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Monday, March 28, 2011

Kindergarten Series

Robert King has added another story to his excellent series on the kindergartners of School 61. At School 61, they're lookin' good reads like a bit of a conclusion to the series. King looks at the tremendous progress some of the students have made with an understanding of where they began and the challenges they faced. He also writes of some children who haven't made as much progress this year.

Since the Indy Star in its infinite wisdom refuses to publish an index to King's series of articles, I put one together a few weeks ago. Rather than post the list here each time a new article is added, I'm just updating the list in the Educators' News archives as needed. The link is:

Resource Sites

Instructional UnitsI linked in February to a so-so article on eSchool News about resource sites for teachers. It had some good stuff, but I didn't think it was nearly as good as either of our own Resource Sites for Teachers (2009) or Free Stuff for Teachers, Homeschoolers, and Students (2010). What was really good about the posting was the wealth of resource sites shared by readers in the comments section. I'd planned to do a posting covering all the good site links contributed, but found that task a bit too much for a daily post. So as time allows over the next few days and weeks, I'll cover some of the sites that were new to me, one at a time.

TeachersFirst was recommended by Fran Lo (francesblo). From the intro page:

TeachersFirst is a rich collection of lessons, units, and web resources designed to save teachers time by delivering just what they need in a practical, user-friendly, and ad-free format. We offer our own professional and classroom-ready content along with thousands of reviewed web resources, including practical ideas for classroom use and safe classroom use of Web 2.0. Busy teachers, parents, and students can find resources using our subject/grade level search, keyword search, or extensive menus.

TeachersFirst.comAs I dipped into the site, I first took a look at their TeachersFirst Instructional Units page. I selected two titles to explore further, and like Dorothy in the film, Jerry Maguire ("You had me at hello."), I was hooked when I saw the listing of People with Dreams (and their obstacles) in the lesson, They had a Dream Too: A Project on Overcoming Obstacles for Grades K-4. It's a well developed unit that actually could stretch far beyond the grade K-4 parameter.

The second unit explored suffered a bit from too much time spent on the first, but was still a welcome exercise. Study Activities for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince reminded me of the many novel groups we used to teach in sixth grade where we replaced the basal reader with high interest, level appropriate novels for our kids. We spent hours preparing our units. Such activities on TeachersFirst could be a real time saver for teachers. The Harry Potter unit appears to be a good one.

One can get lost in this site and occasionally frustrated finding things. After the Harry Potter study guide, I searched for similar study guides, but the listing was all over the place. A page of study guides for novels would be helpful.

The site includes a weekly Featured Sites page, Resources by Subject & Grade, and a delightful Question of the Week for teacher discussion. From the Question Archives, I pulled up the question, "Many strategies are being discussed to improve student achievement and/or balance budgets. Would you be willing to teach larger classes (35-40+) for higher pay? Why or why not?" The responses are something our President and SecEd should read before they continue suggesting that larger class sizes are a viable option for America's classrooms.

TeachersFirst isn't one of those "pretty sites" that have spent a ton of time and money on page design at the expense of content. I was overwhelmed with all of the good, free resources there. I've left out lots, but I've got to sneak in their Tools to Use "In the Trenches" listing. It's practical stuff that can make your day (or school year).

BTW: The same writer who did the so-so resources piece has published another for mobile devices, Ten of the best Droid apps for education. It's another good attempt at an idea, but any top ten that focuses two of its top ten on student gradebooks, which most teachers already have to use via their schools' required use SIS software, is pretty lame.

Dealing with Attendance and Tardiness

Sue Loughlin had a great article in the Sunday Terre Haute Tribune-Star, "Whatever it takes to help them:" Franklin Elementary provides example of what caring teachers can accomplish in current education system. Loughlin tells of a school with high student turnover throughout the school year and the efforts of school counselor Karla West and Principal Tina Horrall just to get students there and on time. A gem of an idea appears about midway in the article:

In an effort to get children to school on time, Franklin now has 73 families on an automated phone call system that gives each household a pre-recorded, wake-up call from Principal Tina Horrall at 7 a.m. every school day. If no one answers, the automated call is repeated three times.

Loughlin shares several poignant vignettes of students, parents and teachers at Franklin Elementary. She also quotes West as saying that despite what some state leaders may say about public education, "We're not broken. Given everything that we fight, we're doing pretty darn good."

Loughlin writes that under Indiana's high stakes testing and rating system, "Franklin improved two placements to 'academic progress.' Two years earlier, the school had been on academic probation." Her article shows the folly in Governor Daniels and State Super Tony Bennett's agenda for school "reform" that does nothing to address the crying social needs that so limit our success with many students.

Odds 'n' Ends

Tom Rademaker of Oak Hill High School (IN) sent me an encouraging email in January in which he stated, "For what it's worth, however, I do enjoy reading Ednews, even now that the focus has changed from edtech to ed 'reform.'" Tom had accurately surmised that I was considering closing Educators' News. When I first started this site almost ten years ago, it was to replace one of the few such sites that existed at that time, Tom McKenna's excellent G3 All-in-one Stop Shop site. As I wrote in our About page:

With Tom [McKenna] having the crazy idea that he should be permitted some form of a personal life instead of dedicating all his free hours to doing postings on a noncommercial site, the previous gang of visitors began to aimlessly roam the internet seeking educational sustenance. As a "public service" to those siteless folks, Educators' News was begun.

The thrust of the original site was to carry "relevant educational editorials and columns and software that I think may be helpful in the classroom...from a Mac-toting, bleeding-heart liberal, Christian educator's point of view."

Tom Rademaker's words had a lot of impact on me to keep the site going, but also made me examine the current focus of Educators' News. One can't write about education today and ignore what some writers are quite accurately calling the education "deformers." But I'm also making a real effort to get back to our roots of being a source for tools real teachers can use in the classroom. Since I retired from Backwash Elementary in 2004 and left my job working with teachers across the state of Indiana with a K-12 college outreach program in 2008, it's gotten a lot harder to be informed on what works.

I'm not abdicating my educational and political soapbox, nor am I taking a pledge to continue publishing Educators' News forever. But frequent readers may have noticed a bit of an editorial shift towards including more teacher tools and sites over the last week or so. I hope to continue that trend.

And if all of the above is just way too serious for you and the school year (students, parents, school administration, state or federal DOE - take your pick) seems to be crashing down upon you, take a look at Mr. Teachbad's Blog of Teacher Disgruntlement. With recent posts titled Do I Have to be a "Great" Teacher, Jesus Loves You, But Everyone Else Thinks You’re An Asshole, and Say There, Might You Have Any More Data, you're sure to find a good laugh along the way. He also admits that both Diane Ravitch and Valerie Strauss are his girlfriends.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Looking Ahead

Teacheers Corner April CalendarApril always starts out with a laugh (or a headache for the teacher) with April Fools Day (1). World Autism Awareness Day (2) and Autism Awareness Month are also in April. TeachersFirst has a good list of resources about Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger's for teachers and parents. As part of the awareness days, "On the evenings of April 1 and 2, 2011, prominent buildings across North America and the world — including the Empire State Building in New York City and the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada — will turn their lights blue to raise awareness for autism and to commemorate World Autism Awareness Day on Saturday, April 2."

The due date for filing federal income tax returns this year has been extended to April 18 in observation of Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia, but for those of us who need to file state returns also, the traditional April 15 date is still in effect for those returns.

Endeavour's Final RollApril 19 is the target date for the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour on its final flight. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 added one more mission, STS-135, for the shuttle Atlantis before the shuttle program is shut down for good. Atlantis is tentatively scheduled to launch in late June.

Religious holidays during April include Palm Sunday (17), Passover (begins sunset, 18), Good Friday (22), and Easter (24).

Earth Day (22) rounds out our listing, unless you want to get into some of the lesser occasions featured on The Teacher's Corner April Calendar, such as National Jelly Bean Day or No Homework Day.

By the end of April, we'll have spring break behind us, just leaving the home stretch of the school year to complete. One of the activities I used to do with my special ed kids at the end of April was coloring countdown pages to the end of school. As always, we had our kids color heavy, as coloring is good weightlifting for developing hands. If such things aren't frowned upon in your school, my old Days to Go (237K PDF document) coloring sheets are available on our Freebies page.

A Good Video Resource Site

WatchKnow.orgAs I worked through all the sites recommended in the comments to Jenna Zwang's Ten great sites with free teacher resources yesterday, I was repeatedly disappointed to find that many of the sites suggested were merely come-ons for commercial sites. One truly free site that had lots of recommendations is WatchKnow, a site dedicated to organizing in "one, super directory the hundreds of thousands of good videos currently available on the Internet." All videos are reviewed for appropriate content before being categorized using a wiki framework and philosophy. "The videos...cover all major educational topics from elementary to secondary schools (or age range 1 – 18), and are Kid Safe!"

Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That TypeI sampled several of the videos, including the delightful Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type- In American Sign Language. As an ex-farmer, I wondered how the cows could go without milking, but it's fantasy. Right? A favorite from the old Electric Company, the Silent E Song (Who can turn a Can into a Cane?), brought back pleasant memories of my classroom teaching days.

Some videos, such as NOVA's The Embryo Takes Shape, take the viewer off site (which could present a problem with school filtering software). And others like The Stages of Mitosis were choppy because our home satellite connection was just too slow to handle them. One, the Helping Verb Song, which I really wanted to see, simply wouldn't play due to our slow connection.

The cataloging and organization of the site is excellent, if a bit unusual at times. When I looked for American History, I found what I was looking for under History of the United States. Declaration of Independence - Remember this includes quotes from Thomas Jefferson followed by present and former NFL players reciting the Declaration.

The commenter to the article wrote, " has over 23,000 free, educational videos vetted by teachers for teachers in a super-convenient and intuitive directory covering every topic imaginable." I've got to agree.

Sad Stuff for America

Petitions by|Start a Petition »

A recent editorial in the New York Times, an op-ed by Paul Krugman, and an announcement from Parents Across America are cautioning Americans about the intrusive actions of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). According to Parents Across America, ALEC is "a conservative organization backed by business interests that circulates draft legislation in every state capital, including anti-union legislation approved in Wisconsin."

The Times' editorial, A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin, tells of the organization's technique of demanding copies of e-mails and other documents of William Cronon, a noted historian at UW-Madison, who had the temerity to write unfavorably about ALEC in a new blog he started this month, Scholar as Citizen. It would appear that ALEC is the source of the radical Republican education agenda being followed by Governors Walker, Daniels, Kasich, Scott, and others to destroy teachers' unions across the country. Cronon wrote in his blog:

Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft "model bills" that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

While ALEC refuses to say why it wants the messages, the Times notes that "A political fishing expedition through a professor's files would make it substantially harder to conduct research and communicate openly with colleagues. And it makes the Republican Party appear both vengeful and ridiculous."

Paul Krugman is a bit more direct in his Times' op-ed piece, William Cronon and the American Thought Police:

The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.

While I was on the Parents Across America site, I grabbed the embed code for their petition to the President and Congress to remove the cuts to education funding currently in proposed federal legislation.


House Democrats return to Indiana amid cheers from supporters by Kimberly King relates that the Indiana legislature is once again conducting business. House Democrats had left the state for over a month, denying the Republican majority the quorum needed to conduct business. King reports the compromise reached includes:

  • Right-to-work legislation is off the table, preserving collective bargaining rights;
  • The permanent ban on public employee bargaining is off the table in the House;
  • Enabling legislation for private takeover of public schools is off the table in the House;
  • Private school vouchers will be limited to 7,500 students in the first year and 15,000 in the second year, rather than the largest voucher program in the nation the Republicans originally wanted;
  • Rather than an outright ban of Project Labor Agreements as Republicans wanted, PLAs still can be included with projects passed by public referendum; and
  • The threshold for applying the common construction wage to projects would be $250,000 for 2012 and $350,000 for 2013, rather than the job-killing $1 million threshold the Republicans wanted.

Mary Beth Schneider and Heather Gillers also have a good writeup in Democrats return, but will legislators meet session deadline about what was included in the compromise.

Stephen Sawchuk gives a good summary of the situation in other states in Unions Strike Back at Anti-Labor Legislation.

The President on Testing

I ran into a rather obscure Associated Press story today, Obama says too much testing makes education boring, that I really don't know what to make of. Speaking at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C., yesterday, the President told parents and students, "Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools." AP writer Erica Warner suggests that "Obama, who is pushing a rewrite of the nation's education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools, said policymakers should find a test that 'everybody agrees makes sense' and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually."

I'm not sure how testing every few years jibes with the President and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's support of merit pay based on student test scores. Race to the Top required states to allow tying teacher evaluations to student performance, and the administration has frequently extolled merit pay as a way to reward highly rated teachers.

Diane Ravitch addresses the false promise of merit pay in her Thoughts on the Failure of Merit Pay today on the Bridging Differences blog.

D.C. Erasure Scandal

A USA Today investigation "based on documents and data secured under D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act" found that many D.C. school standardized test answer sheets had an inordinately high number of incorrect answers erased and replaced with correct answers.

Former teacher Walt Gardner has frequently warned about the influence of Campbell's Law in high stakes educational testing on his Reality Check blog. He writes in Campbell's Law Strikes Again:

More than three decades ago, Donald Campbell, an eminent social scientist, warned about the perils of relying on a single influential metric to measure effectiveness. The use of standardized tests that determine the future of teachers and administrators creates an ideal environment for cheating. When people are desperate, they often engage in unethical behavior.

At this point nothing has been proven, other than there are way more than normal wrong-to-right erasures over the last few years on the D.C. Schools' proficiency tests. But it doesn't look good.

Butler logoButler Wins Again

Tucked away in my resumé are lines that read:

Butler University, 1976
MS, Elementary Education

Other than reminding everyone that I'm getting really old, those lines may also give me some small right to be proud of the Bulldogs. I grew up going to Butler football games with my dad, and in high school, I began to attend some of their basketball games. (I was dating the daughter of a Butler professor.Grin) Our high school sectionals were always played at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It was known in those days as Butler Fieldhouse, as Tony Hinkle was still coaching the Bulldogs. And yes, it's the one shown in the movie, Hoosiers.

So Annie and I have been glued to the TV throughout the NCAA Tournament, other than the first game that was on a channel we don't get. It's been fun! Headlines and stories like NCAA Final Four: Will Butler Get Over the Hump, Win Title In 2011 are fun to read. I wish everyone could enjoy such an experience.

Fat Brain Toys

I'm glad to welcome Fat Brain Toys to our list of affiliate advertisers. Annie and I have used Fat Brain several times for gifts for our grandchildren and have been pleased with their selection, price, shipping rates and prompt delivery, and great communication with customers. When shopping at Fat Brain, be sure to google fat brain toys promo code, as they often run promos of up to 16% off.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

LAUSD Moves Away from Scripted Reading Instruction

The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted unanimously yesterday to adopt a new, elementary reading series that does not force teachers to use scripted teaching. In L.A. elementary schools to switch reading programs, LA Times reporter Howard Blume reports the board rejected the scripted Open Court (SRA/McGraw-Hill) series which the schools had used for ten years in favor of a new McGraw-Hill series, California Treasures.

Blume quotes a second-grade teacher as saying, "Open Court was rigid in its instructions to teachers on how to deliver the program. This new series is very supportive if you don't have the expertise and respectful of those who do." Blume also notes that experienced teachers felt the old series deprived them of their independence. They were told "what to teach and in what order," had to be on the same page each day across the system, and were not allowed to use any teacher made supplemental materials.

Mercury from MESSENGERNew Views of Mercury

NASA's Image of the Day today is the First Image Ever Obtained from Mercury Orbit. It was taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around Mercury yesterday morning. "Over the subsequent six hours, MESSENGER acquired an additional 363 images before downlinking some of the data to Earth.

What the President Really Meant (on Testing)

Education Week's Anthony Cody was pretty direct yesterday in his Obama Blasts His Own Education Policies posting on his Living in Dialog blog:

Either President Obama is trying to mislead people, or he is unfamiliar with the policies being advanced by his very own Secretary of Education, who was seated just a few feet away from him at this event. As someone who campaigned and raised money for Obama, I find both of these alternatives unacceptable.

He goes on to pointedly ask, "Is President Obama aware:"

  • that Race to the Top requires states to tie teacher pay and evaluations to student test scores? If ever there was a recipe for teaching to the test, this is it!
  • that his Secretary of Education is proposing to evaluate teacher preparation programs by tracking the test scores of the teachers they produce?
  • that his administration's plan for the new version of No Child Left Behind continues to place tremendous pressure on schools attended by the poorest students, ensuring that there will still be extremely high stakes attached to these tests? This creates the most invidious inequity of all -- where students most in need of the sort of wholistic, project-based curriculum the President rightly says is the cure to boredom remain stuck in schools forced to focus on test scores.
  • that his Department of Education is proposing greatly expanding both the number of subjects tested, and the frequency of tests, to enable us to measure the "value" each teacher adds to their students?

EdWeek's Michele McNeil in On Testing, What Was Obama Really Trying to Say relates that they got the following quote of clarification from a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson, Justin Hamilton:

While we're open to how we can best assess student progress in subject areas like history and science, we believe annual measures in reading and math are needed to assess progress toward college- and career-readiness. More must be done to improve the quality of those assessments, so that they're a more meaningful measure of student learning...

Sadly, I think the President's comments about testing don't signal a change in education policy, but are another example of the President saying one thing to students, parents, and teachers, as he did during the campaign, and doing something entirely different in practice. Firing Arne Duncan and replacing him with someone like Linda Darling-Hammond would truly signal a move away from his disastrous proposals for education "reform."

Word of the Day: Disingenuous

My Mac dictionary application defines "disingenuous" as: "not candid or sincere," with synonyms of "dishonest, untruthful, false, deceitful, duplicitous, lying, mendacious; hypocritical." Pick your word, but it appears President Obama is lying to us, just as candidate Obama did in his comments about fixing No Child Left Behind during the Presidential campaign.

I think it's appropriate to modify the Merriam-Webster example sentence for disingenuous from:

Her recent expressions of concern are self-serving and disingenuous.


The President's recent expression of concern about too much standardized testing is self-serving and disingenuous.

The President's machinations provoked me to actually write an editorial: A Disingenuous President.

No Thanks for Now

I received an offer by email today from The New York Times for unlimited access to their site under their new Digital Subscription plan. I read the Times and occasionally link to their articles, columns, and editorials, so I'd hate to get cut off mid-month. I used to link to the Times a lot more before they trimmed down their educational writing staff!

New York Times Digital Subscription Plans

Front Page OfferAs a senior citizen on a fixed income, I've added a few calculations (in red) to the graphic above of the Times' offer. Whether one opts for the four weeks at 99 cents per week from their front page link, or goes for the email offer of $2.63 per week for 26 weeks, the price eventually jumps to $3.75 per week (or a little over $15 a month). And since I truly am a senior, I had the time to calculate that the 99 cent offer would cost $86.46 for 26 weeks, while the email offer really does offer some savings at $68.38 for 26 weeks. And that's for the cheapest plan, which would suit me just fine...other than it just doesn't fit into my budget.

I'm not quibbling with the Times over their pricing. I like reading the Times. But on my income, I'll just be reading the free 20 articles a month allowed under the new policy from now on.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Science Fair Intro

This generally isn't the time of year you'd introduce a science fair to your students, but I'll definitely forget this resource if I don't put it in print right now!

A Chris Dawson posting on his ZDNet blog, Oh, that's how you do a science fair project, led me to Prepare for the Science Fair on YouTube. The fifteen minute animated video by Kevin Temmer, a high school student in Florida, is designed for use with middle school students. It pretty well covers the basics of doing a good science fair project. Chris also did an interesting email interview with the creator of the video.

Indiana Voucher Bill Passes House

The story about Indiana HB 1003 appeared in newspapers and on web sites across the nation yesterday:

All of the links above lead to the same story, written by Deanna Martin and distributed via the Associated Press. Only on Yahoo!News in their Indiana GOP pushes ahead with big voucher program did Martin get a byline for a pretty important story in the making. HB 1003 now goes to the Indiana Senate where a Republican super majority assures passage. Once passed there, Governor Mitch Daniels is sure to sign it into law, as school vouchers are part of his apparent plan to run for the Republican presidential nomination next year as a fiscal conservative (Hey, he even cut funding that assists disabled Hoosiers to stay in their homes!) and education "reformer."

The bill will begin a school voucher program in Indiana with generous income limits that reach into the middle class. The original income cutoff was $100,000 for a family of four, but was cut to around $60,000 for now in the agreement that brought House Democrats back to the statehouse to establish a quorum. Limited in number of students through its first two years, the program eventually will have no limit on the number of students who may apply and receive state money to attend private schools. Taken with the now off-the-table HB 1479 that would have allowed the state to take over low performing schools and then to be managed by for-profit companies, it's abundantly clear that Governor Daniels and the Republican plan is not to improve education in Indiana, but to privatize public schools.

And yes, when I see a good story attributed only to the AP, I generally hunt around a bit to find out who actually wrote the story. It makes a difference sometimes.

BTW: Michelle Rhee did appear at a rally for school "reform" and vouchers in Indy yesterday. Apparently undaunted by her remarks she admitted to the Post's Jay Mathews were "stupid" about the apparent D.C. testing scandal, she told the crowd, "We have the opportunity in Indiana today for this state to be leading the charge across the rest of the nation. Indiana can be at the forefront of education reform."

And one more thing in this area, a budget bill that would end teacher tenure in Minnesota and establish a school voucher program passed the Minnesota House yesterday.

1:00 P.M. Update: Oh No, Not Again!

Brief postings on the Indianapolis Star and the Terre Haute Tribune-Star sites indicate that House Democrats may have walked out again. The Trib-Star reports, "Indiana House Democrats have walked off the floor of the Statehouse to protest not getting their per diems. The per diems were being withheld to pay for the fines accumulated during their earlier absence."

Related story: House Republicans start collecting fines from walkout

Later (4:45 P.M.)

The Indy Star's Mary Beth Schneider reports that fears of another walkout were unwarranted. "House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Democrats had told him they would be meeting in private this morning to discuss various issues. That, he said, is an acceptable part of the legislative process."

Resource Site

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit site that provides free ten minute video lessons and exercises "especially purposed for viewing on the computer." This unique site covers "K-12 math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and even reaches into the humanities with playlists on finance and history."

Khan AcademyThe intro video at left relates that Sal Khan got into creating educational materials while tutoring his nephews. Part of the video shows the graphic at right, which relates that Sal is the author of all the materials on the site!

One of the things I really liked about Khan Academy lessons is that the videos are really sharp, but still optimized so as not to be choppy on a slow internet connection. I even loaded some other web pages while viewing several lessons to try to make them choppy, but found most of the lessons played smoothly, even under a slow or crowded connection.

Login at Khan Academy requires either a Google or Facebook account and password. Students log in and may select a "coach" that can be a parent, tutor, or even their teacher (if they've set up an account). Teachers can see stats of student progress on the site as well. Since all the lessons I sampled were YouTube videos, teachers also have the option of embedding the YouTube video in online lessons of their own creation on their web site or a Blackboard or Moodle site.

I didn't test the teacher stat features, however, as I'm pretty guarded with my usernames and passwords.

More on the President's Comments on Testing

Deborah Meier takes her turn at exclaiming, "Huh," at President Obama's recent comments about too much high stakes testing and teaching to the test. In The President's Radical Comments on Testing, she compares the situation of those privileged in education, including the President's daughters attending the exclusive Sidwell Friends School, and those who are economically deprived to George Orwell's Animal Farm with "some pigs were more equal than others."

She writes on the President's disingenuous remarks about testing:

In reality, the government is paying people to invent more bubble tests for the untested subjects (art, science, physical education), and we're giving these not just annually, but four, five, six, 10 times a year to see if teachers are keeping up the needed pace, not to mention to determine how some of those teacher will get paid!

She later adds, "I wish Obama had been blushing when he spoke so eloquently about what's wrong with our schools."

Deb was really considerably kinder to the President about his comments than I was in yesterday's Educators' News editorial, A Disingenuous President. Of course, I was fairly upset when I wrote it and just a bit high on prescription pain killers! Whee!

Odds 'n' Ends

Mary Ann Zehr writes on the Education Week site of some disturbing date on the KIPP charter schools. In Study Finds High Dropout Rates for Black Males in KIPP Schools, Zehr quotes Luis A. Huerta, an associate professor of public policy and education at Teachers College, as saying of the results of a recent study:

If we can start speaking about these more nuanced layers, and move beyond this discussion of student achievement, we tend to get a real picture. Here we have schools receiving upwards to $6,000 or more than traditional schools, and that’s not even accounting for the fact they have fewer services than traditional schools, yet the gains they’ve shown in student achievement are quite modest.

Kroger pledged $3.8 million in aid to schools in Indianapolis yesterday. And Valerie Strauss has a good guest posting by NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, Restocking teachers: The math doesn’t add up.

Mac Closeout Deals

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools' Pages

The OnionWhile it's April Fools' Day every day of the year over at The Onion, today's the day that lots of other web sites take their annual stab at a bit of humor. Google has at least a couple of April Fools' pranks this year with their Gmail Motion BETA and a font switch if one searches for "Helvetica."

Drinking fountain on MoonOne of my favorites over the years has been the annual Astronomy Picture of the Day spoof. This year they abandoned stunts such as their Evidence Mounts for Water on the Moon in favor of the more mundane It's Raining on Titan. (Did NASA break its funny bone?)

It's obvious that some folks got up really early this morning to check out April Fools' pages and write their columns, or they had advance notice. The Asylum's April Fools' Day Jokes 2011 -- the best and worst from around the web is probably the best compendium I've found so far today of online April Fools' pranks and pages. ZippyCart's April Fools 2011: Pranks Around The Web led me to Mozilla's Do Not Fool add-on for the Firefox browser. Even Washington Post education blogger, Valerie Strauss, gets into the act by posting George Wood's A school principal’s unusual April 1st staff memo.

Education Stuff

Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, contributed Scarce resources, insufficient talent threaten to sink public education to eSchool News today. He relates in the piece that in two years, he's moved from being optimistic about our schools to something much less:

Our disadvantaged students are about to encounter the "perfect storm": a lack of resources needed to ensure they are not left behind and an insufficient number of talented individuals, who will opt for work in any field but education so as not to be subjected to low salaries, poor benefits, and public abuse.

Alfie Kohn has an intriguing guest post today on Valerie Strauss's The Answer Sheet blog, What does education research really tell us?

Education Week has a bunch of good stuff today:

Nick Anderson has an excellent story about former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's influence on Republican governors' radical education proposals around the nation in Another brand of Bush school reform: Jeb’s.

And Jay Mathews made me laugh out loud with his line in Guaranteeing my future employment about print newspapers:

The byproduct of dead trees sitting in front of your house getting soaked in the spring rain is still a useful tool.

As a follow-up to my comments about attribution of an AP story yesterday, readers should note that I try to list the authors of columns in most of our links. Because so many education stories today carry a heavy political slant, it's important to know who wrote the article or column. As a writer, a byline can be a bit of a reward for good writing, although more often it's just a way of publishers avoiding giving you a raise:-(!

Sorry, More Butler Stuff

Now that I've published that I got my masters at Butler (Couldn't even remotely consider it financially for undergrad!), I'm on a roll here.

Phil Richards reports in Hometown pitches in to send Butler star's family to Final Four that Connersville residents have pitched in an estimated $10,000 so Butler star Matt Howard's family can travel to Houston to see him play in the Final Four.

Matthew Tully's The more you learn, the easier it is to like Butler tells why a lot of us have a warm spot in our hearts for Butler University.

The Top Ten Eleven
  1. Growing Geraniums from Seed (a continuing Senior Gardening feature)
  2. Building a Raised Garden Bed (March 30, 2009)
  3. Illustrated Power Mac 7500 Teardown (July 23, 2001)
  4. Gloxinias (a continuing Senior Gardening feature)
  5. Portuguese Kale Soup (August, 2008)
  6. Co:Writer 4000 (January 2, 2003)
  7. Free Stuff for Teachers, Homeschoolers, and Students (August 23, 2010)
  8. Resource Sites for Teachers (April 1, 2009)
  9. Teacher Tools: AppleWorks (November 15, 1999)
  10. Saving Gloxinia Seed (October 10, 2009)
  11. A Day Off & A New Camera: Part I, Part II, Part III (October 27, and December 12, 2008)

Way off the Subject - Our Top Ten for March

As a reader, you might reasonably ask, "What Subject?" I've obviously been all over the place in today's posting with much of it having little relevance to educational technology or school improvement.

At the first of the month, I can look at the complete totals of our stats for the previous month for Educators' News and Senior Gardening web sites. The statistics sometimes surprise me. I'm always a little shocked that folks still want to read about how to tear down a fifteen-year-old Power Mac 7500!

In what is possibly our own little April Fools' bad joke, over 1100 folks accessed our 2010 adventure that tells of almost everything one could do wrong in Growing Geraniums from Seed. Before writing the piece and an earlier version, I'd successfully grown geraniums from seed for years without incident. When I started blogging about it, everything that could go wrong, did. The 2009 version at times gets even more hits than the current version, but I finally discovered from sites linking to the story that I'd detailed a techniques for germinating seeds on paper towels highly valued by marijuana growers! (No joke!)

Sadly, readers hoping to start geraniums from seed now may not see any blooms on them until July. Commercial growers start the plants you see in greenhouses, and garden and discount stores in November or December! We started ours this year in late January.

And a joke on me is that this year I decided not do a separate feature story on growing geraniums from seed, as I felt like I was jinxed. Instead, I just included mentions of our geraniums in our regular blog about our gardens. Of course, we are getting an outstanding crop of geraniums from seed this year! We have a little over two flats of robust plants growing under plantlights in the basement and outside under our cold frame.


Plants under cold framePlants under lightsThe plants in the foreground of the photo above are melons and squash. I started them a bit early this year in anticipation of putting them out early under HotKaps. We've moved a lot of our plants outside already, although I've had to cover our closed cold frame a few nights with a tarp to protect the plants there from overnight lows in the mid 20's. We still have some flowers and herbs under the lights, along with a bottom shelf full of gloxinias, none of which are currently in bloom...a rare occurrence at our house.

And in a not-so-nice April Fools' message, I received an email from LinkShare, one of our affiliate consortiums, that LEGO was dumping us as of today as an affiliate advertiser. Our ads have never generated a sale for them. The story has a happy ending, though, as I quickly sent an email suggesting that even without direct sales, having the LEGO name before educators might be a good idea. To my surprise, I received a prompt reply saying they'd forword my message to LEGO. When I logged onto LinkShare today, I found LEGO still among my advertisers. That consideration stands in stark contrast to our shabby treatment from Apple Computer. Hence, you don't see many ads for Macs on this site, and those that do appear here lead to Amazon or MacMall.

Have a great weekend!

Educators' News and Senior Gardening were both down for several hours Saturday afternoon. I apologize if you tried to access either site and were perplexed with the "no site at this address" or "404" errors displayed. Our web host,, rarely has server problems, but they did this time. By the time I called the Help Desk, a technician was already working on the problem.

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