Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school. In the letter, they explain the scope of the incidents, including the taking, sharing and selling of cell phone photos of exam questions.
The administrators close their letter by saying, "We feel fortunate to have a wonderful student body (at Middleton High) whose academic record on multiple assessments is top-notch. We are hopeful that through our collaborative efforts we can determine the root cause of talented students choosing to participate in dishonest academic practices. In January, we will host a series of focus groups including staff, students and parents to problem-solve short- and long-term solutions."
Ms. Herrmann and Ms. Jondle, I think I can save you lots of time on focus groups. I'm the parent of a high school student, albeit in Madison, and I have a pretty good inkling on the "root cause" of why "talented students" would choose to cheat.
It's because these students are reminded every day that every test matters. These kids all have access to on-line forums like College Confidentialthat tell them, in no uncertain terms, that if they want to get into a top-ranked college or university, they better take the most rigorous high school curriculum available to them, which means calculus, perhaps even AP calc. But to get to calculus at all in high school, a year of math has to be skipped somewhere. The standard high school sequence has pre-calc as the 12th grade norm -- so the jockeying for top dog status starts in elementary school.
Then, even if they make it to calculus by senior year (or before), they believe that a B in the class might mean the difference between getting admitted to that college of their dreams or losing out, and it might. Every one of these kids knows that getting one question too many wrong on the math section of the PSATs could mean they'll miss the statewide cutoff for National Merit Scholar. The academic pressure isn't manufactured; it's real.
And parents like me are part of the problem. I'd love to be able to ease off my son, who is currently a junior. I want to be able to tell him it's fine if he wants to take statistics next year, which he thinks sounds more interesting and practical, instead of calculus. But stats doesn't count as a math credit for college admissions; so then he'd only have three years of high school math on his transcript instead of the recommended four.
I wish I could tell him not to worry about taking another science class senior year, and let him focus on history and foreign language, his passions. He'd love to have time in his schedule to add German and Japanese to the Spanish and Latin he's already taking. But he's been advised (and don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative for the advice) that not completing a fourth year of science could be a big mistake come college application time this fall.
Ms. Herrmann and Ms. Jondle, you want to know the "root cause" of why "talented students" would choose to cheat? It's because many of them see high school as an enormous college prep thresher separating the high-flying wheat from the chaff. They feed off of each other's academic competitiveness and anxieties creating a Machiavellian, secondary school pressure cooker where the ends will always justify the means.
None of this, of course, is an excuse for cheating. The fact that this type of academic misconduct is rampant, not just in our area, but nationwide, is sickening.
But until colleges start offering scholarships for academic honesty as opposed to achievement, what happened at Middleton High School is bound to happen again.
I do, though, have one thought I could offer Middleton High for their focus group discussions. Perhaps they should,develop a required course on academic integrity and ethics. With no opportunities for Honors or AP designations. And no absolutely no grades involved.
It would, after all, be cheat-proof. And filled with some very valuable lessons.comments powered by Disqus
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
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Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
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When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.