Monday, March 31, 2008

Value-Added Formative Standardized Norm-Referenced Diagnostic Summative Standards-Based Criterion-Referenced Screening Tests Are the Answer

That's going to be the title of my presentation at WERA next year. I think I'll use it for my book, too.

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Last Wednesday I was supposed to drive over to Sea-Tac for the WERA conference. I'd worked it out with my aunt and uncle that I could stay with them, and I was going to see some other family as well--it would have been a fun trip.

Wednesday comes, though, and I'm still unable to talk (an entire week of laryngitis FTW!), and the thought of getting in the Ford and driving 6 hours through a snowstorm isn't appealing to me. At all.

So, I flew. It cost $210 dollars that I don't really have, but given that a) I'd already paid the conference registration fee out of pocket and b) I'm going to be presenting at WERA next year, I figured it was a good investment.

The flight over was great. I literally walked right on to the airplane, whereupon we sat on the runway for 45 minutes de-icing because of the absolutely insane spring weather we've had around here. Once I finally got to Sea-Tac I took a cab over to the hotel and caught the tail end of Dean Fink's keynote address, where I also met the Science Goddess for the first time.

(Aside: I'm glad that I made a good impression, because my croaking and coughing certainly didn't seem very endearing. Thanks, Goddess, for carrying the conversation ;-))

After that we got into the heart of the WERA conferences, the sessions. The first one I attended was by a group of administrators from Highline talking about how to make the MAP more meaningful. They've done some pretty fascinating correlation work on how the MAP and the WASL line up; the piece that I wish they had addressed more was on how they made the results mean anything to the teachers. That's going to be my big project next year during my administrative internship, and I think I have a good way to make it make sense to my team--come to next year's spring WERA conference if you want to find out more!

Then, lunch. I ate with TSG and some other people from her district, and with The Exhausted Intern, another crackerjack blogger from Washington State. It was interesting listening to her perspective on the job search process; I've got a long ways to go before I'm ready to cross that Rubicon.

My after lunch session was....meh. It was a case study of the different leadership styles at two elementary schools, which should have been right up my alley, but the presentation was waaaay too academic to be meaningful. There was a good thread that he had on the importance of shared leadership, though, so I was able to derive something good from the hour.

The last session of the day was superior. Joe Stevens is a professor out of the University of Oregon who has contracted with OSPI to do a review of all the commercially available formative and diagnostic assessments available for schools; he gave a great presentation on the different kinds of testing that teachers can do, and a good preview of what his final product for OSPI will look like. This is one of those things that OSPI is doing that actually looks extremely valuable; I'm excited to see what it will be. You can find his Powerpoint presentation here.

After that I went to the airport and sat on my wide ass for 5 hours. I'd booked a flight back to Spokane at 9:15, which was the only one I could get a reservation for, but every other time I've flown I'd been able to exchange the ticket for an earlier flight. It didn't happen for me this time, which made me wish that I had stayed for the social hour at the conference. I know a lot more about Sea-Tac than I did before, though, and the next time I'm there I'm certainly going to give the massage bar a try. That looked delightful.

In short, it was a good time. I wish that the WERA conferences were more accessible to classroom teachers, because there's been a ton of good content there both times that I've attended. The trouble that I see, from an Eastside perspective, is that the rooms are terribly expensive ($179 a night, plus parking, plus internet access, plus food, plus....), the conference registration fee isn't cheap ($195 if you registered early, $220 if you were late), and there's considerable cost involved in even getting to SeaTac to attend. Were I an administrator, I'd have to seriously balance the costs between sending 1 person to WERA, or 6 people to the WORD conference which was in Spokane this year.

It's worth it, but in this era when so many districts are in budget crisis mode, I think they're going to have an increasingly difficult time making those connections with the classroom.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Federal Role in Education

My post a few days back on federal funding of education research got some good comments, and there's two that I'd like to point out for further discussion. First, from The Teacher at A Voice from the Middle:

Trust me, I think there are a lot of priorities out of wack and that education should get A LOT more funding, but the thing that we tend to forget is that education is not a FEDERAL issue but rather a STATE one. The list you provided is really comparing apples to oranges because everything else on that list is federally focused and there really is no state equivilant.

The Founders felt that education was something best handled by the people in the community involved. I frankly think we need to serious look at getting rid of the Dept. of Education and turn over their entire budgets dirctly to the states specifically for each state's educational programming and research.
This is an interesting thought. I believe that eliminating the Department of Education was a part of the Republican Party platform until just recently--one website I found has Bob Dole making it a campaign promise in 1996--but at the same time it's been under a Republican president in recent years that the DoE has been given the most power that its ever had to wield. And on the surface I can understand the logic behind thinking that local people would know best what would work in local schools.

Where I think the argument falls apart, though, is when you consider the best thing that NCLB has done for us: data. A federal mandate to test and disaggregate is a powerful piece of accountability that many schools have resisted furiously, but it's also the most valuable tool we have for identifying schools in trouble. States may have come up with plans on their own, but without the big stick of the Feds looming in the background I don't believe that there would have been any systemic change.

The next comment came from JL, who I think would be a spectacular blogger:
Fact: The federal government can only do two things in education that states could not do: 1) take money from one state and give it to another. 2) Force a state to do something it would not choose to do if left to its own devices.

Which of these two justifies holding pom-poms for more federal invovlement?

In Washington we're fortunate to have what I think is a pretty good state level research organization, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. They've taken a critical look at the WASL, our state assessment, and there's a ton of value in what they do.

What they don't provide is a national perspective, like we get from ERIC (a federal program) or more regionally from groups like the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory. If the education systems of the 50 states were truly balkanized, what incentive would they have to share best practices with each other? That's what a group like NWREL can provide.

Are the feds over-involved in local decisions? Quite possibly. If there's any are where I want Washington DC to take a leadership role, though, it's in the research and dissemination of information.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tom Luna Isn’t a Very Good Superintendent of Public Instruction

Ah, Idaho. Where the men are men, the women cook potatoes, and Tom Luna still isn’t worth a damn.

He couldn't get his merit pay plan through a state legislature that should eat that sort of thing up.

His constant haranguing of the Idaho Education Association only helped the teachers union look sympathetic, and made him look like a tool.

The Seattle Times found something nice to say, though: 2nd and 3rd graders in Idaho will learn how to play chess.

Tom Luna: The Pawn Who Got Rooked.


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Saturday, March 22, 2008

5 School Districts That You Can Close This Year

Oh yeah, I'm going there.

I’ve written before about the Vader School District, which completely shut down this year after a triple-levy failure last spring. Castle Rock absorbed Vader, the kids were parceled out to other schools, and that was the end of that.

I think, though, that there’s the potential for a trend there. Washington has 295 different school districts spread throughout the state, and it’s worth asking the question whether they’re all needed. Consider that a century ago there were 2,710 school districts (pdf) in the state; it’s been an ongoing process of consolidation and combination that’s eaten the small and turned them large.

So, as sort of a mental exercise, here are 5 school districts in Washington that could easily go away. Some I’m axing for monetary reasons, some just aren’t practical in the realities of the day, and someone would miss each and every single one of them, but it’s for the greater good.

If you want to play at home you can download a map of Washington school districts here.

#1: Rochester School District #401

I’ll go ahead and lead off with my alma mater (class of 1996, w00t!). When I went there Rochester was a sleepy little logging/farming town, unincorporated, best defined by the Dairy Queen off of exit 88 and the Mercantile Store in Rochester proper. Rochester is a hard place to define; it’s not Grand Mound, it’s not the IGA, it’s not Larry’s Chevron…it’s not much of anything, really.

What it has become is a town that’s openly hostile to its schools. Rochester suffered a double levy failure in 2005, necessitating mass layoffs and a complete destruction of the arts at the elementary level, and their most recent levy also failed IN AN ERA WHERE THE SIMPLE MAJORITY IS THE LAW. In this case the majority of the voters judged the school district and again found it wanting, and that’s a pretty damning condemnation. In the last two years Rochester has been sitting on a reserve fund of better than $2.5 million dollars, almost 13% of their total budget—let’s free that money up for a district that can actually use it without having to worry about going under.

Fare thee well, district of my youth. I cede everything west of Little Rock Road to Oakville, everything north of Sargent Road to Tumwater, and the rest of the carcass Tenino and Centralia can fight over.

#2 and #3: East Valley and West Valley of Spokane

Again, these are not small school districts: at the end of the 2007 school year East Valley had almost 4,000 students, while West Valley had 3,500. West Valley’s new high school is incredible—a model that any district looking to build should be happy to follow. East Valley has been deep in the poop the past few years (the financial director took his own life; the reserves were nearly gone; layoffs were a distinct possibility) but they look like they might be getting ready to turn the corner. Maybe.

The trick, though, is that the Central Valley School District, which shares a border with both of them, is experiencing growth at a rate they can’t keep up with. They’re the second largest school district in the Spokane area, with 11,600 kids, and bursting at the seams. If all of the Valley school districts were to unite under one banner you’d create a good-sized district of about 19,000 students that could combine services, have more flexible school zones, save the taxpayers some money, and STILL not be one of the 10 largest school districts in the state. Central Valley gets to drink their milkshakes by virtue of being the largest and best run of the three.

Consider, too, this report from OSPI. The average per pupil cost in Central Valley is $7,658.07; East Valley is $8,294.02 with a 4,168.5 student enrollment; West Valley is $8,436.73 with 3543.71. That makes East Valley $635.95 more expensive per child than CV, creating a potential savings of $2,650,000 (the savings times the number of kids); West Valley is $778.66 more expensive than Central Valley, with a potential $2,760,000 savings. $5.4 million isn’t anything to sneeze at.

Geographically, it’s already hard to tell where one begins and one ends. Let’s eliminate the borders entirely and make the marriage official.

#4: Great Northern

You knew that I’d have to get to the small school districts eventually, and Great Northern is a prime example. Great Northern is a one building, K-8 school near the Northern Quest Casino outside of Airway Heights, along the back road that would lead you into the Shadle neighborhood of Spokane, or out to Spokane Falls CC. Kids who “graduate” from Great Northern can choose to go to Cheney, Spokane, or Reardan-Edwall. I'd send you to their web site, but they don't seem to have one.

And to my mind, that’s the problem. 70 years ago Great Northern to Spokane would have been an intolerable commute along dirt roads; in the winter, it would have been impossible. Today, though, I don’t think that’s the case. If Great Northern were to be fully absorbed into the Cheney School District those kids could attend the Sunset Elementary School in Airway Heights, the HS kids could have the same choices that they’ve always had, and there would be one less school board to monitor or building to take care of. Small schools have their place—-Star or Benge, for instance, won’t make this list because their isolation demands that they be on their own—-but Great Northern isn’t isolated any more. It’s time they become a part of something bigger.

#5: Napavine

In the last few years only a very few school district have experienced double levy failure more than once; Napavine is one of those districts (in 2001 and 2004). A little ways off I-5 just south of Chehalis, Napavine is a truck stop, the Hamilton Farms Uncle Sam sign, a famous landslide, and not much more.

Southwest Washington is a plaid of school districts, most of them defined by the single town that supports them: Winlock, Adna, Pe Ell, Raymond, South Bend, Tenino, La Center, Castle Rock, Wahkiakum, and many more. Napavine is in a unique position where two of its neighbors have also experienced double levy failure this decade (Adna and Onalaska), and the drive from Napavine to Vader is 15 minutes at most. Napavine also borders the Chehalis school district, which could easily absorb Napavine’s 700 students and still be in the same WIAA size classification. It’s quickly becoming a bedroom community for the twin cities of Centralia and Chehalis; let’s make it official and role it into the metro area, as it should be.


Looking at the map, other possibilities present themselves. Wishram; Skamania; a number of the island districts; Shoreline. Maybe I'll get to them another day. If we're serious about looking at the overall school finance system, though, I think we need to look at every option--even the nuclear one.

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Meme: Passion Quilt

"Monica Reading" by Anne Belov.

To me the greatest joy in teaching is when I see a kid who is so into a book that the rest of the world ceases to exist. That little guy at the back of the room who is so engrossed in Sargent Rock or The Magic Tree House or Captain Underpants that he will be physically ill if I make him put the book down? That's my people, right there. As a first grade teacher getting them to that point of independence is my #1 goal, and when they finally cross that Rubicon....that's why I do it.

Thanks to Dr. Pezz for the tag.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Speaking of video....

....the Fordham Foundation just recently got their own YouTube Channel.

Mike Petrilli on Margaret Spellings? Good!
Mike Petrilli channels Al Shanker while a man twice his size looms in the background? Not so good!
A swipe at Ed in '08 with an old, bald man saying "I am the future"? Frickin' bizarre.

They're still the best education podcast around, though.

Update: I hit the page refresh button and get this message:

This is a private video. If you have been sent this video, please make sure you accept the sender's friend request.
Apparently, the Ed in '08 dagger was intended to be in-house only. Tee-hee!

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Something That I Wish More Think Tanks Would Do

Surfing around I came across the web page for the Leadership Limbo report that Fordham published a couple of months ago; I had looked at it then, but today I noticed that they've added links to Google video of the roll-out event they had for the report. This is a bright idea that I wish more of the players on the scene would grab onto (I'm looking at you, Education Sector and American Enterprise Institute), because if it's on Google or YouTube I can download it to watch later at my convenience and I know it's going to get to my computer, but when you host it as a stream-only video on your website sometimes the stream doesn't work (AEI is especially bad at this) and I don't always want to be at my computer for that long.

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I was this close to missing flu season....

So Tuesday afternoon I started feeling this tightness in my chest. Felt like a cold. Went out and bought some cough drops and a bottle of Robitussin, and figured that would be that.

I haven't seen my school since. The last three days have been chills followed by hot flashes, sleep followed by soup followed by sleep, snot by the gallon.

And puke. I don't throw up often--the last time I can remember tossing up the technicolor yawn was middle school, 17 years ago--and when I woke up yesterday morning with this odd feeling at the base of my throat my initial thought was, "God, that's an odd-feeling cough." Sense took over and I made my way over to the toilet, where I spent the next half hour calling to my friend Ralph.

Last night the Mrs. made me some chicken noodle soup. Late last night I fed it to the toilet like mother bird tending to her babies. This sucks.

Today I'm feeling marginally better. Haven't been able to eat anything, and I've completely lost my voice, but the soreness is leveling off, and I can finally string two thoughts together again in a coherent fashion.

I fought the flu, and the flu won.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Sad Statement on the Value We Place on Education

The March 5th issue of Education Week scratched my research itch with a front-page article on how the coming election could potentially change the emphasis that NCLB places on "scientifically based" research; they cite a recent forum (note: the link has video! and audio!) hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, and the quotes they pulled from it are very thoughtful.

The piece that really grabbed me came from a section on funding for educational research, with many saying it wasn't enough. The DoED spent $327,000,000 on research during FY2007, which sounds like a fantastic number until you compare it to other areas. Quoting the article:

The research and development budget of the US Department of Education falls far short of the total R&D budgets, shown below in millions of dollars and including facilities, of many other federal agencies.

DepartmentFY 2007 Actual
Health and Human Services$29,566
National Science Foundation$4,440
Homeland Security$1,003
Veteran's Affairs$819

Put another way, the budget for education research is 4/10 of 1 percent of the budget for military research.

We teachers need better lobbyists.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Oh, You Silly....!

The News Tribune is a great punching bag, because they almost never get it right. The latest example of that is this editorial from the March 7th edition talking about the general low state of math education in Washington. Consider:

Washington’s community colleges have long complained about the large numbers of incoming students who need remedial math instruction. But when University of Washington professors join the chorus, you know our math problem has reached epidemic proportions.
Yes, because unless the U-Dub says it, it must not be true. Never mind that math has been an integral part of the WASL since 1993, or that "Math Wars" has become part of the cultural vernacular, or the many reports that have chided K-12 for not sending colleges math-prepared students; since Montlake has spoken, we may now attend to the matter.

(I may have lived in Cougar country for too long)

Later on:

Face it: Differential pay is the future. Washington needs skilled teachers if its students are to get the math and science education they need to compete in the real world. Simply ramping up teacher recruiting won’t be enough.
And this is why I support the budget line item in question, because it raises an interesting issue: exactly how much money would it take to get our best and brightest to commit to teaching in the public schools? If software engineer can net you six figures easily for work that you can do on your own time in your own home, then shouldn't teaching with its myriad responsibilites be paid at an even higher rate?

And what of the private schools? I've long wondered if they have the same problems getting math teachers. Another interesting case would be a place like KIPP or Green Dot, too--do they struggle to get math and science certified people, or does the attractiveness of their program put them in a better position?

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The Schoolyard Bully

From the tone of this article, you'd have to think it's the NEA and the AFT.

A piece from the article that doesn't work:

Or consider performance-based pay. Forty percent of teachers leave the classroom within their first five years on the job — in some measure because they don’t stand to gain the same performance-based pay raises available to their private-sector counterparts. Merit pay would help public schools retain good teachers by paying them more.
Let's note first that "in some measure" is a wonderfully inexact phrase; it could be one teacher, it could be all of them. Let's note too that as long as teaching is a government function there's a built-in incentive to keep costs vis-a-vis payroll down, so this idea that there's an untapped funding source out there just waiting to go to teachers is a figment of the imagination.

I'm taking a school law class now taught by a former superintendent who now does a ton of work for school districts locally as a hearing officer, investigator, and superintendent search consultant. He looked kindly on the proposed merit pay plan out of Idaho that would have given teachers raises of about $3,000 in return for giving up tenure; if you extrapolate that same number into Washington, with 80,000 teachers, you'd be looking at a cost of $240,000,000. It's not doable.

I think that if you do it right merit pay could work, under the perfect conditions and appropriate reasons. We can't pretend, though, that merit pay is a way to solve the salary gap, and it has to be acknowledged that (as with most things in life) it's impossible to do in a completely fair manner.

I do enjoy the discussion, though.

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Mike Colbrese: Still a Dick

You know, you'd think that after completely blowing the Archbishop Murphy situation (to review: their whole season, including a playoff berth, was forfeited because a JV player's physical had expired; the mistake wasn't caught because the head coach/AD had died of cancer days before the season began) that the WIAA brass would wise up and make some tough decisions.

But when you're the only game in town, you don't have to learn from your mistakes. That's why this column from the Aberdeen Daily World is so troubling:

As Colbrese has noted in the past, member schools are the WIAA. And the Representative Assembly has rejected several attempts to modify its regulations on the topic.

“It’s an issue of trust and liability,” said Colbrese. “At this point, the membership hasn’t had the political will to fix it.”

Two amendments — interestingly, both proposed by the WIAA’s Executive Board — that could put clerical errors in a different category will be on the agenda at the Representative Assembly meeting scheduled for April 25.

The first, patterned after a similar rule in Massachusetts, would suspend the player for as many games as he or she actually competed with an expired physical. The team, however, would not be forced to forfeit those games.

Colbrese sees little chance this measure will be approved.

“I don’t think (members) are willing to draw the line there,” said the WIAA chief.
So take them there, Mike. As a union leader I feel more than a little qualified to speak on this point--if the membership isn't willing to do something that you feel is in the best interest of the group, you work your ass off to convince them. This "Hey, what can I do?" lack of leadership, combined with his laughably naive comments on booing, multiplied by his disembowling of the state B tournament, shows me that the state of prep sports in Washington is not all that it could be.

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Frozen Assets redux

Better than a year ago now I wrote about Frozen Assets, a report from the Education Sector that took a fairly critical look at teacher pay provisions. It caught my eye because the primary author is Marguerite Roza, a researcher at the University of Washington.

Unlike many reports, though, this one has come back to life via John at the American Federation of Teachers catching Education Sector blogger Kevin Carey in a bit of a pickle where one of his written comments on the narrowing curriculum would seem to invalidate ES' earlier report on teacher wages. It's an interesting discussion from both sides.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bridging the Academe/K-12 Divide

I think that anyone in education who has worked towards a master’s degree has met the sort. They’re nice enough, in their tweed jackets and sensible shoes, many of the things they say make sense on a visceral level, and their doctorates lend a sense of credibility to what they do. Then, one day, the realization comes to you. It might be as sudden as the flap of a hummingbird’s wings, or it might suddenly make itself obvious like an expected landmark on the horizon, but it’s an undeniable truth, and it’s earth shattering.

I speak, of course, of professors who don’t know what they’re talking about.

I’ve been blessed in my Leadership program to have had quality instructors, but I had some real lulus during my masters program. One had an academics understanding of teaching, but hadn’t actually taught in the classroom in better than 20 years; another crowed about how she went and read at her grandson’s elementary school for an hour a week. These were your strict Vigotzkians who believed that all knowledge could be discovered eventually through play, that all classes would follow the rules if only they wrote them for themselves, and that phonics was a plot by the same people who hate Head Start to take all of the joie de vivre out of education. These were the same folks who are telling my student teachers that an acceptable lesson plan is about 5 pages long when I’m telling them you should be able to write it on a note card.

These people are idiots.

I bring it up because of an excellent commentary in the February 28th Chronicle of Higher Education (Creating a Third Culture), penned by Robert Weisbuch of Drew University, where he talks about the “gorge” that divides the theory of the academe from the practice of the schools. I think that it’s an important topic, because if we were able to harness the brainpower of the colleges to give all of us in K-12 those things we actually need (Kindergarten readiness tests! Quick and easy phonics screens! A DIBELS for math!) the whole system would benefit.

It’s a thoughtful article that would benefit anyone interested in education policy. I've also written some other posts about the research-to-practice gap that you can find here.

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Who Has the Greatest Effect on What You Do in the Classroom?

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article (Catering to Our Invisible Government, January 18th) about the role that your county commissioners can play in the operation of colleges and universities. The author’s point was that they’re a very important connection to cultivate, but many overlook them entirely.

It got me to thinking about all those who play a role in what happens inside the classroom; individuals, committees, bodies both politick and profane, the kids, and you the teacher. My question to you—which one of these competing factors has the most impact on the classroom? Consider the possibilities:

Above: the President, the Secretary of Education, Senators, Congressmen, state legislators, the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Within: the teacher, the students, the principal, the parents, the coach, the superintendent, the union, the PTA, the school board, the levy committee.

Without: The Rotary, the Lions, the community at large, the voters, the business community, the Universities, the think tanks, the churches.

Were I to rank order them by order of impact, I’m not sure who the number one slot would go to. I pretty strongly believe that it’s the teacher that sets the overall tone for the classroom, but any teacher worth their apple is going to adjust what they do in the classroom based on the needs of the kids. Further, far too many times I’ve seen the kids run the classroom, and when that happens it’s not a pretty sight.

I guess the ideal would be 1) Teacher and 2) Students, but that’s just me.

I need to think about this some more.

Professors R-Squared also has some thoughts on the same article.

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New Teachers Get Hammered, Don’t They?

There’s an interesting post over at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brainstorm blog on when students declare their college majors:

Increasingly, freshmen arrive in my office for advisement already having declared a major. That might make sense for future neurosurgeons, who need to start early on their occupational requirements. It also makes sense, unfortunately, for future high-school teachers, whose entire curriculum is strictly regimented by the state. What surprises me, however, is the first-semester freshman who announces that he or she wants to be a marketing executive or a public-relations consultant or an investment banker. How the heck do they know?

I think this is an important point. Consider, for example, what’s required to get a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree with a Biology emphasis from Eastern Washington University:

*53 credits in biology classes
*22 credits in other support classes, including chemistry and biology
*46 credits in the education program

...for a bare minimum of 121 credits. If you don’t go to school thinking you’re going to be a biology teacher, instead deciding at the end of your sophomore year, then you’re going to be there for a long, long time. Chemistry Education is 122 credits; those pikers over in Earth Science only ask 110. Go over to the math department (remember, we need math teachers!) and you may well be tempted to give up: Elementary Math is 145 credits, Secondary Math 118.

This, I think, is where the push for alternative certification programs comes from.

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Quote of the Day

“As the school critic Myron Lieberman once noted, policymakers are more interested in the illusion of change than in actually making substantive change.”—William Silky in the 1/9/08 Education Week


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A Bill I Think We All Should Support

Editorial Note: When I'm writing posts I typically put them into a word document first, so that I can use the spell check more effectively, and then I move them here to the blog. The downside of that is that I don't always get posts to the blog in a timely manner, and that's what happened with this one. The bill is a dead issue for this session, but it could be worth keeping an eye on for next year.

HB3037, sponsored by John Ahern, Joel Kretz, Larry Haler, Mary Skinner, Glenn Anderson, Joyce McDonald, and Judy Warnick. Yes, they’re all Republicans, but look beyond that, because I think this is legislation that’s long past due. It would amend the current RCWs on discharge with the following paragraph:

Upon service of a notification of probably cause or causes for discharge, and until and unless the hearing officer’s final decision is in favor of the employee, the employee shall not continue to be paid or compensated. If the employee requests a hearing to determine whether or not there is sufficient cause or causes for the employee’s discharge, the district shall, pending a final decision of the hearing officer, deposit into an escrow account money sufficient to compensate the employee for back pay if the final decision is in favor of the employee.

I’ve blogged before about the Peter Perkins situation here in Spokane, where he was relieved of his duties nearly 18 months ago yet is still drawing a salary because of what's involved with due process. I think that situations like that make us as a union look foolish, cost us an incredible amount of good will with the public, and degrade the profession as a whole.

“But Ryan,” I can hear you objecting, “what about the innocents, who are accused of serious violations that could lead to discharge, but they didn’t do it? You wrote about Linda Cawley—how could you do this to someone like her, who was cleared?”

I accept that point, but to my mind that’s what the union is here for—to help teachers in their time of need. If we believe in someone’s innocence, then we can put the full financial resources of the association behind them until they are cleared. If they slept with a kid, and the evidence proves it, we owe them nothing.

I’ll be curious to see how this evolves.

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