Tag Archives: K-12

No, Sen. Johnson, DVDs cannot replace teachers

Recently, Sen. Ron Johnson suggested students would be better off with a good DVD in every classroom rather than a good teacher. He suggested that instead of having history teachers, schools should merely pop in a copy of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. That same argument surrounds Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), wherein expert professors record a lecture that is accessible online by thousands, or even millions of students.

There’s no question that technology opens up new opportunities for learning. From TED Talks to MOOCs to Skype, teachers now have the ability to bring expertise into the classroom from around the globe, even to the most remote places. One teacher can now teach a class via streaming video to students in multiple small, rural districts that lack the ability to offer the class on their own. Everyone supports schools taking advantage of technology to create the best educational opportunities for their students.

But we cannot simply manufacture students. Education is more than uploading data into a brain, like the names of generals or dates of battles. It is about digging deeper, discussing and analyzing complex issues and ideas. Education is about developing analytical and critical thinking skills that can be applied throughout one’s life to a variety of different topics.

Developing those skills requires teachers, which cannot be replaced by technology. Sen. Johnson, and those who seek to replace brick and mortar schools, colleges, and universities, fail to understand this.

Sen. Johnson, the best teachers are not necessarily the most charismatic lecturers, or the foremost experts in history or science or literature. The best teachers are those who can create engaging, individual and group learning experiences for their students. They understand and meet the needs of diverse learners, and help students develop the skills necessary to engage with the world throughout their lives. These skills cannot develop by just watching a video.

Teachers also play a critical role in shaping students as people. Both inside and outside the classroom, teachers are mentors and coaches; they provide advice about careers, and about life. Teachers care about their students, and sometimes may be the only people who do. They form relationships that may last a lifetime. Replacing teachers with technology will severely diminish classrooms as places to foster growth as a human.

Funding both K-12 and higher education looms as a critical issue for our state and our country, as does the success of our students, if we want to stay globally competitive. We must look at creative solutions to reduce costs and increase learning. We should use technology to broaden the horizons for our students, but we must also invest in our schools and our teachers.

We must not fall into the trap of treating education as an assembly line, solely used to churn out walking containers of facts and formulas. We must never think that technology can replace the committed, caring teachers and professors who can change lives, and make a difference for generations to come.

State Rep. Mark Spreitzer represents Assembly District 45, which includes Beloit

Human Rights Campaign condemns Wisconsin Republicans’ bathroom bill

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, condemned today’s decision by the Wisconsin Assembly’s Republican leadership to allow a hearing on legislation that the group contends would encourage discrimination against transgender students.

Assembly Bill 469, dubbed the “Student Privacy Protection Bill” by its backers and the “bathroom bill” by its critics, seeks to ban transgender students in K-12 schools from using the gender-segregated facilities that align with their gender identity rather than their birth gender. It would require school districts to repeal anti-discrimination reforms and accommodations policies.

The legislation contradicts best-practice recommendations from leading medical and mental health groups, civil rights organizations and education associations. It also conflicts with findings and guidelines from federal agencies — from Labor to Justice, HUD to Education.

HRC issued a press release stating that Assembly Bill 469 “puts trans students in harm’s way and puts school districts in conflict with federal law legislation that would expose trans and gender nonconforming students to heightened risk of bullying, harassment and discrimination. Not only is the bill shameful and horrific public policy, passing it would put the state in conflict with federal law.”

An earlier hearing on the bill was scheduled for Nov. 5, but postponed after by the U.S. Department of Education determined that a similar bill in Illinois violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

“This bill doesn’t belong on the floor of any state legislature — it belongs in the garbage,” said HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow.  “All members of the Wisconsin Assembly should be deeply concerned about how AB 469 will place transgender and gender non-conforming students at risk for discrimination and harassment. This reckless and irresponsible bill would put school districts and educators in direct conflict with federal law, creating unnecessary confusion and liability for schools all across Wisconsin. The legislature should abandon this proposal, focusing instead on creating an inclusive learning environment that enables all students to succeed, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

This year has seen an alarming uptick of anti-transgender state bills across the country, according to HRC. Bills aiming to restrict transgender Americans’ access to public accommodations, school activities, or appropriate medical care have been introduced in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Connecticut and South Carolina.

“Fortunately, each of these harmful state bills was defeated in 2015, although such legislation is likely to be reintroduced next year,” HRC said.  

Students, educators observe No Name-Calling Week

Thousands of schools across the country are celebrating the 10th anniversary of GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week this week, an annual event during which educators emphasize kindness and compassion as a means to eliminate name-calling and bullying of all kinds.

“GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week provides schools with an opportunity to engage students in a dialogue about how they can play a role in addressing name-calling and bullying,” GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard said. “Over the past 10 years, No Name-Calling Week has reached tens of thousands of K-12 classrooms and become an established part of the school calendar. It is heartening to see schools embrace positivity as an important component of bullying prevention – celebrating kindness and fostering a culture of respect.”

Schools participate in a variety of ways but usually incorporate lesson plans and activities found on nonamecallingweek.org, such as writing classroom name-calling policies, encouraging students to sign a pledge to be kind to each other, and creating a No Name-Calling Week Creative Expressions Exhibit.

No Name-Calling Week was inspired by the popular young adult novel “The Misfits” by author James Howe. The book tells the story of four students who have each experienced name-calling and who decide to run for student council on the platform of creating a No Name-Calling Day at school.

Together with “The Misfits” publisher Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, GLSEN created No Name-Calling Week in 2004 to encourage schools to dedicate a week of the year to improving school climate. Since then, No Name-Calling Week has grown into one of the largest bullying-prevention initiatives in the country. The program is designed for use at all grade levels.

“I’m incredibly proud of what GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week has been able to accomplish,” said Howe, who wrote a blog post for GLSEN in the voice of one of “The Misfits” characters celebrating the 10-year anniversary. “It’s been an honor to see an idea in one of my books spark a conversation in thousands of schools about how young people can learn to respect each other’s differences. I look forward to the day when bullying and name-calling are no longer a problem in our nation’s schools.”

According to “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America,” a 2005 Harris Interactive report commissioned by GLSEN, 47 percent of middle and high school students identified bullying, name-calling or harassment as a somewhat or very serious problem at their school. Additionally, 65 percent of middle and high school students reported being verbally or physically harassed or assaulted in the previous year because of a personal characteristic. Nearly a third of these students who were assaulted or harassed said that school staff did nothing in response when the incident was reported.

In GLSEN’s “Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States,” 75 percent of elementary school students reported that students at their school are called names, made fun of or bullied with at least some regularity. Most commonly this is because of students’ looks or body size, not being good at sports, how well they do at schoolwork, not conforming to traditional gender norms/roles or because other people think they are gay.

GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week is supported by the No Name-Calling Week Coalition, comprised of more than 60 national partner organizations including the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the American School Counselor Association and the National School Boards Association.

Safe Schools bill introduced in U.S. House

U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez this week introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

The measure also would require that states report data on bullying and harassment to the U.S. Department of Education, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.

Chad Griffin, president of HRC, said on March 14, “Bullying remains an epidemic in our schools and occurs at alarming rates based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We thank Congresswoman Sanchez for her continued leadership in protecting our nation’s young people by once again introducing the Safe Schools Improvement Act.”

Sanchez, in a news release, said, “We owe it to our children to protect them and make sure they have a safe and comfortable learning environment at school. We are failing our students if they are afraid to come to school because they face daily threats and intimidation. Bullying can destroy a student’s self-esteem and wreck their academic progress. No child deserves to be bullied or harassed, and it’s time we made this violent and destructive behavior a relic of the past.”

LGBT-inclusive laws against the harassment and bullying of K-12 students exist in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Every other state, with the exception of Montana, has a law against bullying but lists no categories of protection.

HRC said the lack of enumeration in these state laws often means a lack of protections for LGBT students, who face abuse at a higher rate than other students. A recent survey found more than half of LGBT youth say they have been verbally harassed and called names involving anti-gay slurs.

The Senate version of the Safe Schools Improvement Act was introduced in February by Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Mark Kirk.