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Teacher writes rap songs to help students learn, sees huge difference in their performance

A teacher is engaging students by creating rap songs alongside her lesson plans.

“The old way of learning is out; it’s outdated,” teacher Kristin Chavis told KSLA.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Chavis is a ninth-grade biology teacher at Green Oaks High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. She noticed that her traditional lesson plans weren’t exciting her students.

Then she had an idea.

“All of a sudden one night, I started hearing ‘circulatory system, circula-circulatory system,'” said Chavis.

Since then, she has written rap songs into her lesson plan to help students learn the material quickly.

“It’s all repetitive; it’s all soaking in,” Chavis said.

And so far, her methods have been effective, engaging students like never before.

>> Read more trending news

“If I come in any other classes, I either go to sleep or I don’t listen and drown the teacher out,” said student Ebony Reliford. “But in Ms. Chavis’ class, she breaks it down for us to understand.”

Chavis shared her raps on her YouTube channel. Check some of them out below:

Study: First-graders have improved reading skills

First-graders have “significantly better reading skills” now than they did more than a decade ago, according to researchers.

>> Read more trending news

A 12-year study, conducted by Ohio State University, determined that students that began first grade in 2013 are learning in kindergarten what was taught in first grade in 2001, USA Today reported.

"Children are better prepared when they enter first grade than they used to be," Emily Rodgers, a professor of teaching at Ohio State University and study co-author, told USA Today. "Kindergarten is the new first grade when it comes to learning reading skills."

The study, conducted by Rodgers and Jerome D’Agostino, canvassed hundreds of thousands of new first-graders from schools in 44 states, testing them on basic and advanced literary skills. Test scores showed marked improvement, with low-performing students showing more skill in letter identification, word recognition, print awareness and identifying and using sounds, USA Today reported.

The authors said the improved reading could be traced to a pair of reports during the 2000s advocating changes in reading instruction, as well as former President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law, an act that promoted skills tied to reading in preschool and elementary school, USA Today reported.

Officials: Man targets female students, asks to see their feet

Officials at a middle school in Albuquerque sent a home letter to parents Monday, warning of a man targeting female students walking home from bus stops.

The letter was sent by Hoover Middle School officials, according to KOAT.

>> Read more trending stories

The man, described as a Hispanic or white male in his 20s or 30s, is accused of approaching female students and asking to take photos of their feet. He's been seen multiple times in the neighborhood, at least twice driving a white car, and once while walking a dog.

No one has been harmed in the incidents, but the strange request has left students shaken.

School officials said that police are adding extra patrols in the neighborhood, but in the meantime, they discourage students from walking home alone.

Former Miss Montana under fire for tweets about her special-needs students

A former Miss Montana-turned-West Fargo, North Dakota, teacher whose winning platform was inclusive education for students with disabilities is under investigation for tweets about her special-needs students at Liberty Middle School – and their parents.

According to WDAY, Sheridan Tihista, formerly Sheridan Pope, is under fire after anonymous concerned parents printed out 20 pages of tweets from the teacher they deemed offensive.

>> Watch the news report here

In one tweet, Tihista reportedly referred to moms of children with autism as “monsters,” and in another she called the students “Satan.”

WDAY reported that another tweet said the best part of teaching children with autism is that her lesson plans never have to change because the kids “loooove routines!”

“I yelled at my student today and accidentally called him by my cat’s name…. not even ashamed bc that’s how annoying he was” and “I’m going to start a blog under a pseudonym called '[Expletive] My Students Say'” were also among the controversial tweets.

>> Read more trending news

Tihista’s Twitter account had been fully public but was made private after the complaints were lodged. Now the Twitter account is completely gone.

Although she declined to be interviewed, she did send a text to WDAY.

“My tweets may have been distasteful but don’t illustrate what kind of educator I am,” she wrote.

Interestingly, Tihista had been in the news before for being bullied out of a sorority.

Her conduct is currently under review and her future at the school uncertain.

Florida teacher fired over eyebrow-raising 'How comfortable am I?' assignment

A middle school teacher from Hernando County, Florida, is out of a job after a “How comfortable am I?” assignment came to light. The source of the assignment was a book called “Exploring White Privilege.”

The teacher at Fox Chapel Middle School gave students an assignment that asked them to circle a response of how comfortable they were with living in a predominantly black neighborhood, single moms on welfare, mothers “coming out” to their children, gay neighbors, being invited to a gay bar, having a Jewish roommate and more.

>> Watch the news report here

The response choices ranged from “Not Comfortable At All" to "Completely Comfortable.”

The teacher, identified as Daryl Cox by WTSP, has been fired.

The Hernando County School District said, “In no way does that assignment meet the standards of appropriate instructional material.”

Mothers and students speaking to WFTS condemned the assignment.

“‘How comfy are you if you see a group of black men walking to you on the street?’ That’s completely inappropriate. In no world, whatsoever, is that OK to question a child on,” mom Jennifer Block said.

>> Read more Floridoh! stories

“I thought it was very inappropriate. I thought some of them were racist. I thought some of them were sexist. I thought it was completely intolerable,” sixth-grader Tori Drews added. “There were children that were saying this is wrong. ‘Why are we doing this?’ ‘Does this have a reason?’ She was going, 'Yeah this is kind of wrong ... maybe I should take it back.'”

Drews said the teacher immediately backtracked on the assignment and said, “No. Don’t show your mom.”

“Kids were asking if they could share it with their parents. She was like, ‘No. Don’t show your mom. Don’t take that home. I’m taking it back up,'” she said.

>> Read more trending news

The student said the assignment was part of her “Leader in Me” class, which was meant to teach about accepting the differences of people.

“I believe that it was very wrong what she did. That she didn’t ask anybody before she gave it out. But I think that maybe she should have been put on a break and had like another training on something like that,” Drews said.

As WTSP reported, the assignment’s source was a book called “Exploring White Privilege” written by Robert Amico, who gave the following comment on the story:

"There is a survey in the appendix of my book titled “How Comfortable Am I?” under 'Self-Assessment Exercises' that offers readers an opportunity to assess their comfort levels in a variety of possible situations that cover a range of issues, including race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, religion, and so forth. The results can direct readers to areas worth further exploration for personal growth. I hope this helps."

Cox has not responded to media requests for comment.

Parents outraged after 'animal pornography' video shown to elementary school students

Parents in one Kentucky county are upset that an inappropriate YouTube video was shown to their elementary school students.

Heather Prushing told WKYT that she considered the video to be "animal pornography." Her 11-year-old daughter saw the video, which was shown by a Spanish teacher.

>> Read more trending news

The controversial video is a low-budget production, featuring people in animal costumes walking down a  mock runway to music by the likes of The Doors and the Beastie Boys. In one scene, there is a simulated sexual act between a chicken and a cow. Spanish is spoken in some scenes.

>>Click here to watch video (viewer discretion advised)

The video was shown in several Spanish classrooms at two different schools over the last several days. Children told their parents about the video's content, which prompted calls to school officials. Brian Creasman, Fleming County Schools Superintendent, wrote a letter to parents, saying the video was not part of the approved curriculum and was not appropriate for elementary school children to watch. Creasman said an investigation into the matter is ongoing.

Ohio quadruplets all accepted into Ivy League colleges

The Wade brothers of Lakota East High School in Liberty Township, Ohio, are somewhat of a Fantastic Four.

The quadruplet seniors earned the nickname by accomplishing an amazing feat. All four just learned they have been accepted at top Ivy League universities of Yale, Harvard and others.

>> Read more trending news 

The Wades -- Aaron, Zachary, Nigel and Nick -- are drawing national media attention for their achievement. They were profiled in the Washington Post and spent most of Wednesday afternoon being followed by a national TV network news crew during their classes.

“I have had the honor of knowing these boys since they were young because of knowing their mom and dad,” said Lakota East High School Principal Suzanna Davis. “I have watched these boys grow up into young men … and as students, they epitomize what we would want from high school students.

“They are the epitome of academic focus but well-rounded in every way we would want a child to be well-rounded, but each one of them is so very distinct from one another. Their individual personalities are what truly set them apart as high school students and as great young men.” 

The four are uniformly good natured, so much so that their version of an argument is to disagree over which sibling is the smartest.

“Aaron is brilliant,” said Nick Wade.

“No, no,” said Aaron Wade. “You’re the guy who got a state department scholarship to study Arabic.”

What they do all agree on is crediting their parents and teachers for helping to earn such an exciting opportunity.

“We’re grateful to our parents and the Lakota school district because it’s really something we couldn’t have done on our own without all the support we have had through our lives. It has been awesome,” said Nick Wade, who along with Nigel and Zachary Wade, is leaning toward attending Yale.

Aaron Wade, however, currently has Stanford University as his leading choice.

“It’s really our parents our friends and our community who have come together and taught us how to be disciplined. We feel like getting into these schools show who the people around us are,” said Nigel Wade.

Zachary Wade nodded in agreement and said, “There has never been a time in our life whenever we said something (career goals), and they said, ‘Oh, that’s a big goal.’”

“They said, ‘I know you guys can do it. You guys are hard workers, and the sky’s the limit,’” said Zachary Wade. “We were never told that we couldn’t get somewhere.”

Nigel Wade said while they were all surprised by college acceptances, another bonus has been “we’ve all, kind of, grew closer to each other.”

Watch video of the brothers discussing their accomplishment at Journal-News.

Oklahoma senior accepted to all 8 Ivy League schools

Sarah Cameron boasts a long list of extracurricular activities, including academic clubs and an impressive tennis career. Now she can brag about her eight college acceptance letters, all to Ivy League schools.

>> Read more trending news

The Jenks, Oklahoma, teen joins a short list of teens who accomplished the feat- including fellow class of 2017 senior Ifeoma White-Thorpe from New Jersey.

Cameron first received her acceptance letter from Yale. Seven more letters arrived on March 30, informing Cameron that she had been accepted.

Related: New Jersey teen accepted into all 8 Ivy League schools

In just under a week, she narrowed down her choices to Yale, Princeton and Harvard.

Further exploring her options, Cameron plans to visit the schools in a few weeks before making her choice, saying that being born and raised in Jenks, she was excited to explore a new part of the country and bring Oklahoma pride to the northeast. 

Student journalists’ probe into new principal’s credentials leads to resignation

A group of high school journalists in Kansas forced their school’s new principal to resign after their investigation into her background found problems with her credentials.

Reporters and editors at Pittsburg High School’s student newspaper, the Booster Redux, began looking into Amy Robertson’s background after Pittsburg Community Schools’ board hired her on March 6. Pittsburg is located in southeast Kansas, about 125 miles south of Kansas City, Missouri. 

At the time of her hiring, the school district said that Robertson would bring “decades of experience” to the position, which she was scheduled to start this fall. 

Students told the Washington Post that discrepancies quickly showed up when they began looking into Robertson’s credentials. 

“There were some things that just didn’t quite add up,” Connor Balthazor, 17, told the Post

One of the biggest red flags was Corllins University, the private university where Robertson claimed she received her master’s degree and doctorate. When the student reporters researched Corllins, the university’s website didn’t work.

They also found no evidence that Corllins was an accredited school, the Post reported

>> Read more trending stories

The students, five juniors and a senior, also located a number of media reports that revealed Corllins to be a “diploma mill,” where a person can ultimately buy a degree. The school is not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education and an inquiry with the Better Business Bureau revealed that the school, address unknown, was not BBB accredited. 

The Kansas City Star reported that students searching for Robertson online also found stories published by Gulf News about Robertson and an English language school in Dubai, where she lived for about two decades. The articles, published in 2012, stated that Dubai education officials suspended the license of that school and accused Robertson of not being authorized to serve as its principal. 

The school was shut down in 2013 after years of unsatisfactory ratings by officials, the Star reported.

“That raised a red flag,” student Maddie Baden, 17, told the Star. “If students could uncover all of this, I want to know why the adults couldn’t find this.”

Robertson refused to comment on the students’ questions about her qualifications. 

“I have no comment in response to the questions posted by PHS students regarding my credentials because their concerns are not based on facts,” Robertson told the Star

She told the Star and the Booster Redux that Corllins’ current accreditation status was irrelevant because the school had no accreditation issues when she received her advanced degrees in 1994 and 2010. 

“All three of my degrees have been authenticated by the U.S. government,” Robertson told the Star via email on Friday. 

The Post reported, however, that Robertson, during an emergency faculty meeting on Tuesday, was unable to produce a transcript confirming her undergraduate degree from the University of Tulsa.

Robertson resigned that day. 

The school district announced the resignation in a statement posted on the district website. 

“In light of the issues that arose, Dr. Robertson felt it was in the best interest of the district to resign her position,” the statement read. “The board has agreed to accept her resignation.”

The principal position will be reopened and a replacement found. 

The student reporters’ work has brought them national attention, and kudos from people across the country.

Emily Smith, the students’ newspaper advisor, told the Post that the newspaper staff was “at a loss that something that was so easy for them to see was waiting to be noticed by adults.”

Pittsburg schools Superintendent Destry Brown told the Star he was surprised when the students questioned Robertson’s credentials, but that he encouraged them to seek the truth. 

“I want our kids to have real-life experiences, whether it’s welding or journalism,” Brown told the newspaper. 

Smith said she was proud of her students. 

“They were not out to get anyone to resign or to get anyone fired,” Smith said. “They worked very hard to uncover the truth.”

New Jersey teen accepted into all 8 Ivy League schools

It’s good to be Ifeoma White-Thorpe.

>> Read more trending news 

The Denville, New Jersey, high school senior has been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools plus Stanford.

“Harvard, Yale, Columbia, UPenn, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton and Stanford,” White-Thorpe told WABC-TV.

“I was like, I might as well shoot my shot and apply,” White-Thorpe said.

She told WABC-TV now that she’s been accepted into her dream colleges, the hard part is going to be deciding which one to attend when she graduates in June.

“I got into Harvard early action so I figured I’ll just go there. Then I got into all the others, and I was like, wait now I don’t know where I want to go,” White-Thorpe told WABC-TV.

White-Thorpe enrolled in Advanced Placement classes at Morris Hills High School, where she is the student government president.

“I think my love for poetry and writing just really stood out,” she told WABC-TV.

White-Thorpe wants to study biology and go into the global health business.

“Education is essential for change, and I aspire to be that change,” she said earlier in her high school career

The 17-year-old’s parents said they’ll let her decide which school she wants to attend, and White-Thorpe said she’ll make her decision based on financial aid offerings. 

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