Schoolhouse Beat: Feedback Response

April 25, 2007
Readers comment on the latest Feedback question from the Schoolhouse Beat newsletter.


In the April 24 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked if you feel that schools and universities have taken enough steps to prevent and reduce violence? Here is some of your feedback:

  • “I think that most schools understand that a safe enviornment is in their best interest,” says an administrator from Michigan. “Attracting qualified students to your school becomes only harder if your campus is viewed by parents and students as a dangerous place. No matter the incentive, I would not send my children to a school if I did not feel they would be safe, and I doubt others would as well. So yes, I think most school administrators look at their situtation and take the necessary steps to ensure, to the amount possible, that kids are relatively safe when on campus. No one can really stop a person who is willing to take his or her own life in a rampage, as we are seeing in Iraq, even with an overwhelming military presence. The one issue that has been brought to the surface is that we need a better way to notify students across campus that a danger is present. A school needs to be able to do so in real time so students don't get caught off guard. This is something that needs to be solved now. Additionally, it would probably help if administrators received some additional training on making the right call when dangers exist.
  • “My son had to jump through all sorts of hoops to get into the college of his choice…” says a reader from California. “I think it is high time colleges add another component to this process: a psychologist exam. This would help identify kids that are troubled, and they could be weeded out and sent for help. When you put in all this effort and care to get your child into a college you have expectations. I expect that my son will be returning home in the same condition I sent him out the door. When you are paying the price of a home for this education, it is the least we can expect.”
  • In the April 17 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked what readers thought about a proposal in the Dallas school district to prohibit former employees from being vendors or consultants in the school system until they have been gone from the district for 18 months. Here is some of your feedback:

  • "I believe that the 18-month ban for ex-employees to be vendors is a good idea to avoid conflict of interest problems," says a reader from Washington state. "However lumping consultants into that category could diminish the expertise these people could provide. Profit and knowledge should in this instance be kept separate."
  • 'It would seem that at least an 18-month separation would be good to avoid a conflict of interest," says an administrator from Ohio. "I would allow no contact with the former district during this time on any vendor-related business."
  • In the April 10 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked readers whether schools should require parents to show photo identification to enter the school. Here is some of your feedback:

  • "What’s next?" says an architect from Oregon. "Retina eye scans to visit a public building funded with taxpayer dollars? It is certainly fair that all visitors to school buildings are required to sign in and obtain some type of pass (most schools rely on stick-on or pin-type badges). How about instead having photos of the (relatively few) bad guys--usually parents or relatives with internal family problems--posted behind the school reception counter? Simply showing a ‘government-furnished’ ID is no guarantee of anything-–except maybe that you are included in the part of our society that has fallen into a trap of giving up freedom for perceived security. Those who wish to control continue to find ways to prey upon those who have become afraid of their own shadows."
  • "The size and location of the district would seem to drive the implementation of this policy," says an administrator from Ohio. "In our small school district, our front-line personnel know the parents and often the grandparents or other caregivers. If they don't, we already ask for ID. Just another sign of the times, and it demonstrates we must be open to all ideas that will keep our students safe."
  • "All visitors should be required to show some form of ID to enter a building on school grounds," says an administrator from Ohio. "In the event there is an emergency, school officials need to know who is in the building and where they have gone in the facility. We have stepped up our security measures at all of our buildings. We are in the process of creating a safe zone at our main complex entry where the attendant must buzz all people into the building after signing in and identifying themselves."
  • "Card them," says a reader from Indiana. "They should realize it is for the protection of the children."
  • "I believe that any time anyone, including teachers, enters a school they should be required to show who they are," says a security consultant from Wisconsin. "It will not stop an intent intruder, but it will stop many that are theft-prone. It will also make people think twice about stopping. Showing ID with cameras scanning the exterior parking and road areas would be best."
  • "I don't think we need to require a photo ID to access the school building," says an administrator from Virginia. "However, I think in today's world that is a very wise requirement before we release a student to an adult."
  • "Absolutely, official ID checks should be the minimum requirement schools implement," says a facility planner from Arizona. "Of course, those parents who are on campus regularly would be recognized over time and should have a school-issued badge. This requirement is in no way severe or limiting for parents who want to visit their children. I think our children’s safety is worth the small amount of extra effort it would take."
  • "Sure, they should show ID," says a reader from California. "This is a safety issue, and it is important to know who is in our schools and what the intentions of this person are. We live in a time of terrorism and threats; it is important to know if a person is a criminal, terrorist, pedophile or mentally imbalanced. The schools are just covering themselves and trying to protect the kids."
  • "Due to recent tragedies involving sexual predators and murder of innocent children, Florida has adopted a state law requiring ID of any adult visiting a school campus," says an architect from Florida. "All construction personnel, architects and engineers for example, have to be fingerprinted and have their backgrounds checked before they are issued a photo ID to wear during any work during school hours where students are present."
  • "I believe that even in small communities where people think that ‘It won't happen here,’ we have seen that it might," says an administrator from Illinois. "We have been struggling to make the building safer all the time, and the safety of all students should supersede ease of access for a few parents."
  • In the April 3 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked readers what they thought about the Detroit mayor's urging the creation of more charter and private schools in the city. Here is some of your feedback:

    • “As long as policymakers offer low- or no-cost solutions, then only a few students may see their education improved,” says an administrator from Texas. “So, some additional charters or private schools might be more successful than the typical public school setting. This does not guarantee a long-term solution for the entire school district.”
    • ”If we need more diversity and individual choice in education, our government could serve us better by promoting such diversity and choice,” says an engineer from Connecticut. “This mayor is not pushing to weaken the public school system, but to strengthen it through diversity. It is the strength of the government school system that seems to be threatened, but that system would probably become more motivated to improve.”
    • "Competition is good," says an administrator from New York. "At least with more than one choice, there is a chance students can find a place to be successful. We need to eliminate complacency and union-guaranteed jobs regardless of outcome."

    In the March 27 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked readers whether lengthening the school day to improve student performance is a wise strategy. Here is some of your feedback:

  • "Being in a rut for six hours accomplishes as much as being in a learning rut for five hours," says an administrator from Maryland. "This is one of those unresearched concepts that are fostered by the education cartel in the same category as the open classroom (remember that miserable failure?). Perish the thought that we examine the teaching scenario observed in the classroom - the teaching ability of the teachers, for example?"
  • "I don't think lengthening the time students spend at school is going to help anyone," says a school employee from South Dakota. "They should look at teaching strategies--what they are currently doing, how the kids are responding to that, and make adjustments there. More than likely they will just end up pushing the kids further into a hole by telling them they have to spend more time at school. Time spent on a project does not necessarily increase the result."
  • "The answer is not longer school days," says an administrator from Michigan. "What is needed is the elimination of the entire concept of what a 'school day' consists of. There are activities that must be scheduled, but for the most part students should be able to 'log in' their time throughout the year when it is most convenient and desirable for them to do so. Think about it--students could work at school (you could limit the classes that could be taken at home over the Internet) in self-made groups. Studying with friends promotes learning. Parents and students would be more at ease, especially in the morning. In order to advance to the next higher grade level, a student can apply to take the advancement exams and if they pass, they advance to the next level. No more 'everyone advances at the same time' mentality, because we all know that is not the case. Once a child reaches a point where he or she applies to the 10th grade, they decide whether to advance in a college prep program or begin a career/technology program that prepares them for an actual job that they can perform. The ability to make this happen exists today, all we need to do is to have the guts to make it happen."
  • In the March 20 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked about Southern Methodist University's efforts to have its campus be the site of the George W. Bush presidential library and policy institute, despite opposition from some at the school. Do readers think a university campus is a good location for such a facility? Here is more of your feedback:

  • "Are we to believe there are no political influences at major universities?" says a facilities consultant from Arizona. "The issue is not about political endorsement, but which political endorsement. I am surprised that Southern Methodist University has progressed to this point. Long term, the move is good for the university."
  • "Universities are supposed to be sites of learning where students are exposed to all ideas (new, existing and past) to achieve the complete education," says an administrator from Maryland. "But, as the late Alan Bloom exposed in his tome, 'The Closing of the American Mind,' they have become the bastion of politically correct speech and thought, brooking no competing thoughts or ideas. The university is the appropriate site for a presidential library; these faculty members at SMU in opposition need to get a life."
  • "I think it’s a great idea," says a reader from New Mexico."What other state has three research facilities (Lyndon Baines Johnson, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush)? SMU should view this as an opportunity."
  • "A university is a place of learning, and the information that will be available for study would be easily available," says an administrator from Oklahoma. "It is not a popularity contest."
  • In the March 13 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked what you thought about a California district asking parents to reimburse it for student absences not related to illness. Here is more of your feedback:

  • “I never believe in putting into place a policy on any subject that you can't enforce,” says an administrator from Ohio. “Parents will figure out a way around it. In Ohio, we have two reportable weeks for our average daily membership. Those numbers affect funding. Keeping track every day at the state level seems like a make-work project for someone.”
  • ”Parents have right to keep children out of school, but also have obligation to make up the ‘cost’ to the school district,” says a reader from New Jersey. “Schools are administered for all, and consequently all must adhere to the district rules. ‘Charging’ for an absence will demonstrate to parents the seriousness of missing school for other than illnesses and deaths or funerals.”
  • “That is completely nuts,” says a reader from California. “Good luck collecting the money. You know how many people living in poverty? What are the schools prepared to do in order to collect? It is a nice concept, but would only work in private institutions. No one will pay.”
  • "The request will help parents understand the consequences to their children and the whole school system when students miss classes," says an administrator from Illinois. "But we also need to ensure that parents understand the impact on their students education while missing the activities in the classroom. This may instill in the student the idea that it is OK to skip school for this activity--why not for something else?"
  • ”I do think it is reasonable for school districts to ask that parents donate an amount equal to what they miss when their child is absent if the reason for the absence is other than being ill,” says a construction manager from California.”This district’s costs are fixed based upon the total attendance and accrue whether the child is absent or not. It’s unfair to put this added burden on the taxpayers of the area. Many times the reason is that the family wants a three- or four-day weekend to go out-of-town. That’s their choice, but the costs to the district go on.”
  • In the March 6 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked whether states should mandate more physical education time for elementary school students. Here is some of your feedback:

    • “The ‘safe routes to schools initiative’ of the federal transportation funding program targets 2 miles as a logical distance for students to walk to school and, of course, walk back with a backpack,” says an administrator from Maryland. “This is seen as a rational response to the growing problem of obesity among children in the United States. That takes care of the start of the school day and the end of the school day. In between, the Maryland lawmakers want to provide another period of physical exertion. There appears to be an indictment of American parents implied in these initiatives. So the "Nanny State" mentality of lawmakers and faceless government bureaucrats has decided to intercede and mitigate the perceived incompetence of said parents. We have lost our collective minds.”
    • “There are so many creative ways to fit physical education and healthy habits into a child's education,” says an administrator from Ohio. “You do not have to have a gymnasium. Just think outside the box, and teach kids to fit in, as they will have to do for the rest of their lives. Start with food service!”
    • "Elementary school is the time when many children learn habits that they keep all their lives--love of reading, ability to socialize with peers, etc.," says a reader from an architectural firm in Virginia. "With the epidemic of obesity that is raging in the United States, children should be required to take regular, varied exercise, outdoors whenever possible, throughout their elementary (and later) school years. The physical, mental and social benefits of P.E. are as important as they ever were, if not more so."

    In the Feb. 27 Schoolhouse Beat newsletter, we asked we asked whether students need larger lockers. Here is some of your feedback:

    • "I think you keep lockers to a reasonable size that allows for coats and a duffel bag for gym clothes," says an administrator from Indiana. "Making them larger, will increase costs, increase square footage required, and will allow students to bring more none essential items."
    • "A lot of schools have students sharing lockers, or schools buy half lockers," says a reader from Rhode Island. "In the Northeast between winter coats and book bags that keep getting larger for the larger textbooks, it makes sense to have a larger locker. If schools don't want the students carrying the backpacks or wearing coats in class they have to give them some place large enough to put them."
    • "I remember my school days back in the 70s," say an administrator from Michigan, "when I chose not to use my hall locker for that very reason--my backpack would not fit. I was lucky; I was in band, and we had our own lockers that were substantially larger than normal lockers (to accommodate your instrument). I was able to use that as my main locker. Yes, older style lockers are too small."
    • "Students carry too much junk with them now," says a reader from New Jersey. "Providing more storage space will beget more junk. Our obligation is to educate children, not provide additional storage space. Spend your money on education and maintenance, not more wasted space."
    • "Our district's high school lockers were designed in the 1930s and are way too small," say an administrator from Ohio. "However, space often is not available, nor is money, for the larger lockers that today's children need."

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