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26
Aug 2013

A Beacon of Excellence in Urban Education on the West Side of Chicago

When it comes to models of excellence in the area of urban education; Frazier International Magnet School (FIMS) on Chicago’s West Side stands at the forefront. The school, which serves grades K-8, opened in September of 2007 after an intense recruiting effort in West Side neighborhoods for students. In 2010, FIMS was the only school in the state of Illinois to achieve the 90 percent minority, 90 percent poverty, 90 percent meeting or exceeding on the state assessment distinction. The school repeated this feat for an unprecedented three years.

The demographic breakdown of the school can be attributed to the fact that entry into the school is not granted via test scores but through a lottery. The school’s founding principal, Colette Unger-Teasley, stated that they receive students “from the 9th percentile to the 90th percentile.” Unger-Teasley said that she was motivated to start the school because she wanted to give back to the North Lawndale neighborhood where she was raised. Unger-Teasley gladly accepted the offer to becoming the founding principal. The initial proposal for the school was started by a department within the Chicago Public School District that recognized Unger-Teasley’s International Baccalaureate program experience and North Lawndale roots.

She attributed the school’s success to a “hands on approach” that included:

  • teacher book studies on best practice,
  • placing two teachers in every classroom to lower the teacher ratio
  • before-school tutoring
  • after-school tutoring
  • weekly review of student data to determine how to drive the instruction
  • Unger-Teasley’s participation in all grade-level meetings
  • Unger-Teasley commented on every child’s progress report and report card
  • ongoing professional development on topics from how to improve the rigor to differentiating instruction to address the diverse learners in the classroom

A Saturday school was implemented from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. eight weeks prior to the state exam with a focus on reading, math, and science in addition to before- and after-school tutorial programs throughout the school year. On Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 Unger- Teasley was honored as the founding principal by a dedication ceremony. The Local School Council, staff and teachers dedicated the school library after her. It will now be called the Colette Unger- Teasley Library. The stellar and sustained achievement of FIMS in an area ravaged by poverty and gun violence serves as a beacon of excellence and a model for similarly situated schools to emulate.

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26
Aug 2013

Oprah Winfrey Celebrated ‘The Butler’ Success With A Hula Hoop

LOS ANGELES — When “Beloved” starring Oprah Winfrey fell flat at the box office in 1998, Winfrey drowned her sorrows in macaroni and cheese.

She found a different way to celebrate when “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” her first big-screen performance since “Beloved,” hit No. 1 in its debut last weekend.

“I actually got a purple Hula Hoop that I bring out for occasions like this,” Winfrey said this week. “So I brought out that Hula Hoop in the front yard.”

The scant turnout for “Beloved,” based on Toni Morrison’s novel, caught Winfrey by surprise after the reception of 1985′s “The Color Purple,” the Steven Spielberg film in which she made her big-screen debut and which earned her an Oscar nomination.

“I didn’t know that by Saturday morning you could already know that you’re a loser,” she said, referring to how quickly a new film’s performance is judged. “So Saturday morning I get the call that (`Beloved’) was beat out by `Bride of Chucky.’”

She asked her chef to start cooking comfort food and ended up “in a macaroni-and-cheese coma.”

Given that unhappy memory, she said, she decided on “no expectations” for director Daniels’ “The Butler,” in which Forest Whitaker portrays a longtime White House butler and Winfrey plays his wife.

“Do the work, offer it, and however it’s received” was her approach, said the former daytime talk-show queen who now oversees her cable channel, OWN.

“I actually think this weekend is going to do better than we imagine,” Winfrey said. “It’s touching the hearts of people who didn’t expect it.”

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16
Aug 2013

‘Blurred Lines’ & Other Age Inappropriate Content Leaves Parents Facing A Conundrum

By MARTHA IRVINE 08/15/13 03:11 PM ET EDT



Until this summer, few people outside the R&B music scene knew who Robin Thicke was. Then came his new song “Blurred Lines” and an unrated online video to promote it.

“You the hottest b—- in this place!” Thicke sings, as topless models playfully dance around him.

The video has stirred a debate, with detractors complaining that it’s too racy and degrading to women.

Thicke insists he meant no offense – and the song, meanwhile, has become the No. 1 hit of the summer.

Certainly in pop culture, pushing the limits of what’s considered appropriate is hardly new. Back in the roaring 1920s, young women of the “flapper” generation raised eyebrows. In the 1950s, Elvis gyrated and caused a ruckus.

In the 1970s, comedian George Carlin joked about “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” quickly listing them in a social commentary about the pitfalls of censorship.

Singling out those few words seems almost quaint in an era when just about any kind of uncensored content is easily accessible from a mobile phone, a tablet, or on less regulated cable and Internet TV or satellite radio. Media experts say broadcast TV and mainstream radio have, in turn, tried to keep up by airing saucier content to try to retain dwindling audiences. Many see this free flow of content as progress – a victory for freedom of expression in an uptight society.

But for many parents, it also can be difficult to try to keep their kids from pop culture offerings they don’t consider age appropriate.

Do they filter it as best they can? Laugh it off? Use it as a teachable moment? Demand more limits?

And if they do the latter, who gets to decide what those limits are, anyway – since what’s appropriate to one person might not be to another?

“It’s a conundrum,” says Kirsten Bischoff, a mom in Springfield, N.J., who’s also co-founder of HatchedIt.com, an online social network for families

Bischoff recalls wincing during a car ride last year as her then 13-year-old daughter and a young friend belted out the song “Whistle” by rapper Flo Rida. The girls had no idea the song was about fellatio.

Mom decided to say nothing so they wouldn’t ask questions. But she later fretted about her decision on her online blog, where other parents told her they’d faced similar dilemmas.

“Lord, I’m turning into Tipper Gore,” Bischoff later joked, fearing people would compare her to the former second lady, who campaigned to get the music industry to put warning labels on content with explicit lyrics.

Gore got some support but became the object of ridicule and a few protest songs, including rapper Ice T’s 1989 song “Freedom of Speech” in which he, too, used the b-word to refer to Gore and other profanities to make his point.

It’s true that those who question any kind of content risk being called a prude, or a censor. That’s partly because history has shown that efforts to curb allegedly “indecent” content can fail, or look misguided in hindsight, says Susan Mackey-Kallis, an associate professor of communication at Villanova University.

In 1930, Hollywood adopted the Motion Picture Production Code, a list of moral standards for the film industry.

Among other things, the code – which was abandoned in the 1960s for the current rating system – forbade showing interracial sexual relationships, scenes of childbirth, “in fact or in silhouette,” or anything about sexual hygiene or sexually transmitted diseases. It also was implied that gay content should not be shown.

“Looking at a list like this today, it is amazing to think how far we have come,” Mackey-Kallis says.

While religious or political figures have often weighed in with moral arguments, today a decision to limit content is as likely to be a business decision.

Credit card companies and the banks that oversee their transactions use web-crawling and other investigative techniques to search for questionable content. They do not, for instance, allow payments for goods or services that are related to any illegal sexual acts – or that might even depict rape or exploitation of a minor. But beyond clearly illegal acts, they also reserve the right to steer clear of any content they feel reflects poorly on their brands.

Ultimately, however, it is the courts that determine what is obscene, a term reserved in the legal system for sexually explicit content that meets certain criteria.

The U.S. Supreme Court has based its definition of obscenity on “community standards” and these three factors:

- Does the work appeal to “prurient,” or excessively sexual, interests?

- Does it “depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law?”

- And does the work lack “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value?”

“It’s clearly very tough to prove. What’s obscene to some may be artful dancing to others,” says Robert Pondillo, a professor of mass media history and American culture at Middle Tennessee State University who wrote the book “America’s First Network TV Censor.”

And, he notes, the courts have not tended to limit language, which generally falls under free speech protection. Media that is broadcast on the airwaves – network television and radio, for instance – is still somewhat limited, though not as much as some parents would like.

Determining what’s acceptable is further complicated by the fact that online life has changed the notion of the “community standard.”

“We’re an increasingly connected society, so we’re no longer divided by our (physical) communities,” says David Gudelunas, a communication professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Now, those communities are often online, stretching across continents and age brackets to bring together people with common interests.

Take 33-year-old Ben Tao. He was an engineering student in Los Angeles when he discovered a “niche” in the adult film industry. Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, he learned, didn’t allow the creators of sexually oriented projects to post those projects to seek funding.

So he started Offbeatr, a fundraising site for creators of adult films and content.

His site is aimed at people age 18 and older. Those who propose projects for funding must prove their age, though he concedes it’s impossible to monitor the age of everyone who visits the site.

Of course, parents can use filters to keep their children from the content, he says.

But he concedes, “I think it’s a hard battle to fight if you’re trying to say, `I’m going to protect against every single thing.’”

Therein is the dilemma. Should society err on the side of free access, even if it means children might encounter inappropriate content? Or do you set limits on online access to pornography, for instance, unless a household requests that access, as British Prime Minister David Cameron plans to do?

Should radio stations err on the side of a playing “clean” versions of songs? Should cable companies be more careful about airing age appropriate content during daytime hours?

And for that matter, should an artist such as Nicki Minaj worry if an 8-year-old learns the words to a song that talks about selling cocaine and “panties comin’ off”? A couple years ago, the parents of Sophia Grace Brownlee, a young British girl, made a video of her rapping and singing Minaj’s song “Super Bass.”

Deemed “cute” and “adorable” by the video’s many viewers on YouTube, Sophia Grace later performed the song on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, where she has since become a regular.

Minaj herself seemed a tad uncomfortable when she appeared on the show with Sophia Grace and urged the girl to sing a tamer part of the song.

But Jeffrey McCall, a media studies professor at DePauw University in Indiana, says he’s not surprised that few others questioned whether a kid this age should perform the song, or even have access to it.

“The entertainment industry has a huge role in deciding what is culturally OK, and society will often take (its) lead,” says McCall, author of the book “Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influence.”

Even Pat Cooper, a comedian who knew George Carlin, sees a difference between the late comic’s “Seven Words” skit and much of the material he hears today.

Carlin “was saying, `Let’s express ourselves. Be a human being,’” says Cooper, who’s 85 and lives in New York City. Too often now, Cooper says, vulgarity on stage and elsewhere is used for shock value alone.

“We don’t want to think anymore. So instead of thinking we just curse out what we want to say,” Cooper says.

Jeanne Achille, who heads a New Jersey public relations firm, cites a recent story as another example of this problem: the media’s summer obsession with New York politician Anthony Weiner and his habit of sending lewd photos of himself to women.

“Sadly,” she says, the coverage “validates … our society’s tolerance for ingesting everything and anything with no sense of what to filter and no ability to put boundaries in place – whether sensationalistic news delivered 24/7, huge quantities of bad food also available 24/7, or horrible television programs featuring stupid, foul-mouthed people.”

But she’s found her way to deal with it and suggests others do the same.

“Not to sound like Nancy Reagan, but, `Just say no.,’” Achille says. “I’m at a point in life where I’ve finally learned that I can shut it out and don’t need to participate when it doesn’t suit me.”

For an individual decision, that can work fine. But, again, what about when it comes to raising a teen today?

Bischoff, the mom in New Jersey, feels powerless to filter out all the inappropriate content.

“There’s no way to shelter a kid anymore, unless we home-school her and go live in the woods somewhere,” she says. “The only thing I can think of to do as a mom is to try to stay ahead of it . with talk, talk and more talk.”

 

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15
Aug 2013

The Challenges Facing Musicians In 2013. Free Research Report.

BY: MARK KNIGHT

Back in June Right Chord Music launched The Big Survey in association with Farida Guitars.  Our aim was to better understand the realities of being a musician in 2013. The online survey was completed by 200 musicians, of which three-quarters were unsigned or independent. Two-thirds of the respondents reported they had released at least one single.  The vast majority of respondents came from three countries: UK, Australia, and the USA.

Results highlight the increasing number of sites and services used by artists to promote their music. It’s no surprise that Facebook dominates, but it’s interesting to see the growing importance of Soundcloud and Bandcamp and the much heralded fall from grace of Myspace.

Just over one-half of the respondents reported paid live shows were the primary source of their monthly income. Digital download sales (13%) and CD sales (12%) were second and third respectively. Over six different incomes streams were reported. Although average incomes from live shows were not captured in this survey Right Chord Music would expect income from live shows at this level to be between £20-£50 per show, and a band to be playing a maximum of three paid shows within an average month. It’s clear once income is divided up between 3-4 band members and petrol, parking, hire, and rehearsal costs are factored in, income does not necessarily mean profit.

Music Discovery

Bedroom and DIY culture is very much alive and kicking, with just under one-half (49%) of respondents reporting they record all of their music at home. Twenty-eight percent (28%) reported they record demos at home before heading to a professional studio to add a professional touch to their work.

To professionally promote music costs money, Right Chord Music estimates between £300-500 for online PR, and £600-£850 for radio plugging for a minimum of two months. Then there is press and TV, the cost continues to rise. Based on these costs, and their unsigned status, it is no surprise that the vast majority (87%) of respondents in this survey reported they have to promote their music themselves.

Respondents reported over seven different ways they sell their music, with selling CDs at live shows remaining the most popular sales channel. Bandcamp’s growing influence among the unsigned community is clear with as many respondents reporting they use Bandcamp as iTunes to sell their music. Ten percent (10%) of respondents reported they sell their music directly from Facebook.

How Do You Sell

When respondents were asked to highlight the biggest challenges they face as musicians two dominated: ‘Getting our music heard’ and ‘Making enough money.’ But equally noticeable is the large number of challenges they recognise and struggle to overcome. It is certainly not easy to be a musician in 2013.

To download your FREE copy of the full report visit: http://www.rightchordmusic.co.uk/faridaguitarresults/

 

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15
Aug 2013

The Best Safe Passage Program in America Is the Million Father March

 

Chicago - Here is an unusual reason for hosting the Million Father March 2013 at your school or in your community.  When fathers and men are at schools, children feel safer.  When fathers and men are at schools, teachers feel safer.  When fathers and men are at schools, students are better behaved.  When fathers and men are at schools, those who might want to do harm to children or disrupt education usually stay away.  Almost no incidents of violence ever occur or are reported on the first day at schools that participate in the Million Father March.

 

Keeping children safe in 2013, in and out of school, is not an easy matter.  Violence has become ingrained in some communities and violence can erupt anywhere in the United States, including school.  Unfortunately, staff at too many schools must expend valuable time thinking about and preparing for safety-time taken away from teaching and learning. Although police can discourage and manage violence, The Black Star Project understands that aware parents and community members constitute the best, first-line defense to protect children in and around schools-especially fathers whose presence at schools support positive learning environments.

 

The Black Star Project will sponsor the Million Father March 2013 on the first day of school in nearly 600 cities across America.  Its aim is to inspire fathers and families to be more effectively engaged with their children’s education.  One million fathers are expected to participate this year.  Since the inception of the Million Father March one decade ago, first-day attendance in Chicago rose from nearly 85 percent to about 95 percent in 2011.

 

Participants in the Million Father March 2013 include fathers, grandfathers, foster fathers, stepfathers, uncles, cousins, big brothers, male caregivers, mentors and family friends.  On the first day of school:

  • Fathers are asked to accompany their children to school and to register to volunteer 10 hours per year at the school.
  • Elected officials are invited to visit schools to help them understand how to make better public policy and inspire them to fight for adequate funding.
  • Faith leaders are asked to pray around the schools for protection and to have their faith institution adopt schools.
  • Business leaders are asked to give fathers and other men at least two morning hours off, with pay, to take their children to school.

Keeping students safe in America is serious business, and none are better able to rise to this occasion than the fathers of the children who attend American schools.  The Black Star Project can help fathers establish and maintain safety patrols, create father booster clubs and help schools maintain effective learning environments.  Please call 773.285.9600 for more information.

 

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