Sunday, July 01, 2007

Schools and Race

This past week's Supreme Court 5-4 decision in regards to using race to integrate schools in Kentucky and Washington has certainly sparked debate among school boards in how should schools deal with their demographics. One suggestion that keeps being suggested is using economic levels; however, I can see that even being an issue. The only students that may have income reported are those that apply for free/reduce breakfast and lunch programs. Will school now have to have families report incomes to adjust their demographics? It does not seem that middle-class and weathy families would want to do be forking out copies of their tax-returns to public schools. It is agreed that there will be litigation on this topic on the near future epecially from those that may not want to move to their new school.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent opinion for the Court. "To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown." We will have to see in the next couple of year what changes are made to school board policies and any new challenges that might be coming to the high Court.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Grade Inflation???

Associated Press is report that national assessments are not correlating with grade point averages of students. Is this a sign of grade inflation? The article suggests that it is and I would agree just from what I see in my school district. Teachers through the district's approval do give students extra points on exams, quarterly grades, and semester averages just because they are taking harder courses such as AP. My district awards one-half point or .5 to each student who is taking an advanced course; however, even in regular courses, I have seen students given extra points if they passed semester exams. Our district even has an incentive that if you passed your Standards of Learning test, you can be exempted from the exam.

There have been many questions raised this year by the community with these additional points offered. Numerous individuals have written into our local paper, the Free Lance-Star to express their opinion.

I do not know if there is research that would show that grade inflation occurs more frequently has a result of NCLB but it certainly should be looked into for two reasons. First, do administrators and teachers of public schools feel pressured with the requirement of adequate yearly progress (AYP) within the federal mandate? Second have school systems feared the competition between charter, private, and speciality schools that grades within public school systems are showing signs of inflation?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dyslexia Can Be Determined in 10 Minutes

Dr. Van der Lely has developed a ten minute assessment to determine if a child is dyslexic. This is extremely good news for parents and educators who often have trouble with assessing this issue. It has been tested on over 600 children and targets phonology, morphology, and syntax.

More information about the test, GAP, can be found here.

Texas Proposes a Bill to Fine Parents Who Miss Meetings

When I read that Texas was considering a bill to fine parents who do not show up for their child's school meetings, I thought this would be a great idea. I think the $500 fine would be enough to encourage parents to make sure they are partners in their child's education; however, I think the money should be for school supplies and transportation needs, not teachers' salaries as the article suggests. The reason I think this is important is that there is an ethical situation created by having teachers get raises off of students' who do not show up. Rather Texas should just pool this money only to school supplies.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Google on the Move??

I am doing this for a fellow classmate! A fellow teacher at school shared a hypothetical with me concerning social networking. The film, EPIC, is thought provoking.

PS I have not blogged because I can't seem to pull my account up at home.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Go to the farm when mainstream schools don't work for certain kids!

Moo! Oink! Neigh! For some students in England, The Learning to Listen Centre, the farm school, is their last chance to get an education before being expelled forever. It appears to be working with its students completing their education and many going on to college due to a code of ethics that each student must sign in order to work with the animals:

James was expelled from several schools before ending up at the farm. "I
didn't really like it at first - then I got started with the horses," he said.
"Then I got bored with that, but started learning the skills you need for a
job."...The centre can cater for eight pupils aged 14 to 16. There are formal lessons - Dwayne is to take a maths GCSE next year - and the school has one fully trained teacher. It has been approved by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog. Pupils also learn such skills as welding, horse riding, animal husbandry, milking, dry-stone walling and tractor driving. Each child draws up a behaviour contract - and is asked questions such as: "What do you think should happen if you hurt one of the animals?" Mr Kreutzer said: "Even if they come here with a chequered history we can put that out of our minds and give them respect from the outset. They have to earn the right to look after the animals."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Laptops banned in colleges??

Check out Dottie Hall's latest post on the topic of laptops and college policies. I do not think laptops should be banned but I do think professors need to remind students of some courtesy.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Example of Servant-Leadership

This article on a school district that is purchasing a house for homeless high school students is an excellent example of servant-leadership that Robert Greenleaf would advocate for:

The Maplewood-Richmond Heights district recently made a down payment on a $250,000 home in a quiet, working-class neighborhood near the high school. A church has agreed to staff it with pastors in training and an area hospital would provide a therapist.

School Superintendent Linda Henke said the idea has probably crossed the minds of school administrators and teachers who encounter homeless students every school year. But making it a reality, Henke said, is far more difficult.

Many communities are seeing the homeless population rise. I was quite impress with this school district's role in tackling the problem. Perhaps instead of buying bricks, we should have coroporate sponsors put down payments on houses for our homeless students to give them some stability in their lives.

Schools Give in to Advertising

I had to laugh when I read this article from USA Today in which schools are selling space for corporate names through out the school. I realize that schools and business have been doing this for years with yearbooks but I do feel this is different. Unlike the yearbooks which kept the advertisements to the back of the annual, schools are allowing businesses to have name space right in the building including the principals' office. I guess I may be showing my age but I want my school to look like a school - not walls of advertisements like you see at stadiums. Instead of a learning environment, we are allowing corporations to erode the culture and climate of our learning institutions with their distracting media.

However, there is a right way to do this and more tasteful. I suggest that schools look at hospitals and zoos that have done a wonderful job of taking money from sponsors and turning the donatations into bricks or tiles. At the Binder Zoo in Michigan, donations are accepted and turned into a brick to acknowledge the sponsor without distracting the mission of the zoo.

Ivan Illich: Education and Technology

Robert Greenleaf wrote an essay on servant-leadership and education in which he refers to Ivan Illich. Greenleaf argued that there are two issues in education:

Issue #1: The assumption that some individuals know what another ought to learn, and are justified in imposing their judgement - backed up by sanctions.

Issue #2: The fact that our whole system of education rests on coercion: first the leagl requirement for attneding schol until age 16-18; then the built-in compulsion to continue academic education by the credentialing that begins with the secondary school diploma adn continues through the Ph.D. degree-and beyond.

Greenleaf quotes Illich by suggesting that all complusory education should be abolished. Why? Illich states that
"...[the] institutionalization of values leads inevitably to physical pollution, social polarization, and psychological impotence: three dimensions in a process of global degradation and modernized misery..." This sound very Jonathan Kozol to me. Illich also wrote the following: "Supreme Court Justice William 0. Douglas observed that 'the only way to establish an institution is to finance it.' The corollary is also true. Only by channeling dollars away from the institutions which now treat health, education, and welfare can the further impoverishment resulting from their disabling side effects be stopped." Kozol would probably disagree with this statement having written several times that it is unfair financing that is causing the inequities within our education system. Illich notes that the only way to fix the education system is to get rid of it. I don't know if I agree with that statement but I do remember a conversation with one of my college professors that the only way to fix education was to rebuilt the system. My colleagues at the time were shocked that he would suggest but this is exactly what Illich suggests doing. Jim Collins who wrote Good to Great, would also suggest that sometimes organizations just need to reinvent themselves so perhaps Illich is correct.

Ivan Illich also wrote on technology and is credited for the technology movement of the 70s. I feel his writing is a little disturbing because he suggests (if I am comprehending correctly) that only a few should have the tools of technology:

For a hundred years we have tried to make machines work for men and to school men for life in their service. Now it turns out that machines do not "work" and that people cannot be schooled for a life at the service of machines. The hypothesis on which the experiment was built must now be discarded. The hypothesis was that machines can replace slaves. The evidence shows that, used for this purpose, machines enslave men. Neither a dictatorial proletariat nor a leisure mass can escape the dominion of constantly expanding industrial tools.

Not exactly liberating is it. Illich further states:

People need not only to obtain things, they need above all the freedom to make things among which they can live, to give shape to them according to their own tastes, and to put them to use in caring for and about others. Prisoners in rich countries often have access to more things and services than members of their families, but they have no say in how things are to be made and cannot decide what to do with them. Their punishment consists in being deprived of what I shall call "conviviality." They are degraded to the status of mere consumers.

As I read Illich's works, I wonder if society's ills is that we have created a consumer based society. We have taken away the work ethic and pride and created crime and hate.