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Monday, April 11, 2011

Cool Tech Tool

A posting on the HECC listserv by Coffee County Schools tech director Randy Damewood led me to Steve Dickie's YouTube video, iPad Today Response - Using my iPad to Teach. Steve shows in the video how he uses a couple of tools to help him teach more effectively with his iPad. While I really liked his strap thingie that allows him to move about the classroom without fear of dropping his iPad, his use of a $7.99 app, Air Sketchicon, that transmits what he draws on his iPad to a laptop connected to a projector, was really cool.

Steve also maintains a blog, Teaching With Technology. While he's definitely into cool tech toys, he's more into teaching!

Interesting Reads from Over the Weekend

I noticed several interesting reads yesterday from the Washington Post. The first, Exit Interview: MoCo superintendent Jerry D. Weast on lessons learned by Nick Anderson, is a candid interview from outgoing Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry Weast. Asked, "Is there a downside to working with unions," Weast simply replied, "None."

A second good read is a long piece by Steven Mufson and Jia Lynn Yang, The trials of Kaplan Higher Ed and the education of The Washington Post Company. While one might reasonably question the objectivity of anyone at the Washington Post doing a piece on Post subsidiary, Kaplan, this article gives a good history of how the Post got into the for-profit higher education business and the current mess it's in with the feds. Taken with a bit of skepticism, it's a good story.

Valerie Strauss began a series of guest posts by TFA alum, Anna Martin, last Friday. So far, there are three very interesting articles:

Turkey of the WeekTurkey of the Week

Fox News contributor William LaJeunesse today gets the rarely awarded Educators' News Turkey of the Week Award. (Gotta get with it. Sadly, there are lots of potential "reformer" turkeys out there.) LaJeunesse states in Taxpayer Calculator: Education Spending in Obama's 2012 Budget:

In fact, the U.S. spends more on education than defense. On a per pupil basis, we rank only behind Switzerland and Norway.

A commenter quickly jumped on LaJeunesse's manipulation of the truth with the correction:

The federal government spends 90 billion on education and 800 billion on defense.

While I'd love to call the statement by LaJeunesse a whopper of a lie, he may have some justification in his twisted thinking if one adds all state and private institution spending to the current level of federal spending on education. But it would seem the intent of the statement is pretty clear: LaJeunesse wants his readers to believe another Fox News Falsehood, this time that the federal government's education budget is more than the defense budget.

I also pulled together all of our current and previous winners, all four of them, into Turkey of the Week Award "Winners," an Educators' News feature story.

Odds 'n' Ends

Jennifer Chambers of the Detroit News doesn't give one a lot of context in Education chief Duncan cites 'lack of courage' in DPS for Arne Duncan's comment:

There has been a lack of leadership and a lack of courage in Detroit. I look at what progress New Orleans has made in five years, and I say, why not Detroit?

Duncan made the remark while speaking to journalists attending the national Education Writers Association conference in New Orleans on Friday. My guess is that Duncan's comment was aimed primarily at those in charge of the Detroit schools, but it also comes pretty close to what I called "teacher bashing by innuendo" in an Educators' News editorial last month, A Disingenuous President.

And the headline, Idaho governor signs education overhaul into law, tells of students, parents, and teachers in yet another state being saddled with school "reform" that probably won't help kids very much. The same Reuter's article by Laura Zuckerman appears on the Huffington Post under the headline, Idaho Governor 'Butch' Otter Signs Final Piece Of Anti-Union Education Reform.

And while not related to education, a name that appears here often is in the news again. Shani O. Hilton tells in D.C. Mayor Vince Gray Arrested in Budget Battle Protest that "Mayor Gray and several City Council members sat in the middle of Constitution Ave. on Capitol Hill before getting arrested and carted off to a police station on Monday." Home rule for D.C. and "a rider in the budget deal that would prevent D.C. from spending its own funds on abortion for poor women, the overwhelming majority of whom are black and Latina," spurred the protest.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

About Teaching the Civil War

Nick Anderson has an interesting article in the Washington Post about how and when the Civil War is taught in schools around the country. Anderson lightly covers textbook and curriculum controversies, reasons for the Civil War taught to students, and adds a number of vignettes of classroom lessons about the war in Teaching the Civil War, 150 years later. His article made me think of my last instruction in the Civil War, at Milligan College. Since the comments section for the article was getting pretty lively and somewhat heated, I related my experience there (and here, now) to lighten the mood a bit.

When I attended Milligan College in the 60's, a grand old lady taught American History. Miss Jones was already well past standard retirement age and was known for being a tough grader. Her sister, also Miss Jones and getting up in her years as well, taught English. But students absolutely loved taking Miss Jones for American History because of the color she brought to the subject.

Raised as a true southern lady, she began our study of the Civil War by saying, "I'm going to tell all you northerners how we've let you believe you won the Civil War all these years." And we were off...

In these times of near-constant teacher bashing and aggressive school "reform," I find it refreshing that the words of a consummate teacher from over 40 years ago still remain in memory.

Erik Robelen writes today in 150 Years Later: Primary Sources, Technology Bring Civil War to Life on the Curriculum Matters blog:

At Education Week, we're planning a special package of stories on the Civil War, expected out Friday. One issue we'll examine is how teachers are using primary sources and technology to bring the conflict to life for students and help them gain a deeper understanding.

Erik has a couple of previous blog postings that along with today's add a good number of links to Civil War resources:

Not Much Today

It's a pretty slow day for education news so far today. Science Nation has a new issue posted, Saving Silver. Diane Ravitch looks at test score comparisons and the past and currently stated reasons for school vouchers in Vouchers Make a Comeback, But Why on the Bridging Differences blog. Also from Education Week is Michelle D. Anderson's Enrollment Surges at Schools for Homeless Students. - Earth DayWednesday, April 13, 2011

Two People Who Deserve to be Fired

The Indy Star headline reads, U.S. education secretary coming Friday to Indy, telling of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's planned visit on Friday at the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School for "a town hall meeting." The Star reports that the announcement from the Governor's office noted that both "the governor and Duncan are both proponents of charter school expansion, improving teacher quality, and increasing school accountability." Apple pie, mom, and the American flag, right? But not quite.

The "town hall" is actually an "invitation-only" staged event for the press, Tindley students, and parents (if they got an invitation) to continue the push for Governor Daniels' draconian school "reform" agenda. The Star's Scott Elliott tells of one such bill in the Star's other education story today, Charter schools bill nears finish line. He writes:

House Bill 1002 is part of an ambitious education reform agenda pushed by Daniels. It also includes instituting publicly funded vouchers that parents could use on private school tuition, curtailing teachers' collective bargaining and overhauling teacher evaluations and pay raises. The charter bill would create a state board to start charter schools and allow private colleges to do so as well. Advocates said it could more than double the 62 charter schools in the state within five years.

Daniels' plan would divert funding from already cash-strapped regular public schools in favor of more charter schools and the biggest school voucher program in the nation. He also wants to limit collective bargaining for teachers to wage and wage related items, preventing bargaining and discussion of items like class size, materials, evaluation, etc. The plan would also encourage charter schools run by for-profit entities, stripping away control of local school patrons and placing control of the schools in the hands of corporate boards dedicated only to making a profit. The governor also strongly supports the unproven business oriented system of evaluating teachers based on the results of student test scores.

Sadly, Indiana does not have a recall law, only an impeachment process. Impeachment is for a violation of law, such as Republican Indiana Secretary of State, Charlie White, will almost certainly face when convicted of felony election fraud. The only way to "fire" Daniels is to deny him the 2012 Republican presidential nomination he so lusts after. Duncan, however, serves at the will of the President, and should be fired immediately for the charade of education "reform" he has proposed that will not help improve schools. Appearing at a staged event that bolsters Daniels' perverted education proposals gives aid and comfort to the folks who would destroy Indiana's public schools in favor of a privatized system.

BTW: Bill Schechter, a 35-year veteran in the classroom, reveals in Performance pay at schools Obama, Duncan picked for their children that both Duncan and President Obama chose schools for their children that do not favor merit pay!

Okay, I've had my rant for today. I'd planned to take the day off and get our garden in this morning. But Arne Duncan should know better than to support any Mitch Daniels initiative.

Oops, for New Jersey residents, Governor Christie is "renewing his call to push aside 'bully' teachers' unions, fire bad instructors, and allow students in poorly performing public schools to learn elsewhere" according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Katz and Joelle Farrell in Christie takes education reform plan to Lower Twp. as lawmakers in Trenton blast school-funding cuts.

On the Lighter Side

Another HECC listserv posting today led me to Greg Shultz's Vintage Computer Advertisements from the late 1970s.

Now I'll go stick some plants and seed in the ground.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Free Everyday Math Apps

Another HECC posting this morning alerted me to a line from the McGraw-Hill School Education Group on the iTunes app store that reads, "All of our Everyday Math Games Apps icon are available for FREE download during NCTM April 13-16 2011!"

Since this one expires soon, I'm getting it posted quickly.

Like a Bad Penny

rheefirstLike a bad penny, Michelle Rhee refuses to go away or acknowledge her many shortcomings while chancellor for the D.C. Schools. I saw and actually closed the page on her recent remarks on the Huffington Post before going back to Why I'm Proud of Student Achievement in Washington, D.C. (and Why We Need National Reforms). I realized I could balance her half-truths with Walt Gardner's excellent posting, The Rhee Phenomenon and Nancy Flanigan's Reclaiming "Reform," both on Education Week. I also picked up a link from a comment Nancy made to Walt Gardner's posting to the RheeFirst site whose banner parodies Michelle Rhee's site.

Reminder and Caution

As I mentioned in our Looking Ahead section last month, the filing deadline for federal income tax returns has been extended this year to April 18 in observation of Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia. But take note that for for those of us who need to file state returns as well, the traditional April 15 date is still in effect in most states for those returns.

Odds 'n' Ends

If you use Flip Video cameras in the classroom (or at home), the eSchool News story, Educators disappointed with Cisco’s camera flip, won't be good news. The opening paragraph tells the story (I'm glad someone still uses the inverted pyramid method of journalism.):

Cisco Systems Inc., one of the titans of the technology industry, on April 12 said it is killing the Flip Video, the most popular video camera in the U.S., just two years after it bought the startup company that created it.

Valerie Strauss places some of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's claims about school "reform" in New Orleans in perspective today in her New Orleans schools ‘miracle’ not so miraculous on The Answer Sheet blog.

Here in Indiana, a former educator calls for restraint in State’s education reform plan an insulting mess. Marvin A. Henry, Indiana State University professor emeritus of education, writes in part, "There are a number of unanswered questions which need to be addressed before any radical or logical changes should be made to improve our schools." Henry served as a professor, supervisor of student teachers, director of student teaching and department chair in teacher education at Indiana State University from 1959 to 1995 and "will be honored with the Distinguished Teacher Educator Award from the Association of Teacher Educators at the national conference in Orlando on Feb. 15."

And Now for Something Completely Different

Monty PythonAs the movie title said, And Now for Something Completely Different, we go to next door to Illinois where Chicago Tribune writers Ray Long, Tara Malone and Diane Rado relate that "Ambitious education reforms on the table in Springfield could change how Illinois schoolteachers earn tenure and hold onto their jobs amid tough financial times, with seniority for the first time mattering less than performance." They continue in Illinois teachers, lawmakers draw up reforms (alternate link):

The proposals come as hot-button issues such as collective bargaining — including everything from how teachers can be fired to how they pay dues — have roiled nearby states like Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, sparking protests and legal challenges.

In Illinois, by contrast, negotiations unfolded quietly behind closed doors, bringing to the table groups sometimes at odds.

"This is proof education employee unions can and should be leaders in reform," read a joint statement by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association and the Chicago Teachers Union, all of which participated in the dealmaking.

Sorry (not really), I just couldn't resist the reference from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Free Everyday Math Apps

I thought in the absence of any real education news today, I'd add a reminder here that the McGraw-Hill School Education Group has made all of their Everyday Math Games Appsicon free downloads from iTunes during the NCTM 2011 Annual Meeting and Exposition (April 13-16 2011).

Since he'll already be in Indy for another meeting covered here Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be speaking at the convention today at 11:00 A.M. (Hall F of the Indiana Convention Center).

Updated Reminder

I noted last month and again yesterday that the filing deadline for federal income tax returns has been extended this year to April 18 in observation of Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia. I added a caution that state returns may still be due on April 15, but found this morning that at least Indiana has also extended its deadline:

TAX DEADLINE DATE CHANGE FOR 2011: The tax filing deadline in Indiana this year is April 18, due to observance of Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. on the usual date (April 15). Please mark your calendar!

Sorry for the confusion. Your state, if it requires a state income tax return, may be different. You can check here to see a list of links to various state revenue departments.

Duncan's Remarks at "Town Hall" Meeting (late update) has posted the Opening Remarks of Arne Duncan at Indiana Town Hall with Governor Mitch Daniels. While Duncan's remarks were less offensive than I had anticipated, he continued to give Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels way too much credit for the way Indiana schools are run and funded. He expressed agreement with Daniels on wanting more charter schools and rating and paying teachers based at least in part on the results of high stakes testing. Duncan did take issue with Daniels' push for school vouchers and limiting the bargaining rights of teachers. But all in all, Duncan would have been far better off to have simply refused to appear at a forum where Mitch Daniels was present.

Governor Daniels, a master tactician, saved a big announcement for the Town Hall. Indiana will pay for full-day kindergarten tells of some funding for voluntary all day kindergarten in the state. What the story doesn't tell is how the Governor pushed for and got a constitutional amendment that caps property taxes, leaving schools and communities at his mercy for funding. His message to both entities over the last few years has been to "tighten your belts." So while appearing to have done something noteworthy, it's important to remember that he's the same governor responsible for major teacher and community worker layoffs across the state.

AM Weather RadarOdds 'n' Ends

We have a strong line of thunderstorms approaching the World Headquarters of Educators' News this morning. So rather than get frustrated when our satellite internet connection goes out due to rain fade, I'll just get this posted now.

Have a great weekend!

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