A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, March 19, 2012

I am shocked-- SHOCKED!-- to find that cheating is going on here!

So apparently, to make sure we don't get shocked, let's just NOT LOOK.

One case accuses a teacher of filling in bubble sheets of her students who should have been taking state exams. Another says administrators called pupils into the office so they could have a second chance at questions they missed.

All told, more than 100 reports of standardized testing irregularities, including cheating, poured into the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2010 and 2011, according to documentation obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Thirty-two of those were from the St. Louis area.

And yet, the Missouri education department does nothing on its own to seek out cases of test fraud, despite the availability of effective statistical tools that could weed out potential abuses. Of the $8.4 million the state spends to administer the Missouri Assessment Program, nothing is spent on test fraud detection services.

Failure to invest in the integrity of Missouri's test scores has continued even as schools face rising pressure — and in some cases, incentives — to improve under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. And it has continued in the face of test cheating scandals across the nation — from Atlanta to Washington to Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

Critics suggest it's simply easier for states to look the other way. "If you don't look, you don't find," said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing. "You are void of embarrassment by not asking tough questions."

Missouri education officials rely on a system of self-reporting that assumes teachers and administrators will come to the state when they know of possible abuse. Under this approach, even when allegations of testing irregularities are reported — as they were 41 times in 2011 — the state and school districts rarely engage in the kind of rigorous statistical review many say is needed.

The state has also dismantled a program due to funding reductions that had sent inspectors randomly into schools to ensure tests are administered properly.

State education officials say looking for red flags would add thousands of dollars to the testing contract at a time when the state has cut department funding. "There is a cost to that," said Sharon Hoge, an assistant commissioner at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. "We have tried to rely on self reports in our districts in Missouri. I'm not telling you that means there are not things possibly that are going on that we don't know about."

Read the whole thing. It's fascinating.

I think our state legislators need to realize there's a cost to not checking on reports of cheating. And that is that... excuse me if this is obvious... schools and principals and teachers and students will cheat because there is so much riding on the outcome of these tests.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Idaho teachers push back against mindless implementation of technology

Is technology the solution to problems of student motivation and learning? Some Idaho teachers are pushing back against the blanket assumption that the adoption of technology will make everything better:

Last year, the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a law that requires all high school students to take some online classes to graduate, and that the students and their teachers be given laptops or tablets. The idea was to establish Idaho’s schools as a high-tech vanguard.

To help pay for these programs, the state may have to shift tens of millions of dollars away from salaries for teachers and administrators. And the plan envisions a fundamental change in the role of teachers, making them less a lecturer at the front of the room and more of a guide helping students through lessons delivered on computers.

This change is part of a broader shift that is creating tension — a tension that is especially visible in Idaho but is playing out across the country. Some teachers, even though they may embrace classroom technology, feel policy makers are thrusting computers into classrooms without their input or proper training. And some say they are opposed to shifting money to online classes and other teaching methods whose benefits remain unproved.

“Teachers don’t object to the use of technology,” said Sabrina Laine, vice president of the American Institutes for Research, which has studied the views of the nation’s teachers using grants from organizations like the Gates and Ford Foundations. “They object to being given a resource with strings attached, and without the needed support to use it effectively to improve student learning.”

In Idaho, teachers have been in open revolt. They marched on the capital last spring, when the legislation was under consideration. They complain that lawmakers listened less to them than to heavy lobbying by technology companies, including Intel and Apple. Teacher and parent groups gathered 75,000 verified signatures, more than was needed, to put a referendum on the ballot next November that could overturn the law.

“This technology is being thrown on us. It’s being thrown on parents and thrown on kids,” said Ms. Rosenbaum, 32, who has written letters to the governor and schools superintendent. In her letters she tells them she is a Republican and a Marine, because, she says, it has become fashionable around the country to dismiss complaining teachers as union-happy liberals.

“I fought for my country,” she said. “Now I’m fighting for my kids.”

Gov. C. L. Otter, known as Butch, and Tom Luna, the schools superintendent, who have championed the plan, said teachers had been misled by their union into believing the changes were a step toward replacing them with computers. Mr. Luna said the teachers’ anger was intensified by other legislation, also passed last spring, that eliminated protections for teachers with seniority and replaced it with a pay-for-performance system.

Some teachers have also expressed concern that teaching positions could be eliminated and their raises reduced to help offset the cost of the technology.

Mr. Luna acknowledged that many teachers in the state were conservative Republicans like him — making Idaho’s politics less black and white than in states like Wisconsin and New Jersey, where union-backed teachers have been at odds with politicians.

Mr. Luna said he understood that technological change could be scary, particularly because teachers would need to adapt to new ways of working.

“The role of the teacher definitely does change in the 21st century. There’s no doubt,” Mr. Luna said. “The teacher does become the guide and the coach and the educator in the room helping students to move at their own pace.”

Many details about how students would use their laptop or tablet are still being debated. But under the state’s plan, that teacher will not always be in the room. The plan requires high school students to take online courses for two of their 47 graduation credits.

Mr. Luna said this would allow students to take subjects that were not otherwise available at their schools and familiarize them with learning online, something he said was increasingly common in college.

The computer, he added, “becomes the textbook for every class, the research device, the advanced math calculator, the word processor and the portal to a world of information.”

Idaho is going beyond what other states have done in decreeing what hardware students and teachers should use and how they should use it. But such requirements are increasingly common at the district level, where most decisions about buying technology for schools are made.

Teachers are resisting, saying that they prefer to employ technology as it suits their own teaching methods and styles. Some feel they are judged on how much they make use of technology, regardless of whether it improves learning. Some teachers in the Los Angeles public schools, for example, complain that the form that supervisors use to evaluate teachers has a check box on whether they use technology, suggesting that they must use it for its own sake.

That is a concern shared by Ms. Rosenbaum, who teaches at Post Falls High School in this town in northern Idaho, near Coeur d’Alene. Rather than relying on technology, she seeks to engage students with questions — the Socratic method — as she did recently as she was taking her sophomore English class through “The Book Thief,” a novel about a girl in a foster family in Germany during World War II.

Ms. Rosenbaum, tall with an easy smile but also a commanding presence, stood in the center of the room with rows of desks on each side, pacing, peppering the students with questions and using each answer to prompt the next. What is an example of foreshadowing in this chapter? Why did the character say that? How would you feel in that situation?

Her room mostly lacks high-tech amenities. Homework assignments are handwritten on whiteboards. Students write journal entries in spiral notebooks. On the walls are two American flags and posters paying tribute to the Marines, and on the ceiling a panel painted by a student thanks Ms. Rosenbaum for her service. Ms. Rosenbaum did use a computer and projector to show a YouTube video of the devastation caused by bombing in World War II. She said that while technology had a role to play, her method of teaching was timeless. “I’m teaching them to think deeply, to think. A computer can’t do that.”

She said she was mystified by the requirement that students take online courses. She is taking some classes online as she works toward her master’s degree, and said they left her uninspired and less informed than in-person classes. Ms. Rosenbaum said she could not fathom how students would have the discipline to sit in front of their computers and follow along when she had to work each minute to keep them engaged in person.

Some of her views are echoed by other teachers, like Doug StanWiens, 44, a popular teacher of advanced history and economics at Boise High School. He is a heavy technology user, relying on an interactive whiteboard and working with his students to build a Web site that documents local architecture, a project he says will create a resource for the community.

“I firmly believe that technology is a tool for teachers to use,” he said. “It’s time for teachers to get moving on it.” But he also spoke last year on the capital steps in opposition to the state’s program, which he said he saw as a poorly thought-out, one-size-fits-all approach.

Half of teachers, he suspects, will not use the new computers. And the online learning requirement seems to him to be a step toward cutting back on in-person teaching and, perhaps eventually, on not having students congregate in schools at all.

“We can just get rid of sports and band and just give everyone a laptop and call it good,” he said.

Stefani Cook, who teaches accounting and business at Rigby High School in southeast Idaho and was the state’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, also teaches a modernized typing course to 32 online students after-hours. A contractor for the state pays her to teach the course and also to help other teachers shape and present their online lessons.

Ms. Cook is a believer in classroom technology and generally supports the state’s plan. She is on a 38-member task force that is working out the logistics of deploying computers to teachers next fall and, eventually, to 80,000 high schoolers. The group will also organize training for teachers. Ms. Cook said she did worry about how teachers would be trained when some already work long hours and take second jobs to make ends meet.

“I’m excited about it,” she said. But some teachers, she said, “think it’s just another thing that they’ve got to do.”

Mr. Luna, the superintendent, said training was the most essential part of the plan. He said millions of dollars would be set aside for this but that the details were still being worked out. Teachers will need to learn how to use the new devices and how to incorporate them into their lesson plans, which could involve rethinking longstanding routines.

For his part, Governor Otter said that putting technology into students’ hands was the only way to prepare them for the work force. Giving them easy access to a wealth of facts and resources online allows them to develop critical thinking skills, he said, which is what employers want the most.

When asked about the quantity of unreliable information on the Internet, he said this also worked in favor of better learning. “There may be a lot of misinformation,” he said, “but that information, whether right or wrong, will generate critical thinking for them as they find the truth.”

Mr. Otter said of a teacher like Ms. Rosenbaum, “If she only has an abacus in her classroom, she’s missing the boat.”

Some of the state’s politicians disagree with that message. State Senator Dean L. Cameron, a Republican who is a co-chairman of the senate budget committee, said there was no proof that the technology improved learning. He said he felt the legislature was “dazzled” by presentations given by lobbyists for high-tech companies — who also gave generously to Mr. Luna’s re-election campaign.

(Mr. Luna said that $44,000 of his $300,000 in donations to his last campaign came directly or indirectly from technology companies, but he said that was because they supported his agenda, not because they shaped it.)

Mr. Cameron said of the law: “It’s almost as if it was written by the top technology providers in the nation.” He added: “And you’d think students would be excited about getting a mobile device, but they’re saying: not at the expense of teachers.”

Last year at Post Falls High School, 600 students — about half of the school — staged a lunchtime walkout to protest the new rules. Some carried signs that read: “We need teachers, not computers.”

Having a new laptop “is not my favorite idea,” said Sam Hunts, a sophomore in Ms. Rosenbaum’s English class who has a blond mohawk. “I’d rather learn from a teacher.”

The other thing that makes me annoyed here is that Ms. Rosenbaum feels that she needs to tell her legislators that she is a Marine and a Republican in order to be taken seriously since she is a teacher. When can we get to the point where our legislators feel they need to try to listen to all of their constituents, and not just the ones with whom they agree?

But, furthermore, if technology is the solution to all of our problems, why do schools still have students who know so little about the world around them, much less the basics of an education? What I see happening all around me is that the schools put thousands and thousands of dollars into buying technology, but in my district they are actually discussing laying off our technology specialists and demanding that teachers implement the new software system on their own time while we already have overloaded servers, iffy electrical systems, and antiquated printers-- not to mention that the broadband in our district is so slow it ought to be called "narrowband."

But, hey, giving every kid a notebook computer or tablet will make us look ever so cutting-edge! And of course, they will never be broken, misused, pawned, stolen, sabotaged, or hacked-- ever ever.


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Friday, February 03, 2012

As Sam Cooke sang, "La da da da da da da- history!"

Yep, knowledge of US history has seldom been demonstrated so poorly by so many, including those who claim to be patriots:

AMERICAN history is in vogue, if not well understood. American revolutionaries are reincarnated as tea-partiers. Pocket editions of the constitution are a must-have accessory for politicians. Last month Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman and tea-party favourite, told Iowans that America’s Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more”. Never mind that this was untrue. It sounded nice.

History teaching is far from the biggest crisis in American education. But it is a problem nevertheless, and a neglected one. A broad effort to create voluntary national standards does not include history. No Child Left Behind, George Bush’s education law, tests pupils on maths, reading and science. On February 14th Barack Obama stressed the importance of teaching science, technology and 21st-century skills. Meanwhile America’s schoolchildren score even more poorly in history than in maths: 64% of high-school seniors scored “basic” on a national maths test in 2009, but only 47% reached that level on the most recent national history test.

One problem, a new report argues, is that states have pathetic standards for what history should be taught. Good standards do not ensure that students will learn history. But they are a crucial guide, according to Chester Finn of the Fordham Institute, a conservative think-tank. A study from Fordham, published on February 16th, grades each state for the quality of its history standards. Twenty-eight states received a “D” or an “F”.

Many states emphasise abstract concepts rather than history itself. In Delaware, for example, pupils “will not be expected to recall any specific event or person in history”. Other states teach children about early American history only once, when they are 11. Yet other states show scars from the culture wars. A steady, leftward lean has been followed by a violent lurch to the right. Standards for Texas, passed last year, urge pupils to question the separation of church and state and “evaluate efforts by global organisations to undermine US sovereignty through the use of treaties”.

Some states fare better. South Carolina has set impressive standards—for example, urging teachers to explain that colonists did not protest against taxation simply because taxes were too high. Other states, Mr Finn argues, would do well to follow South Carolina’s example. “Twenty-first century skills” may help pupils become better workers; learning history makes them better citizens.

Why is it that many of our nation's educational leaders, including politicians with no education experience, feel that our citizens and future voters do not need to understand our nation's history? Sometimes I get paranoid and wonder if it isn't deliberate. Then that freaks me out.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

School suspends student over hair grown for donation

This is absolutely moronic:
The board of a Flint-area charter school refused Wednesday evening to relent on its insistence that a high school student cut or restyle his long hair before allowing him to return to classes.

Instead, the board of Madison Academy offered four options to 17-year-old J.T. Gaskins and his mother, Christa Plante, during a meeting with the pair.

The options: Gaskins could trim his hair as originally requested; he could braid it, get a perm or any other styling to help him comply with the rules; he could transfer to another school; or organize a fundraiser for the charity.

"We would like to have J.T. return tomorrow," board president Nicholas Mihailoff said. "We feel like we're presenting four very reasonable options."

Plante said after the meeting she was exhausted and needed time to evaluate her options to "make the best decision for everybody."

She told board she would let them know if Gaskins will be attending class Thursday, Mihailoff said.

Gaskins, a senior at the school, has been suspended for more than a week for violating the school's dress code. He has been growing his hair out since the holidays to donate it to Locks of Love, a charity that helps make wigs for cancer patients.

The academy's policy requires male students to keep their hair clean, neat and off the collar.

Read the whole thing.

If he was a girl, of course, there would be no issue. Apparently, this charter school wants to be excused from exercising charity, compassion, good judgment and empathy.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Iowa is like a reef, and ships just keep crashing into it.

Wow, looking at the preliminary results from the Republican caucuses tonight, and I gotta say: Really?

Santorum and Romney in a virtual tie, with Ron Paul chasing third.

I have to admit that the voters in Iowa are just completely incomprehensible to me. Well, no that's not true. I mean, have you ever been to a caucus?

I have.

There you are shut up with a bunch of strangers for hours. The set-up is meant to draw only the most dedicated (or the morbidly curious-- it WAS kind of like watching an overripe pumpkin get hit by an aluminum bat in sheer messiness), which of course, skews the reliability of the results.

And then there's the demographics of Iowa itself, courtesy of the US Census Bureau. It's got a little less than one percent of the US population, and its population has grown at less than half the rate of the country as a whole over the last decade. It's 91% white. Just under 3% of its population is African American, and 1.7% of its population is Asian. Its Hispanic population in 5%. Less than 4% of its population is foreign born. Its percentage of people who report speaking a language other than English in the home is one-third that of the United States as a whole. Its high school graduation rate is slightly higher than the national average (good for y'all!) but its percentage of those holding a bachelor's degree is slightly lower (aww).

I am sure it's a lovely state. But it certainly is not representative of the US as a whole. Is that why the national parties cater to it by allowing it to seize the hopes and dreams of politicians every four years far out of proportion to its actual relevance as a testing ground? I mean, this place is so bland it makes mayonnaise look like a spice.

And now, we see Rick Santorum tied with Mitt Romney (speaking of mayonnaise) as the preferred candidates out of the field, although by what appears to be the lowest percentages and the lowest turnout in quite some time, even by Iowa standards. And then libertarian Ron Paul, the guy who redefines the phrase "rope-a-dope" in my mind, follows the Yin and Yang Brothers.

I am... bemused? concerned? confused? by not only the field of candidates the Republicans have managed to cobble together, sure, but also by this refusal to consider anyone with any interest (not talking experience, but just interest, here) in foreign policy while we've got some pretty serious stuff going on in the world. Now of course the economy is a vital concern, and it should be. But I don't see Santorum or Paul having a dog in that hunt either. Santorum's thinly veiled social and racial warfare just has to be on the verge of collapse. Ron Paul's naked gospel of anti-social selfishness and self-centeredness makes the 1970s seem like a Salvation Army campaign. And Romney, poor Romney, if only we didn't feel like this guy will say or believe anything (and therefore nothing) in order to get elected (Sound familiar? You could say this about Barack Obama, the winner of the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses, with some credence, as well). So I have a question directed to Iowa:


Thank you. That is all. I must go lie down now.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

What can you deduce from these clues?

1. Kid asks if she can start staying after school with me every day of the week so I can personally fix all of her test-taking problems.

2. Work from absences three months ago is just randomly left on my keyboard-- sometimes, along with bribes of my favorite candy.

3. Parents suddenly start checking Precious's grades online every five minutes.

4. Parents have placed a call block on all numbers from the school district.

5. Parents unleash avalanches of emails questioning all 43 grades in the gradebook.

6. Parents and kids claim that they cannot comprehend my classroom website, particularly, that they can't find the list of deadlines ANYWHERE (it is under the tab called, strangely enough, DEADLINES).

7. Parents and kids start asking if kids can retake tests.

8. I start getting emails from aunts and grandmas.

Well? Have you guessed????

It's the end of the semester fast approaching!!!!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011


Hooray! Evaluation time again! This time my administrator came in on the day I had a raging sinus infection, but c'est la vie. I really didn't care because frankly, the Cornelius door is ALWAYS open.

Anyway, the kids tried their very best to make me look good (bless their little hearts!), we had a great discussion, and I showed up the next day for my post-observation conference.

She was very complementary. Very. She actually said that she believed I was the best teacher in the department (which isn't true, but is still very nice to hear). But she was pretty insistent about it and cited numerous examples. For well over half an hour, and I was pretty embarrassed, let me tell you. She said she actually stopped scripting because she got lost in the lesson and was actually learning.


(There always is one, isn't there?)

The reason I mention the complements is to discuss what was written down.


Boilerplate language: "Ms. Cornelius is competent in her knowledge of subject matter." "Ms. Cornelius works with other staff members."

If she really thought that my teaching was that awesome, it would be nice to see her testify to that. And you know the etymology of the word, "testify," don't you?

( In the ancient world, men swore the truth about something by putting their hand on their testicles. Thus, they were "testes- fying.")

Our administrators have apparently been completely warned against saying anything complementary NO MATTER HOW STRONGLY the administrator believes that complements are in order). The top ranking on our evaluation forms is "meets expectations."

So, in other words, our evaluations are NOT actually supposed to indicate any real evaluation.

Yes, and Arne Duncan wants me to roll the dice on merit pay, right? I can already tell you what would happen if that were instituted in my district. Either NO ONE would get merit pay and raises would actually disappear except for the superintendent and his staff, OR the nattering nabobs of nepotism that haunt the office and the eight-legged administrators (those with a staff member so far up their administraors' keisters that they look like they have eight legs).

I know I am a good teacher. But I would like my written evaluations to honestly reflect my strengths. The administration has been instructed to write these non-evaluations so that they can later fire us at will with no evidence that we were ever anything but "adequate."

It's actually insulting.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

The (Mis)adventures of Yo-yo Boy

One of the things the Petty Bureaucrats Who Think They Know All don't get about teaching-- among many, many, many, MANY things!-- is the emotional care and guidance teachers expend upon their students. This part of the student-teacher relationship has very little to do (in an obvious way) about test scores and yet it cannot be ignored.

One of my students is Yo-yo Boy. Yo-yo Boy's dad and mom are not in the picture, but YYB does have a cousin and her husband. YYB has some issues: he will lie absolutely to your face, he will steal anything not nailed down, he has a trillion excuses and a healthy self-pitying martyr complex for any failures on his part, he is absolutely mesmerized by the presence of female persons without having the minutest idea of how to appropriately interact with them. Worse, he is a victim of the rankest social promotion on the part of a neighboring school district that I have ever seen-- to the extent that he was (non)functionally illiterate when we first got him in our high school. Yo-yo Boy has bounced around from home to home, school to school, suspension to suspension.

It is my happy duty to teach this young fella. It is also my happy duty to impart the following wisdom, in the order in which it occurred:
1) Ms. Cornelius does NOT want to know the color of your underwear, and neither does anyone else.
2) Grabbing the derriere of a young lady you do not know does NOT enamor her of you and will indeed get you suspended.
3) The secret to passing a class is to... get this!-- do the assignments, study for tests and quizzes, and pay attention in class.
4) The preliminary secret to #3 is to bring a pencil, your assignments, and a book to class every day. Without fail.
5) Dudes do not carry purses in our neck of the woods, so having one in your possession will cause you to get jugged for stealing.
6) Do not mouth off to the people providing you with shelter or fight with their own children, or you will get thrown out of the house, even if they love you.
7) You are not a bad enough mamma- jamma to make it on the streets for even five seconds, so pay attention to #6.
8) You will get fired from your job if you do not show up on time, so yes, Ms. Cornelius counts tardies. Plus, you do not be engaging in #2 or #5 so that you then violate #8.
9) Ms. Cornelius will cross-check every single thing you tell her, so don't even bother to lie.
10) If you do not understand, ask.

Sadly, Yo-yo Boy violated #6 one too many times. I do not know if I will see him again.

Or he could turn up tomorrow.

That's just part of the teaching life in a real public school, where testing is sometimes the least measure of our worth.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

This is amazing.

How would you like to be a teacher for 55 years?

How would you like to be a principal of a middle school for 48 years?

Madeleine P. Brennan maintains Dyker Heights Intermediate School 201 in Brooklyn as something of a time capsule.

Female secretaries, guidance counselors and assistant principals are asked to wear dresses or skirts; teachers may wear slacks, but not dungarees; men all wear ties. The marble staircase shines; the hallways are painted a classic pale blue. Each year before Christmas, there is Rhinestone Week, in which Mrs. Brennan encourages staff members to rummage through their grandmothers’ things for old costume jewelry to wear.

But the prize artifact of the past is Mrs. Brennan herself, who has been principal of the school for 48 years, longer than most of her teachers have been alive — longer, experts believe, than any other principal in the country. When she first arrived to work at this imposing brick building in March 1963, John F. Kennedy was president, ZIP codes were not yet in use, and the nearby Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was still under construction.

She has outlasted more than a dozen schools chancellors, who made what she described as “little changes here and there,” and watched a student body dominated by the children of Italian immigrants transform into one that is 45 percent Asian-American and 18 percent Hispanic.

But as the city embarks on an overhaul of its middle schools, Mrs. Brennan believes that what works remains the same. Consistent rules and consequences. A dedicated, hard-working staff. A calendar stuffed with activities like a Shakespeare fair and an annual musical. Sincere care for your charges.

“Teenagers fascinate me,” Mrs. Brennan said in an interview in her pin-straight office. “They are peculiar ducks, neither fish nor fowl. And you have to love them to really work with them. If you don’t love them, you are up a tree.”

Read the whole thing.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

The Herritage Foundation thinks I'm overpaid.

According to this report, sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, et al., teachers are overpaid.

Here is an analysis from Time magazine via Yahoo News that summarizes the report. The claim that teachers are overpaid is based upon the following assumptions:
1) Teachers have lower cognitive ability-- or to put it another way, IQs.
Really? I'll put my IQ up against that of Joseph Coors (one of the original founders of the Heritage Foundation) any day. And I know plenty of mentally negligible people who work in the brewing industry.

2) Public school teachers get paid more than private school teachers.
Right, and private school teachers also are often not certified, or many of them would teach in the public schools.

3) People entering teaching from other fields get an average 9% raise over the pay from their previous job.
How does this prove anything other than the fact that people indeed usually try to move into a new profession in order to make more money than in the profession they are leaving behind?

Apparently, they also calculated "vacation" into the benefits that makes teachers over paid. There's always that misconception hanging out there. So let me try to explain this simply: Teachers get NO paid vacation. Part-time UPS drivers get more paid vacation than we do. We have unpaid summer breaks, during which times many teachers work second jobs or work for free on planning and preparation for the upcoming school year.

The whole thing is laughable.


Friday, November 04, 2011

The soundtrack of my life, after Steve

Transitions playlist

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs. You helped me fill my life with music. All Things Must Pass.

Greg Laswell, How the Day Sounds
George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
John Martyn, May You Never
Gillian Welch, Dark Turn of Mind
Imogen Heap, Wait It Out
Iron & Wine, The Boy With a Coin
The Civil Wars, 20 Years
Joni Mitchell, A Case of You
Jude Cole, Right There Now
Fountains of Wayne, All Kinds of Time
Ingrid Michaelson, All Love
Madeleine Peyroux, Dance Me To The End of Love
The Jayhawks, Tampa to Tulsa
J. D. Souther, Faithless Love
Jackson Browne, Fountain of Sorrow
Jonatha Brooke, No Net Below
Jennifer Warnes, It Goes Like It Goes
Jane Siberry, The Life is The Red Wagon
Kate Bush, This Woman's Work
Joan Baez, Simple Twist of Fate
Fleet Foxes, White Winter Hymnal
k. d. lang, Simple
The Antlers, Shiva
The Wailin' Jennys, Calling All Angels
Jane Monheit, Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Add this to the list of things that bureaucrats don't understand about teachers' lives.

So here's a situation.

A parent requested a conference with a teacher I know during conference time. This parent began yelling and gesticulating wildly during the conference, until the teacher asked the parent to leave. By the way, the teacher in question is so calm, he's practically a reincarnation of the Buddha. Parent stormed off and went to an administrator and made a bunch of wild claims about the teacher and then stormed out of the administrator's office.

So far, not all that unusual, right?

Here's where it gets interesting: the parent's kid approached the teacher a few days later, accused him of threatening the mother, and then threatened to attack the teacher. This was done IN FRONT OF WITNESSES.

Wow. Makes Race to the Top seem kind of insignificant and out-of-touch, doesn't it?

The assumption that students are all here to learn, that students are all cooperative, sane, and non-violent, is just not a part of the reality of teaching in a public school. That goes for parents, too.

And it's certainly true that the majority of students and parents do not behave this way. But this kind of family is becoming ever more common. There have been more assaults or threatened assaults on teachers of my acquaintance this year that any year that I can remember since I started teaching school back in the 1980s.

Now, luckily, the student has been suspended from school for the maximum allowed time, which is good, since it is known that the family has guns in the house. It is good to know that the administrators took this seriously.

So maybe Arne Duncan has some advice about this situation from his vast well of educational experience? If so, I'd like to hear it.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Open thread: the late great assignment

Query submitted for your approval: Do you accept late work from students? If so, how much, how often, and at what consequence?

What is your district policy on this?

Inquiring minds want to know....

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Selling ad space in the classroom

Does this cross a line?
Last month, New Jersey became the first state in the northeast to allow districts to display advertisements on their school buses, noting that districts could earn up to $1,000 per bus by selling ads, The Star-Ledger reported. Other states like Ohio, Utah and Washington had also considered a similar move.

Two years ago, Idaho high school teacher Jeb Harrison started selling ad space on his tests and handouts -- by striking a deal with a local pizza shop.

Florida's Orange County Public Schools have adopted an advertising program that allows marketing in areas including online, on lunch menus, play sponsorships and a parking garage billboard. In about 18 months, the district had made about $270,000, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

While these districts have implemented programs, others are still venturing into the field. Late last month, North Carolina's Guilford County schools discussed at its school board meeting proposals to permit marketing, ranging from ads inside schools to selling naming rights for school stadiums and buildings, WGHP-TV reported.

And there's more to read at the link.

What bothers me is that school district residents who refuse tax increases seem to want something for nothing. They may think that they may never have to support their schools again if schools can just sell ads. On the other hand, I wonder about how much my students really pay attention to ads every where else in their lives they encounter them. I have gotten pretty good at not noticing ads online just because they are so ubiquitous. I guess this also touches upon my earlier rant about PTA/PTO fundraisers.

Have schools ever really been ad-free zones, at least in the last twenty years? Shouldn't they be?

A while back, one of the neighboring school districts cut back on transportation for after school activities. Perhaps, during the last weeks they ran the service, they could have painted along the sides of each bus, "This bus's cancellation provided by the taxpayers of District X." But I guess that would be too bitter, even if true.

What do you think? Are ads in the classroom a harmless way to raise funding?

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