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Monday, February 23, 2009

A Sad End to a Charter School

Michael K. Mayo tells the poignant story of Uphams Corner Charter School losing its charter in Lessons from a "failed" charter school. Mayo co-founded the school that attempted to address the needs of all children through "the cultivation of robust relationships, strong but nurturing boundaries, and enormous support for all aspects of a child's life." While their scores on standardized tests such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills soared, Mayo writes that Massachusetts uses the "MCAS as the sole measure of success, without taking into account transiency, learning disabilities, poverty, and English language proficiency." He notes that such practices "will choke the diversity of charter schools in Massachusetts."

On KIPP Charter Schools

Alexander Russo gives an inside view of why teachers are trying to organize at the KIPP AMP Academy in Team & Family: A Veteran Educator's Charter School Experience. (See Educators" News: Week 215 for a couple of postings about the school's organization efforts.) Russo tells of the frustrations experienced by veteran educator Kashi Nelson. It's a very good look at why teachers anywhere organize!

While on the subject of KIPP charters, Richard D. Kahlenberg has a review of Jay Mathews book about the KIPP charter schools, Two Teachers, 16,000 Students, One Simple Rule. Like the reviewer, I have some real issues with Mathews's views on public schools and veteran teachers, but the book is supposed to be a really good look at a promising school reform. I've added Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America to my "to read" list.

Starfall Update

Starfall.comKat on StarfallI briefly mentioned the free Starfall site for preschoolers earlier this month. Since that time we've "kid tested" the site a good bit at the request of one of our granddaughters. The site is a good one for folks who don't have a really fast broadband connection or killer computer hardware, as it loads quickly on our satellite internet connection on an ancient Compaq 1.3 GHz computer. The content is definitely age appropriate for 3-6 year olds and holds the interest of our almost 4 year old granddaughter quite well.

Shuttle Launch Delayed Again

The status for launch of the space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-119 has been changed to "Under Review" from the previous date of February 27. Problems with the shuttle's flow valves (447K PDF document) are said to be responsible for the delay.

Also, last Wednesday's Astronomy Picture of the Day, Satellites Collide in Low Earth Orbit, has an interesting discussion about space debris colliding.

Drug Testing for Teachers

Time Magazine has a timely article in this week's issue (February 23), Should School Districts Drug-Test Teachers? John Cloud writes, "The evidence suggests that drug use among teachers is not exactly a pressing problem." It's an interesting look at what appears to be a minor problem drawing major attention (and dollars) in some areas.

Odds 'n' Ends

Reader Ed Harris sent me the link for Takeover Idea Out of Consideration, Rhee Says. He also directed me to some interesting comments by efavorite. If you read the article, be sure to check out efavorite's comment that begins, "Plan A: Get teachers to vote against tenure, and then fire them at will." Thanks, Ed!

There's a contest to rename the No Child Left Behind law going on at Eduwonk. Some of the suggestions are pretty humorous. Sam Dillon has an article about the contest, Rename Law? No Wisecrack Is Left Behind, on the New York Times.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Looking Ahead

Read Across AmericaThere aren't a lot of teachable holidays coming up in March, but The Teachers Corner March Calendar has a good listing with links to teaching ideas for many. The NEA's annual Read Across America Day occurs next Tuesday, so you may want to visit either the NEA Read Across America page or the Seussville Read Across America page for starters. Of course, there's always St. Paddy's Day on the 17th, but I'd guess green eggs and ham are bit more school appropriate than green beer!

Odds 'n' Ends

President Obama mentioned education in his nationally televised speech to Congress last night, mainly pushing higher education. Frank James tells about it in the LA Times in Obama puts spotlight on education deficit.

Some schools are using student desks that allow sitting or standing positions! Students Stand When Called Upon, and When Not tells about the new device.

Tara Parker-Pope has an article about the need for school recess in The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess.

In battle against teacher turnover, MSU mentoring program proves effective is a Michigan State University press release about "an innovative mentoring program."


Friday, February 27, 2009

The Foam on a Root Beer Float?

Mars North Pole

What vaguely resembles the froth atop a root beer float is really a 1999 three-dimensional picture of the north pole on Mars generated by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter aboard the Mars Global Surveyor. The image "enables scientists to estimate the volume of its water ice cap with unprecedented precision, and to study its surface variations and the heights of clouds in the region for the first time." Credit: NASA Image of the Day

Duncan Favors Longer School Year

In an interview with CNN, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan indicated that he was studying programs that keep kids in school longer to boost their academic achievements. Education chief favors longer school year by Rachel Streitfeld relates that Duncan stated, "It doesn't matter how poor, how tough the family background, socioeconomic challenges. Where students have longer days, longer weeks, longer years -- that's making a difference."

Pretty Sky Alert

Dr. Tony Phillips on Wednesday issued a Pretty Sky Alert for North America! He began his entry, "Be careful, this sort of thing can cause an accident. On Friday evening, Feb. 27th, the 10% crescent Moon will glide by Venus, forming a gorgeous and mesmerizing pair of lights in the sunset sky."

Our weather forecast doesn't look promising for tonight, but if we get a break in the clouds, the conjunction of the moon and Venus should be readily visible in the west from around 7:00 P.M. (EST) to 8:30 or so. I used the open source Stellarium to see where the conjunction would occur here.

7 pm view 8 pm view 8:30 pm view
7:00 P.M. (EST)
8:00 P.M. (EST
8:30 P.M. (EST

Dr. Phillips added in his posting:

As seen from North America, the Moon-Venus separation is only a little more than 1o. Stick up your thumb and hold it out at arm's length. Venus and the Moon will fit comfortably behind the thumb-tip. Tight conjunctions like this are the most beautiful of all.

Also see Moon and Venus Converge Friday Night.

Online Registration Now Available for MATH DITTOS 2 Products

While not major education news, I finally got around to adding online registration for MATH DITTOS 2. The MATH DITTOS 2 series is a unique, fact supported approach to teaching computation. Each page in the series presents a limited number of problems with plenty of workspace. The facts necessary to complete each problem are always presented on the page in a fact reference and practice section. The MD2 series currently includes three "workbooks" published as computer documents in PDF format.

Addition & SubtractionMultiplicationThe concept behind the MD2 series is the same one we've used for years in reading, using a "controlled vocabulary." The "vocabulary" in this context is the basic facts. The facts are presented, practiced, and then applied to computation. Practice problems on each page are limited to the facts (much like new vocabulary) presented in a fact practice section.

I started writing the MATH DITTOS 2 series in 1994 out of sheer desperation. I'd taken a special education position in my building and found myself without adequate materials and no budget to buy any. In 1995 I was able to organize the files, and the MATH DITTOS 2 series of fact controlled workbooks began with the publication of Fact Controlled MULTIPLICATION for Special Learners. Fact Controlled ADDITION & SUBTRACTION followed later that year, with Fact Controlled SUBTRACTION (originally a review material for kids getting ready to begin long division) being first released in 1996.

Odds 'n' Ends

In a sort of point, counterpoint, eSchool News has a feature this week, Report urges U.S. to look abroad for ed lessons, that says "Education leaders...should renew the focus on international benchmarking and look toward other countries for help in drafting state achievement standards." Libby Quaid of the Associated Press writes in Study points out flaws in European test, "The nation's governors and other policymakers have advocated a deeply flawed European test to judge American students."

Court: State can stop union political deductions tells of a Supreme Court decision "banning local governments from letting workers use payroll deductions to fund their union's political activities." School districts in Idaho (and possibly elsewhere) will no longer be able to use payroll deductions to fund union political action committees.

And from John Powers, an English teacher at Liberation High School in Brooklyn, New York, comes his Two Minute Timeout of ideas to fill those occasionally empty moments at the end of a lesson. Thanks, John!

Have a great weekend!

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