Archive for January, 2012

Naked RTTT, Budget Blues, and NH “Teapublicans”

January 25, 2012 Comments off

Four Takes on Tough Times in the ASCD On-Line Journal has some ideas on how to control costs… the writers question the value of small class size (except at the primary grade levels), educational assistants, and the unified pay schedule. They champion the use of distance learning and technology.

Race to the Top has no clothes! Michael Winerip eviscerates Race to the Top by reporting the facts: the $$$ for Race to the Top is 1/3 of 1% of the total education budget for the state of NY; 79% of the teachers cannot be measured using the tests in place; the State’s are responsible for absorbing all kinds of implementation costs. The real problem from my perspective: Race to the Top reinforces the existing factory model of schooling at a time when it should be compelling schools to use technology to individualize instruction.

New Hampshire’s “Teapublicans” strike with a law that requires schools to devise specialized lessons for parents who don’t like a particular unit. In this “Room For Debate” series of articles both sides get to explain their perspectives… As is often the case in these kinds of crackpot laws, there is so much hypocrisy involved one doesn’t know where to start. The short essay “Public Schools Have a Public Purpose” includes the question: what if a parent wants lessons tilted toward the views of the KKK? What if they want the lessons taught in Farsi? Ay yi yi!

“Algebra is your friend” was a statement I often made to my older daughter who was not enthused about the course when I would use algebra to solve a problem like “how long until we get to Portland”… This article from Nation describes how Baltimore students enrolled in algebra courses used their math skills to demonstrate to legislators that cutting funds to their school system was a losing proposition. If this was in NH the kids would probably get an alternative lesson on supply side economics 😉

FLA’s grading system gets an “F” in my book because it reduces school performance to a single letter grade based on one metric: standardized test scores. This use of simplified metrics described in an EdWeek article is linked to the consumerism talked about in the “teapublican” article above and is linked to the whole notion that schools are factories that produce good students using the most efficient means possible…

You CAN assess the whole child and in a good school we DO… that’s the conclusion of ASCD blogger Molly McCloskey who describes how the school her daughter attended understood her poor performance on final exams was the result of personal crisis and not “poor teaching”…


Missing Links

January 23, 2012 Comments off

E-testing is expanding at the college level according to an article in yesterday’s NYTimes… The point of the testing is threefold: it limits the need for teachers to spend time proctoring exams; it allows students to take the test at a time that suits their bio-rhythm; and it is far more expansive than the typical multiple choice test….

Nurses don’t need to memorize as much because hand held devices provide them with up-to-the-minute information on drugs and treatments… the concern that this technology will diminish personal contact between the nurse and the patient seems wrong… I think patients will appreciate that the nurse might have some answers at her fingertips (no pun intended) as opposed to having to wait for a doctor…

Maine’s tea party Governor (who won with 39% of the vote) is using the threat of school closings as leverage to get social services budgets cut according to an article posted on Common Dreams… If only the Republicans would willingly make this kind of explicit linkage or have Obama connect the dots so voters can see that this IS the choice Americans are being asked to make… and here’s the rub: cutting services will harm schools but since the services and schools have separate funding bins they will fight against each other instead of joining together to make it clear to the taxpayers that they BOTH need to be funded.

Categories: Uncategorized

Larry Summers should replace Arne Duncan!

January 22, 2012 Comments off

Researcher Danah Boyd contends that restricting teenagers’ internet use is a bad idea in a NYTimes article today… an idea I wholeheartedly agree with. Her article also points out that kids are driven to the internet because of parent’s irrational fears about abductions in the “real world” and that parents’ concerns about internet predators are equally irrational. The media’s obsession about childhood abductions and internet predators creates fear… and fear-based stories attract eyes to the TV set. One other interesting point in the article: the internet

Nick Kristoff misses the point in this heartwarming story of how a teacher changed the life of a latent juvenile delinquent… the teacher-turned-librarian who is the hero of the story saw the young troublemaker steal a book and instead of turning the student in bought another book by the same author for the student to “steal” a second time from the library… In my comment to Mr. Kristoff I wrote:

I think the point of this story is that Ms. Grady let Mr. O’Neal read what he was interested in instead of what the school curriculum mandated AND Ms. Grady intuitively understood that had she done “the right thing” by the school’s rules and turned Mr. O’Neal in for “stealing” it would have reinforced the notion that Mr. O’Neal was a criminal. With today’s NCLB mentality Ms. Grady would be branded a “bad teacher”: she didn’t compel her student to follow a scripted syllabus designed to prepare him for the next standardized achievement test and didn’t adhere to school policy requiring that all misbehavior be reported to the school administration.

I can’t believe I’m touting an article on education by Larry Summers but here goes: he gets it! The article advocates processing of information over memorization; collaboration over competition; technology over text; constructivism; cosmopolitism; and data analysis as opposed to data crunching. Based on this article, Larry Summers should replace Arne Duncan if Obama gets re-elected! 

Charlotte Danielson’s checklist comes off well in this article on teacher evaluation in the NYTimes… the checklist approach to evaluation is almost a necessity given the span of control in most schools… also, the discredited “satisfactory/unsatisfactory” rating system is, in the final analysis, what is required to determine which teachers are “good” and which ones are “bad”….

Several years ago Marc Tucker authored a monograph entitled “America’s Choice, High Skills or Low Wages”… Based on this article in the NY Times about Apple Computer’s decision to manufacture overseas, it appears that the real choice is between high wages and low cost…. or it may be that we are not going to be able to compete with China’s command capitalism since there is no way our country would stand for Life in Foxconn, as described in this sentence: The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day.  Until we’re willing to pay more for products made in the US, we might want to consider investing in barracks building companies….