WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Threatening messages posted on social media lead to school closing: Too much caution?

Here we go again...

For the second time this week, a school here in New Castle County went on high alert - with armed cops standing guard, many parents keeping their kids home, and searches of students who DID come to school.

This time it was Concord High School - just off Naamans Road - near the DE/PA line.

Better safe than sorry, in the aftermath of Columbine and Sandy Hook.

But the Concord High School situation seemed particularly bizarre in that the perceived threat(s) came on a social networking site from an out-of-state IP address, in fact from a Southern state.

Overreaction, or justified?

Is this the new normal?

If someone REALLY intends to attack a school, would he/she advertise it? (I would differentiate between this instance and a case where a student overhears another talking about weapons & the intent to attack students.)

You can hear my interview at midday Monday with Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick...

Audio Here

Posted at 7:15am on October 8, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Tue, Oct 8, 2013 8:11am
Just a new twist on an old scam: Don't want to take that test? Set off a fire alarm.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Also not new: The US is full of dummies. If politics and media don't prove that, test results will.
US adults score below average on worldwide test

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's long been known that America's school kids haven't measured well compared with international peers. Now, there's a new twist: Adults don't either.

In math, reading and problem-solving using technology — all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength — American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation's high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven't.

In both reading and math, for example, those with college educated parents did better than those whose parents did not complete high school.

The study, called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, found that it was easier on average to overcome this and other barriers to literacy overseas than in the United States.

Researchers tested about 157,000 people ages 16 to 65 in more than 20 countries and subnational regions. It was developed and released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of mostly industrialized member countries. The Education Department's Center for Education Statistics participated.

The findings were equally grim for many European countries — Italy and Spain, among the hardest hit by the recession and debt crisis, ranked at the bottom across generations. Unemployment is well over 25 percent in Spain and over 12 percent in Italy. Spain has drastically cut education spending, drawing student street protests.

But in the northern European countries that have fared better, the picture was brighter — and the study credits continuing education. In Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands, more than 60 percent of adults took part is either job training or continuing education. In Italy, by contrast, the rate was half that.

As the American economy sputters along and many people live paycheck-to-paycheck, economists say a highly-skilled workforce is key to economic recovery. The median hourly wage of workers scoring on the highest level in literacy on the test is more than 60 percent higher than for workers scoring at the lowest level, and those with low literacy skills were more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

"It's not just the kids who require more and more preparation to get access to the economy, it's more and more the adults don't have the skills to stay in it," said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement the nation needs to find ways to reach more adults to upgrade their skills. Otherwise, he said, "no matter how hard they work, these adults will be stuck, unable to support their families and contribute fully to our country. "

Among the other findings:

—Americans scored toward the bottom in the category of problem solving in a technology rich environment. The top five scores in the areas were from Japan, Finland, Australia, Sweden and Norway, while the U.S. score was on par with England, Estonia, Ireland and Poland. In nearly all countries, at least 10 percent of adults lacked the most basic of computer skills such as using a mouse.

—Japanese and Dutch adults who were ages 25 to 34 and only completed high school easily outperformed Italian or Spanish university graduates of the same age.

—In England, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United States, social background has a big impact on literacy skills, meaning the children of parents with low levels of education have lower reading skills.

America's school kids have historically scored low on international assessment tests compared to other countries, which is often blamed on the diversity of the population and the high number of immigrants. Also, achievement tests have long shown that a large chunk of the U.S. student population lacks basic reading and math skills — most pronounced among low-income and minority students.

This test could suggest students leaving high school without certain basic skills aren't obtaining them later on the job or in an education program.

The United States will have a tough time catching up because money at the state and local level, a major source of education funding, has been slashed in recent years, said Jacob Kirkegaard, an economist with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

"There is a race between man and machine here. The question here is always: Are you a worker for whom technology makes it possible to do a better job or are you a worker that the technology can replace?" he said. For those without the most basic skills, he said, the answer will be merciless and has the potential to extend into future generations. Learning is highly correlated with parents' education level.

"If you want to avoid having an underclass — a large group of people who are basically unemployable — this educational system is absolutely key," Kirkegaard said.

Dolores Perin, professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said the report provides a "good basis for an argument there should be more resources to support adults with low literacy."

Adults can learn new skills at any age and there are adult-geared programs around the country, Perin said. But, she said, the challenge is ensuring the programs have quality teaching and that adults regularly attend classes.

"If you find reading and writing hard, you've been working hard all day at two jobs, you've got a young child, are you actually going to go to class? It's challenging," Perin said.

Some economists say that large skills gap in the United States could matter even more in the future. America's economic competitors like China and India are simply larger than competitors of the past like Japan, Carnevale said. Even while America's top 10 percent of students can compete globally, Carnevale said, that doesn't cut it. China and India did not participate in this assessment.

"The skills in the middle are required and we're not producing them," Carnevale said.

Respondents were selected as part of a nationally represented sample. The test was primarily taken at home using a computer, but some respondents used a printed test booklet.

Among the other findings:

—Japan, Finland, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Flanders-Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, and Korea all scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test.

—The average scores in literacy range from 250 in Italy to 296 in Japan. The U.S. average score was 270. (500 was the highest score in all three areas.) Average scores in 12 countries were higher than the average U.S. score.

—The average scores in math range from 246 in Spain to 288 in Japan. The U.S. average score was 253, below 18 other countries.

—The average scores on problem solving in technology-rich environments scale for adult ranged from 275 in Poland to 294 in Japan. The U.S. average score was 277, below 14 other countries.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Oct 8, 2013 2:04pm
Funny, I was thinking the same thing about some kid setting off the fire alarm as a way to have school closed for the day. This may be the 21st-century version. Good point.

Why announce your plans if you're serious in wanting to do this? But then again, given the low scholastic scores of American public school kids vs. the world, maybe they aren't smart enough to think of that.

In the article Billsmith posted above it said,
"Also, achievement tests have long shown that a large chunk of the U.S. student population lacks basic reading and math skills — most pronounced among low-income and minority students."

Thus is why I've said in the past that many kids who graduate from public high schools cannot read their diplomas or make change. Yes it's a bit hyperbolic, but not inaccurate.

Apparently, many adults who weren't able to read their diplomas or make change on their graduation day many years ago, never bothered to learn those skills, post-high school, as adults. How sad that is for the kids of these adults. Not a great role model generally in terms of encouraging their kids to really dig in to getting a good education. The stats in the article show that as well.

Keep them entertained with mind-numbing Sitcoms, gossip shows, so-called reality shows, etc., on TV, and plenty of sex and violence in the movies, and addicting video games of violence and sex so folks go do their boring jobs day in and day out, and come home and have a few beers while vegging out thus allowing their minds to grow even less active as questioning and thinking are really not encouraged at any age level. Sounds like the recipe of how to dumb-down a nation.

All things are permissible, but not things all are beneficial. We've possibly become our own worse enemy.

Interesting article Billsmith.

Tue, Oct 8, 2013 10:48pm
So smart people believe government should be used to help its constituents.

People not so smart, believe in smaller government. My that fits real life like a glove.

Tue, Oct 8, 2013 11:21pm
Hey Kavips, how about we bring parental responsibility back into the equation? This country was founded on such responsibility, reducing the need for government intrusion into the lives of the people.

Wed, Oct 9, 2013 7:05am
Depending upon parental responsibility is a cop out, Mr. Pizza. Because how can you control parents. Pass a law? Hire a policeman to oversee every family? Thing is parental responsibility is beyond our control and so, if you want to fix something that is broken, you have to act on the part that is within your control.

Your idea is similar to blaming the brand name of your car's engine oil because you burned out your car's engine; the truth is, you failed to add any...

So. people who harp on parental responsibility, are deemed as foolish as those who harp against taxes. They are freeloaders who want someone else to carry the weight instead of themselves.

Don't misread. Personal responsibility is a good thing, but betting one's life or livelihood upon it is not the answer.

Wed, Oct 9, 2013 7:21am
And BillS... in regards to your educational data. It could be true, (personal experience here and abroad would certainly point that way), ... or it could be totally false. It all depends upon the methodology used for acquiring the data.

We ran into this problem with the proponents of education reform. Those who say, children in other countries are better educated than children in this one.

The problem that immediately jumps out, is that here, we educate everyone; over there, they educate those selected as being educable... In other words, one competes for the high school spots over there, and here one has no choice but go to school....

So the error became glaring when Obama pointed out that China was above the USA in math and science.. And of course, at first, all believed it.

But, that depends on how one got the score. Turns out, it was not the average of the USA versus the average of China. There are still people in China who do not go past 3rd grade!

What they did, was take China's best and brightest school and compare it to the average American school. Had they compared it to our district in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the one where the children of the parents who work at Harvard and MIT go to public school, they would be behind the Americans...

Likewise a nation that does not test those whose IQ's are below 100, would appear much higher than a nation that tests everyone.

So one must look at the methodology of how the test was conducted. Did they test an average of the population to compare to our averaged published test scores? If so, then perhaps the data is correct. The Chinese who don't educate a large percentage of their rural population to be college bound, would appear beneath the US which does try to do just that.

The data which has begun to come out just this year, in response to the educational reformers making big hay out of "failing schools", shows that US schools are the best in the world. When comparing students of the same IQ's, our students do better. When looking at the educational levels of the entire population, our young adults are coming out prepared far better than any other nation in the world... Including Finland.

Wed, Oct 9, 2013 8:58am
"The problem that immediately jumps out, is that here, we educate everyone; over there, they educate those selected as being educable... In other words, one competes for the high school spots over there, and here one has no choice but go to school...."

kavips: That's news to me. I'd like a source for more info. But taking your word for it, I will point out that a century ago, high schools were optional and selective and eighth grade graduation required passing tests most college students would fail today.

The government pushed for universal secondary education in the depression to keep young people out of the work force competing for scarce jobs (social security was intended to get old people out of the work force, as well).

All that said, there is the deeper philosophical question: Should we invest the time and money to educate the ineducable (as well as bore the !@#$ out of them)? Who benefits from the current system? Nobody except the education industry.

Pizza: You wing-nuts keep bringing up "parental responsibility" in a society which allows irresponsible people to become parents. Many things require some sort of license (a basic demonstration of competency). But you people fight that in two areas: Guns (the ability to kill) and reproduction (the ability to screw up somebody's life). Who is going to protect kids from bad parents (other than the government)?

Wed, Oct 9, 2013 9:51am
Bill S: As for education, the point you are bring up is now one of the major topics of discussion among educational circles... Expect it to become the "new" reform a few years forward. For one, having everyone literate and mathematically competent is still better than the alternative, which would be to have two classes among the educated. One of the many reasons America did go forward with education for all, was that most members of the society at large, wanted their children to have the education they were never able to receive...

But are we wasting time on educating everyone? The answer is obviously yes. If someone in one's class has no interest in being educated, it brings down the level of those in the rest of the class who do wish to learn. Just having the wrong people in class, is the principle cause of our discipline problems throughout all our schools.

Likewise, if everyone were to train to be a lawyer and there were zero positions opening in that field, what's the point?

Using aptitude tests early on, is how other nations steer those people away from classroom activity into areas they have a deeper interest.

If one looks at education in just this way, it makes sense not to try educating those who have not interest in being educated.

There was a Brooking's Institute seminar where the corporate exec's discussing education, came to the conclusion that what America really needs, are "imaginative plumbers". Basically, skilled implementers who work with their hands, with an engineering education so they can problem-solve instantly on location. In the old days, we used to call them "skilled laborers". America has a drastic shortage of them.

The flip of the argument is, that though many young children might not want to complete their education right now, they probably will wish they had done so at some point in their future, and that while we can still put stuff into their brains, we should.... That is,.. it limits opportunity of our future societies, when we pick and choose who to hold back.

The correct answer lies probably somewhere in the middle between both extremes and most of the future discussion and controversy, will swirl around at choosing what age we should draw the line between those receiving mandatory education and those pursuing education by choice.

A good line seems to be 8th grade.

Wed, Oct 9, 2013 1:35pm
kavips: I am old enough to remember when school has tracks. Vocational. College prep. But apparently Lake Wobegon is not the only place where all the children are above average. Apparently, there are a lot of parents who can't deal with the idea their kids are not college material. Heck, a lot of them can't deal with idea that their kid got a B in Algebra I. At some point, I suspect, schools will follow the example of minor league baseball and the grading system will be A, AA and AAA (no B's, C's, D's or F's).

Wed, Oct 9, 2013 7:33pm
As with all of society's other ills, it all started in '62 with Murray vs. Curlett.

Wed, Oct 9, 2013 8:11pm
Pizza is referring to a landmark Supreme Court decision banning spiritual rape in public schools. Before then, the world was a perfect place.

Wed, Oct 9, 2013 11:07pm
I'd have to say, if you were black, Chinese, American Indian, things going bad started a lot earlier than '62...

Got blinders on Pizza? :)

Thu, Oct 10, 2013 4:34am
kavips: Typical PC blinders, dude. You think regular White folks had it so perfect back then? Everything is about racial/group victimization to you, isn't it?
PS "Black" used to describe a racial group should be capitalized. So should "White."

Thu, Oct 10, 2013 4:38am
More schools opening Advanced Placement courses to all students

Some students may not be adequately prepared for the rigorous classes and high achievers may be shut out. But supporters see equal access as an educational right.


Apparently the education establishment (and the courts) have come down on the side of trying to educate the ineducable. Like the old saw about teaching a dog to tap dance. He won't ever do it well and he won't appreciate the effort.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Oct 10, 2013 9:31am
Billsmith: this has more todo with not wanting to keep minority students from having the same opportunity as white kids. Given our nation's lousy track record from the past, I can understand their concern. However I agree with you that we need to make it so the brightest students get the opportunity to achieve to limits of their abilities too.

Thu, Oct 10, 2013 10:33am
I'd have to agree with Mike that the push forward is to allow the opportunity for any to take. Most won't, but creating barriers against all for the sake of those who won't take advantage, is not a level we want to descend to right now...

And BillS. I don't capitalize colors but I do capitalize words like Afro-American and Caucasian. When I type in colors, I keep it small lettered on purpose to poke fun at those who do use the amount of visible melanin to delineate heritage... and I do so for fun, since the tiny distinction would slide over most people's heads.. Btw.. good catch on your part. Thanks for noticing.

Thu, Oct 10, 2013 10:35am
And BillS. The sole reason "whites" were not included in that sentence is because it was addressed in response to Pizza. Need I say more? :)

Thu, Oct 10, 2013 1:12pm
MikeFromDelaware: Notice in the story the kid being shut out of AP classes is Asian. Asians faced intense discrimination in the West, but apparently since they a super-strivers, other victim-entitlement groups think it's OK to discriminate against them now. Various Black "advocacy groups" are even pushing for quotas to hold down the number of Asians admitted to the University of California system (just as WASPs tried to limit the number of Jews in elite Eastern schools before World War II).

kavips: There are more poor Whites than poor Blacks in this country (not as percentages, but in absolute numbers). It's an old tactic, widely practiced in the Jim Crow South: Get poor Whites to hate Blacks so they will side with the elite land-owning class.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Oct 10, 2013 1:45pm
Billsmith: good point. It's truly sad that black advocates are willing to discriminate against another minority group. Obviously they've learned nothing in the past 60 years.

Thu, Oct 10, 2013 8:44pm
MikeFromDelaware: Some groups that were victims of discrimination seem to get no attention, sympathy and concern. And no special entitlements either. Not just Asians, including US citizens of Japanese ancestry who had everything they owned taken away and were thrown into concentration camps by such stalwarts of enlightenment as FDR and Earl Warren. Irish and Italians also suffered systematic discrimination. Just shows: Bitching, whining and complaining pays off. Not just short-term but long after the discrimination has ended. Race cards are trump.

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