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A century ago, Progressive reformers who thought that urban children were becoming disconnected from the soil and their food encouraged the development of community gardens for kids in empty urban spaces.  Children got at least three benefits from urban garden projects:  first, they got out in the fresh air; second, they got fresh vegetables that their families might otherwise not have had access to or been able to afford; third, they learned from where food comes.

This week, we learned that American children now snack almost every waking hour, and more and more of their calories are coming from snacking.  More programs like Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard across the United States could bring back the Progressive impulse and healthy eating and activity for children.  Applications for educators and administrators (and maybe parents) who want to bring the Edible Schoolyard to their schools are due on April 15.  You don’t have to live in California, where the Edible Schoolyard was born.  For FAQs, see here.

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A few weeks ago, the Arkansas Department of Education made available a comparison, school by school, of students’ grades and standardized test scores.  Not surprisingly, almost all schools’ grades of A and B were higher than the students who had been judged proficient in basic subjects, and some schools’ disparity was shockingly high.  And schools were only considered to have grade inflation if 20% or more of students with As and Bs didn’t make proficient on the standardized test, a rate that ignores the fact that any student with an A or B who can’t make proficient on the standardized test probably does not deserve the grade that he or she got.  You can read more about the analysis here and here (PPT download–beware; it’ll start automatically as soon as you click the link!).

News like this should serve as a warning to students, parents, educators–and colleges that may now view applicants from grade-inflated schools with suspicion.  The student has not really been doing A and B work.  The student may not be ready for college.  The student may not be ready to graduate from high school.

If you are an educator or administrator at a school with grade inflation, your task is simple.  Grade harder.  Teach more.  Either help colleagues who are inadequate or lax to be better, or help administration to remove them from teaching.  Otherwise your whole school will continue to suffer, and ultimately everyone’s jobs will be at stake.

What if you’re a parent?  Learn how to ask the right questions of your child.  Don’t just ask, How was school today? or Do you like Mrs. X? Ask detailed questions about how your child’s teacher teaches, about how your child spends time in school.  Don’t complain about homework.  Do your best to help with it–but not do it.  Check to see if your child’s school system has grade inflation.  If you see signs that your child is spending more time playing games and watching movies in class than learning, that he or she never has homework, that the student isn’t progressing academically, ask at your child’s school what’s going on in the classroom.  Ask how you can help make it better.

If you don’t live in Arkansas, check with your own state department of education to find out whether your school system has grade inflation.  If the department does not track these statistics, contact your state legislator about making tracking a requirement.  Then follow through.  American education has been on a slow decline since the Reagan years.  If we don’t turn it around, all of our children’s futures are doomed.

Have you been successful in helping to turn around your child’s school’s performance?  What did you do?  Did you enlist other parents?  Did you volunteer at your child’s school?  Did you contact the media?  Let me and other readers know!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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