The Grade Blog

Wednesday, May 07 2014 05:00 PM

THE GRADE: High school teacher says district should get tougher on tardiness

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Lauren Foreman covers education for The Californian. Reach her at lforeman@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCEducationReporter or on Twitter@TBCTheGrade.

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    By Contributed photo

    Steve Parker is a new biology teacher and the first FFA advisor at Bakersfield Christian High School.

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By LAUREN FOREMAN, Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com

TEACHER TALKS TARDIES: A math teacher at Highland High School is urging the Kern High School District to enact a district-wide policy to curb student tardiness -- which he calls "a serious classroom management problem" that he's seen escalate.

"Let's do something about tardies," Scott Clare told the school board Monday night.

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ABOUT YOUR REPORTER

Lauren Foreman covers education for The Californian. She writes in this spot every Thursday. Contact her at lforeman@ bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com /TBCEducationReporter or on Twitter @TBCTheGrade.

Board President Chad Vegas said after the meeting that he'd need to look into the feasibility of a district-wide policy. He said the district's priority is to make educational programs more innovative.

"Students will be on time and/or attend educational programs they feel passionately about," Vegas said.

Clare said at his school, a student has to cut three courses before entering the first phase of KHSD's STEP system, a series of punitive measures in the district's Truancy Reduction Program. Students in the system advance a step for every three additional cuts.

But the STEP disciplinary measures do not apply to tardies -- a distinction, Clare said, that Highland students have started to notice.

Clare said one of his students missed the equivalent of more than 24 classes after being tardy 194 times last school year but he escaped harsher punishments of the STEP program.

KHSD does not define three unexcused tardies of more than 30 minutes in 55-minute classes as absences -- which does not comply with California education code.

Education code defines a truant as a student who is absent or tardy for more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse "three full days" in one school year.

"A kid can miss virtually the entire school year and the Kern High School District does not admit them into the STEP program," Clare said.

He first noticed a problem at Liberty High, where Clare taught math in 2006. He said one Liberty student accumulated 22 tardies.

But the educator did not begin collecting data regarding tardiness until he observed excessive tardiness in a first period Advanced Placement Statistics course at Highland in 2012.

"Those kids just didn't show up," Clare said.

He conducted an attendance survey in four algebra classes as well as the AP Statistics course he taught at Highland last school year.

He argues in his study that because "there are no significant consequences for tardies, the frequency and duration of tardies escalate."

The number of tardies he observed in four class periods -- second, fifth, sixth and seventh -- more than doubled from 135 during the first quarter of the 2012-13 academic year to 283 during the fourth quarter.

Clare counted 119 tardies during his first period algebra course from Aug. 20 to Nov. 2. That number increased to 229 tardies from March 11 to May 24.

"Tardies increased over the school year because there's no incentive for students to stop," Clare said.

TEACHER OF THE WEEK: When an administrator at Bakersfield Christian High School, informally asked students to name their favorite teacher, they overwhelmingly chose Steve Parker -- an ag science teacher.

In one of Parker's classes, students took skeletons apart and identified the different bones. They later drew the bones and had peers guess their classification in a Pictionary-style exercise.

"I like to get my kids moving around and interacting with each other as well as with me," he said.

Parker has been teaching for 14 years. But he joined Bakersfield Christian High this school year and has already established an FFA chapter, making it the second private school in the state to do so.

Parker said his work is about filling a need.

"It's important that students know where food comes from," Parker said.

GRAD TIME: It's graduation season, and Kern County schools have started to prep for the pomp and circumstance.

Bakersfield High School have asked grad ceremony attendees to curb shouts of enthusiasm and leave the small kiddies at home, and Cal State Bakersfield already sent off 63 graduates, May 3, that are part of the CSUB High School Equivalency Program (HEP).

Bakersfield College will hold its 100th commencement ceremony at 5 p.m. May 16. More than 1,100 students have completed the necessary coursework for an associate of arts or associate of science degree.

UNIVERSAL PRE-K: A report being released Thursday shows that of 1,400 "economically disadvantaged children" in a Chicago Child-Parent Center study, those that did not attend preschool were 70 percent more likely to be arrested by age 18 and 20 percent more likely to be incarcerated by the time they turned 24.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, an anti-crime nonprofit, released the study as part of an effort to urge state officials to include funding in the state budget for universal preschool.

The report uses the most recently available data for 3- and 4-year-old children -- 2010 federal Head Start enrollment data and 2012 California State Preschool Program enrollment data -- from the American Institutes for Research.

It shows that 28 percent of 20,117 Kern County children eligible for preschool were actually enrolled in state and federal preschool programs. Only three counties in California -- Placer, Riverside and Solano -- registered a smaller percentage of its children eligible for preschool, according to the report named Early Education Cuts Crime and Save Money. Placer enrolled 19 percent of preschool-eligible students. Riverside enrolled 27 percent, and Solano registered 25 percent of preschool-eligible students.

Cindy Ruiz, director for early childhood education for Kern County Superintendent of Schools, said the local numbers seem low and don't consider students in center-based programs run from a school or child development center, licensed-home provider options, alternative payment voucher programs or transitional kindergarten.

CSUB RANKS 47th: Cal State Bakersfield ranks 47th among the nation's top colleges and universities based on new criteria the White House proposed to emphasize "accessibility, affordability and completion." Time magazine collected data from 2,500 institutions and ranked each school based on six-year graduation rates, tuition and the percentage of Pell Grant recipients.

Time reported that CSUB has a graduation rate of 39 percent; an average annual net cost for students receiving any form of aid whose families make less than $110,000 a year; and 67 percent of students received Pell Grants, "federally funded scholarships for low-income families."

Fresno State ranked 26th when graduation, tuition and Pell Grant numbers were held equally important. The ranking lists the Fresno State graduation rate at 48 percent; the school's average net cost for the group above at $5,632; and the number of Pell Grant recipients at 61 percent of students.

SCIENCE FAIR, SPEECH RESULTS: Local students placed in both the California High School Speech Association's statewide tournament and the 63rd annual California State Science Fair, according to results released in April.

SCIENCE FAIR RESULTS

Georgia Johnsen, an eighth-grader at St. John's Lutheran, placed second in the Cognitive Science category.

Larson LeDuc, a junior at Desert Junior/Senior High School in the Muroc Joint Unified School District, earned an honorable mention in Applied Mechanics & Structures.

Alana Tessman, an eighth-grader at Wallace Middle School in the Kernville Union School District, placed third in Environmental Engineering.

Nathaniel Tweed, a junior at Bakersfield Christian High, earned an honorable mention in Environmental Science.

Trevor Frisbee, a seventh-grader at Murray Middle School in the Sierra Sands Unified School District, placed third in Pharmacology/ Toxicology.

Samuel Lang, a junior at Valley Oaks Charter School in Bakersfield, earned an honorable mention in Zoology.

SPEECH RESULTS

Centennial High School -- which a debate contest champion, Katelyn Shipp, graduated from last year -- finished in 20th place in sweepstakes out of 184 schools in late April.

Amy Delmore, a Centennial High School student, placed first in the Humorous Interpretation category.

Alexis Arias, a Centennial student, placed second in original poetry.

Jake Riggs, a Bakersfield Christian High School student, placed fifth in Impromptu Speaking.

Abi Maliyekkal and Dev Madeka, of Stockdale High School, placed ninth in Policy Debate.

Dalton Boyd and Aquali Maliyekkal, of Stockdale High, placed 12th in Policy Debate.

Mitchell Gentry, a Liberty High School student, placed 18th in a one-on-one Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

WHAT YOU'RE SAYING

Here's the latest buzz from The Californian's Facebook page:

"A former teaching aide found autistic teens in a high school bathroom with their underwear down -- the boy holding the girl by the hips. The students, now the central part of a lawsuit against KHSD, can't speak normally and have the mental capacity of young children.

But did what happened in that school bathroom in 2009 traumatize the female student so much that the district should fund her counseling and speech therapy? What do you think?"

Scotty Maxwell: "Heck no!! Everyone tries to sue anyone they can for anything they can. This is ridiculous!! I bet the girl wouldn't even remember if her parents would leave it alone."

Benjamin Hernandez: "Suppose it was your daughter, Scotty? Would you just want her to forget? Or would you be seeking legal help?"

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