Two high school teachers to be fired for inappropriate acts in class

SAVE-classroomPalm Beach County’s public school system is moving to fire two high school teachers after allegations of inappropriate behavior in the classroom.

Scott Erich Landstrom, who was a Suncoast High School physics teacher last year, is being recommended for termination after parents complained a year ago that he made inappropriate comments in class, including using the word “whore” during a lesson, school district records show.

Landstrom previously had been reprimanded for making inappropriate comments to students, records show.

Edwardo Zamora, a Forest Hill High School drama teacher last year, is being recommended for termination after complaints that he inappropriately touched several of his students.

According to a school district report, the allegations “included groping, touching, biting and sexual jokes.”

During an investigation, Zamora denied any wrongdoing, records show.

Superintendent Robert Avossa has recommended that both teachers be fired. School board members are expected to consider the recommendation today.

Report: Chinese cheating on SAT; unlikely to stop with new version

testingStudents taking the SAT college entrance exam in China have gotten a huge advantage over students here in the U.S. – they’ve gotten copies of some of the questions and even sometimes the whole test. It’s an ongoing problem throughout Asia, according to multiple news agencies including the Wall Street Journal.

But this week,  Reuters reports the problem hasn’t been fixed with the arrival of the new version of the test that premiered this month and will be given again in May. It seems some of the tests questions continue to be recycled – and in some cases leaked.

See our full story about that new version of the SAT here. 

Further, according to the news agency’s report, it has happened more than the test’s maker, the non-profit College Board, has admitted.

In addition to breaches the College Board has acted upon, Reuters counts eight other times since late 2013 that questions have circulated online before the exam was administered overseas.

Apparently, survival in the Asian test-prep market is dependent on plumbing for copies of test questions. One test-prep consultant that Reuters spoke to compared it to doping in the Tour de France: “If you don’t do it, someone else will.”

How do the cheats get a hold of the test?  According to Reuters, some test-prep centers send folks in undercover to memorize or photograph its contents. And sometimes U.S. teens spill valuable details on social media.

The College Board told Reuters it “would never move forward with a test administration … without the full confidence that we can maintain the integrity of the exam and deliver to our member colleges and universities valid scores.”

In the past, it has cancelled tests when a leak was suspected. It has also held scores when cheating was suspected on a test already administered.

The next test date in the U.S. is May 7, 2016.

According to Reuters: “About 64,000 students took the SAT in East Asia during the 2013-2014 school year, including 29,000 from China. And some 125,000 mainland Chinese undergraduates now attend U.S. universities.

The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015: A record 886,052 overseas students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in 2013-2014, with the largest number — 274,439 — being Chinese nationals, according to the Institute of International Education.

 

PBLakes Principal McKeever’s full statement in wake of student, teacher complaints

Cheryl McKeever (2009 Palm Beach Post file photo)
Cheryl McKeever (2009 Palm Beach Post file photo)

Palm Beach Lakes Principal Cheryl McKeever issued this statement regarding student complaints that they have gone without a math teacher all year and concerns from teachers and parents about her actions after the students complained to the School Board Wednesday night:

 

“As principal of Palm Beach Lakes High School, everything that happens at the school is my responsibility. I apologize to students and parents for any confusion and lack of communication as we’ve searched for a teacher who is a good fit for our school and students.

 

“After Wednesday’s School Board meeting, where students raised concerned about their Geometry class, I met with students on Thursday and parents on Friday. Thursday’s meeting with students was attended by two academic coaches and our ELL coordinator, while Friday’s meeting was attended by the assistant principal who oversees the math department, the assistant principal for curriculum and the mathematics academic coach, a certified teacher who will be teaching the students through the end of the school year. The District will provide additional academic support as needed.

 

“Students will receive individual academic plans, and updates will be provided weekly on students’ progress to build on their strengths and address their weaknesses.

 

“I addressed students as young adults. I responded honestly and appropriately to any and all inquiries pertaining to the Geometry class, and shared with them personal statements made by their former teacher as to why he did not want to remain on the job. If that was perceived negatively, I apologize again. My intention was to improve and provide open communication on this matter.”

Student to school board: We’ve had a math sub all year, we want an education

 

Palm Beach Lakes student Joseph Trahan and teacher Malik Leigh.
Palm Beach Lakes student Joseph Trahan and teacher Malik Leigh. (see video here)

 

See our updated coverage of this story including what happened to these students at school the next day here.  

A sophomore from Palm Beach Lakes High and four of his classmates, all eyeing careers in the justice system, came to seek a piece of that from the school board Wednesday night. They say they have gone the entire year without a regular geometry teacher.

Joseph Trahan told the board members and superintendent that they’ve been led by a series of substitutes, who regularly relied on YouTube math videos to deliver lessons.

“We’re just given busy work and grades for our busy work,” Trahan said.

He said the group is struggling to learn the concepts. Trahan said they did horribly on the district-designed mid-term, but are getting passing grades by benefit of extra credit points that come by buying the teacher sweets or drawing pictures.

“The current sub says stuff such as, ‘I am not a teacher. I’m here to babysit you and give you grades,’ “ Trahan said. “This isn’t what we want. We want a higher education. We demand more out of ourselves… When the EOC (end of course exam – designed by the state) comes around. we’re not going to be prepared.

“Time is not something you can get back. We’ve already lost so much time. We’re so ill-prepared.  And we are looking to you for help.”

When Trahan finished, board chairman Chuck Shaw asked the area superintendent to meet with the students.

Deputy Superintendent David Christensen said after the meeting that the matter will be investigated. “We are going to immediately address it and make sure there is a certified teacher for them.”

The students, a mix of freshmen and sophomores – boys and girls – from West Palm Beach, said they have high aspirations and reached an “Ah-ha” moment not while sitting in math class, but in their Legal Concepts and Comprehensive Law class in the school’s legal academy.

They were talking about contracts and negligence, said Lemuel Gadson, 16. Gadson and the others all had to sign a contract to enroll in the legal academy and then they wondered if the school was holding up its end of the bargain.

Their legal teacher, Malik Leigh, who both teaches and practices law full time, accompanied them to the board meeting.

“Nobody can do more about themselves than they can,” Leigh said.

But they weren’t alone in their fight.

Celena Trahan said she called her son’s guidance counselor, who simply noted that Joseph was carrying a B in the class – even though Joseph said he hasn’t earned it. Trahan also called an assistant principal, but got no action, she said.

Michelle Jackson said she was willing to forgive a staffing problem for the first couple weeks of school, but by the end of first semester she worried the gap was going to cause problems for her son Marques dragging down his GPA and his readiness to take college admission tests.

“My son has now lost a whole year of his math education,” Jackson said.

Norovirus sidelined 250 Boynton students, unlikely to abate soon, says health department

citrus coveThe nasty gastrointestinal bug that sidelined more than 100 Citrus Cove Elementary school students last week has now been identified as norovirus, the quick-spreading scourge that is most notoriously associated with outbreaks on cruise ships.

Palm Beach County health officials confirmed Monday that lab results identified the source of the illness that spiked absences at the school beginning in the middle of last week.

The school, in the Boynton Beach area, typically sees about 60 of its nearly 1,000 students sick on any given day, but last week the number rose to 90 on Wednesday and hit more than 250 by Friday. Monday, 137 were absent and another 49 were sent home, said school district spokeswoman Kathy Burstein

“We don’t feel it’s peaked yet,” O’Connor said Monday. “We don’t want to speculate. But (the outbreak at) Wellington Elementary last year went on for a good 30 days even with a spring break. It came back when the kids came back.

“We’re hoping to get it under control as soon as possible. The school district is being much more aggressive with the cleaning part this time,” O’Connor said.

Principal Laura Green sent a note home to parents urging them to double down on hand washing efforts and keep sick children at home after symptoms abate for at least 48 hours to stop the contagion.

That part is key, O’Connor said. “Any sooner and they can still shed the virus.”

handwash

At the same time, sanitation crews scoured the campus daily cleaning water fountains, bathrooms, rooms in which students were absent and common areas including the cafeteria and library, school district officials reported.

In an abundance of caution, the county’s Supervisor of Elections also relocated two voting precincts in Tuesday’s election. Voters casting ballots in precincts 3138 and 3164 should head to Boynton Beach High at 4975 Park Ridge Blvd. instead.

Norovirus is sometimes referred to as food poisoning or stomach flu, but it’s not actually the flu. Instead, it is a virus that inflames its victim’s stomach and intestines leading to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting. Getting it once does not give you any immunity from getting it again.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports norovirus is the most common cause of “acute gastroenteritis” in the United States, infecting 19 to 21 million a year, and sending from 56,000 to 71,000 people each year to the hospital. It can be fatal, killing 570 to 800 people annually.

It is spread when you touch things already contaminated with the virus and then put your fingers in your mouth. Sharing food, eating off the same utensils and coming into close contact with someone who is already sick can make you sick too.

We hear about outbreaks on cruise ships, but they happen in a variety of closed places including daycare centers, nursing homes and schools, the CDC reports. We’re in the middle of norovirus season – from November to April – when outbreaks are most common.

 

Students must wait until mid-May for SAT results – but they liked the changes, says College Board

testingStudents aren’t due to get the results of last week’s new SAT until mid-May. But the College Board is reporting the results of a survey of some 8,000 of those test-takers Saturday.

According to the College Board:

  • 71% of students said the test reflected what they’re learning in school.
  • By a 6 to 1 margin, students said they preferred the format of the new SAT over the previous version of the test.
  • 75% of students said the Reading Test was the same as or easier than they expected.
  • 80% of students said the vocabulary on the test would be useful to them later in life, compared with 55% in March 2015.
  • 59% of students said the Math section tests the skills and knowledge needed for success in college and career.

 

And if you longingly missed all that obscure vocabulary that once littered the college admissions exam, here’s a fun read: The College Board’s announcement when it ditched the ‘recondite’ litany.

 

New York — Throughout its 100-year history, the abstruse vocabulary words of the SAT® have engendered prodigious vexation in millions of examinees annually. On Saturday, Jan. 23, students across the country participated in the terminal transpiration of the SAT in its habituated gestalt.

To adumbrate the changes to be manifest in future administrations of the assessment: The new SAT will be more trenchant and pellucid, and the format will no longer pertinaciously reward students who punctiliously engage in the antediluvian praxis of committing idiosyncratic words to memory.

College Board President David Coleman promulgated, “Your invectives and maledictions have been heard. Clemency has been granted.”

Many within the College Board and the academic community expressed a paucity of maudlin or mawkish emotion in response to the announcement.

“This is a new beginning for the SAT. Gone are obscure vocabulary words and tricky logic questions that are disconnected from the work students do every day,” said Stacy Caldwell, vice president of the SAT Program at the College Board. “Moving forward, students will encounter a test that focuses on the few things that matter most for college, work, and life. We believe these changes will benefit students and educators alike.”

 

 

 

A day to fight bullying, the origins of the pink T-Shirt and a movie star

It’s that day of the school year once again when we consider bullying, how to prevent it and what to do when confronted with it…and don pink T-shirts – but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First, know that several Palm Beach County Schools have planned events or conversations for this day, including Okeeheelee Middle School which has perhaps the biggest headliner of the day: The actor who played football player Michael Oher in the movie The Blind Side, Quinton Aaron.

aarontwitter

School officials say Aaron will spend the day at the school in suburban West Palm Beach. He’s talking at morning assemblies and then working with smaller groups at lunch time.

Now, back to those pink T-shirts…

pink shirt

 

Wearing a pink T-shirt made one boy in a school in Canada a target for bullies in 2007. But his classmates didn’t stand for it. They rallied by buying a mass of pink tank tops at the local dollar store and handing them out for kids to wear the next day.

Out of that show of support was born Pink T-Shirt Day – now an international event.

Wednesday in Palm Beach County, the Literacy Coalition is sponsoring events to further the anti-bullying message during Pink T-Shirt Day.  Suncoast High School students volunteered to support Pink T-Shirt Day in the district’s schools. And Berkshire Elementary in West Palm Beach is making a day of it with dancing, art-covered halls and more.

Here’s part of the Pink T-Shirt Day origins story from The Globe and Mail:

“David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school.

‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’

.. 

As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled.

“The bullies were never heard from again.”

Didn’t pass Alg 1 EOC (or the 10g FSA )? Here are your options

questions

 

Update March 2017: The testing season is in full swing with Alg 1 testing possible in Palm Beach County from April 17 through May 12, 2017. Expect results in early June.

The Alg 1 end-of-course exam (EOC) is the only state-required EOC a student must pass to graduate. Students must also take EOCs in Geometry, Alg. 2, biology and US History. The scores must weigh 30 percent of the calculation of a course grade, but a passing score is not required. (Legislation this spring proposes to cut some EOCs, but any testing changes would not be in effect this year.)

The other must-pass test for graduation: 

The 10th grade FSA ELA – that’s Florida Standards Assessment in English language arts, is the other state-mandated test students must pass to graduate.

So, let’s say you don’t pass…

WHAT’S NEXT?

Didn’t pass the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam or the 10th grade English/language arts test? These are your alternatives:

Take the same test and pass. Retakes are given several times a year.

Algebra 1: Get a comparative score of 97 on the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test or PERT mathematics assessment.

10 grade English/language arts:

Take the same test and pass. Retakes are given during the school year.

ELA: Get a concordant score of 430 on the SAT reading or 19 on the ACT reading.

Source: The Florida Department of Education.