Tuesday, February 28, 2006

School board OKs teacher's return as a woman

EAGLESWOOD TOWNSHIP, N.J. - A New Jersey school board will allow Lily McBeth to return to the school where she taught for five years as a man.

To students at Eagleswood Elementary School, she used to be Mr. McBeth. The retired sales executive was married for 33 years and had three children before having sex-change surgery last year. She re-applied for her job as a substitute teacher under her new name.

Some parents object to McBeth's return to the school. One father predicts it will be "chaos" when the students learn of her gender-changing surgery. But a school board attorney says she is a good teacher who's gotten favorable reviews in the past.

McBeth calls the school board's decision "magnificent" and "democracy in action."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Is The Best Bathroom In Michigan?

All Seasons Bistro, in East Lansing, Michigan, has been named for having one of the top five bathrooms in the country. The restroom was cited for its streak-free mirrors, old-world floor tiles and fresh paint job. "This is one of a few public restrooms I would allow myself, my wife and children to use and not worry about it," the nominator said.

To vote for this bathroom, go to http://www.bestrestroom.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

20 States Ask for Flexibility in School Law

By Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times

The federal Education Department has agreed to review requests from 20 states to alter significantly the way they measure student progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. The move comes as the number of schools across the country deemed substandard under that law grows by the thousands.

The requests, which Education Secretary Margaret Spellings invited states to submit last November as part of a pilot project, would allow states to judge schools by tracking the progress of individual students over time.

Currently, schools must show improvement in successive grades of students, with more of this year's fifth graders, for example, proficient at reading and math compared with last year's fifth graders.

States have long sought such a change, contending that it is fairer to measure the improvement in individual students than in different groups of students.

The states that have applied to make the changes for the current school year are Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.

Six more — Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — have asked to apply changes next year.

Only 10 states will be permitted to make the changes in assessing this year's test results. The plans must still be reviewed by a government-appointed panel and receive approval from federal officials, expected by May, to move forward.

The department's willingness to consider the requests is the most recent in a series of steps Ms. Spellings has offered, amid growing legal and political challenges to the law, to give states more flexibility in complying with it.

Under the outlines they submitted, many states are also suggesting that they be permitted to count students as proficient in reading or math even if they are not, so long as they are on track to reach proficiency within two, three or four years, depending on the proposal.

These states, along with some education advocates, contend that schools whose students are struggling should receive credit for improving their achievement, even if they have not reached proficiency, because it is unrealistic to expect them to do so in a single year.

In the 2004-05 school year, the share of high-poverty schools that failed to make enough yearly progress under the law jumped by 50 percent, to 9,000 from 6,000 the year before. There are 50,000 high-poverty schools in the United States, for whom failing to make enough progress sets off a cascade of extra attention, as well as eventual punishments, including the possible closure of the school.

In inviting the proposals, however, Ms. Spellings said the department would not compromise on certain "core principles" of the law, including the requirements that all students reach proficiency in reading and math by 2014, and that schools break down student performance by race, ethnicity, income, disability and gender.

Ross Wiener, policy director at the Education Trust, a nonprofit group in Washington that helped write No Child Left Behind, said that after years of criticism of the law the proposals that states submitted were their first opportunity to say how they would measure adequate yearly progress, the linchpin of the law.

"It really brings into relief, this question, this issue that has been simmering" around the law, Mr. Wiener said. "How much growth is ambitious enough that you're being fair to kids versus what's fair to schools and school systems?"

Lou Fabrizio, accountability services director at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said his state's proposal would offer a second and third chance to schools that initially failed to meet federal guidelines.

If the rate of progress students were making showed they would reach proficiency within four years, they would be counted as already being proficient, for purposes of judging school performance.

Under North Carolina's proposal, Dr. Fabrizio said, the number of schools deemed failing to make adequate annual progress last year would have dropped by 13 percent, to 810 schools from 932.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Women's Hockey Team Gets Bronze

The women's ice hockey team did pretty well in Torino--bronze medal! Sweden picked up the silver, and Canada got the gold.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Titanic Is Most Successful Romance Movie

Titanic is the highest grossing romance movie of all time, newly released figures reveal.

The 1997 film won eleven Oscars and took a staggering $813 million (GBP450 million) at the box office - almost double its nearest contender, Disney animation The Lion King, which earned $476 million (264 million).

The top ten, as compiled by hollywood.com, is as follows:

1: Titanic - $813 million (GBP450 million)
2: The Lion King - $476 million (264 million)
3: Aladdin - $325 million (GBP180 million)
4: Ghost - $315 million (GBP175 million)
5: Dances With Wolves - $270 million (GBP150 million)
6: Armageddon - $267 million (GBP148 million)
7: Pretty Woman - $262.5 million (GBP145.5 million)
8: Jerry Maguire - $216 million (GBP120 million)
9: Terms of Endearment - $214 million (GBP118 million)
10: What Women Want - $210.5 million (GBP117 million)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wildcats Retire Jersey For First Female Hoopster

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona will retire the jersey of the late Shawntinice "Polkey" Polk in a ceremony following Saturday's Pac-10 basketball game here against Stanford.

Polk, who wore No. 00, complained that she wasn't feeling well when she arrived at McKale Center on the morning of Sept. 26, 2005.

She collapsed in front of the team trainer and was taken to nearby University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

The two-time all-conference center would have been a senior this season.

A pulmonary blood clot caused the death, according to the Pima County medical examiner's office.

Polk, 22, is the Wildcats' career leader in blocked shots (222) and double-doubles (44) and is the program's No. 4 all-time scorer with 1,467 points.

Polk is the first woman's basketball player to have her jersey retired at the school.

Arizona men's players who have had their jerseys retired are Mike Bibby (10), Sean Elliott (32), Jason Gardner (22) and Steve Kerr (25).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

American Hedrick Wins Gold

Last night, I watched American Chad Hedrick win the 5000 meter men's speed skating event. He did a great job. Way to go, Chad and the USA!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Congratulations Kelly Clarkson

I was so happy (and surprised) that Kelly Clarkson won two Grammy's last night!