...dedicated to...hmmm, we're still figuring that one out...
Wish My Kids Had Gym Classes Like That!
The San Francisco Chronicle's Julian Guthrie had a brief, but fantastic human interest story yesterday about Bain LaPlant, P.E. teacher at Mill Valley school. Guthrie writes of Bain's daily 30 minute phyical education classes at Strawberry Point School in Mill Valley, California. She quotes Bain as saying:
In a time when P.E., art, music, instrumental music, and other classes are being eliminated due to funding cuts, it's good to read about a program where every student gets physical activity in gym class every day in an interesting way.
More on the Tucson Mexican American Studies Program
I posted a section on Saturday about funding being cut next month to the Tucson Unified School District over their Mexican American Studies program. If you're not up to speed on the controversy that recently has again flashed red hot, take a look at NPR's Threatened In Tucson: Mexican American Studies.
When I wrote the last line of the section, I had an old friend in mind. Jim Crittenden was a pioneer in using technology to help his students at the Kayenta Middle School on a Navajo reservation. I'd asked the rhetorical question, "I wonder if the law that "bans classes primarily designed for a particular ethnic group" also applies to teaching their cultural heritage to those living on reservations in Arizona?"
I called Jim on Saturday afternoon. He related that some reservation schools like Kayenta are state public schools and do fall under the potentially unconstitutional law that was specifically framed and passed to punish the Tucson Unified School District. He also related that some reservation schools are federally controlled and are not subject to the new Arizona law.
Jim also shared a video link that showed "a peaceful student takeover of the TUSD board meeting on Apr. 26, 2011." The students chained themselves into the school board members' chairs, chanted, and finally delivered their demands for the Mexican American Studies program to continue. Their chant was pretty good:
Our education is under attack.
He also sent a link to a video of the next TUSD school board meeting, where according to DA Morales in John Pedicone orders the arrest of Mexican-American History professor while attacking Mexican-American History classes, conservative superintendent John Pedicone had "a 69-year old Mexican-American History professor, Lupe Castillo, who walks around with two crutches due to a disability, arrested by a swarm of about a dozen police in full riot gear and helmets, guns and tazers ready." According to the Morales article, the meeting was being held to dismantle the Mexican-American history program.
Jim added a little more perspective with a link to his To E.L.L. and Back Again - an Essay on Indigenous Peoples' Civil Rights and a perceptive quote in an email later in the day:
And as Jim wrote, the whole thing will have to be tested in federal court. But the ugliness and potential repercussions to a school district with a program with an excellent reputation that began over a slight to the current Arizona attorney general is an incredible testimony to the bigotry that still exists towards minorities in America today.
Social Learning Platform
An eSchool News Site of the Week story, New online learning platform Gooru aims to make learning "social," led me recently to the non-profit Gooru site. From their teacher info page:
When I registered and accessed the site index, I found that current offerings are for grades 5-8. I took a look at their Makeup of Living Organisms and Dividing by 1-Digit Divisor lessons and found a lot of resources, but also had trouble zeroing in on the skill lesson(s) I wanted. I found myself wondering "Where do I click next," repeatedly. But on the whole, this looks like another good online resource for teachers and students.
On PBS LearningMedia
An email this morning let me know that PBS LearningMedia is currently featuring a series of lessons on mastering measurement. PBS LearningMedia is a consolidation of sources of several other PBS sites, including content from one of my favorites, WGBH Boston's Teachers' Domain. A section of the email, pictured below left, linked to a number of featured resources.
Today was the first time I'd done anything close to an in-depth review of the PBS LearningMedia site. While I found a few glitches (occasionally I'd have to reload a page when I clicked on a link in the email, first getting an error message), the site is fairly easy to navigate and certainly has great free content for teachers and students. Do note that PBS will begin to occasionally spam you with messages advertising their not-so-free professional development modules once you register. But that's a small price to pay for the great content there.
On Teachers' Domain
When PBS announced the creation of their consolidated PBS LearningMedia site, I feared that one of its contributors, the incredible Teacher's Domain from WGBH might just go away. Fortunately, it hasn't. When I looked today, their rotating featured listing included:
That's really quite a lot!
And still being a bit of a kid at heart (Aren't most elementary teachers?), I just had to try out the Between the Lions lesson, Very Loud, Very Big, Very Metal. It's a great resource for vocabulary and language development using a song about characteristics of construction vehicles. Descriptive and/or function words used include: loud, very, big, large, tall, rolls, thumps, hammers, dumps, rocks, clangs, heavy, bangs, dirty, high, tough, hot, strong, and metal. It's great stuff for the younger set and old geezer webmasters! And there's lots more to the Between the Lions series.
Publication Note (and some miscellaneous rambling):
The PBS LearningMedia and Teachers' Domain sections were both late updates to this page (around 4 P.M. EST). I'd written most of the posting on Sunday afternoon and got it posted onlin Sunday evening. When I cleared my my email Monday morning and clicked into the Dunk Tank lesson and game, I knew I had to do a mid-day update.
I ended up spending the whole afternoon playing around on the two excellent resource sites!
Trekking the Planet Update
Darren and Sandy Van Soye still have several weeks to go before they begin their 14 month around-the-world trip they plan to share with students and others via their Trekking the Planet site. Their latest newsletter brings word of their preparations for the trip and a link to the first of three pre-trip learning modules, The Basics of Geography (1.8 MB PDF document). Their goal "is to bring geography to life and instill a greater curiosity about the world - its people, culture and our fragile planet - in as many young people as possible" and "to engage students by providing geography education modules: sixty (60) four-page weekly overviews (that correspond to where we will be)," along with "weekly supplemental emails with our impressions during our journey, as well as images and video from the road." They intend to visit approximately 50 countries in their 424-day journey.
Answer Your Mail, Robert A. Niblock!
As I mentioned on Saturday, I finished up another column for our Odds 'n' Ends series. Answer Your Mail, Robert A. Niblock begins with some pretty positive customer service experiences before delving into dealing with some overpaid characters who do an incredibly poor job representing their respective companies. And no, you probably won't be seeing any ads for Niblock's Lowe's Home Improvement here on Educators' News in the near future. Of course, the old saying is that one never should say never, but I'm thinking of the Don Henley line that later named an Eagles' live album and their most successful tour when I consider partnering with Lowe's and Mr. Niblock! But then, at the beginning of the concert recorded for the album, Glenn Frey joked to the audience: "For the record, we never broke up; we just took a 14-year vacation." So Mr. Niblock, maybe in fourteen years, if I'm still around, but for now, we'll shop at Menard's.
I'm doing an extra promo here for the column, as I feel a bit like the Jerry Fletcher character in the movie thriller, Conspiracy Theory, when talking about Educators' News and our new Odds 'n' Ends column series. You know, Jerry had five subscribers to his publication...and four of them were dead!
Odds 'n' Ends
eSchool News has added an online reader for their publication that includes their 2012 Readers Choice Awards: Fifty ed-tech products and services that are making a difference in schools.
Valerie Strauss had a couple of good postings over the weekend on her The Answer Sheet blog on the Washington Post. A decade of No Child Left Behind: Lessons from a policy failure is the short, short version of Lisa Guisbond, Monty Neill, and Bob Schaeffer's recent No Child Left Behind 10th Anniversary Report on FairTest. Romney, Santorum, Paul on education issues summarizes the leading Republican presidential candidates' positions on education. Also see Alyson Klein's GOP Hopefuls Favor Scaled-Back K-12 Federal Role from last week on Education Week (requires registration, but not paid subscription to view).
Larry Abramson's New York Suspends Federal Grants For 10 School Districts on NPR tells of school districts losing federal funding because they haven't yet acquiesced to the borg and accepted evaluating teachers based on high stakes student tests never, ever designed for that purpose (never mind the inequities of poverty and home and community conditions).
When I finally shut down all the various applications I use in constructing these pages on mathdittos2.com, I suddenly knew I wasn't quite done, I had to fire up the web editor and Photoshop again and share the screenshot below of my desktop. The image of the mourning dove, without all the desktop clutter, is available for use on our Desktop Photos page.
Have a great week in the classroom!
Send Feedback to
Tucson Schools Shut Down Mexican American Studies Program
Rather than file a federal lawsuit to fight the Arizona law that targeted the Tucson United School District's Mexican American Studies program, the TUSD school board voted 4-1 last night to shut down the program to avoid losing millions of dollars in state aid. Stephen Ceasar reports in Tucson schools suspend Mexican American studies class:
A federal lawsuit filed by eleven teachers and two students that contends the law violates their First Amendment rights remains, but U.S. Circuit Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima in Tucson refused to grant an injunction Tuesday evening that would have put the state sanctions on hold until the suit was resolved.
On the Blogs
A posting on Bulletin Boards to Remember, Even Picasso Cleaned Up His Mess, caught my eye yesterday and led me to another good art teacher blog, Lines, Dots, and Doodles. The bulletin boards at left appeared on both sites, but originated from Lines, Dots, and Doodles. I like the gentle hint to clean up after oneself and the advice that we can sometime learn from our mistakes. Lines, Dots, and Doodles has lots of well illustrated lessons grouped by elementary grade level and topic.
EHT, writing on her History is Elementary blog in When Cross Curriculum Intentions Go Wrong, unloads about some "insensitive questions within a math assignment" that recently made the news, big time. She links to WSB-TV's Parents outraged over math problems referring to slavery, beatings, but also shares her utter dismay that folks would do such a thing.
Huffington Post blogger, Christopher Emdin, adds to the discussion with his Five Messages From the "Slavery Math Problems."
Michele McNeil writes in Big Race to Top Problems in Hawaii, Florida, N.Y., Says Ed. Dept. on the Politics K-12 blog on Education week that "the U.S. Department of Education today [January 10, 2012] commended the 12 winners for working hard to implement the first year of their reform plans - but raised specific red flags about the pace of change in Hawaii, New York, and Florida." James Boutin specifically addresses the problems in New York City about teacher evaluations based on student test scores in In Case You Misunderstood Their Power for Something Lesser on his An Urban Teacher's Education blog. James doesn't have any kind words for UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who "appeared in a poorly prepared" for television and radio interviews about the impasse.
Diane Ravitch had another excellent piece yesterday on the Bridging Differences blog, NCLB: The Death Star of American Education. She describes the No Child Left Behind law as "the Death Star of American education," inflicting "damage on students, teachers, schools, and communities." She also tells a heart wrenching story of a teacher at one of her speeches who began to ask a question, "I teach the lettuce-pickers' children in Salinas. They are closing our school because our scores are too low." Diane relates that the "teacher couldn't finish her question because she started crying." She goes on to tell more of "the wreckage caused by NCLB" she's witnessed as she continues to tirelessly tour the nation, encouraging teachers and fighting the misguided efforts of "education reformers."
Mrs. Chili gets two stars today for good postings. On her A Teacher’s Education blog, she shares a note she sent a complaining parent that includes her Justification for a short story assignment given. On her The Blue Door non-education blog, she linked to Ministry of Truth's (Jesse LaGreca) An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America in her Quick Hit: This posting.
LaGreca, clearly on a delicious rant, wrote:
Sara Wu's Fed Up with Lunches had another great guest blog last week by Carrie Fehr, chef teacher for the cooking and gardening program in the Berkeley Unified School District. Wu writes in an introduction that Fehr "has developed an expansive repertoire of cooking lessons that skillfully integrate core academic subjects, culinary concepts, and nutrition education."
In Berkeley Schools, A Sustainable Food Model, Fehr writes of the Berkeley program:
In a guest posting on the Curriculum Matters blog that should have been named, "Let the bloodletting begin," Nirvi Shah writes that a new set of national standards "outlines the minimum that students should learn about their sexuality from their earliest years in school until they leave high school." In New National Standards Address Sexuality Education for All Grades, Shah writes:
Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institutes (a cut and paste from their announcement)
The Library of Congress is now accepting applications for its 2012 Teaching with Primary Sources Teacher Institutes in Washington, D.C. The free, five-day institute will provide educators with the tools and resources to effectively integrate primary sources into classroom teaching.
Institutes will take place on the following dates:
There is no charge for the program or materials but participants must cover costs for travel to Washington, DC and lodging and meals while in Washington.
Participants may earn three graduate credits from George Mason University for completing all Summer Teacher Institute requirements (fee).
Application Deadline: February 17, 2011
Stop the Presses! Replate!
Today looked as if it was going to be one of those "no news" or "not much news" days in education. Anticipating a slow day, I constructed an edition for today that included a number of "filler items" from our leftovers file. If we were an old time newspaper, by yesterday evening someone would have been yelling in the background, "Stop the presses! Replate!"
First, I found a lot of great postings for our On the Blogs section and put up our first edition for today at around 10 P.M. last night. It did include a dandy photo of the filler stories that never saw the light of day. Maybe readers should send the bloggers a thank you note for saving them from my stories about making animated gifs, plumbing follies, and a really funny one I may use in the future about someone asking me to run for office. (Can't you just hear the skeletons in my closet rattling to get out!) The animated gif got repurposed for use on our Senior Gardening website.
Then this morning I saw the reports about the Tucson Schools caving under the pressure of possibly losing massive amounts of state aid and canceling their Mexican American Studies program. And again that guy in the background would have been shouting, "Stop the presses! Replate!"
So just ten or so hours after putting up the first edition of today's posting which was really the second edition of today's posting, I'm getting one more revision ready to upload to the server. While the Tucson story makes room for another charity web banner at the top of this posting, I'm really sorry for the students impacted by the loss of their Mexican American Studies program.
Odds 'n' Ends
Educators' News is still being produced on our backup twin 1.8 GHz G5 Macintosh tower. After losing the motherboard on our main G5 on December 23, I decided to replace its motherboard, rather than going for a new computer. It turned out that I could buy a twin 2.0 GHz G5 tower for about what just a replacement logic board would cost.
Currently, the main G5 is torn down, and the replacement unit is going through an extensive burn in process. At some point, the two will become one, and the computer I'm composing this posting on will return to backup duty. It's a slow process. It turns out the processors on a G5 are anchored with torx screws that require a long shaft T-10 torx screwdriver to remove. I just happen to have a long shaft T-15 from my days of disassembling Mac SEs and SE/30s, but not a T-10. I ended up brutalizing the old G5 to remove the processors, but am patiently waiting on a long blade T-10 from Amazon before tearing down the replacement unit. (Note: The "new" unit's case has some damage, so I have to gut it and transfer its innards to my original G5 case.)
When done, I should have a twin 2.0 GHz G5 tower with 8 GB of RAM and a lot of G5 spare parts to sell.
We use Charity Navigator and GiveWell to review the charities for the banner ads that appear on Educators' News on Wednesday. Charities that have high administrative and/or fundraising expenses simply don't appear here or on our listing of banner ads for webmasters and bloggers to use. Instead of a specific charity this week, I decided to go with the Charity Navigator banner below.
Google kicked off its second annual Google Science Fair on Wednesday. The online competition is open to students 13-18 years old anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Audrey Watters adds some history and details about the event on KQED Mindshift's Ready, Set, Invent! The Google Science Fair is Launched. And Google's For Educators page includes some helpful downloads for teachers to help their students get started. Watters noted that "prizes for the winners are not insignificant: the grand prize is a $50,000 scholarship, a trip to the Galapagos lead by a National Geographic Explorer, a hands-on internship at Google, CERN or LEGO, access to the Scientific American archives for their school and a personalized LEGO trophy. Two other finalists will each receive $25,000 scholarships, access to the Scientific American archives, and a LEGO trophy." The entry deadline is April 1, 2012.
Apple Computer, Inc., announced an announcement yesterday. Well actually, they invited members of the press to an Apple Event for Educators that will occur on January 19 in New York City. As with previous Apple Events, the speculation about what may be offered is hot and heavy in the press. One Macintosh site carried word "that Irish betting company Paddy Power is offering odds on what Apple will be announcing." Odds for the announcement being of a "robot teacher" are 40:1! New York Times' writer Nick Wingfield predicted, " The event will showcase a new push by Apple into the digital textbook business, but will not feature any new devices, according to a person close to the company who did not want to be identified talking about it before it occurred."
It's been a long time since we've had a Turkey of the Week Award winner here on Educators' News. There's certainly no shortage of non-feathered turkeys in education out there, but many of them hold elective office, an automatic disqualifier for this award. Our elected officials, often totally unresponsive to voters but highly responsive to the major donors who finance their campaigns, don't need any extra publicity to feed their oversize egos.
This week's award reluctantly goes to the highly respected New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. I hate to hang the turkey on Nick, as he has written and done many good things, especially his work and writing about the Sudan. But Mr. Kristof has totally taken a wrong tangent in his recent column, The Value of Teachers. He cites a recent report about how important a good or bad teacher can be to a student, but falls into the corporate reformers web of basing teacher evaluations upon student test scores in "value-added" evaluation systems. Such tests and their results are highly suspect, as noted by Andy Rotherham in Rating Teachers: The Trouble with Value-Added Data. Diane Ravitch wrote in Why Naming Names Is Wrong:
Kristof has also ventured into the teacher bashing arena with naive comments such as, "An essential answer: more good teachers. Or, to put it another way, fewer bad teachers. The obvious policy solution is more pay for good teachers, more dismissals for weak teachers." The value of merit pay in improving education is an unproven, devisive tactic of corporate education "reformers." And any words written about good teachers and getting rid of bad teachers just adds to the public perception pushed by phony education "reformers" and politicians funded by for-profit charter schools that most public school teachers are inadequate and need to be replaced.
He also accuses teachers' unions of resisting focusing on teacher quality. The charge has the ring of validity only because unions strive to protect their members from the unfair whims of administrators and evaluation systems based on dubious practices and data. In much of the nation, if teacher evaluations were done properly according to union contracts, many lesser educators could have been weeded out long ago.
While Nick mentions the effects of poverty in passing, he quickly brushes aside the proven number one factor in predicting success in the classroom.
So while clearly a good writer, I think Nick truly deserves his Turkey of the Week status for his most recent column.
Odds 'n' Ends
Hey, it's Friday, and I'm just going to throw everything else in education news today into this section. Deborah Meier's Two Golden Opportunities Lost in the 1990s definitely deserves a bit more than a bullet list link, though. Her first paragraph is a real grabber:
Other stuff around the web includes:
After posting the image of a mourning dove at the end of Monday's posting, I marveled a bit about how much enjoyment I get from the rotating desktop pictures that serve as a backdrop to my work. When moving between applications or as I shut everything down for the day, the desktop photo of the moment often brings back a pleasant memory.
Just for the fun of it, I threw together the animated gif at right of 50 of the better shots that are mine that grace my computer screen. That number excludes family photos, some really bad shots that I still like, and some great astronomy shots that aren't mine. It only took ten or twelve tries to get it to work right!
I think all of the images in the anigif are available for download and use as wallpapers or backgrounds from our Desktop Photos page. I added a page of outtakes, shots bumped off the main desktops page, and shots waiting to go the main page a few months ago called The Cutting Room Floor, so a few of the shots may come from that page as well.
Our Desktop Photos page has the distinction of having more advertising per square inch than any other page on the mathdittos2.com. The good news is that the photos are free for use as wallpapers or desktops. All other use requires prior consent, massive royalty payments, your left pinkie finger... (Actually, I'm a pretty soft touch on non-commercial use of my photos. Just
Have a great weekend!
Ads shown on this site do not represent an endorsement or warranty of any kind of products or companies shown. Ads shown on archive pages may not represent the ads displayed in the original posting on Educators' News.
©2012 Steven L. Wood