Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fake News Friday: The 6 Days Late/1 Day Early Edition

Contract Negotiations Hinge on Workday, Per Diem, Magical Pony Rides

(Marysville) Contract negotiations between the administration and teacher’s union in the Marysville School District reached an impasse today, with both sides reporting that they are “far apart” on issues including the structure of the teacher work day, the amount of paid per diem time teachers will receive, and magical pony rides.

“District administrators, and particularly Superintendent Josh Holland, have shown that they don’t value teachers by refusing to even engage with us on our requests,” said Marysville Education Association (MEA) President Steven Hirsch in a statement to reporters outside the MEA office yesterday afternoon. “The teachers in the Marysville School District deserve rides on a magical pony, preferably a dappled steed of pink and powder blue with glitter highlights, and our Bargaining Team will not rest until that happens.”

“After all, that’s what the administration gets.”

Superintendent Holland denied that the administrators in the district are in possession of a magical pony suitable for riding.

“Listen, when the MEA went out on strike in 2002 this issue was brought up at the table at that time,” stated Dr. Holland. “We told them then that we don’t have a pony to give them, we’ve told them now that we don’t have a pony to give them, and we will continue to tell them well into the future that we don’t have a pony to give them. I mean, Christ, a magic pony? Who the hell actually believes this nonsense?”

The Superintendent then flew off into the sunset on wings of a majestic, perfume-farting silver dragon.

Contract talks between the two sides are set to resume next week.

Book Study Book Steady—Unmoved Since May

(Moses Lake) Today marked the 75th consecutive day that “RTI: A Practitioner’s Guide to Implementing Response to Intervention” has sat unread on teacher Ashley Griffith’s bedside table, reports her husband Steve Griffith.

“Ashley brought the book home from her school last May, when her principal bought a copy for everyone to use in this year’s book study group,” said Mr. Griffith in an interview live from the couple’s bedroom. “She seemed really excited about it at the time, and I think she might have read the introduction one night, but since then, nothing.”

The unread book sits within arm reach of Mrs. Griffith’s customary sleeping spot, an intentional placement meant to facilitate the process of getting the book read. Since being place on the bedside table May 17th the book has only been touched by human hands once, when Mrs. Griffith was reaching for her alarm clock. Currently the book lies beneath a Cosmopolitan Magazine, with a glass of water sitting upon both.

“Maybe she’ll read it this month, maybe she won’t. Who knows?” pondered Mr. Griffith. “Lord knows I don’t like reading things for the job when I’m on vacation.”


Read more here, if any.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sometimes Only the Jester Can Tell the Truth

Take New York, where satire is being used to profound effect as the schools get redesigned again, and again, and again.

Take me, who really doesn't have a point to make but was warped by Optimus Prime dying back in the '80s and never really recovered.

Hat-tip to Alex Russo for the link.

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Fake News Friday: An Even Specialer Wednesday Edition

5th Grade Teacher Horrified to Find that CBA in Dance Wasn’t a Joke

(Spokane) Roger Kalnoski, a 5th grade teacher at Pratt Elementary in the Spokane School District, was horrified today to find out that the proposed Classroom Based Assessment (CBA) in dance wasn’t a big practical joke put together by the state Superintendent.

“So I’m showing one of the other teachers on my team this CBA I found,” explained Mr. Kalnoski, “and I’m totally playing it up as a big put-on from the state, and then she’s like, “No,’s legit. We’re actually going to have to do one of those,” and I was all like “What the hell? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

The stunned teacher’s shock quickly turned to horror as he read further through the web page. “Christ, these come on line this year? We just cut back on art and music, we’ve got science and civics in my grade, and now this? You have GOT to be kidding me!”

After being assured that he was not, in fact, being kidded, Mr. Kalnoski rolled his eyes and sighed audibly. “One more (censored) thing,” he sighed. What’s next, CBAs for PE?”

Deficient Pirates to Be Remediated Through ArrrTI Framework

(Ilwaco) State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson chose this coastal town today to announce a new program, called ArrrTI, that will be used to help “all pirates reach their maximum potential.”

“Most pirates do a great job with their deck-swabbing and booty-plundering,” explained Superintendent Bergeson, “but there are some scurvy seadogs who struggle with the traditional pirate duties. With ArrrTI, we can ensure that even the most lily-livered bottom-dwelling bilge rat on the ship earns his pantaloons.”

Under ArrrTI, pirates who are having trouble meeting the standards outlined in the state’s Pirate Learning Expectations (PLEs) will be given a series of intensive interventions designed to help them catch up with the rest of their crew. Before ArrrTI, deficient pirates would have been keel-hauled or sent to Davy Jones’ locker.

Experts in the pirate field gave the program mixed reviews, with the Adna Pirate offering a hearty “Arrrrrrrrrrrr!”, while the Rogers Pirate mustered only a halfhearted “Arrrrr.”

The program, which will cost $127 million dollars, will be funded by plunder and looting.


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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Joy of Being a Single Issue Voter

My voter's guide came in the mail today, and as has been my habit the past few years I went through and read all the position statements in preparation for the primary next month. Good times.

A race that I don't get to vote on but that has been getting a ton of attention is the 6th LD contest involving Republicans Kevin Parker and Mel Lindauer, currently held by Democrat Don Barlowe. Parker and Lindauer have been going at each other pretty hard (think Obama v. Hillary, but local), and it's a primary to watch.

My biggest issue is always education, so that's the first thing I look for whenever I read on a candidate. I know that politics is a game that lends itself to blurbs, but it is possible to be too general. Take what Parker says in the voter's guide regarding education:

My top priorities are building a first class education system by funding the fundamentals first;
....and that's it. Sounds nice, what with the alliterative "fun" and all, but what does it really mean?

So I went to Parker's website, here, to see if he'd expanded on that idea at all. Here's what his site says in whole:

Education: Every student deserves the opportunity to be successful for the 21st Century job market. We need to fight a real problem with the hope of real results. The legislature should fund education first and fund the basics of education while preparing students for higher education or trade school opportunities.
Sounds like more education funding, then. That's my kind of guy! But wait....

Economy/Government Spending: It is time controlled spending and accountability is emphasized in the legislative budgeting process. The Senate Ways and Means projects a 2.4 billion dollar deficit next session. We need a voice that calls government to live within its means. Spokane cannot only be a great place to live, but it must also be an equally great place to work. This community needs a representative who fosters job growth and economic development.
So we have fund the fundamentals, without identifying what the fundamentals/basics are. We need to fight a real problem, but we never identify what that problem is. I'm sure (?) that he's elaborated on his education viewpoint during town hall meetings and such, but for the people in his district who vote education, like I do, he hasn't given them much to go on.

And I don't think that's a very good strategy in an urban district like the 6th.

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Fake News Friday: A Very Special Tuesday Edition

Area Teacher Has Done Absolutely Nothing to Develop More Effective Teaching Techniques During Her Summer Vacation

(Vancouver) Parents and teachers across the state were outraged today when teacher Lindsey Huffington, 28, revealed that she “hadn’t spent one single minute” of her summer vacation thinking about the upcoming school year.

Ms. Huffington, an English and Social Studies teacher at Meadowdale Middle School in Vancouver, said that she was instead spending the time “relaxing with friends and family,” prompting immediate outrage from education stakeholders.

“At the very least it seems like Lindsey could be formulating essential questions for her PLC team for the next year, or analyzing the new research that Robert Marzano has put out on effective schools. But to do nothing? That’s just selfish,” asserted Dr. Silas Oldfellow, a researcher in the Education Department at Western Washington University. “She should form a summertime critical friends group to keep her motivated.”

76 year old Graham Gronke, a frequent newspaper editorial letter writer, echoed Dr. Oldfellow’s criticism. “If the damn teachers want more money, they should do more work!” said Gronke in a phone interview. “No wonder the damn kids don’t have any discipline, since the teachers don’t either. Feh, I say!”

In response to the criticism Ms. Huffington poured a cold glass of lemonade, grabbed a Nora Roberts books that she’d already read, and headed out to a waiting hammock under the old magnolia tree.

Superintendent Bergeson Appoints Leeroy Jenkins Director of Rushing Into Things Half-Assed

(Olympia) In a noontime press conference today at the Old Capital Building, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson appointed Mr. Leeroy Jenkins to the newly created post of Director of Rushing Into Things Half Assed.

“For too long we’ve been doing half-assed behaviors in a half-fast way,” said Dr. Bergeson, smiling wryly at her own pun. “With Director Jenkins leading the way, I am certain that we will be able to screw up every initiative that is put before us twice as fast as we have been.”

Jenkins will be paid $122,000 a year for his work in the newly created position. He has set out an ambitious agenda for his first week, including re-writing the state math standards a short 3 months after the newest standards were released; appointing a panel of national board certified teachers to develop solutions to a problem that will be identified later; transferring all employees in the Assessment and Instruction division to the state Department of Ecology; and personally visiting all 150 members of the state congress to inform them about a new plan to do a thing.

Mr. Jenkins did not make himself available for report’s questions, offering instead a printed statement that read in full, “At least I have chicken.”


Read more here, if any.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Carnival of Email #7: 80 Degrees Is Just About Right Edition

80 is perfect. Much hotter and it's too hot to stay outside; much cooler and you start losing that "hot" feeling. We're looking at around 80 degrees all week long here in Spokane. As long as no one starts any fires, life is good.


The University of Tennessee spent more than $2 million dollars on recruiting for their athletic program last year, says the Chronicle of Higher Education. The number one recruiter in the Pac-10 was the U of Oregon, at $1.077 million. Hooray sports?

The Washington Post digs deep and discovers that just because you say everyone is proficient that doesn't necessarily mean that they are. Educators nationwide roll their eyes contemptuously and mutter "I told you so!" under their breath.

Also from Washington, which one of these students was recently expelled from one of Fairfax, Virginia's top high schools?

  1. The drug dealer
  2. The thug bully
  3. The convicted felon
  4. The good kid with the 2.8 GPA
The answer, of course, is #4, because the first three wouldn't have been there to begin with. What would your school look like if it only accepted 3.0 gpa or higher students?

In Georgia half of the high schools didn't make AYP. That's pretty good when you put it next to Hawaii, where nearly 90% of the high schools didn't perform to standard.

(When families from the base that I teach at leave for Hawaii, they're always desperate to get into a private school when they get to the Islands. The reputation of the public school system down there is for crap.)

The story of the four teens from a small town in Montana who died in a car crash on their way to a summer basketball camp is one of the saddest I've heard. Condolences to their friends and family. Those 4 kids composed 10% of the entire student body at their high school.

Legally, it's indefensible. Ethically, it's hard to make the case. Either way, if I had the opportunity to download the textbooks I need for free, I can't tell you that I wouldn't take it.

It seems like a pretty clear mandate, but let's put it out there one more time just to be sure: DON'T LOOK AT PORN ON YOUR SCHOOL COMPUTER.

Enjoy the summer!


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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Carnival of Email #6: Summer Vacation Edition

Dear daughter had another test with the audiologist this morning which began with a screaming, crying fit. She's had a thing about anyone in the medical profession since her trip to the pediatric opthamologist last January to get her eyes checked for CMV; the pupil dilation and light shining in her eyes didn't go over well at all. I'm hoping she gets over things before too awful long, because she's got a loooong road ahead of her when it comes to doctors.

On with the carnival!


The Omaha World-Herald highlights an outdoor garden that an area school put together with a grant from Lowe's. There's a bare patch at my school that I think would be perfect for a giant greenhouse, complete with outdoor classroom; if I ever need another big project in life, I might go for it.

Science Daily with some important new research on nutrition:

Adults who had improved nutrition in early childhood may score better on intellectual tests, regardless of the number of years they attended school, according to a new article.
This probably speaks to the importance of school breakfast and lunch programs for children from low-SES families.

In Tennessee they've picked up on Marguerite Roza's research and are up in arms over the fact that more experienced teachers tend to go gravitate towards better schools. They're looking at ideas like "combat pay" to solve the perceived problem; it could be an interesting process to watch.

If you show your ass during your high school graduation, I don't have a lot of pity for you. The "Hey, look at me!" mentality is one that I've never really been able to understand.

The San Francisco Chronicle talks about the importance of expanding the school day for kids who are struggling in the classroom. I think we're not far away from a reckoning when it comes to the structure of the school day and school year; the systemic flaws become more and more pronounced every day.

Teaching the Bible as an elective is OK in Texas after action by their state Board of Education. It's about time; the separation of church and state aside, knowledge of the Bible is a Rosetta Stone for understanding thousands of works of literature, film, TV, etcetera.

In the District, Michelle Rhee is looking at creating more preschool-through-8th grade schools, pointing to a research base that shows pre-8 buildings work better for middle school aged kids. There's competing evidence from Philadelphia, though, that the model Rhee's relying on is flawed. It could be an interesting one to watch.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has started a new blog, VP Watch, where they'll be talking about the search for a good vice-president to go along with Obama and McCain. I'm sad that Jim Webb has recently taken himself out of the running.

Colleges are having a Mexican standoff with Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of Education. She says do this or else; they say that the end is near and make raspberry sounds in her general direction. The thing about lame ducks is that their quacking often goes unnoticed. More here.

Finally, ESchool News has introduced some new sidebar widgets that people can use to spiffy up their blogs. I'm considering adding one over to my sidebar, just for the sake of trying something new.

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

If you can't beat 'em....

Bucking a national trend, a school district in Georgia is actually bringing corporal punishment back. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution via Joanne Jacobs:

Twiggs County principals will be pulling out their dusty paddles when school resumes and using them when students act up.

At least that's the school system's aim.

The Twiggs County school board reinstated its corporal punishment policy this summer to allow students to be spanked to curb misbehavior.

Some board members felt that in many cases, detention for students or a scolding wasn't working.

"We had a policy but we weren't using it," said Ethel Stanley, one of the board's five members. "Sometimes smaller kids will obey better if they have a paddling. The more you give them rope, the more they try.

"It's something to deter them," she said.
My personal belief is that spanking is best left as a fun hobby between consenting adults. I couldn't hit one of my kids, nor do I think I could send them to someone else for their hacks.

That said, if you look at corporal punishment as a tool, and if it's a tool that is effective with some kids, should it be in the tool box?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quick Thoughts on John McCain's Education Plan

....which can be found right here.

The Education System Must Provide For Equality Of Choice. Too many of our children are trapped by geography and by economics in failing schools.
Trapped by geography is a funny phrase to use in relation to school choice. If the point is that the neighborhood school is failing then the remedy is a transfer to another school in the district, which doesn't really feel like "trapped." Trapped would be the small-town student with no other school available, which leads into some other parts of his plan (I've combined them into one paragraph for efficiency's sake):

John McCain Supports Expanding Virtual Learning By Reforming The "Enhancing Education Through Technology Program." John McCain will target $500 million in current federal funds to build new virtual schools and support the development of online course offerings for students. John McCain Will Allocate $250 Million Through A Competitive Grant Program To Support States That Commit To Expanding Online Education Opportunities.John McCain Will Offer $250 Million For Digital Passport Scholarships To Help Students Pay For Online Tutors Or Enroll In Virtual Schools.
That's a billion dollars of federal money to expand on-line learning options. For the rural schools that would potentially open up a ton of opportunities for the kids, which is always good; my qualm is that I don't always think distance learning is as rigorous as it should be.

The last bit that jumped out at me:

Provide Funding For Needed Professional Teacher Development. Where federal funds are involved, teacher development money should be used to enhance the ability of teachers to perform in today's technology driven environment. We need to provide teachers with high quality professional development opportunities with a primary focus on instructional strategies that address the academic needs of their students. The first 35 percent of Title II funding would be directed to the school level so principals and teachers could focus these resources on the specific needs of their schools.
I give this a resounding "meh."

Consider two cousins that get married and have a kid. That baby may be a wonderful child of God, or it might be something right out of Deliverance. Professional development is much the same way, and the thought of redirecting any money out of Title towards ProDev rather grates at me.

The folks at Ed in '08 have to be gratified to see education finally getting some play.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Liam Julian on Whiny Teachers

Over at The Flypaper, official blog of the Fordham Foundation, Liam Julian has written an interesting post on the defensive admonition common to the profession: "You can't know what it's like--you've never been a teacher!" He finds that to be a crap argument, and I don't disagree, but as a counterpoint I'd like to remind everyone of the words of famous education observer John Rambo:

Col. Troutman: You did everything to make this private war happen. You've done enough damage. This mission is over, Rambo. Do you understand me? This mission is over! Look at them out there! Look at them! If you won't end this now, they will kill you. Is that what you want? It's over Johnny. It's over!

Rambo: Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off! It wasn't my war! You asked me, I didn't ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn't let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me? Who are they? Unless they've been me and been there and know what the hell they're yelling about!
Comparing teachers to mentally unstable Vietnam veterans is a stretch, but let's play with the idea for a minute.

I think it can be universally accepted that teaching requires a certain skill set to transmit information to the students and get them to retain it. There's a science to teaching, and there's an art to teaching. I don't think it's out of line to suggest that if you haven't practiced the craft then you don't really have an authentic understanding of what's involved.

Consider, as an example, the practice of law. I've a layman's understanding of what's involved in being a lawyer, but when it comes to knowing what goes into getting a case ready for trial, or having the knowledge of case law that makes a good lawyer effective, I can only guess. When I pass judgment on lawyers (e.g., "Marcia Clark sure screwed that up!") it's not an informed opinion, nor should it be considered as such.

And that's why this piece from Julian's article makes no sense:

Furthermore, the teachers who evoke this lame excuse are typically lightyears behind the wonks they vilify in realizing what actually works for public schools.
Oh, are they now? It's one thing to be Ken DeRosa and trumpet the power of Direct Instruction, but it's another to actually be in the schoolhouse and make the modifications to accomodate DI, or RTI, or SFA, or TAG education, or widening the math pipeline, or differentiated instruction, or more counselors, or more librarians, or.....

I think this also goes to the research/practice divide that I've written about before; a theoretical understanding can only become a practical understanding through application of the theory, and most K-12 schools as constructed aren't designed for that sort of experimentation.

It's an important conversation to have.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer TV Viewing: The Baby Borrowers on NBC

This is great, great TV. Take 5 teenage couples looking to become teenage parents, add a real baby, and watch hilarity ensue. It's funny when it's other people having to stay up all night and NOT YOU, so yes hilarity is the correct word.

Through the first couple of episodes I've already developed a healthy dislike for the poor, spoiled girl from Georgia (newsflash, honey: when you're really pregnant, you have to haul all that extra weight around ALL THE TIME--you can't just take off the pregnancy belly!) and the skinny girl from Houston who had to go work in the sawmill.

All teenagers should watch The Baby Borrowers; it's abstinence education, but entertainingly so.

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Things My Daughter Does That I Very Much Enjoy

1. Her thumbs up. It's become her general statement of happiness with whatever happens to be going on at the time. Daddy's making lunch? Thumbs up. Her favorite commercial, the one with the lizards dancing to "Thriller" comes on the telly? Thumbs up. Mommy's home from work? Thumbs up.

2. Her walking. She's almost--almost--independent, here just a month short of her 2nd birthday. The physical therapy has been paying off in spades. Her speech therapist says that for many kids with my daughter's condition that once the physical piece comes together the oral piece follows soon after, so hopefully she'll be talking up a storm soon, too.

3. Her eating. Today at lunch she took her plate of hot dog pieces, put all the hot dog on her high chair tray, then put the pieces on the plate one at a time before picking up the plate and "pouring" what was on it into her mouth. It makes feeding take forever, but that's OK.

4. Her sleeping. She's still right there in the bed with us, for better or worse, and it's always a happy thing when she finally, finally goes to sleep. I can't go in the bedroom until she does, because once she sees me it's Happy Daddy Fun Time and that's not conducive to nighty-night.

Parenting is a new adventure every day.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

An Idea: Have the Governor Appoint the Superintendent of Public Instruction?

On a mailing list I’m on someone recently shared a conversation that they had with a state senator. He echoed what I’ve heard other legislators say during my lobbying trips—Terry Bergeson is ineffective and something needs to change over at OSPI—but then went a step further and said he was considering legislation for this next session that would change the SPI position from an elected one to an appointed one.

That’s an interesting idea. I don’t know that it’s a good idea, but it’s one that merits some conversation.

Washington is actually in the minority by having an elected state schools chief. Education Week (here) says that of the 51 people nationwide who are equivalent to our SPI position, only 14 of them are elected, a finding that's further explored by the Council of Chief State School Officers here. An interesting study would be to compare the NAEP scores for states and see if there’s any correlation with how their school chiefs are put into the position, but that’s a topic for another day.

Let’s look at both sides of the idea, starting with the pro:

  • If the Governor appointed the Superintendent, then it stands to reason that the Superintendent would be more accountable to the Governor. Ideally, then, SPI would be a sort of cabinet-level position, given the authority they need to do the job as long as it falls within the parameters the Governor sets.

  • Given the above, then, you would hope to see the sort of synergy between the Governor and the SPI that you do when a mayor takes over control of the school system. It could be comparable to what Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein have established in New York, or Michelle Rhee in Washington D.C.

    (Before my DC and NY readers rip me a new one, settle down. I haven’t done the negatives yet)

  • You would also avoid the problem of multiple agendas. Consider if Dino Rossi won the Governor’s mansion this November and lifelong Democrat Terry Bergeson was returned to the Old Capital Building for another run as SPI; can their goals possibly be the same?

  • I think the idea of mandate is important, too. The OSPI election has never been high profile outside of those circles that care most about education; even your average teacher doesn’t get invested in the process the way that they should. Consider President Bush after he won in 2004 and made his speech about political capital; he had a mandate to keep his policies in place, and he used it. Winning the OSPI election doesn’t have that same authority; maybe having to go through a legislative appointment would be a change for the better.

  • If you make it a non-elected position you also take away the incumbent’s advantage. SPI should not be a sinecure, a lifetime appointment. Similarly, an SPI who isn’t running for office might have different interactions with the legislators and the public writ large than one who has to keep their eyes on the next election.
Oh, but there are negatives as well:

  • It takes the choice away from the voters, and that’s maybe the most important consideration of all. We like our voting here in the Evergreen State, we like our sunshine and our open books, and making SPI appointed hurts all three of those ideals.

  • What would the vetting process be? What would the Governor’s charge to their search committee be? How much influence would special interest groups (the WEA, the PSE, the EFF, Where’s the Math, Mothers Against WASL, League of Education Voters, AWSP, WSSDA, WASA, WASBO, etc., etc.) have in the selection, even if that influence is exercised through back channels?

  • Along those same lines, then, making the SPI an appointed position could make it an even more political one. Those groups I listed above may not always have luck getting their message out to the public, but they all do a crackerjack job of lobbying and communicating with legislators. The hearings could be a hoot.

  • Change isn’t always good. Say what you will about Terry she does have an institutional memory of what’s gone on in Washington schools that stretches back 30+ years, and that’s a perspective that very few others can claim to have. Would education reform start over again and again and again every time a new face took the office?

  • Consider, too, Mr. Klein and Ms. Rhee from above. Both have their strident critics, and both have made some bad decisions. Sure, they're city superintendents and we're talking state level, but Klein especially shows that a mandate can be a bad thing.

This could well just be legislative bravado—even in the short time that I’ve been making trips to Olympia, I’ve seen plenty of it—but should a bill be introduced it’ll be something well worth watching.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Terry Bergeson is the 8th Longest Served Superintendent of Public Instruction in the Country

So says the June 18th issue of Education Week. She’s 4th among elected SPIs, and one of only 10 who took to the office in the ‘90s.

That’s a good run.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Today’s Homework: The Generation Gap

From the April 2008 issue of the NAESP Communicator:

Veteran teachers (21-plus years of experience) were more likely than new teachers (five years or less) to believe homework helped children learn more in school (60 percent versus 36 percent).
I think the older teachers have it right.

That said, I’m also thinking of experimenting with having no homework this year and seeing how the parents react. Right now I have one homework packet I give to everyone; if I did a better job of targeting the work I did send home, ideally it would make a difference.

Summer is a good time for thinking.

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The NEA Loves Republicans!

Yes they do. The April 2008 NEA Today magazine proves this to my satisfaction. They even have a caucus and their own website now!

We're a big tent.

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A Picture is Worth a Couple of Words

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

I think that picture is a pretty apt metaphor for teaching, actually. We try to put up the gates and keep the kids on the right path, but if there's a way around they'll find it.

Or, more charitably, there's a way around every learning obstacle; some of them are just more obvious than others.


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Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Few Brief Thoughts on the Sonics Leaving

I hate to see them go, but I’m glad to see them gone.

In the early-to-mid ‘90s I was a huge Sonics fan. Kemp, Peyton, McMillan, Schrempf, Scheffler—I loved them all. When I graduated from high school in 1996 the Sonics were playing the Bulls in the NBA finals, and I have vivid memories of riding the bus on my senior class trip and listening to Dennis frickin’ Rodman goad Frank Brickowski because Rodman was a jerk and Frank was an easy target.

Damn you, Rodman.

I’d grown away from the Sonics since then, mostly by virtue of being on the wrong side of the state. Watching from afar the Sonics and the NBA in general, the piece that’s really started to get to me is a simple matter of ethics: David Stern has turned the league into an extortionist operation, gouging cities to make money for the owners that he is beholden to, and it’s sickening to watch.

It wasn’t all that many years ago that we remodeled the Key Arena and had Stern praising it as a wonderful, modern building. Then Clay Bennett comes along, and it’s suddenly a dump. Then Stern says that the Key is beyond any hope of repair and a new building is a must-have for the team to remain; after the team leaves, he issues a statement on how he hopes to bring basketball back to Seattle assuming we renovate the Key for $300 million dollars.

Here on the dairy, we call that bullshit.

What Stern has helped engineer here is a trade of the 13th largest market for the 45th largest, which can’t possibly benefit the league. He’s taken a team from the Northwest, which now has only one other team, and moved it to the South/Midwest, where it will compete for attention with the likes of Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.

I read that OKC is swelling with civic pride that they are now a major-league city. Good for them. They passed a large tax on themselves to remodel their arena so that it would be acceptable to Bennett and his business partners. That’s great. If having an NBA team means that much to them, then I wish them well as the nee-Sonics struggle to win 30 games.

I’m even more proud of Seattle in general and the state as a whole, though, for saying no. Stern is a bully of the worst sort, a politician in the worst sense of the word, and a hypocrite without compare. We know that he doesn’t truly care about the cities, or the players, or even the product—his interest is in making sure that his owners make all the money they can, even if that means taking it from taxpayers.

Seattle is not a worse city for losing the NBA. Seattle is a cancer patient that just had the tumor removed, and I would be just as happy if it never grows back. I hope that House Speaker Frank Chopp and whoever the next Governor is continue to say no to public funding for a new arena, and at the same time I wish Steve Ballmer well as he works on getting one privately financed.

David Stern and the NBA have shown their true colors. We must be vigilant the next time he oozes into town selling his snake oil, because it truly is venom.

Screw you, Stern.

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Ryan Goes Undercover at the AWSP/WASA Summer Conference

For the last two days I’ve been attending the joint AWSP/WASA conference right here in Spokane. Longtime readers will know that I was recently thrown out of my administrative program, but I had already registered for the conference and paid the fee, and I still don’t know where my career path will lead, so why not go and learn what I can?

The fools! Little do they know that a union operative has infiltrated their so-called “conference” looking for counterintelligence on what our enemies in administration are up to. What I learn from this conclave will be passed on to my brothers and sisters in the politburo so that we can proceed with our master protocol to turn the schools into liberal indoctrination centers—FOREVER!
The first day, Monday, was excellent. The keynote speaker for the morning breakfast was Dr. Tim Waters of McREL, who used a pretty neat aircraft controller metaphor to talk about what teachers do. He had some other thoughts on inter-class and inter-school variance that I’ll be exploring in a post another day. Good guy to listen to.

I clad myself in the style of one of the oppressors—a collared shirt made from a 60/40 polyester/cotton blend, dress shorts, and black socks with white shoes. As I entered their secret wing of the Spokane Convention Center I noticed some of the men wearing jackets, which made me briefly afraid that I was underdressed and my cover would be blown, but my mind was set back at ease when I noticed men walking around wearing socks with sandals. I mean, really, who does that?
In the interim I stepped into the hallway, where Randy Dorn and Terry Bergeson had tables right next to one another. Both were there mingling with the crowd, which was decidedly pro-Bergeson. It’ll be an interesting race.

I was pleased to see that Comrade Dorn had established a base of operations within the convention hall. We traded the secret unionist greeting (“May Shanker guide your hand from the teachers’ wallets to our WEAPAC fund!”) and then parted ways before we drew attention to ourselves.
For my morning session I attended a talk by John Hellwich of the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession on how to best use teacher leaders in the schools. I think the idea of the teacher as leader is one of the most important ones that has come along, and it could go a long ways towards strengthening the professionalism of the profession. You can find more information at their website above.

My handlers in the WEA had prepared me well with code phrases that would help me blend in with the adminis-traitors: “That’s what DuFour said!”, “How was the golf tournament?”, and “Are you going to the wine tasting?” I was also given a briefing on the research of Marzano and Reeves and told when speaking to relate whatever I could to them, because it would sound authentic. Sure enough, it worked.
It was then time for the lunch break, which ran 2 and a half hours from 11:15 to 1:45. A big part of that was the association luncheon where they installed the new officers in AWSP for the year, but for someone who doesn’t have the experience or contacts that they do, it wasn't time well spent. After wolfing down the lunch and chatting with the administrative team from Moses Lake I took the time to walk over to Auntie’s Book Store and do some browsing. Bookstores rock.

The corpulent bourgeoisie found it necessary to take more than two hours for their overly-rich midday gorging. I worked the crowd as best I could, then snuck to a local bookstore where I hid my early report in the bottom copy of a stack of “The Audacity of Hope” for my handler to pick up later. I also purchased the McSweeney Joke Book of Book Jokes. John Hodgman is a funny man!
After that, back to work. The first afternoon session I sat in on was presented by Dr. Larry Nyland of Marysville on the changing nature of math instruction in Washington State. There I chatted with some administrators from Blaine and Battle Ground, and it was interesting to hear their perspectives from their own districts.

Despite what Ian Fleming and John LeCarre would lead you to believe, not everything about clandestine work is glamorous. This was one of those times.
The final session of the day was a presentation on the joint WASA/AWSP/PSE/WEA/WSSDA school funding proposal that was presented to the Basic Ed Finance Taskforce early in June. It’s an aggressive, impressive plan for re-doing school budgets here in Washington State, but with the budget the way it is I think it’s all wasted effort. I ended up leaving this session early so I could come home and attend to my daughter. For more information, check out the BETF website, or one of the association homepages over in the side menu.

This is the session where I finally lost my nerve. I had fit in relatively well for most of the day, but with the leaders of the opposition in the room all together I was sure that they would be able to smell the union label on me no matter how hard I tried to cover it up under a veneer of false bravado and vague knowledge. After distracting the illuminati with a complex, layered question about the interrelation between local school levies and the cost basis imposed by local collective bargaining agreements, I ran for my life. My understanding is that Barbara Mertens and Gary Kipp once killed a union member just to watch him die, and I’ve still got a lot to live for.
I’ll talk more about day 2 in a different post. My overall impression of my first AWSP conference, though, is incredibly positive—they did a spectacular job, and I look forward to going again next year!

I have never been more terrified, but exhilarated. I feel like that guy from Into the Wild, and while I never did make it to the end of the movie things seemed to be going OK. The comrades will be pleased with the intel that I have gathered. Solidarity forever!

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Career and Technical Education Matter!

MDRC recently released a report on Career Academies, which is another way to bring career education into the K-12 system. The results are encouraging (direct quote from the report, page iii):

  • The Career Academies produced sustained earnings gains that averaged 11 percent (or $2,088) more per year for Academy group members than for individuals in the non-Academy group — a $16,704 boost in total earnings over the eight years of follow-up (in 2006 dollars).

  • These labor market impacts were concentrated among young men, a group that has experienced a severe decline in real earnings in recent years. Through a combination of increased wages, hours worked, and employment stability, real earnings for young men in the Academy group increased by $3,731 (17 percent) per year — or nearly $30,000 over eight years.

  • Overall, the Career Academies served as viable pathways to a range of postsecondary education opportunities, but they do not appear to have been more effective than options available to the non-Academy group. More than 90 percent of both groups graduated from high school or received a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, and half completed a postsecondary credential.

  • The Career Academies produced an increase in the percentage of young people living independently with children and a spouse or partner. Young men also experienced positive impacts on marriage and being custodial parents.
This is a great tool for anyone who needs to defend CTE in their district. It's a good read, too, that you can find at the link above.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

I'll be celebrating in my usual fashion, by watching Airway Heights go up in flames and bottle rockets as one of the few remaining towns that allows fireworks celebrates that fact.

For a reverent look at the importance of the day, check out the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's new video.

Enjoy the holiday!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sounds Matters

From the June 23rd edition of Time, talking about Wall*E:

Having spent so much time with George Lucas on the Star Wars series, (Ben) Burtt is used to demanding directors. But even he was sometimes perplexed by Stanton’s requests. “Andrew would say, ‘That sound of the motor—could we get on with more pathos?’ I wonder about that for a minute. And then I see it as just another challenge and say, ‘O.K., I’ll get ya one!’”
I’m guessing that’s why it connected so thoroughly with a radio guy like David Goldstein. I get a kick out of the idea of pathos from an engine, though I'm willing to bet there's an army of car guys out there going, "Yeah, I can imagine that."

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Summer TV Viewing: “Swingtown” on CBS

That was crap. Season Pass cancelled.

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Summer TV Viewing: “Last Comic Standing” on NBC

God’s Pottery?

Are you ****ing kidding me?

I mean, sure, the show left 50 people behind in the auditions who were funnier than the crap that they’ve brought forward, but God’s Freakin’ Pottery still manages to be one of the finalists? WTF?

This year's finals may be full of fail. Bring back Doug Benson, dammit!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Should I Join AERA?

Yesterday I was singing the praises of WERA, the state-level education research organization.

They are a branch of the American Educational Research Association, AERA for short, best known for the ginormous conference that the put on yearly.

On one hand, I love me some educational research.

On the other, I’m a classroom teacher, and that sort of puts me on the wrong side of the research-to-practice chasm. Plus, it’s $120 a year.

Anyone out there a member? Does AERA hold any value for the teacher?


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Summer TV Viewing: “America’s Got Talent!” on NBC

So far, I like what I’m seeing. They seem to be doing a better job this season of keeping the cameras on the talent and off of the judges and Jerry, which is as it should be. I wasn’t as impressed with the opera singer as they were—he felt like an echo of Paul Potts, who felt like an echo of Pavirotti—which is why even though Nessun Dorma is a showcase song you have to be damned sure you have the chops to pull it off before you step in front of an audience.

If anyone comes close to impressing me the way that Terry Fator did, I’ll be happy.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What’s Important from the May 2008 WERA Newsletter?

The Washington Educational Research Association (WERA) recently put out the newest edition of their quarterly newsletter. Some highlights:

  • The front page article is by Robin Munson of OSPI on how the job of assessment director and testing coordinator has changed in the last decade. It’s an interesting read on how the system has evolved; those of you out there who are currently working with testing will appreciate it.

  • New WERA president Nancy Arnold of Puyallup points out the white papers section of the WERA website in her column, which seems like an odd thing to highlight because it’s not the most well-developed resource they have.

  • Later on, in the report from the annual meeting in March, there is discussion about strengthening the bond between WERA and higher education staff. This is a good thing, and it could go a long ways towards fixing the problem above. If a professor came up to me and said, “Ryan, good paper—make these revisions and it’ll get published on the WERA home page!”, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I suspect I’m not the only one.

  • The Winter WERA Conference is December 3rd through 5th at the Airport Hilton in Sea-Tac. Start saving your money now.

  • I have fallen in love with Google Scholar. Where was this during my undergraduate days?

  • I also like ERIC’s new web interface. Getting research has never been easier.
It’s another great newsletter from WERA. I’m glad I’m a member.

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Summer TV Viewing: “I Love the New Millenium” on VH1

So VH1 is moving on to rehashing events from my adult life, but I’m still slurping it up with a spoon.

Michael Ian Black and Paul F. Thompkins are very similar comedians to me, in that sometimes it seems they’re just rambling, but every now and then when they do finally stumble on a punchline, it ain’t bad.

I like mindless television. Hooray!


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