Thursday, May 31, 2007

Your School Sucks #2: Wazzu to Alumni--Drop Dead!

From the May 25th edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education:
In the past two months, nearly 100 colleges have started exploring a financial concept that seems almost too good to be true: collecting hundreds of millions of dollars for long-term capital needs by taking out life-insurance policies on wealthy alumni.

The idea started with Oklahoma State University, which said this spring that it had secured some $270-million for its athletics program by setting up life-insurance policies on 27 boosters. The university said it would borrow $20-million to pay for the policies and be the sole beneficiary of the plans after the donors died.

Since then some of the country’s largest institutions—including Texas A&M and Washington State Universities, and the Universities of Georgia, Maryland at College Park, and Oklahoma—have inquired about the idea.
There’s a possible Monty Python “Bring Our Your Dead Boosters!” riff here, but I’ll leave it for another day.

Read more here, if any.

Your School Sucks #1: The University of Washington Smells of Poo!

For cause, though. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Rin Tin Tin saved Rusty from bandits. Lassie protected Timmy from a tiger. Tucker, at the University of Washington, well ... he finds animal poop.

Scat, as it is called, is one of the most valuable currencies in biology. It yields insights about who is eating whom, whether there are toxins in the environment, and how big a population is. Until now, all but the best trackers primarily used droppings that were easy to find.

In the category of "why didn't someone think of this before," enter the scat dogs.

"The dogs allow us to find those samples over a very large remote wilderness area, from multiple species," says Samuel K. Wasser, director of the university's Center for Conservation Biology. Mr. Wasser uses the center's 11 dogs to find precious samples in Canada, Brazil, and even on the high seas. But he does not take just any dog. The highly trained animals must follow a strict code when looking for droppings.

My parents have black labs. They’re the absolute most fun breed of dog.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

When They Test Well, I Feel Good

Last week I gave my kids the DRA Reading Assessment, which is the best way I’ve seen to measure growth in fluency and decoding over time. We give it three times a year in the fall, winter, and spring; the goal that’s been established is to have 60% of the kids meet the standard.

This year, as a grade level, we’re at about 75%. In my own room 80% of the kids, 16 out of 20, met the standard, and that’s the highest I’ve ever gotten.

The morning of the test was incredible. I usually start with the kids who are low and go higher throughout the day, the theory being that the better readers take longer to test. That morning, though, my marginal kids were nailing every book they read and getting to the goal with room to spare. There was one point where I had three of my struggling boys in a row, including my autistic student, all pass, and man it took everything I had not to start dancing around the room. Neat, neat, neat.

There’s a couple of thing I’d attribute the success to.

This year we grouped for reading. I had the high kids, there were two middle groups, and our low students were all together. I can hear some of you saying it’s tracking, but by doing that we were able to get a lower student:teacher ratio and focus more on phonics, which is what those kids needed. We also made it flexible; kids tested in and out based on the tests we used.

I’m also pretty fond of our reading curriculum, from Houghton-Mifflin. There’s a lot of content, the pacing makes good sense, and we’re getting great results. Each week has a story, three phonics stories, and three leveled readers, so we have a lot of options on where to go with the kids.

With my four kids who didn’t meet the standard two of them came to the school in the spring, and another is my high-needs special education student. That leaves one girl who had been here all year who didn’t make it; she’s the kind of kid that I’ve got to do a better job of targeting early on and making sure she gets it.

It makes the work worth it when you can see a truly tangible result like those test scores. Sure, they aren’t everything, but they are something. Anyone who would tell you different is deluded.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Al Shanker on High Stakes Testing

I’m currently working my way through It’s Being Done, the new book from Karin Chenoweth that profiles schools from around the country that are succeeding at the goal of getting all their kids to meet high standards. It’s a pretty good read; you can find it at Amazon or the Harvard Education Press, and there’s an article written by Ms. Chenoweth in a recent Education Week.

At the beginning of chapter 2 she has a recollection of a speech by Al Shanker, the famed AFT president, that really struck a chord with me.
Many years ago I heard Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers, talk about the effect a standards-based test has on the relationship between students and teachers. Teachers with high standards, Shanker said, were often seen by students as enemies imposing arbitrary standards that were often indecipherable—particularly if students had had teachers with lower standards in previous years.

But, Shanker said, the effect of an external exam, such as the national exams taken by students in many countries, is to produce a partnership between the teachers and the students, where teachers are the resources students need in order to master a difficult objective. In preparing for an external exam, students see teachers with high standards not as cruel and arbitrary taskmasters but as people who can really help them—something like hard-driving coaches who help their players win in a big game.
I’m not sure how many kids actually make that next step and attribute the pressures of the school to the testing instead of their teacher, but it’s still a neat way to think about things.

Do you talk with your classes about the state mandated tests? If so, what’s the conversation like?

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Let It All Hang Out

I’m going to wear shorts tomorrow, and you can’t stop me.

That’s right. Extending below the fabric that covers my groin will be two legs. Hairy legs, and lately a little flabby. Those legs will be exposed for the entire world to see until they reach my socks, at which time they will again be obfuscated by a pair of cotton socks from Sears. My knees will be clearly visible to all who encounter me, as will my calves. There will be legs. Oh yes, there will be legs.

I bring this up because I wore my shorts Friday of last week and the PE teacher (who was acting principal for the day) didn’t think it was appropriate at all. The best (worst?) she could do was a stern tsking, but her image of professional dress didn’t at all jive with what I was wearing. The neat thing this week is that it’s our Spirit Week celebration, so I can pretty much get away with anything.

Looking back, my standards have fallen over the years:

Year 1 I wouldn’t have been caught dead in anything less than full sleeves and a tie.
Year 2 the tie took a few days off, but the full sleeves remained.
Year 3 the tie went away entirely when I read a report that said ties cause glaucoma.
Year 4 I was introduced to the joy of short sleeve shirts at work.

Now, I’m usually in slacks and a short-sleeve cotton blend. Every once in a great while (1st day of school, Superintendent is coming for a visit, etc.) I’ll break out the full suit of armor, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

Do you think how you dress matters?
If it’s a choice between comfort and looks, what wins?

Update: Dr. Homeslice has attire on the mind as well.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Friday, May 25, 2007

5/17 on Gainsharing

Over at 5/17 Jim has a post up talking about what's going on with gainsharing; the piece that he links to from The Olympian is good reading too, particularly the comments section. Be sure to follow the link to the comparison between TRS 2 and TRS 3, and then decide which one you think is the better deal--the one that guarantees 2% a year for every year of service, or the one that guarantees 1% and whatever you get in the stock market.

Read more here, if any.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Welcome to the 120th Carnival of Education!

When Eduwonk told me that I'd be able to host the 120th carnival (my first since the dalmation-themed 101st some months back) it made the math lover in me giggle with glee, because 120 is a really cool number. Consider, from Wikipedia:
120 is the factorial of 5. It is the sum of a twin prime pair (59 + 61) as well as the sum of four consecutive prime numbers (23 + 29 + 31 + 37) and of four consecutive powers of 3 (3 + 9 + 27 + 81). It is highly composite, superabundant, and colossally abundant number, with its 16 divisors being more than any number lower than it has, and it is also the smallest number to have exactly that many divisors. It is also a sparsely totient number. 120 is the smallest number to appear six times in Pascal's triangle. 120 is also the smallest multiple of 6 with no adjacent prime number.
The trick is that, as host, it's awfully hard to make a good theme out of the fact that your number is sparsely totient. Dalmations, easy; tying the world of education convincingly to Pascal's triangle, not so much.

Knowing this I thought back a few weeks to one of the better themes I've seen, Dr. Homeslice's Carnival of One Liners. That gave me the germ of an idea, so I thought I'd try the Carnival of One Syllables:

Sad kid bribe

....but that got old in a hurry.

Sometimes, truly, the old ways are best. Here's this week's Carnival of Education, loosely organized around some compelling themes. Happy reading!

This Teaching Life

Jeffrey Berman at Inside Higher Ed takes some time to remember his wife following her battle with cancer. It's impossible to keep the personal and the professional separate, and this is a piece that elegantly illustrates the point. Great writing.

At Life Without School Linda took a day off to spend some time with her daughter, and it was time well spent. Read what she says about the regrets of life.

The Science Goddess is a fellow Washingtonian who is my go-to source for the straight skinny on what's up with science education. She's got loads of other opinions, too; recently they've been about her union. Educator on the Edge is also feeling leery of his union as he sees them getting ready to pursue one stupid, stupid grievance.

Jim at 5/17 has a great take (with a big assist from Teacher of Poetry) on the teacher who lost her job for saying that she honks for peace.

The always thoughtful California Teacher Guy thinks about a coworker who is leaving his school, and wonders if it's for the right reasons.

jd2718 lives in The City and uses that fact to its full advantage by taking his kids on a spring trip. That's something they'll always remember.

Ms. Teacher has one of those classes. You know who they are. Odds are, they know who they are too. Stick a fork in her, 'cuz she's done with the fifth period.

At Three Standard Deviations to the Left Mr. IB has considered life, the universe, and everything and come to a firm decision: he will never be a school nurse.

I'm a big fan of Mrs. Bluebird over at Bluebird's Classroom. She's one of the best at the slice-of-life blog post; you'll see why I appreciate her so much if you partake of Of Dances, Broken Chairs, Victory for the Non-Losers, and a Walk In the Sunshine. Yesterday she celebrated the last day of school; those of us still in session can envy her both for her free time and her mad writing skills.

Meanwhile, in Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, they're talking about smoking Flintstones. I still remember my jaw hitting the floor the first time I saw that video.

Casting Out Nines has a wonderfully thoughtful post about the role of humility in being a good teacher. It's written from a University perspective, but the lessons within could apply to anyone at any level of the profession.

At Learn Me Good they have a modest proposal for a merit pay program that I could really get behind.


At Oasis of Sanity there's a fairly important post from a substitute teacher offering 10 things that classroom teachers need to leave behind when they're gone for the day. This would be a good one to pass around at the beginning-of-year staff meeting.

I'll tune up the wayback machine for a post of my own from last year: What You Need to Know as a New Union Member.

That post was in turn inspired by this one from the indefatigable Ms. Cornelius at A Shrewdness of Apes.


Over at Right Wing Nation they've taken a close look at the new math, and Right Wing Prof has some pretty good thoughts. What he says about logic problems really strikes a cord; I remember from my University math classes that the class on basic logic was the one that ran the most people out of the major.

John Cox is running for president, and he's got some ideas on how to make the system work better.

John Edwards created a College for Everyone plan; Aimless Miss has thoroughly taken it apart.

At Education Matters they've got evidence to suggest that school choice saves taxpayers money.

In the last month Ken DeRosa over at D-Ed Reckoning has had a profound pair of posts that touch on the work of Jonathan Kozol. If inequality and social justice are interests of yours, I highly recommend Another Nail and Income Inequality in America.

EdWeek's Blogboard has come up with a teacher merit pay system I can get behind, even if their site reminds me of the late, lamented Teacher Magazine. We hardly knew ye!

Matthew K. Tabor shows us a district that traded homework for votes, and offers that their scruples and integrity may have been part of the bargain as well.

Eduwonk does a compare-and-contrast exercise that will make your stomach turn: what's the difference between these two sexual predators? In a similar vein, Reality Based Educator shows us that predators can work in any field...even politics.

Dr. Homeslice and Joanne Jacobs have both been on the story of the New Mexico student who got his failing grade changed. He's got either the right parents or the wrong parents, depending on your POV.


Write to Right has some thoughts on how to start your own home business.

NYC Educator has a fine letter of recommendation for the kid who doesn't show up to class.

Hedgetoad has said to hell with what other people think and put up a clothesline.

At The Quick and the Ed they're covering the discussion about why Cho did it; the current favored theory (of some) is that exposure to literature warped his brain.

Campus Grotto has some thoughts about how to make our college campuses more secure.

Online Degrees Today has reviewed City University of Seattle; they're also looking at how to apply to the proper grad school. They should talk to Ken Nubo, who wonders if a college degree is worth it.

At they've got two fun activities to keep your brain fit and limber. I need to spend more time here; the kids are passing me by in a hurry.

And that's it for the 120th Carnival! Next week the Midway returns home to The Education Wonks; Submissions to Carnival #121 should be sent no later than 9:00 PM (Eastern) on Tuesday, May 15th to owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. You can also use the ever-handy submission form here.

The Carnival of Education archives are maintained at EdWonk's site, here. You couldn't ask for more relevant summer reading, and you can't beat the price.

Thank you for visiting!

(Updated to include an overlooked post)


Read more here, if any.

Carnival Entries are Due Tonight at 6:00 Pacific!

The next Carnival of Education comes here to I Thought a Think tomorrow. Please email your submissions to rgrant at mlsd dot org, or use Eduwonk's handy submission form.

It's going to be a good one!

Read more here, if any.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Every Teacher's Nightmare, Part V: The False Allegation

One bad decision by a girl will likely haunt this guy for the rest of his life. From the Everett Herald:
ARLINGTON - A teenage girl on Thursday admitted she lied when she reported that a substitute teacher inappropriately touched her this week during class at Post Middle School.

The teacher, 59, was removed from school on Tuesday and was under investigation for assault.

On Thursday, after interviewing the girl and two other students, investigators determined the teacher didn't commit a crime, Arlington Police Chief John Gray said.

"We found a 30-year professional without a blemish on his record," Gray said. "He's completely devastated."

The students recanted their allegations, admitting to police that they'd exaggerated "and it snowballed," Gray said.

My sympathy actually goes both ways here, though way more towards the teacher than the student. The student made a mistake that I hope she regrets, but the fact that she even went there sends pity running, and when you consider where this could have gone if she'd stuck with the lie it's pretty horrifying.

It'd be awful hard for either the substitute or the student to return to that school.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

More John Merrow Podcast Love

Week in and week out Merrow delivers the goods. This time there's a great pair of podcasts talking about effective teaching in the community college ranks, an accompaniment to his recent 1-hour special Discounted Dreams which has been running on stations locally.

The podcasts are called A Right To Fail?. They're each about 12 minutes long, and both very thoughtful. Highest recommendations!

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Uh oh...the Principals Have Found the Internet!

The Association of Washington School Principals has launched their own blog, The Comp Book, with contributions from their communication director. There's only a few months of posting to go off of, but so far it's being updated very regularly with news of interest to anyone who follows education here in the Evergreen State. Well worth checking out, and kudos to them for creating a good blog to accompany their already pretty darn good website!

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Around the State!

TV Washington is missing the boat by not putting the Seattle School Board meetings live on air. There's more drama there than there is on Lost.

Sidebar: Why can't TVW get on DirecTV and Dish? If they can give us our local channels, shouldn't they be able to give us TVW?

And now, in tribute to Eduwonk, a parade of potential Teacher Darwin Awards:

  • First up we have the English teacher who told his kids he wanted to take them out, line them up, and shoot them all. Oddly enough, he's retiring.
  • Then there's the kindergarten teacher accused of picking up a kid by the neck to get him away from a computer. Take a look at the comments section; there's probably more to the story here than meets the eye.
  • The "Go to Hell, Go Straight to Hell" Award to Scott Riley, arrested for molesting an 11-year old student. At a previous job he became intimate with a 17 year old, then married her. They hauled him out of the school in handcuffs.
  • Finally, we have Matthew Wakabayashi, a Spokane high school teacher, who used his school computer to order hardcore porn and used panty hose. I didn't even know there was a market!

I think the story of the Vader School closing is fascinating; if I was a journalist, it'd definitely be book material. The Cowlitz Tribe offered to play Dr. Frankenstein and breathe life back into the district, if only for a year, but (wisely, I think) they turned it down.

SVC Alumnus has a long post about HB2079, the WEA-sponsored bill relating to how union dues can or can't be used for political means. See also Sound Politics.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Bergeson’s COLA: 10%

Alternate Title: Because She Earned It
Alternate Title: Mrs. Bergeson Gets a Raise

So the Citizen’s Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials met recently and decided that everybody gets a raise. Governor Gregoire jumps up to nearly $164,000. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown will go up from $44,311 to $49,280, which isn’t all that much more than I make.

The curious one to me is Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson getting a 10% raise, from $107,978 to $119,234, more than an $11,000 raise. In the article from the Spokesman-Review (which you can’t read because they’re horrible about bogarting their web site; go to the Seattle PI instead) Commission member >Alan Doman cites a need for “comparable pay” because “we don’t want to get behind the process.”

I’ve joked about this before, but let’s be out with it: if we’re judging Dr. Bergeson on her merits, right now it’s an awfully hard case to make.

In this past legislative session Bergeson was, by nearly all accounts, a non-factor. Hell, she was the Incredible Disappearing Superintendent. The big issues in education in Washington went on around her and not a one seemed to involve her.

Take, for example, delaying the math and science WASLs. No one in this state has more invested in those tests than Terry Bergeson, but during the discussion the people you heard from were Christine Gregoire, Skip Priest, members of the House, Mothers Against WASL, the Washington Association of School Administrators...but not a whole lot from the Good Doctor.

After the session was over Terry released this statement which is a nice enough overview of what went on, but again in reading through it you see a whole lot of what other people did and very little of what she did, what she wanted, what she hoped for. She tried to portray the delay in math and science as a team effort between her and Governor Gregoire, and talks about the need for revising the curriculum and give teachers more training, but you can't ignore the fact that she's had better than 10 years on the job to try and get it right, and that it got to the point that it did is less a commentary on curriculum and more on a failure of the system she heads.

Dr. Bergeson knows education. I have a lot of respect for her; you can't listen to her talk about the state of education in Washington and not be impressed. At the end of the day, though, there are way too many metrics that we're failing in, systemic problems that haven't been corrected, and failed efforts at reform that amounted to nothing. We're reactive, not proactive, and that's not a good strategy.

Sound Politics has more, as well as the Ridenbaugh Press.

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Reach Out and Touch Someone--Me

I'm hooked up with Juno for my internet service, and now if you'd like to drop me a line you can use the address at right to do it. If you're using my other email address with the school district, that's fine too.

Hope to hear from you!

Read more here, if any.

The WEA Legislative Report Card

The new issue of WE Magazine has the WEA’s take on how the legislature did with various issues during the last session. Their view:

Adequate school funding: C-

Eh. What the legislature provided falls short of the Conley Report and even Governor Gregoire’s own Washington Learns study, but it’s also undeniable that this legislature pumped $13.53 into K-12; see This Week in Olympia from the Washington Association of School Administrators for more details. My complaint about adequate school funding I’ll get to later.

Salaries: B-

A 3.7% COLA this year, a probable 2.8% next year, and an additional .6% each year for teachers in the majority of the districts in the state that weren’t grandfathered in when the state went to a single salary schedule. The complaint that many districts have is that the COLA only covers state-funded employees; if your position is funded by levy or federal funds, the district has to cover your raise through local monies, they say.

K-3 Class Size: D+

Asinine. OK, the legislature not codifying the 17:1 ratio that the WEA has pushed for hurts, but you can’t ignore the good they did in raising the I728 money from $375 to $450 dollars.

Health Benefits: C-

The WEA’s point is that the 3.5% increase to health benefits probably won’t cover the increasing cost of health care, but I think that’s a national problem more than it is a legislative one.

It’s also one of the most sensitive issues out there. Our superintendent has made some preliminary inquiries into looking into the state health plan through the PEBB, but when you even hint at touching the insurance people go nuts, and for cause. I don’t know how to solve this one, but it’s going to be a bigger and bigger issue as time goes on.

All-Day K: B-

The WEA had pushed for a 6 year phase-in instead of 10, but a) that’s a lot of money in a hurry b) the facilities might not be there yet for many districts, so time is a gift and c) let’s get some good evidence about whether Full-Day K works before we sink money into it statewide.

Pensions/Gainsharing: D

Apparently we don’t believe in Fs, because if any one area deserved it this is the one. Lisa Brown might be an economist, but she’s certainly no friend of anyone who wants to retire from teaching.

And let’s be blunt—the WEA gets an F here, too. We went into the session trumpeting a true rule of 85; we’ve come out with the retirement age being lowered to 62 and not much else. New employees can now choose between TRS 2 and TRS 3, but those of us who didn’t get to choose and were placed in TRS3 automatically get nothing....

Two Year Faculty Equity and Increments: A-

....and that’s why I’m going to go teach at Spokane Falls next year.

National Board Bonuses: A-

I’ll give them a little credit for letting a dissenting voice into the magazine, because later in the issue there’s a letter from a Dwayne Brecto of Grandview wondering why the WEA has pushed the National Board program so hard. There’s $5,000 here just for getting the certificate and another $5,000 possible if you teach in a high-need school, but is it worth it for the state? Why is the Union pushing so hard for bonuses that only benefit a select few?

ESA Salary Credit: B+

Math WASL: Incomplete

This one’s already been run through the media pretty thoroughly, with the Governor “refusing to punish kids for the failures of the system” and delaying the graduation requirement for 5 more years. A cynic might suggest that we’ll be fighting this same battle 5 years from now.


The text from the magazine:

Substitute Senate Joint Memorial 8011 urges Congress, the president and Gov. Chris Gregoire to work together to improve and fully fund ESEA, the so-called No Child Left Behind act.

Consider that for a moment. A purely symbolic act that will likely go nowhere gets an A, but raising the I728 money gets a D+. Hooray for fluff, and to hell with substance. That's not a good thing.

Sex Ed: A

You can get the full story on this bill here, here, or here. The rather funny thing is that the magazine put this one under the heading of “Improving Student Achievement.”

Simple Majority: A

Yep! It was a process, and the process isn’t over, but getting the simple majority through to a vote of the people is a big, big deal.

ESP Positions: A

Eh. The state has lowered the funding ratio for paras from 1 for every 60 students to 1:59, at a cost of nearly $26 million dollars, but does it go far enough?

Education Funding Review: B

Oh, hell no. F, F, a 1000 times F. I can’t remember the name of the legislator who listed the name of all the different funding studies that had come and gone in the years he’d been in the legislature (Schoesler, maybe, out of Ritzville?), but the idea that we need another funding study is just insane. How will this one be any different than the last one, or the one before, or the one before?

Four Year Colleges and Universities: B
Apprenticeships: A

Union Free Speech: A

House Bill 2079 clarifies an ambiguous law governing the free-speech rights of educators. The bill defines “use,” clarifying that when labor organizations spend money on elections, the revenues from other sources beyond agency fees collected must exceed the cost of those political expenditures.

If that’s the clarification, I’d hate to see the confusion. Oy vey.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Pad That Resume!

Two weeks back the story of Marilee Jones, the MIT Dean of Admissions who punched up her resume with degrees she hadn’t really earned, brought the issue of embellishing your background back into the spotlight. This week there’s a neat article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how a search committee discovered that their #1 candidate was not what he seemed:
The vetting of the vitae, which fell to me, was one of the most surprising experiences of my career.

The candidate had fabricated much of his scholarship. Book reviews that appeared on the vitae did not exist, or worse, had been written by others. He had invented conference presentations out of whole cloth, in subdisciplines specific enough that only a specialist would have known they were bogus at first glance. Articles that appeared to be in refereed journals (Studies in X or The Journal of Y) turned out to be merely titles composed for periodicals that had never existed.

There was a scattering of legitimate items on the CV—just enough to suggest an underperforming scholar who made the occasional effort—but most of it was fiction.
Hopefully my district never goes back to see if I actually mentored Harry Wong and did my student teaching with Rafe Esquith. It's not my fault, though, because George O'Leary did it first.

One of my summer projects is going to be to update my own resume, then hopefully morph that into the world’s shortest CV. I’ve gotten some grants and done some union work in the last year, and with my conference presentations coming up it’ll be good to have it ready to go so I can add to it right away instead of trying to think it out months later.

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

This post has nothing to do with teaching or education

Because every now and then, it's good to talk about other things.

Loving this season of The Ultimate Fighter. I expected more out of Corey in his first fight, but I don't see how Dana could say that the other guy won it; Corey was clearly more aggressive.

That head kick that Gonzaga used to knock Mirko Cro Cop out was monster. Didn't see that one coming at all, but if St. Pierre can lose anything can happen.

So, Randy gets Gonzaga next, and I'll be damned if I don't think that Gonzaga beats The Natural to become the champion. After that, who knows? If Cro Cop comes back with a couple of wins, if Silvia actually puts out some effort, if Arlovski keeps going as he's a heck of a division.

I like Around the Horn. It's good TV, and I don't care what anyone says Jay Mariotti is aces with me.

Provolone is clearly the best of all the cheeses. Really, I don't see any other cheese coming close.

NBC needs to give some of the shows in their 10:00 p.m. Monday slot a chance, instead of turfing them after a few weeks. I thought Studio 60 was a masterpiece that just needed time to catch on. The Black Donnellys would have worked better as a mini-series event. Wedding Crashers only getting three weeks shows that NBC is a network that is throwing everything they can out there and seeing what sticks, but they're doing it too fast.

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is as addictive as crack. I have about 180 hours into it now with my Dark Elf Vampire Assassin, and there's still hundreds of options for what I could do. This morning I routed Mancoran in his own house and now I'm ready to go back to the Imperial City, where I think it all goes down. I'll kill a goblin for you.

Arena Football is aces. I went to a game for our own Spokane Shock last year, and man is it ever an exciting environment to watch a game in.

I've gone 5 months without Pepsi. Switched to Coke instead. I miss Pepsi.

Happy Sunday!

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tales from the Courtyard

My school is a donut, with the courtyard in the middle. I have a back door that goes out into the courtyard, which is great this time of year when I can let the kids go out and have their silent reading time.

Yesterday the weather was great. C, my autistic student, asks if he can go out and read. No problem, sez I. A minute or so later I look out and C has unbuttoned his shirt down to the belly button and is standing there, arms akimbo, enjoying the sun on his chest. The look on his face is the look of a kid who is damned happy to have the sun back and is going to enjoy it to the last.

I gave him a minute, then made him button up. He was happy to do that, too, then wandered off to settle down with the neat book about spiders he'd gotten from the library. C is my Zorba.

A few days earlier I looked out at the kids reading, and two of my boys were staring at the tree in the middle of the courtyard with the most horrified looks on their faces, having a pretty animated conversation. They come running up to me and T asks, "Mr. Rain, is there a dead kid buried under that tree?!?!"

This one made me pause for a second. "No, not as far as I know. Why would you think that?"

"Because of the sign!"

"The sign? What sign?"

"THAT sign!"

I go over and read the sign:

Tree Donated By Student Body of 2004-2005

Big grin on my face. "T, honey, that just means that all the kids donated the tree."

The look on his face made me think that he didn't quite believe me. I wish I had taken a moment more to think, because I really could have had a lot of fun with it:

"Oh, THAT dead student. Yeah, he was one of mine. Didn't do his homework. It had to be done. Also, he didn't eat his vegetables at lunch. Poor kid. I wonder if anyone told his parents?"

First graders are fun.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

They Test Me, So I Test Them

Last week we had the first round of our NWEA testing, covering reading. There’s 17 kids that I’ve had since the beginning of the year; of them, 12 tested above the 50th %ile, with the other five being in the 49th, 48th, 45th, 36th, and 5th.

Charitably, that means that 70% of my kids met the grade level standard. The part that’s annoying me is the 5 that are below. Both of my special ed kids, for example, fell below. One made great gains, one barely budged. The other three kids who were below the 50 percent line have all made growth, one of them incredible growth, but I still didn’t get them there.

Then there’s the nagging question of just what the test means. The primary version of the NWEA is still in “beta” mode, so to speak, so the percentile rankings they have established are based off of a very small sample. That throws an element of uncertainty into the testing process that I wish wasn’t there; I like to be able to think of their scores as good, not good with an asterisk.

What the NWEA has all over the WASL is the timeliness aspect; I get NWEA results back that same day, where the WASL scores (for 4th grade, at least) won't be available until the kid is in 5th grade. The end result is that it's not a test of the child, it's a test of the program, and program change is the hardest thing to do in education.

In math my kids did OK. Of the 17 kids who have been here all year long 13 of them met the grade level standard, with three of the misses being in the 40-50 percentile range. If I add in the kids who came during the year I have 18 of 22 at grade level, a not-to-shabby 82%. If I decline responsibility for my special ed kids that goes up to 90%, but they’re mine and I’m keeping them, so there.

Overall, I can see a lot of room for improvement in what I do. This year our Title program was in a shambles for most of the year; next year I need to get the small group support to the kids who need it sooner. I’ve found some neat at-home activities on-line that I think could make a real difference; next year I should push the parent contact angle more and see if I can get better growth from the kids I identify early on as needing more help.

Next up is the DRA Reading Assessment, and then the silly season really begins.

How are your kids doing?

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Gotta Love the Carnival of Education!

I missed last week’s edition, but the week before I had turned in this post about a math coach proposal that the district brought up. Now when I check in with Statcounter, that post is the #2 most read post of all time on my site, trailing only the homepage.

If you’re new to blogging and you want traffic, make sure you get your carnival submission in every month. I’ve got to start doing a better job with that. I’d also recommend hosting a carnival to anyone; it’s a fun experience. Hectic, but fun.

All that is a lead-up to telling you that this month’s Carnival of Education is up now at Dr. Homeslice’s site with a special one-liners edition. Have fun reading!


Read more here, if any.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Your Teacher’s So Old, Her Social Security Number is 1

Teacher Magazine has a great article this month about long-served teacher, all of whom have put in more than their 30 years and show no inclination to stop. There’s Hazel Wilson, who has put in 47 years in the DC public schools. Agnes Zeiger taught for 42 years, retired in 1988, and has been a substitute in Ohio ever since. Roy Clare’s been teaching music in Williamsville, New York for 48 years.

God bless them for their service. Me, I see myself hitting 60 and getting out the door as fast as I can, but who can say?

Read more here, if any.

I Fix Cheney’s Problem

In Cheney there’s a big debate going on about whether they should close the Robert Reid Lab School, located on the EWU campus but part of the Cheney School District (see the Cheney Free Press here, the Spokesman Review here). The CO2 levels in the rooms are too high, kids are complaining, and EWU would rather remodel other buildings (hey, Senior and Martin Halls) than put the scratch into the lab school.

I think that the problem here is one of small-scale thinking. Eastern is getting too caught up in the details and the dollars, focusing on the pixels instead of the picture. Why think small? When you have the history you do and the cache that you do, why not go for the gusto?

Hence, the solution: Eastern should build a private school on their campus.

Consider what they could do:

1) Build a state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line school. Wired and wireless, with a quality science lab, Smart Boards, and all that we dream of when we plan buildings. A building that could be both an exceptional laboratory for pre-service teachers, and a showcase for any district thinking of building a new school.

2) Hire the best teachers at the best wages. The Chronicle of Higher Education says that the average starting salary for a professor is $90,000; imagine the response you could get if that was the number in your job posting. Imagine staffing the lab school with the very best classroom teachers that the region has to offer. Imagine the difference that could make for future generations of teachers, having the best of the best right there on campus to model and talk about the craft.

3) Get a superior school leader, someone who is an ambassador for education. Give that person a salary commensurate with that of any superintendent. Give them as close to carte blanche as possible to run the school as they see fit, as long as the results show it’s working. Push them to publish in the various academic journals this state has. Be out there and be visible in a way that lets everyone know that being principal of The Lab School is an important job.

4) Run a model program. With RTI and Pyramids of Interventions being all the rage, consider the remedial programs that you could put in place. Give pre-service teachers the chance to work with programs like Direct Instruction, Read Naturally, and Read 180 before they get into the classroom. Have grad students in the math department develop targeted interventions for kids who struggle with fact fluency. Have your 4th and 5th graders from the school walk over to the science building and get meaningful demonstrations on the principles tested in the WASL in a way that just isn’t possible in the classroom.

But even beyond that, imagine what you could do with gifted students when you have the resources of an entire university at your fingertips. The potential to run a program that would accelerate those kids at the pace they deserve by matching them up with college students and exposing them to the very best that science and math has to offer.

5) Be the showcase that you’re meant to be. At the new school there should be a group coming through every day to study your methods. Pre-service teachers should be watching from the crow’s nest, then from the classroom, then practicing the craft in a controlled manner. Your teachers should be going to conferences and presenting, in addition to talking to the kids at the college.

The old adage about the Chinese symbol for crisis being the same as the one for opportunity is a load of crap. That said, Eastern has a real opportunity here to not just remodel the lab school, but to reinvent it entirely and build a beacon of education for the new millennium. I’d challenge EWU President Blah Blah Rodriguez to think big, shoot the moon, and try for something on a grand scale. The payoff for education in Washington State would be worth the investment.

Go big, EWU. Go big.

Read more here, if any.

Will Pee for 4%

That seems to be the prevailing wisdom in Hawaii, where the proposed teacher contract calls for random urine tests in exchange for a 4% raise.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who would trade a little freedom for a little salary deserve neither.

Hat tip to Dr. Homeslice for the story.

Read more here, if any.