Five ideas

Sunday, July 1, 2007 | 12:16 a.m. CDT; updated 9:04 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008


The Alley Way

Not even the alleys have been overlooked by city officials in their never-ending quest to make The District shine. The process began in 2004, when the Special Business District Board of Directors approached the Historic Preservation Commission to generate names for the alleyways.

So how does one go about naming alleys?

The chairman of the preservation commission said that names shouldn’t have a negative historical connotation. Here is a list of some proposed names for alleyways: Sharp End Way, Flat Branch Way, Nowell’s Way, Lancaster Way and McQuitty Way. The names were chosen to commemorate notable stores and business owners from Columbia’s past.

City officials said that naming the alleys will help people find businesses more easily and allow firefighters to respond more quickly to any possible fires.

Store owners like the idea, but they say there is plenty of cleaning up to do before the alleys should get names. They pointed to persistent problems like overflowing trash compactors, graffiti and poorly paved roads.

How will naming the alleys help downtown businesses?


Ruling Supreme

Last week the Supreme Court handed down a series of 5-4 decisions on a multitude of issues including free speech in classrooms, overlapping environmental laws and President Bush’s faith-based initiative.

In the biggest free-speech case since the new court was seated, the justices ruled to limit what students can and can’t say at school. The case was prompted by a Juneau, Alaska, high school student who was suspended in 2004 for displaying a sign that said “Bong hits 4 Jesus” at a public event. The justices ruled that schools can regulate student expression that advocates the use of illegal drugs.

The court also ruled that ordinary taxpayers cannot sue to stop conferences that help religious charities apply for federal grants. The decision blocks a lawsuit by a group of atheists that objects to government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.

Many observers, including at least one presidential candidate, say the court is moving a decidedly right-wing agenda faster than it has in the previous decades and slamming the courthouse doors in the faces of ordinary people.

Do the rulings represent a conservative shift or are they fairly representative of the average American’s values?


State of teachers

Missouri teachers have to spend five years on probationary status before they are allowed to receive job security. In Nebraska, the same process takes only a year. This difference in job security benefits available to teachers from state to state is only one of the discrepancies that highlight how policies can impact the teaching profession.

Last week the National Council on Teacher Quality released a report that said current state laws are a system of broken and counterproductive policies in need of an overhaul.

The group said that differences in how teachers are evaluated, prepared, licensed and compensated all affect quality of teaching.

Only about a quarter of states require annual evaluations for teachers, according to the report. Hawaii, Missouri and Tennessee let teachers go as long as five years without a formal review.

Some experts say review periods as long as five years are unwise. Some think many schools don’t have an option because principals may not have time to review every teacher annually.

How often do you think teachers should be subject to a job review?


Sickle Cell

How do you get athletes to test for a trait when the knowledge of it could save their lives but derail their aspirations for a career as a pro?

That’s the question colleges and high schools will be asking themselves before the upcoming school year.

Last week the National Athletic Trainer’s Association released a report linking the sickle-cell trait to the deaths of nine athletes — including MU football player Aaron O’Neal — over the past seven years, ranging in age from 12 to 19. Individuals with the trait will develop sickle-shaped cells that carry less oxygen and can clog blood vessels that flow to the heart.

The report recommended that schools take extra precautions while coaching athletes with the trait, such as gradually intensifying a player’s workout instead of jumping right into it. But athletes at the majority of colleges are not required to test for the trait.

NCAA guidlines treat the hereditary condition found in an estimated 8 percent to 10 percent of the U.S. black population as a benign condition and ask players only to consider voluntary testing.

Should universities require athletes to be tested for the sickle-cell trait?


Physics first

This summer, MU hosted A TIME for Physics First, a three-year professional and curriculum development program for ninth-grade science teachers. The workshop was based on an idea to alter the traditional high school science curriculum, which has most students taking biology in ninth grade, chemistry in 10th grade and physics in 11th or 12th grade, if it all.

Toufic Hakim of the American Association of Physics Teachers said it makes more sense to teach physics before biology and chemistry. According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, just 9,074 students took Physics I in 2005-2006, compared with 62,839 who took Biology I. The physics-first initiative, which is being implemented by school districts nationwide, seeks to raise national test scores and increase students’ interest in science and math by teaching physics to ninth-graders before they take other science classes.

More than 70 science teachers from 25 school districts, including all of Columbia’s ninth-grade science teachers, attended the program, which is funded by a $3 million grant from the Education Department to cover instructor salaries, lab equipment and some travel costs for teachers based outside of Columbia.

What are the benefits of teaching physics before biology and chemistry?

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