCUs are public and others private, all of them serve a principle mission to educate black Americans.

Several Morehouse and Spelman college students who we interviewed recently discussed the diversity they see on campus. They told us that HBCUs are "not exclusively black" and also serve international students and students from other ethnicities. Morehouse junior Jarrad Mandeville-Lawson, who comes from Matawan, New Jersey, identified himself as "Nigerian, Italian and Greek," and said, "My high school is majority Caucasian so I don't actually have those strong African-American traits that people would assume I would have." In 2008, Joshua Packwood became the first white valedictorian in Morehouse's history.

Students from both schools talked about their schools’ nurturing environments. At Morehouse, one of America's few all-male campuses, the students talked about the school's strong tradition of a brotherhood. Mandeville-Lawson told us, "We're going to constantly have our brother's back and uplift them.....These are my brothers. I'm going to do everything possible to make sure they stay strong and to get them where they need to be." Spelman senior Gabrielle Horton echoed Mandeville-Lawson's sentiments. "When you think of Spelman you think of the 'Spelman Sisterhood' ... You're indoctrinated with that your first year ... They have their brother's back, we have our sister's back. And that's something we just carry with us every day," Horton said. FULL POST

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Filed under: After High School • CNN Student News • College • Practice • video
Christa McAuliffe Day
Space Shuttle Challenger lifts off on January 28, 1986.
January 27th, 2012
02:06 PM ET

Christa McAuliffe Day

by John Martin, CNN

I touch the future. I teach. - Christa McAuliffe 

Twenty-six years ago this Saturday, I was home from school. I remember that because I watched as the Space Shuttle Challenger launched a New Hampshire high school teacher and six NASA astronauts into the sky. Their flight only lasted 73 seconds  and ended in tragedy, but McAuliffe’s legacy as a pioneer and a teacher endures. This Saturday, the 26th anniversary of that fateful flight, is designated Christa McAuliffe Day in her honor.

In August of 1984 President Ronald Reagan announced that a teacher would be the first civilian in space. McAuliffe was one of 11,000 applicants to the Teacher in Space program. She wasn't a science teacher; her field was social studies.  On her application she said, “I watched the space program being born, and I would like to participate.” In July of 1985, Vice President George H.W. Bush announced McAuliffe's selection as the first teacher in space. Before the launch on a frigid January day, McAuliffe remarked, “Imagine a history teacher making history.”

Courtesy NASA
During the Challenger mission, McAuliffe was scheduled to perform a number of experiments and lessons for the classroom. The Public Broadcasting System planned to televise two of her lessons. Her first lesson, “The Ultimate Field Trip” would have featured a tour of the shuttle, while her second lesson, "Where We've Been, Where We're Going," was meant to demonstrate the impact of the space program on technology.
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Filed under: Practice • Teachers • Technology
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