Louis C.K. Went On An Amazing Twitter Rant Against Standardized Testing and the Common Core

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Image via Wikimedia Commons
Louis C.K.
Everyone hates the Common Core, a set of "educational standards" that 44 states have adopted for their K-12 students. Really. Everyone. The ultra right hates it because it's a sinister Obama-controlled conspiracy designed to enslave our children and turn them into Communist Socialist hivemind robots, while the rest of the country despises it because of common sense. Common Core questions take happy subjects like math and reading and turn them into strange, contorted, logic- and linguistics-defying puzzles, designed to leave your fourth-grader weeping in frustration over a wadded-up page of fractions. (Take a look at some sample math questions for New York state's third graders, if you'd like to feel your stomach clench in vicarious anxiety).

Legions of frustrated parents are tired of struggling to help their children understand absurd word salad like "Which is a related subtraction sentence?". Louis C.K. is among them; the comedian has two grade-school age children and a deep, festering, entirely understandable rage towards how they're being asked to learn.

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NYC Charter School Enrollment: from 2K to 59k in a Decade

Categories: Education

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naosuke ii via Compfight cc
During the 2002-2003 school year, 2,400 kids attended a charter school in New York City. Last year, 59,000 kids did.

Over that time, enrollment in traditional public schools and in Catholic schools dropped.

The stats, released in a recent Independent Budget Office analysis and first reported by the Daily News, quantify that rapid shift in the education landscape that Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to stop before quickly giving up. Never a good look to appear to stand between parents and their children's education.


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Here's What It Looks Like When Reverend Billy and His Choir Visit a Harvard Drone Lab to Cast Out the Demons [Updated]

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All photos by Minister Erik McGregor
The Queen Bee, Reverend Billy and choir enter the lab building.
When we last heard from anti-consumerist preacher Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, he was in a spot of legal trouble. In recent years, the choir's message has shifted away from the evils of individual consumerism and focused instead on corporate greed, staging special sermons for the big businesses that profit from the ruination of the planet. In October, that message landed him and music director Nehemiah Luckett in jail, after the choir visited a Chase Bank wearing toad hats and singing about the destruction of the earth (Chase has enthusiastically financed mountain-top removal, a particularly damaging form of mining.)

Reverend Billy and Luckett were charged with inciting a riot and menacing, among other charges, and faced up to a year in jail. Eventually, they were able to plead the charges way down: Reverend Billy plead to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to one day of community service, while Luckett's case was dismissed on the proviso that he stay out of trouble for six months.

"What a bush-league resolution that was," Reverend Billy told us cheerily, one morning not long ago. "I don't feel great about it. I get sick of the boredom." He compares the legal process to "death by a thousand cuts," with its endless trips to the courthouse.

Now, the Reverend says, "We've got to get back to work here. The honey bees are dying." The choir is back with a new campaign: drawing attention to the plight of the world's bees, who are dying off at alarming rates. To kick things off, they visited a Harvard lab yesterday, where they attempted to cast out its demons through song.

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Manhattan Had Biggest Common Core Knowledge Gap Among Boroughs, Says Study

Categories: Education

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HBO's "The Wire."
The Common Core test, implemented in New York City public schools for the first time last year, caused a stir because much fewer students passed it than the previous version. It set a higher standard for what a student should know, suggesting that past scores were inflated and the education system was all along worse than even what we'd suspected.

The overall score drop, however, was not equal across the board. The knowledge gap was present as always, and black and Hispanic kids had steeper falls than white and Asian kids. For instance, the math proficiency rate dipped 30.5 percent among black sixth graders and 33 percent among Hispanic sixth graders. The rate among Asian and white students in that age group decreased by 24.7 and 29.6, respectively.

The gap wasn't even across the boroughs either, according to a study released this month by the National Urban Research Group.

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Esaul Ortiz, Student Shot at Bronx High School, Sues City

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NYC Department of Education
Bronx Regional High School
Around noon on December 10, 2012, 19-year-old Esaul Ortiz was shot in front of Bronx Regional High School. The bullet hit the student in the arm and he survived. Two days later, police arrested then-17-year-old Larry Adeyanju, who is currently awaiting trial for charges including criminal weapons possession and assault with intent to cause serious injury.

Meanwhile, Ortiz seeks to hold the school responsible as well. Last week, he filed a complaint against the Department of Education and the city for negligence and "their failure to provide a reasonably safe environment."

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Brown University Committee Releases Report on Ray Kelly Heckling Incident

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Screenshot via Brown Daily Herald
Students protest before Kelly's lecture-attempt.
It's been a full four months since then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly headed to Brown University to deliver a lecture on "proactive policing," and instead was driven from the stage by student hecklers displeased with his policies on stop-and-frisk. Kelly has since moved on, working as a "distinguished visiting fellow" at the Council on Foreign Relations and, soon, as a special adviser to Governor Andrew Cuomo's planned new school on homeland security and emergency preparedness.

But Brown University, in the grand liberal arts tradition of discussing every single thing to death and beyond, is still parsing the meaning of the Ray Kelly Heckling Incident, even appointing a ten-person committee to explore what happened that afternoon. Last week, the committee released the first half of a two-part report, which outlines everything that happened from the moment the lecture was announced to the time Kelly touched down in his NYPD-funded helicopter to speak.

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And Now, the Answers to Our 2013 News Quiz, Plus the Super Smart Contest Winner

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Illustration by Fred Harper
This picture is a joke about Banksy, who was real big in 2013.
At the end of 2013, before our collective spirits had been broken by the endless Polar Vortexes inflicted upon us, we extended a challenge to you, our readers: show us what you remember about the past year in news. Our 2013 news quiz brought in lots and lots of people willing to take that challenge, and finally, we're ready to announce a winner. But first, an apology.

That quiz was hard. We didn't exactly mean to make it so hard, but some of the stuff we threw in there was just cruel. The bizarre species of cockroach found on the High Line? Which politicians were indicted for election fraud and which ones were merely divorced by their long-suffering spouses? Who even remembers this stuff?

A few things, though, everyone got right. Damn near all of you knew that Amanda Bynes was accused of throwing a bong out the window of her apartment (a charge that was dismissed not long ago). Most people remembered that Anthony Weiner was pursued by sexting buddy Sydney Leathers through a McDonalds on election night, although very few of you remembered that Leathers subsequently attempted to auction off her "excess" labia skin after a "rejuvenation" procedure.

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The New York City Council Thinks Standardized Tests Suck, Too

Categories: Education

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albertogp123 via Flickr
In a move that is expected to be popular with school children across the city, the New York City Council passed a unanimous resolution Tuesday declaring its opposition to high-stakes standardized testing.

"The over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools," the resolution said, "including the narrowing of the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing the love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate."


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Two CCNY Students Charged With Rioting, Criminal Mischief, Harassment for Protests Over Closure of Morales-Shakur Center

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Anna Merlan
Tafadar Sourov, in the striped t-shirt, stands next to Khalil Vasquez, tan jacket, and their attorneys, Mark Yu and Ron McGuire, outside the courthouse this morning.
Two City College of New York students have been criminally charged for their role in the protests against the closure of the Morales-Shakur Center, the school's hub of campus political activity. Tafadar Sourov, 19, and Khalil Vasquez, 22, have been suspended from CCNY since October 28, barred from campus, and prevented from registering for spring classes; late last week, they learned that they would also be facing charges in Manhattan criminal court.

The men surrendered themselves yesterday and spent last night in jail. This morning, they were arraigned and charged with two counts of criminal mischief in the fourth degree, one count of obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, one count of rioting, one count of inciting to riot, and harassment in the second degree, all misdemeanors. Sourov is also being charged with attempted assault in the third degree, another misdemeanor, for allegedly shoving a CCNY police officer to the ground. Both men face up to a year in prison.

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Eleven-Year-Old Suffered Brain Damage from Toxic Chemicals at P.S. 51 Building, Lawsuit Claims

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Google Maps
The building formerly known as P.S. 51.
An 11-year-old who attended P.S. 51 for three years suffered brain damage from the toxic chemicals in the school building, the boy's father claims in a lawsuit filed on Monday.

The boy had attended P.S. 51 from September 2007 to June 2011, two months before the Department of Education informed families that there was an unsafe level of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the soil below the cafeteria of the school's 3220 Jerome Avenue building in the Bronx.

The suit states that the boy has suffered "impaired motor coordination," "impaired mathematical skills," "impaired visual and verbal memory" and "impaired perceptual reasoning," as well as a "lack of concentration and attention," "frequent headaches," "vomiting," and "insomnia."

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