The Truth About Tweens

Last year, Maja Kahn's look was hip-hop. This year, she's gone glam. Typical outfit: a tight blue tank top, dark blue flare-legged pants, black plat-forms with silver buckles and nine necklaces of brown or silver beads to match the hoops in her ears. Maja's currently battling with her parents over whether to add a third hole to each earlobe; someday, she hopes to tattoo a spider on her ankle or maybe pierce her navel. Although her mom and dad are as cool as any in Montclair, north of San...

Uniforms Rule

Kiara Newsome's spotless navy jumper and demure white blouse won't win raves on the runways. But to school reformers, the 6-year-old is a real trendsetter. This fall, Kiara and her classmates at P.S. 15 on Manhattan's Lower East Side joined hundreds of thousands of students in the nation's largest school system, and donned uniforms for the first time.Kiara likes her new duds "cause they're pretty." Her mother, Alelia, is happy because "it's much easier to find the clothes in the morning."...

Children's Crusade

Nine-year-old Makenzie Snyder says she "felt really sad" when she heard that many foster kids use trash bags to move their belongings each time they're placed at a new home. So the Bowie, Md., youngster began collecting used suitcases and duffels. Out of her efforts came the Children-to-Children program, which has distributed more than 1,000 suitcases (with a note and stuffed animal inside) to foster children around Washington, D.C. This September, the Freddie Mac Foundation for Children gave...

Make Summer Count

THE PULSE IN A RECENT ONLINE POLL, MORE THAN 70% OF RESPONDENTS SAID IT'S OK FOR MOTHERS TO BREAST-FEED ANYWHERE. ONLY ABOUT 4% THOUGHT NURSING BELONGS AT HOME.June, July and August are the Bermuda Triangle of learning: thoughts vanish, never to return. In September, teachers often have to backtrack before they can move ahead. That's especially true for struggling youngsters. The gap between them and everyone else "increases if they don't open a book from the last day of school to the first...

How Well Do You Know Your Kid?

Jocks, preps, punks, Goths, geeks. They may sit at separate tables in the cafeteria, but they all belong to the same generation. There are now 31 million kids in the 12-to-19 age group, and demographers predict that there will be 35 million teens by 2010, a population bulge bigger than even the baby boom at its peak. In many ways, these teens are uniquely privileged. They've grown up in a period of sustained prosperity and haven't had to worry about the draft (as their fathers did) or...

The Science Of A Good Marriage

The myth of marriage goes like this: somewhere out there is the perfect soul mate, the yin that meshes easily and effortlessly with your yang. And then there is the reality of marriage, which, as any spouse knows, is not unlike what Thomas Edison once said about genius: 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. That sweaty part, the hard work of keeping a marriage healthy and strong, fascinates John Gottman. He's a psychologist at the University of Washington, and he has spent more...

The Science Of A Good Marriage

The myth of marriage goes like this: somewhere out there is the perfect soul mate, the yin that meshes easily and effortlessly with your yang. And then there is the reality of marriage, which, as any spouse knows, is not unlike what Thomas Edison once said about genius: 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. That sweaty part, the hard work of keeping a marriage healthy and strong, fascinates John Gottman. He's a psychologist at the University of Washington, and he has spent more...

With Heart And Soul

Publishers have discovered that girls like "history with heart and soul," as Scholastic vice president Deborah Forte puts it. First came American Girl dolls and books, then the best-selling Dear America diary series, for slightly older girls. With 12 titles and more than 4.5 million books in print, Dear America is expanding to an HBO series meant to bring the diaries to life. The first story, of a 12-year-old slave, premieres March 17. "These are stories about girls who use, not their looks and...

Kids Who Don't Fit In

The first sign of a problem was 3-year-old William's refusal to hold hands with other children. As he moved through preschool, he made friends but didn't keep them. By first grade, he was isolated and lonely. The other kids, his mother admits, "thought he was weird." William (not his real name) was painfully aware there was a problem. "He'd ask me, 'Why don't the kids like me?' " his mother recalls. Third grade was a crisis; William was falling apart. "His teacher pulled us in and said, 'He's...

Why Andy Couldn't Read

Millions of kids have been labeled learning disabled. Critics smell a scam here, but researchers say they've begun to unlock the puzzle of bright kids who can't learn.Andrew mertz was a very unhappy little boy in 1995. Third grade was a disaster, the culmination of a crisis that had been building since he entered kindergarten in suburban Maryland. He couldn't learn to read, and he hated school. ""He would throw temper tantrums in the morning because he didn't want to go,'' recalls his mother,...

Kids In The Dock

HIS ROBE FLYING OPEN BEHIND HIM, New York Supreme Court Judge Michael Corriero strides into his spare courtroom in downtown Manhattan. Packed in the spectator seats are about 30 of what the state has deemed some of the most violent 13-, 14- and 15-year-old offenders in New York City. They don't look it at the moment, dressed in their baggy jeans and accompanied by grim-faced mothers, grandparents and the occasional father. Other teens are shackled in handcuffs, and display the dazed look that...

Teach Your Parents Well

FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS IT HAS been Dr. Benjamin Spock's mantra to new parents: "Trust your own common sense." In slightly different forms the advice is about as old as the human species: follow your instincts with your baby. Last week, as the morning news programs featured segments on how early experiences wire a child's brain, at least one interviewer ended the chat with some version of "But Doctor, in the end, what's really important is that you love your child, right?"If only it were so....

The New Preschool

LISTEN TO THE SNAP, crackle, pop of baby neurons. Teacher Martha Rodriguez crouches near the 2-year-old sand diggers at Manhattan's Bank Street Family Center, gently negotiating the rights to a suddenly special yellow rake. As Rodriguez bargains, the toddlers spin new connections to the brain area that controls "gimme now" impulses, connections that could very well later be used to ratchet up their SAT scores or their job-interviewing skills. Head teacher Lisa Farrell explains that the doll in...

Helping Families Help Themselves

TWO YEARS AGO, MICHELE Davila--poor, single, clinically depressed and expecting a baby--went to a local clinic looking for medical care. Fortunately for her, Davila lives in Hampton, Va., a midsize city that not only recognizes the classic profile of a mother whose children are at risk--for neglect, poor health and school failure--but is unwilling to stand by and let it happen. Thelma Tucker, One of Hampton's family-support counselors, took the case. Unlike many social workers, who visit...

The Sum Of Mediocrity

TIME FOR ANOTHER GLOBAL-COMPETITIVENESS alert. In the Third International Mathematics and Science Study--which last year tested a half-million students in 41 countries--American eighth graders scored below the world average in math. And that's not even the worst part. Consider this as you try to figure out which countries will dominate the technology markets of the 21st century: the top 10 percent of America's math students scored about the same as the average kid in the global leader,...

If You Can Read This ...

IN 1989, WHEN GAYLE CLOUD'S TWIN boys entered first grade, her California district had just introduced the state's version of the "whole language" method of teaching reading. Her children were assigned good books but given few tools to help them figure out unfamiliar words. Vowel sounds, word families, even silent E remained a mystery. What happened? Spelling skills dropped: homework was returned filled with errors. First-grade reading scores in the Riverside district slipped by 7 percent that...

A Mixed Report Card

National Math and Science scores had inched upward. This year's average Scholastic Achievement Test results reached levels not seen since the early '70s. Education Secretary Richard Riley was so pleased he recently declared that schools were "on the right track." Then last week the bubble burst. The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) history exam were in, and the news was grim. Despite nearly a decade of stiffer requirements, only four out of 10 high-school...

'The New Providers'

Even with a biology degree from MIT, the last thing Cheryl Jones wanted was to be the family breadwinner. Unlike many baby boomers, driven to prove they could juggle a full-time career and motherhood, Jones, 37, made relationships her priority. She got married the day before graduation 15 years ago. And while her husband, Bobby, built his contracting business, she headed into software engineering, fully expecting, she says, that "my income would be secondary to his." At first, it was. Cheryl...

The Return Of Shame

One step on america's long road back from irresponsibility:A 16-year-old Maryland boy who is serving time in a juvenile-detention center for sexually molesting his 9-year-old sister wants to go home. But before Montgomery County court officials will release him, the boy must convince his family that he feels an emotion that for decades has been either scorned as destructive to self-esteem or dismissed as hopelessly old-fashioned. He must prove that he feels a sense of shame.In this case,...

Silence In The Classroom

It's 7:45 a.m. in Snellville, GA. the clamor of 2,000 high-school students rushing to class crashes into quiet, cued by the principal's public-address announcement. Book bags drop. Heads lower. A mandated hush falls over South Gwinnett High, a sleek school in suburban Atlanta. Some of the 22 ninth graders in Mrs. Melvin's world-history class stare at their desktops. Others sprawl sideways in their seats. Sixty seconds later, the odd silence required of Georgia's 1.2 million public-school...

Oh, To Be A Knob!

There was, among other conten-tious issues, the question of Shannon Faulkner's hair. Shave it off, insisted The Citadel. If she was to become the first female member of the corps of cadets in the school's 152-year history, she had to be treated just the same as the other "knobs," as first-year students at the Charleston, S.C., military school are called. Outrageous, feminists protested, backed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Head-shaving is historically a means of demeaning and stigmatizing...

A New Era Of Segregation

WHEN THE NATION TURNED TO school reform in the early 1980s, it turned its focus away from integration. The result of that policy shift is "a historic reversal" of integration gains made in the 1960s and 1970s, according to a report conducted for the National School Boards Association. Most black and Latino students now sit in classrooms with few or no whites, the report says, and that trend is accelerating. "The civil-rights impulse is dead in the water," says Gary Orfield, a Harvard education...

Dumber Than We Thought

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN MAKE OUT THIS sentence isn't proof that you're literate. And just because you shelled out the correct $2.95 for this issue of NEWSWEEK doesn't mean you've got satisfactory arithmetic skills. The better measures: can you reach our offices using a Manhattan subway map, write us a letter about a billing error or figure out the Conventional Wisdom Watch every week?So concludes the most comprehensive study of literacy ever done of Americans. Released last week by the U.S....

No Longer A Sacred Cow

Not too long ago, everybody loved Head Start. Liberals cited it as evidence of the good that government could do. Conservative politicians, eager to demonstrate their concern for poor people, lined up to vote for increased funding. But in the last few months it seems as if attitudes have changed radically. A soon-to-be-released federal study of Head Start around the country reaffirmed the program's value but found major flaws, with some centers failing to meet even minimum performance...

The Norplant Debate

The Paquin School is a simple brick box of a building in a working-class Baltimore neighborhood. It doesn't look like the setting for a social experiment, but it is. Paquin's 300 students are all pregnant teens or new mothers; last month they became the first students in America to be offered the implantable contraceptive Norplant at school. For these girls, many of whom have babies at 13 or 14, Norplant's promise-no pregnancies for five years-could mean a second chance. "Our dream is to...

Nannygate Ii: A Women's Backlash?

Bad as it was for the Clinton administration, "Nannygate II" was devastating news to women's political activists inside the Beltway and elsewhere. For the second time in as many weeks, a talented woman lawyer, U.S. district court Judge Kimba Wood of New York, had been forced to withdraw from consideration as Bill Clinton's attorney general because of nagging-and in Wood's case, truly niggling-questions about her employment of an illegal alien as a domestic helper. There was talk aplenty about...

Different Choices on School Choice

In 1988, President Bush promised to be the "education president." Unfortunately for him, he now has to run on his record. Bill Clinton can legitimately boast of pushing hard for school reform in Arkansas, giving a badly needed boost to one of the lowest-ranked systems in the country. He raised taxes twice to finance more public-school choice, preschool programs and apprenticeship training-measures he hopes to expand on a national level. Bush has only a few offerings. Give him credit for...

Irreconcilable Differences

His name is Gregory K., he is 12 years old and all he wants is "a place to be." Gregory has few memories of his childhood, not enough of them happy. His mental photo album holds a depressing collage of fights between his parents, sheriffs with eviction notices and too many foster homes. In the last eight years Gregory has spent a total of seven months in his mother's care. Last October he finally found refuge with foster parents who want to adopt him. But now his mother, Rachel K., wants him...

The Best Schools In The World

We all know the indictment: American education has fallen behind the rest of the industrialized world. And we all know the reasons: everything from the collapse of the family to the prevalence of television to the abject failure of national leadership has been blamed. What we don't know is how the rest of the world is managing to do a better job of teaching its children.For this story, NEWSWEEK interviewed dozens of American and foreign experts in international education to find the best...

A Nation Running In Place

At first glance, it might seem like good news about the nation's public schools: American youngsters today are just as good at math, science and reading as students were in 1970. That was the conclusion last week of a federal report summarizing 20 years of national testing. But, as he released the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Education Secretary Lamar Alexander immediately warned against complacency. "What we did in 1970," he said, "is not nearly good enough in...

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