Saturday, August 23, 2014

Problems Beyond Teachers' Control

Problems Beyond Teachers' Control

See if you can figure out which of these problems would be eliminated (or even reduced) if teachers lost all tenure protection:

Approximately 300 American children are murdered annually by parents. Marchella Pierce (as just one example) was tied to a bed, beaten and starved to death by her mother. The four-year-old weighed 19 pounds when she died.

Each day an average of 4.5 U. S. children die as a direct result of neglect.

There are 3,000,000 cases of abuse and neglect reported annually in this country involving nearly six million children.

A "Lousy Parent" Hall of Fame would include but not be limited to:
  • the father who put his infant daughter in the freezer because she was crying 
  • a father who threatened his daughter (over her grades) with an AK-47 
  • a mother who gave her two-year-old marijuana to smoke as a joke
  • a mother who sold her two daughters to a pedophile for $30,000
  • another mother who sold her daughter in return for Beyonce tickets
  • a dad arrested after repeatedly throwing his 23-month-old daughter into the pool to teach her a lesson about safety

At least 1.6 million American kids run away from homes every year. Most are teens. Many are fleeing physical or sexual abuse. Over half of all children and teens living in shelters or on the streets say parents "asked them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn't care."

(We might be able to help them if we spent less on standardized testing and more to hire school psychologists and counselors.)


In 1950 only 6% of American children grew up in single-parent homes. Today the figure is 35%. For African American kids the figure is 67%; for Native Americans: 53%; for Hispanics and Latinos: 42%; for Non-Hispanic Whites: 25%; for Asian Americans: 17%. It won't surprise any teacher to know that graduation rates are inversely related to the figures above.

Children raised in single-parent homes are twice as likely to drop out of school.

Nearly three million children in this country live with neither parent.

High school graduation rates for Native Americans, to cite one of a thousand examples, fell to 51% in 2010. You could argue this has much to do with crushing poverty on reservations. (Or you could make some absurd case that bad teachers with tenure gravitate toward reservations.) On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota 61% of children live below the poverty line.

A study by Johns Hopkins reveals that 15% of students miss at least one school day in every ten. Forget ending tenure as a solution. Give teachers telepathic powers so they can reach students sick, and faking sick, at home.)


There are 2.7 million children in this country who have one (or both) parents behind bars.

In 2011 roughly 35% of all gang members in this country were 17 years of age or younger. An estimated 1.4 million individuals belonged to gangs in 2009. That means 490,000 gang members were still in schools or roaming the streets.

In 2007-2008, the U. S. Department of Education estimated that 145,100 U. S. teachers were attacked by students.

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre there have been 74 school shootings in this country, including twenty involving one fatality or more.

This would not include 22 students and staff injured in a stabbing attack at a Murrysville, Pennsylvania high school (April 2014).

Nor would it include Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old Massachusetts teacher, raped, stabbed and killed in a bathroom at her school after classes ended for the day. A 14-year-old student in her math class has been charged with the crimes.

According to FBI statistics there were 2,852 attacks in U. S. schools involving knives or other "cutting instruments" in one year (2004).

It might also be difficult for any teacher, with tenure or without, to reach a confused 11-year-old who brought knives, a loaded pistol and 400 rounds of ammunition to a Vancouver, Washington middle school intending to kill classmates. (This attack was thwarted before he could do any harm.)


In 2009 alone more than 13,500 infants were born suffering "from a type of drug withdrawal commonly seen in the babies of pregnant women who abuse narcotic pain medications." The rate of such births has tripled in a decade.

Deaths from opiod overdoses in the United States now number 16,000 per year. (One statistical oddity: doctors in Tennessee wrote opiod prescriptions at a rate 22 times higher than doctors in Minnesota.) Thomas Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control, explained recently: "Prescription drug overdose is epidemic in the United States. All too often, and in far too many communities, the treatment is becoming the problem.”

Meanwhile, 6.4 million American kids have been diagnosed with ADHD and treated with drugs like Ritalin. Frieden recently "likened the rising rates of stimulant prescriptions among children to the overuse of pain medications and antibiotics in adults." (Again, rates of diagnosis vary: 23% of children in Tennessee--only 10% in Colorado. Sorry, we're not really picking on Tennessee.) Even Dr. NeHallowell, who once called such drugs "as harmless as aspirin" and wrote a book about ADHD now calls this situation "dangerous" and admits, "I hate to think I have a hand in creating that problem."

Roughly 23.5 million Americans, many of them teens still in school, or parents of kids, are addicted to alcohol or drugs.

One in fifteen high school students (6.5%) admits smoking marijuana every day. No way of telling whether or not this helped when they took their standardized tests.


Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, for health and educational reasons, that children be limited to watching two hours of television per day. Many moms and dads aren't getting the message. The average American child watches 35 hours per week.

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