Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vote 4 Giuliani!

From the December 19th Education Week:

In the December 9th Republican debate in Miami sponsored by the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that if the nation embraced school choice, he could turn schools around in a mere three years.
No matter what you think about school choice, a comment like this makes the man either a raging optimist or woefully naive. Or, if you prefer, a raging naive optimist.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Let's Hear It For Georges St. Pierre

I'm not a Matt Hughes guy, so last night's UFC made me very, very, very happy.

And now, back to the world of education.

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A New Model for Education Research

That’s the title of a paid commentary from the Education Deans Alliance that appears in the December 12th Education Week. The research-to-practice theme is one that I’ve thought about quite a bit, so I found it pretty interesting. You can read it here.

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

In Praise of Michelle Rhee

She’s getting put through the ringer now because of a proposal to close down some schools in Washington, D.C., but how right she is about the need to reform the district can be seen quite capably in this quote from Education Week:

“How giving the chancellor the power to fire a secretary or someone who works in the mailroom improves student achievement is beyond me,” said Rick Powell, the political and legislative director for the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, which includes several unions with members in the school district’s office.

“Is that grounds to lose your job?” he said of employees’ reported confusion about their duties. “If somebody doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do, then you train them.”
Or, alternatively, if someone can’t tell you why they’re employed by the district, you wish them well and send them on their way. Truly—your boss asks you what you do, and you don’t have an answer?

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Some Great Podcasts on Teacher’s Unions

I finally broke down and installed iTunes, despite my general animosity towards all things Macintosh, and I’m glad I took the leap because podcasts are neat things. I did a search for education-related shows, and I’ll try to highlight some of the best in the coming weeks.

A great one to start with is the Education Next show. They did three episodes in the summer of 2006 and then stopped, but those three shows are all well worth taking the time to download. Education Next did a special issue on the impact of teacher’s unionism in an issue around that time, and each one of the podcasts they’ve done touches on a different aspect of the union question. Consider:

*Terry Moe expands on this article to talk about the role that teacher’s unions play in elections. I think he overstates his point a bit—school board elections where the union is a major player are more the exception than the rule—but it’s still an interesting perspective.

*Linda Kaboolian of Harvard University, a co-author of Win-Win Labor Management Collaboration in Education, talks about how partnerships between districts and associations can help everyone involved. She’s dead wrong on the issue of teacher transfer, but it’s a perspective that’s out there that union leaders need to be aware of.

*Rick Hess, who’s the perfect interview, teams with Marty West to talk about why we need MORE teacher strikes. It’ll make you think.

I hope that the folks at Education Next have more planned, because this is a great show. It’s sort of a “Bill Moyer’s Journal” to accompany The Education Gadfly’s “To The Contrary” role.

(PBS metaphors always, always, work)

If you have any podcast recommendations, send them my way!

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Idaho: We Squeeze a Nickel ’til the Buffalo Poops.

From the December 19th Education Week:

Ninth graders will no longer take the Idaho Standard Achievement Tests because the state board of education can’t cover the costs, the board announced last week.

High school students must pass the 10th grade version of the test before they may graduate, and the standardized tests are used to determine if schools are succeeding under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But state board members said the 9th grade version had to be axed because with a price tag of about $1.1 million, it was too expensive and the board had to balance its budget.
It would be interesting to see a study that laid out what it costs each state to administer the testing required under NCLB. The last number I saw for Washington was around $200 million; imagine what a place like California or Texas must cost.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Goldhaber Watch Continues!

Joanne Jacobs also picked up on the Goldhaber op-ed that I wrote about yesterday, but her post is better because she has a national perspective. It’s interesting to see what other states are finding the dollar amount needs to be to convince teachers to voluntarily transfer into high-poverty, high-need schools--it's pretty obvious that a couple thousand dollars isn't enough.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sex vs. Chastity: They Can’t Get Along, So They’re Gonna Get It On!

Washington won’t be getting a federal grant to teach abstinence only sex education, reports the Seattle PI:

OLYMPIA -- The Bush administration is cutting off funding for abstinence-only sex education in Washington because this state now requires schools to provide additional, medically accurate information about preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Up until this year, the state has received an annual $800,000 federal grant for abstinence-only sex education. The money was used to produce and air public service announcements as well as developing abstinence-only curriculums for schools.
It’s worth noting that this is really only a drop in the bucket—this year’s grant would have only been about $200k, the article goes on to say—but every little bit helps.

Be sure to read the comments section for the article as well. Lots of Bush-bashing, but when you get past that it’s a good microcosm of the overall debate.

More statewide reaction:

An editorial from the Vancouver Columbian.
Background from the Seattle Times.
A different editorial, from the Everett Herald.

And earlier I Thought a Think posts here and here.

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Goldhaber Watch, Day 102

I’ve talked about the work of Dan Goldhaber out of the University of Washington before; smart guy who does a lot of good thinking about how to reform the system, even if I bitterly disagree with some of the things he’s tried in the past. In the December 19th Seattle Times he’s got a guest editorial spun out of the work that he’s doing with the School Finance Redesign Project wherein he talks about the perils of trying to implement differentiated pay for teachers based on subject, SES, board certification, etc. It’s worth reading, if only so you can be the weatherman who tries to tell which way the wind blows.

For what it’s worth (zero!), here’s some of my thinking on changing the pay structure:

Let’s Pay More for Math and Science Teachers! I’m not against this, if there’s proof that they’re getting results. If you’re going to give extra money to the same bad teacher doing the same lousy teaching that they’ve always done, that makes the whole system look foolish. If you’re giving extra money to a teacher who gets 40 kids a year to achieve at the highest level on the AP exam, now we’re talking.

(Sidebar: Those interested in the math/science teacher issue should check out the December 21st issue of the Chronicle Review for Linda Darling-Hammond’s article. It’s a great overview of the topic, and she’s a very readable author.)

Let’s Pay More for National Board Certified Teachers! Long time readers might think I’m against this. They’re right. I think that the National Boards are a waste of money, and I’m annoyed that they’ve been embraced by both my State Superintendent and my union.

Let’s Pay More for Teachers in High Poverty Schools! I’m all for it, because I’ve never heard a good reason not to.

We know that high teacher turnover is one of the factors that keeps low-SES, high poverty schools stuck in a never-ending cycle of rehiring and retraining. If making more money can convince teachers to stay there longer, that’s a good thing that will save us taxpayers money in the long run. If a bump in pay attracts successful teachers to those schools, that’s a good thing because those are the kids who need them most!

My only worry is that you might attract the wrong sort of teacher. Take Mr. Ennui, for example, who’s getting pressured by his principal to improve his practice but doesn’t really want to because hey, he’s been doing it forever and he’s only got three years until he can retire and it’s not him who’s the problem it’s the kids so why should he work hard—you might know him by reputation, even if you don’t know him personally. If he took a job in a school with a higher pay grade just for the sake of boosting his retirement, that’d be a damn shame for the kids.

Let’s Pay More for Teachers Who Live in Mercer Island! Um, no. My understanding is that at one time we had a differentiated salary schedule based on what part of the state you live in, and that just seems asinine to me. Sure it’s more expensive to live in Seattle, but there are advantages to the city that you won’t get living in Stehekin. It’s not always easy to attract teachers to some of our more distant towns, either—why would you go and teach special ed in Curlew if you could make more doing it in Spokane? The single salary schedule might have it’s weaknesses, but let’s not forget the strengths.

Also, I should be paid more. Just because.

If you could change one thing in our state salary structure, what would it be?

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Catch-All

It's the reason for whatever happened. In WWII the catch-all for any problem with an airplane was gremlins, as brilliantly shown in Roald Dahl's book. For those on the left the catch-all the past few years has been our president; more positively, those on the right would tell you all good things came from Reagan.

Go far enough to the right, though, and it seems that the catch-all for all that is wrong with the world is evolution.

The latest Texas tempest is another brouhaha over evolution vs. creationism, as seen in an article in the December 19th New York Times. The lede alone is enough to raise eyebrows:

A Texas higher education panel has recommended allowing a Bible-based group called the Institute for Creation Research to offer online master’s degrees in science education.

The action comes weeks after the Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer, lost her job after superiors accused her of displaying bias against creationism and failing to be “neutral” over the teaching of evolution.
And farther down the page, things get really, really weird. Regarding the institute:

It also says “the harmful consequences of evolutionary thinking on families and society (abortion, promiscuity, drug abuse, homosexuality and many others) are evident all around us.”
I'll almost grant the link between evolution and abortion, especially if you think about it in terms of the more disgusting elements of eugenics. But drug use, promiscuity, and homosexuality? That's a terrible argument from any perspective, and the thought that anyone could genuinely believe that is troubling.

Labels: , , ,

Read more here, if any.

Every Teacher's Nightmare, Part V

On Saturday the Washington Post ran an exceptional article about the struggles at Coolidge High School in the district. It speaks to the power of intention vs. the reality of some of our most troubled schools; it’s also one of the most disturbing accounts of an assault on a teacher that I’ve ever seen. From the article:

Two boys appear outside the door. One has been kicked out of Cox's class for being disruptive. The other is a student of Willis's. They peer through the window and laugh. They bang on the door. Willis shoves the metal door open, and it hits his student. A knot swells on the student's forehead, and blood runs down past his eye.

A deep sense of inevitability descends on the afternoon.

"Why you hit me? Why you hit me?" the boy screams. "Look what the (expletive) you did to my head." The bell rings. Students file out. The boy continues yelling and cursing. He is stomping up and down. A crowd gathers, egging him on. You can't let him do that (expletive)! Steal him, son! kids yell.

The two boys push into Willis's class. Other students follow. The one who is bleeding turns over desks. He knocks over a computer. He tears apart the bulletin board that told them to respect themselves and their school.

All around, kids shout for vengeance.

Willis rushes out and down the stairs. The two boys follow him. The crowd follows them, 20 kids or more, running and jumping down the steps. Everyone is hollering. The last of the crowd gets to the first floor and rounds the corner.

Suddenly, kids are running back against the crowd. As he flees, one boy yells: "He put that nigga to sleep!" His voice echoes. Bodies blur in a rush. Seconds later, the hallways clear, the yelling grows distant and a surreal scene comes into focus.

On the floor, a few yards from the main office, Fredrick Willis lay crumpled. He is not moving.

Seemingly far off, someone starts to yell. "Get the (expletive) to class."
Horrible. Absolutely horrible.

There’s also a piece on the problems of black kids later on that I found rather odd, from the leader of the local PTSO:

"African American kids come with anger that comes from longtime situations," Goings says. "We're angry folks, and most times that's the only way (kids) know how to deal with anger is violence. How can we deal with them before they become violent?"
This feels more like an excuse than a reason, but when you consider the evidence about stress that’s been coming out recently, maybe this is the way it is for a reason.

Labels: , , ,

Read more here, if any.

Screw you, Ravitch!

The New York Times has an article today about how teachers are using comics in the classroom to get kids to engage with books. This is something that I do with my first graders, because reading at this age is 90% about getting them interested. They may not like Little Bear, or Margaret Hillert, or even Junie B., so if it's Batman, Spiderman, and The Haunted Tank that get them going--why not?

Unless, of course, you're a famous professor:

“If you’re going to use comics in the classroom at all, which I have serious doubts about, it should be only as a motivational tool,” said Diane Ravitch, an education professor at New York University. “What teachers have to recognize is that this is only a first step.”
Feh, I say. This is a case of the theorist disagreeing with the practitioner, and in that battle you should always, always go with the voice that's actually working with the kids.

Let me also throw in a good word for Comics in the Classroom, a labor of love that it's administrator (Scott Tingley) has been improving steadily over the past few years. If you're interested in what books might be good for the kids you teach, his site is a great resource.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Christmas Post

The gifts are mostly wrapped, the cards have been sent. Mrs. finished all her cooking, and the Cute Deaf Baby is absolutely loving all the lights and bric-a-brac that define the season.

Coming in March I'll finish up year 2 of the blog and begin year three. It's been a busy two years, with the birth of my daughter, my work with the WEA, and beginning my principal's certificate, and I appreciate you all having been here for the ride.

I'll be taking a few days of shortly to immerse in the Christmas fun, so here's my annual Christmas post, today using a meme that I first saw at The Science Goddess' website.

  • Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both. Bags are nice and easy for oddly shaped things.
  • Real tree or artificial? Real, but this is where Mrs. and I have a split. She likes the pines, with their clearly defined branches. I like fir trees, blobs of green. We always get pine.
  • When do you put up the tree? Sometime after December 8th. My mom's birthday is December 8th, and she always said that we weren't going to get ours until she got hers. Mom is very provincial about her birthday.
  • When do you take down the tree? Usually, January 2nd. I like having it done before school gets back in session.
  • Do you like eggnog? Ugh.
  • Favourite gift received as a child? My grandfather had a huge, huge collection of old copies of Life magazine that he gave to me when I was 10. I loved those magazines.
  • Do you have a nativity scene? Yep. It's sitting on the bar right now, not that that means anyhting.
  • Hardest person to buy for? My wife, oddly enough, because she doesn't like jewelry, flowers, furniture, electronics, and I can't get her taste in books nailed. My dad is a close second, because he's just plain hard to read.
  • Easiest person to buy for? Me!
  • Worst Christmas gift ever received? A game for the Sega Genesis. Nothing wrong with the game, mind you, except we were a Super Nintendo household.
  • Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? Mail. Did 120 this year!
  • Favourite Christmas movie? I'll always make the time for A Christmas Story.
  • When do you start shopping for Christmas? All year long. We have a box we store them in and pull them out when the season comes.
  • Have you ever regifted a Christmas present? Oh heck yes.
  • Favourite thing to eat at Christmas? My wife's fudge. My God, does she ever make good fudge.
  • Clear lights or coloured on the tree? Colored. Clear lights annoy me. Why even bother?
  • Favourite Christmas song? Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. That's music, right there.
  • Travel for Christmas or stay at home? I travel because I have to, but my druthers would be to stay at home.
  • Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Dang right!
  • Angel on the tree top or a star? Star.
  • Open the presents on Christmas Eve or morning? Oh boy. We usually open one gift on Christmas eve, go over to my sister-in-laws house on Christmas morning and open presents there, then bring everyone up to our place Christmas night to open more presents. It's a season, after all.
  • Most annoying thing about this time of year? Not having enough time to do all that I want to do.
  • What I love most about Christmas? The spirit. When it all comes together and everyone just relaxes and enjoys, that's a great thing to see.

May God bless you and keep you safe during this holiday season; have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Mike Colbrese: Dick.

The good Mr. Colbrese is the executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), the governing body for prep sports, debate, and the like here in Washington State.

Ferris High School in Spokane has a player by the name of DeAngelo Casto, a definite next-level prospect who helped them to win the 4A basketball championship last year. He transferred to Seattle, then came back, but was declared ineligible because of the WIAA regulations. He appealed, lost, appealed to a higher level, and was reinstated on December 18th because his lawyer got him declared homeless.

Where this story turns ridiculous, though, is the quote from Colbrese that appeared in the December 18th edition of the Spokesman-Review:

“The most I can say is that he demonstrated a hardship that was unique to him,” Colbrese said.


Nevertheless, Colbrese didn’t even consider the McKinney-Vento argument. In his eyes, Casto’s hardship was enough to approve the appeal, Colbrese said.

“We felt that there was enough of a unique situation here,” he said.
Awww. Contrast that even-handed, level-headed approach with the Mike Colbrese who tossed out Archbishop Murphy’s entire football season and kicked them out of the playoffs because a second-string player had a physical that was more than a year old. A mistake that wasn’t caught at the school because the head coach/athletic director had died of cancer at the beginning of the season; Sound Politics has more.

Double standard? Piss-poor judgment? Both?

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

That’s Why We Do It

There’s a gorgeous commentary from Meryl Ironson in the November 14th Education Week on the power of reading aloud to kids. It’s not only about what we do, but why we do it, and it’s a brilliant classroom artifact. Beautifully written, too:

The air was thick with the scent of rubber erasers, recently dittoed paper, and pencil shavings. Although each paint-chipped window across the wall was raised halfway, the room was warm. The morning heat had already filtered in so heavily that droplets of perspiration formed on the upper lips of at least three of the children at my table. No one moved. It was time.
You can read the whole thing at the link above.

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Terry Bergeson Will Be the Next Superintendent of Public Instruction

She has the inevitability that Hillary wanted and lost.

Sound Politics has been taking a look at the hate/hate relationship between Where's the Math? and Superintendent Bergeson over the new math standards that the State Board of Education have been working on. Olympia Time has been doing the best job of talking about Dr. Bergeson running again, and even though it's a quiet campaign right now this has a chance to be a great conversation about where we are as a state when it comes to improving education in our schools.

That's all it's going to be, though, is a conversation. Because Terry Bergeson will be the next Superintendent of Public Instruction again. And the reasons are simple: power and money.

For the money piece, go over to the Public Disclosure Commission's website and take a look at the papers filed so far by Dr. B and her competition, former Richland Superintendent Richard Semler. To date, Semler has claimed $3,450 in contributions:

  • $1400 from Juanita Doyon, who lost to Bergeson in the last OSPI election.
  • $1400 from Raul De La Rosa, a retired OSPI employee
  • $500 from a William Pennell, like Mr. Semler from the Tri-Cities.
  • $100 from Marta Gray, a Where's the Math member.
  • $50 from some guy.

Contrast that to Dr. Bergeson, who has a machine in place that would be the envy of anyone seeking public office. Her most recent filings with the PDC on December 3rd and 11th lists nearly $17,000 in donations, including:

  • $500 from Colin Moseley, director of a trust that was the 7th largest land owner in the United States at one time. Also a major player in the Washington Business Roundtable.
  • $500 from Gaye Pigott, who lists herself as a homemaker. It's easy to be a homemaker when your husband is on the board of directors for Paccar, the company that makes Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks.
  • $1,500 from Charles Collins, the former head of the Higher Education Coordinating Board.
  • $250 from Chris Majer of the Human Potential Project, a consulting group based in Spokane.
  • $750 from Dennis Karras, Senior VP at the Washington State Employees Credit Union.
  • $1,400 from Constance Cohn, an epidemiologist who has also given to Maria Cantwell and Rick Larsen.
  • $1,000 from Murray Pacific Management, a private equity firm.
  • $500 from Vulcan Incorporated, a Paul Allen company.
  • $500 from Vito Chiechi, a lobbyist.
  • $1,500 from Wanda Cowles, who much like Ms. Pigott above is a "homemaker" only in the sense that she's married to money, in this case the family that owns the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
  • $1,400 from the Beresford Company, which makes their money selling ID badges to schools.
....and on, and on, and on.

The business community loves Terry Bergeson, because the business community gains personally from the higher standards of education that the WASL represents. The WASL is a very bottom line assessment, something that business leaders understand, and I don't know that there's anything that teachers or parents could say that would turn their heads to our way of thinking.

The power piece of the Bergeson campaign becomes apparent when you cross reference her list of donors with the salary database that the Evergreen Freedom Foundation posts every year. Terry's biggest donations might come from the private sector, but her largest numbers of donors are those who work under her. Consider:

  • $100 from Michaela Miller, a teacher in North Thurston.
  • $150 from Glenda Shannon, who works for OSPI.
  • $250 from Karen Garr, who works in outreach for the National Board. Yes, the same National Board that Dr. Bergeson has been apastolic about for the past few years.
  • $200 from Elaine Woo, an administrator in the Seattle Public Schools.
  • $150 from Carol Whitehead, superintendent in Everett.
  • $750 from John Aultman, the assistant SPI in Olympia.
  • $400 from Millie Watkins, superintendent in Orondo.
  • $200 from Kathleen Kimball, administrator in Highline.
  • $125 from Jennifer Bethman, principal in Bethel.
There are an awful lot of people around the state who have a personal stake in seeing Bergeson returned to office. They have history, cache, an in; however you want to put it. If a new wind blows their boat goes off course, and that's when personal self interest kicks in and gets them to reach for their wallet.

Everything I've heard and seen speaks to the idea that Richard Semler is a good man. I've heard him talk about the how the testing system in Washington has gotten far away from any educational purpose, and he's right. Living here in Eastern Washington, where we voted Tom Foley out of office when he was Speaker of the House, I should probably be more optimistic.

As things stand, though, Bergeson is racing with a Porsche while Semler hops behind on a pogo stick. And that's why she's going to be, once again, the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Labels: , ,

Read more here, if any.


On EduWonk, Andy Rotherham wonders why so many top flight folks are leaving education to careers in the education reform sector. One could note that the examples he gives are mostly journalists, so it's hard to argue they've left education, but so be it. One could also note that Michelle Rhee left "reform" to be the head beurocrat in a bad district.

A possible answer is just a few posts below that one, though, when EduWonk chides NYC Educator for a post he wrote about KIPP teachers taking a vacation to the Bahamas that may have been financed with public money. Destructive pathology or not, it shows you where the money is.

Yes, that's my strawman--if you're an education talking head, or if you run a cluster of charter schools, you're going to be living a better life than those who remain behind in the classroom with the kids. Get on the talk circuit, like Ron Clark. Get school district to fly you around the country and talk about Teach for America, like one-L will soon be doing. Hop aboard the charter school money train; everyone else is.

Those valiant reformers, those knights of the New Way. They may look across the table and sneer at the empty union suit looking back, but they are at heart the same damn person. It's the final piece of Animal Farm; just substitute the men and pigs with reformers and hacks. Trickle down doesn't work in the education sector, and that's why everyone wants to move up. Period.


Read more here, if any.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Week in the Life, Part II

A sequel of sorts to a post I did last April.

Monday, the 26th: Meet at the local WEA council office to talk about making some changes to our bylaws. Good discussion; I'm thinking we might be able to shed some exec board members, which would be nice. After the meeting went out and got a haircut, then turned around and went right back to the council office for a local president's networking meeting, where all the union heads in the area came together to compare notes. Very productive; I learned a lot.

Tuesday: Big presentation for my education leadership class on how to implement full-day kindergarten. I don't think I did very well, frankly. Blew a couple of transitions and didn't tie things together nearly as well as I saw myself doing it. Hopefully I'm being harder on myself than Dr. Alvy will be.

Wednesday: Fly to Sea-Tac and drive to Federal Way to attend a workshop on how to lobby the legislature. Really interesting look into how it all works. This will be my first time as part of the legislative action team for the WEA, so I'm pretty excited to see what can happen. The other folks from my council are happy because I'm from the 7th legislative district and they haven't had someone from the 7th in a while; I don't know what they think I'm going to be able to do, because the 7th is more Republican than Reagan.

That said, I like what the WEA is doing with their legislative agenda this year. In the full session last time around they had waaaaaay too many high priority items, but this year there are only two: class size and compensation. I'm think they might be overreaching on the class size proposal (17:1 in grades K-3 is nice, but also easy to say no to, and it doesn't do anything for a wide swath of our members), but the compensation proposal is almost tame compared to others I've heard.

(Sidenote: Flying out of Spokane it was cloudy, but when we got above the clouds I got to watch the sunrise from an airplane. That's an unforgettable sight, right there.)

(Sidenote 2: I've whined about it before, but damn I miss being able to get 5 daily newspapers.)

Thursday: Teach a half day, then go home and crash with the kid. I needed that.

Friday: Teach a half day, then wait for a phone call from an insurance agent about a fender bender I was in. The phone call never comes. Later on that night I went to the staff Christmas party, but ducked out after 15 minutes and went to the room to lesson plan.

It's these social situations that make me think of my daughter's health problems the most, because everyone asks how she's doing. They mean well; it's the having to talk about it over and over again that gets hard. Maybe I should just send out an email, but it's kind of a hard one to write:

To: Staff
From: Ryan

Message: Daughter was exposed to a virus called CMV in the womb. The pediatrician is afraid she'll go blind, and 80% of the time the kids are also mentally retarded. How are your kids doing?

Maybe I won't write that email.

Fast forward.....

Monday: The State Board of Education was in town to talk about the new graduation standards. Instead of that, I went to a meeting of the Eastern Region of the WEA at Hill's Restaurant in Spokane, which was a great place that I'd never had the pleasure of eating at before. Good conversation with good people.

Tuesday: Eastern Region meeting. This was pretty interesting, actually. Good talks about what was going on around the state with the WEA, planning for the upcoming bargaining conference, and lots of good ideas. I hope I get to attend another one this year.

Tuesday afternoon: Dinner with State Senator Chris Marr and Basic Ed Financing Commission Chair Dan Grimm. I'm still trying to get all of my thoughts straight about this one. I was very impressed by Chairman Grimm, who has a great breadth of knowledge about school issues.

Tuesday evening: Class. Listen to presentations. Try to stay awake.

Wednesday: Nothing special! If I'd gone out again, my wife'd have my head.

Thursday: Big 6 Bargaining Conference. All of the big locals in my area get together periodically to compare contracts and talk about the ideas that we can get from one another; it's really fascinating to look at what the others have and think about how it could improve what you're getting in your own district.

In total, I had my lunch or dinner bought for me 9 times this past week. That's how it's done, folks!

Labels: , , ,

Read more here, if any.

Quote of the Day

"The less we know, the longer our explanation." -- Ezra Pound

Read more here, if any.

Why They Are the Way They Are

Maybe the best article I've read this year on anything is The Targets of Aggression from the October 5th Chronicle Review. The piece that really got to me:

Place a rat in a cage with an electrified floor and subject it to repeated shocks. Not surprisingly, the poor animal will show many signs of stress, at first flinging itself against the walls with each shock. But after a while, it just sits there apathetically, showing no inclination to escape from its painful prison. When autopsied, the animal will be found to have oversized adrenal glands and, frequently, stomach ulcers, both indicating serious stress.

Now repeat the experiment, but with a wooden stick in the cage alongside the rat. When shocked, the rat chews on the stick, and as a result, it can endure its experience much longer without burnout. Moreover, at autopsy, its adrenal glands are smaller, stomach ulcers fewer. The rat buffered itself against the stress merely by chewing on the stick, even though doing so does nothing to get it out of its predicament.

Finally, put two rats in the electrified cage. Shock them both. They snarl and fight. Do it again, and keep doing it; they keep fighting. Yet at autopsy, their adrenal glands are normal, and, moreover, even though they have experienced numerous shocks, they have no ulcers. When animals respond to stress and pain by redirecting their aggression outside themselves, whether biting a stick or, better yet, another individual, it appears that they are protecting themselves from stress. By passing their pain along, such animals minister to their own needs. Although a far cry from being ethically "good," it is definitely "natural."
Apply this to the kids in your school who lash out: the mean girls, the bullies, the fighters. If you look at the behavior as a coping mechanism, does that change how you feel about the behavior? Do those rats remind you of any kids you know, hurting others to redirect their own pain?

Are there any lessons here for what we do today?

Labels: , , ,

Read more here, if any.

A Tale of Collaboration

In the November 23rd issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education there’s a thoughtful article in the Careers section on the power of collaboration ($). Given that it’s a postsecondary education journal the connection to what we do K-12 isn’t direct, but there’s a contagious joy in how the author describes his work with colleagues in researching their favorite obscure British writer.

The work that can be accomplished by a cohesive, focused, and enthusiastic group is one of the most powerful things in the world, and it’s that power that can make or break our schools.

Any great collaboration stories out there?


Read more here, if any.

An Idea That I Really, Really Like!

I was flipping through the August/September issue of the IRA's Reading Today newspaper and they had a description of a project called "One School, One Book" wherein everyone in a K-5 school was given a copy of the same book to read at home or in class. Older siblings could share the book with younger, younger kids immediately had something in common with older--what a great way to get an entire school excited about reading!

If I'm ever principal, I'm going to do that.


Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Well, shit.

The truth hurts:

Labels: ,

Read more here, if any.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Work of the School Funding Taskforce

I am a total school policy nerd.

Oh yes. I tape legislative hearings off of TV Washington and watch them in my spare time. It's educational, it gives a good sense of where school reform in Washington might go, and it's a cheaper hobby than most. Recently it's been the work of the Joint Committee on Basic Education Finance, also called the Grimm Committee (after it's chair) by some who don't think it'll accomplish much.

So I'm sitting here working on my term paper on the effects of full day Kindergarten, the satellite won't work because it's covered in ice, and I think to myself, "Self, let's work on the paper AND blog about the tape of the committee hearing! Multi-tasking, baby!" So that's what I'm doing--let's see what nuggets we can find!

(Sidebar 1: If you're interested, I'm talkign about the November 19th committee meeting here. You can access it off of TV Washington.)

(Sidebar 2: I've got a bit of self-interest in this as well. This week I'll be attending a dinner with Dan Grimm, the chair of the committee, so I'd like to be able to make some informed comments when I meet with the man.)

To start this day of the hearings John Ahearne, a lawyer with the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS), prepares to give a presentation on his side of the school funding debate. Last meeting they heard someone who has fought for the state side in some of the lawsuits, so this is the fair and balanced piece.

Chairman Grimm really isn't interested. He lets Laura Bay of the Washington State PTA say her piece, but after she's done she reminds the other speakers there representing NEWS that he really wanted to hear about the legal side of school funding, not take the sort of testimony that had already been had during Washington Learns. The representatives from the League of Women Voters and the Urban League for Metropolitan Seattle burn through their time, and then it's turned back over to Mr. Ahearne to give his presentation.

It's a good talk, too, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in school finance in Washington to download his powerpoint from the committee website and follow along on TVW while he gives his presentation. He identifies some key principals that should be understood about funding:

  1. No other state constitution has a stronger education mandate than our state constitution. This is the much-discussed "paramount duty" clause (Article 9, Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution) that every group from the WEA to the WASA has used to urge increased school spending.

  2. Article 9 Section 1 is mandatory and imposes a judicially enforceable affirmative duty. This is why we've had events like the Doran Decisions on school funding, the Federal Way lawsuit, etc.

  3. "Paramount" means "paramount." In his presentation Mr. Ahearne gives a dictionary definition of paramount as being "superior to all others." If we believe that the paramount duty of the state is education, then it follows that education should get all the funding it needs before any other need of the state. I'm not sure I agree with this, but it is what it is.

  4. "Ample" means "ample." Here the argument is that ample means more than adequate, not just enough to get by. Former Spokane area journalist Tom Boyer has also made that point in a statement for the WEA, discussing how his new home in Pennsylvania has a "culture of abundance" compared to Washington.

  5. "All" means "all." I don't know that there's necessarily a fight over this point, but I would suggest that WAETAG might want to try arguing that the gifted kids aren't getting an ample education experience the way things are now, and thus we aren't serving "all" the way we could.

  6. "Education" means substantive content beyond mere reading, writing, and arithmetic. Here Mr. Ahearne made the point that the judicial interpretation of the paramount duty clause has been that education goes well beyond mere basics, covering civics, critical thinking, and the ability to find success in the labor market as well.

Mr. Ahearne's 7th principle actually had four points attached to it, so I'll break it off into another post for another day. There's also a piece coming up about just how many education studies and task forces we've endured in Washington in the past 30 years, which is a point that Representative Skip Priest has been pushing for a while now.

Stay tuned!

Labels: , , , ,

Read more here, if any.