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Monday, January 16, 2012 - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

"Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963

Warm, Fuzzy, Human Interest Stories

It used to be that when you opened your Sunday paper, there would always be a story somewhere in it about an educator doing something extraordinary for their students. In September, I resolved to try to begin each week here on Educators' News with similar warm, fuzzy, human interest stories about students, parents, and/or teachers doing wonderful things. I didn't reveal what I was trying to do until October, when my plan crashed and burned on a Monday that had absolutely no feel-good stories!

Since that time, I think we've had a good human interest story to start our Monday posting about 40% of the time. I'm sure folks are still doing great things out there in the classroom, and I probably just miss some of the stories. But it's a sad commentary on where we are in education when the media are almost totally focused on bad teachers, failing schools, high stakes testing, merit pay, and so on.

I really looked extra hard this week to find a real "grabber" of a story, but didn't find one that just blew me away. I did, however, find a lot more stories than usual that at least leaned towards being warm, fuzzy, human interest stories. Here's what I found:

Tucson Update

From a Salon.com article by Jeff Biggers, Who’s afraid of "The Tempest"?

As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies  program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today.  According to district spokesperson Cara Rene, the books "will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage."

Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson's largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies.

And yes, Shakespeare's "The Tempest" was one of the books banned. A letter to the editor that appears in today's Arizona Republic, Banning ethnic studies won't end idea, gives a good idea of the outrage some Mexican Americans in Arizona are feeling. It begins, "My cultural heritage has been outlawed."

Jim Crittenden panoramasSome Incredible Views

Jim Crittenden, who has kept me updated with what is going on in Arizona, sent me a link last night to his incredible panoramas "of the high desert lands where I get to live," Landscape Panoramas using Zoomify. Thanks again, Jim.

Indiana Voucher Program Upheld

A Marion County (IN) Superior Court judge has upheld the new Indiana voucher law in its first test before a court. The bill voted into law by an anti-public education Republican majority a year ago was designed specifically to circumvent the prohibition in the Indiana Constitution against using state funds for parochial schools. Judge Michael Keele agreed with the state that the program doesn't violate the state constitution, as it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who can choose where to use them. The decision was expected, and the Indiana State Teachers Association has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Sarah Carr mentions in School voucher program gets fresh look in Louisiana in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that governors in other states, encouraged by developments in Indiana, are now trying to push through or widen school voucher programs in their states.

Indiana "Right-to-Work" Study

A Ball State University economist, fiscal conservative, and an admirer of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has released a study that predicts Indiana's proposed "right-to-work" legislation will not be a "significant and long-term job creator." Michael J. Hicks, director of Ball State's Center for Business and Economic Research, stated to the press, "If you look at the right-to-work states in the South, you could argue their right-to-work laws had less impact on job growth than air-conditioning." Hicks' findings were released in Right-to-Work Legislation and the Manufacturing Sector (957K PDF document), a study that examined "right-to-work" regulations in the lower 48 states and District of Columbia from 1929 through 2005.

Odds 'n' Ends

Fernanda Santos doesn't do much commentary in Mayor Bloomberg's Promises for Education: An Annotated Scorecard, but lets the Mayor's record of missteps in education speak for itself.

Other stuff around the web:

If you're in school today and still looking for one more activity for MLK Day, KABOOSE has a good Martin Luther King Jr. Day page. The text of Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech is available from American Rhetoric, and a video of it is on YouTube. The FREE site also has all sorts of related material.

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World VisionWednesday, January 18, 2012

Wikipedia, Others (including Educators' News) Closed Today

The English language version of Wikipedia will be blacked out worldwide today in protest "against proposed legislation in the United States – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate – that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia." A long list of other web sites may also enforce a twelve hour blackout in what is being called the "SOPA Strike." Educators' News, in support of the protest and in opposition to SOPA and PIPA, will be blacked out today from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. (EST).

SOPA StrikeThe Electronic Frontier Foundation has an easy page for contacting ones representative and senators.

 • The New York Times: Protest on Web Uses Shutdown to Take On Two Piracy Bills by Jenna Wortham
 • The Washington Post: SOPA protests to shut down Web sites by David A. Fahrenthold
 • The Huffington Post: Google Joins Online SOPA Protest by Zach Carter
 • The Register: Wikipedia to shut down Wednesday in SOPA protest: Anger grows against online-piracy bill by Rik Myslewski
 • eSchool News: Wikipedia to be blacked out over anti-piracy bill
 • Blog.Reddit: Stopped they must be; on this all depends.
 • The New York Times: In Fight Over Piracy Bills, New Economy Rises Against Old by Jonathan Weisman
• Fox News Opinion: SOPA - What It Is and Why It’s Bad by Sally Kohn

The Public Knowledge web site distilled the dangers of SOPA and PIPA in a recent posting, Act Now: This Bill Seriously Screws with the Internet:

There are a number of serious issues with the way PIPA and SOPA try to tackle the legitimate concern of websites that infringe copyright:

  • No one favors the theft of intellectual property.
  • They sweep in every site that includes links, not just the "worst of the worst."
  • They include a private right of action with few protections from abuse.
  • PIPA removes innovators' ability to fight back when incumbents threaten intermediaries.
  • DNS blocking sanctions government interference with the internet, making the internet more censored, akin to that of China and Syria.
  • A bi-partisan, compromise bill already exists.

Linda Darling-Hammond: Why Is Congress Redlining Our Schools?

Linda Darling-Hammond's Why Is Congress redlining our schools should be a must read for anyone concerned with the current direction of education "reform." Darling-Hammond was President Obama's education advisor during the 2008 presidential campaign, and many thought she'd become Obama's Secretary of Education. Instead, the President chose Arne Duncan as SecEd, and the direction of education "reform" was steered towards more high stakes testing, turnaround plans that often included closing neighborhood schools, firing half of the school's staff, or replacing the school with a charter school, merit pay, ending career protection for good career teachers...the list goes on and on.

In an article that first appeared on The Nation, Darling-Hammond doesn't pull any punches about her former boss and Secretary Duncan in their misguided efforts to improve America's schools:

The truth is that the competitive market approach leaves the most vulnerable children behind. It is impossible to punish schools that are struggling without punishing the children they serve. When schools are closed, it is the students and families who suffer the chaos and confusion. And if teaching and leadership positions in high-need communities become even more unappealing as a result of such policies, educators with options will be even less willing to come to or stay in these schools, leaving students and their schools with an even more inexperienced and transient teaching force. This is not a strategy that promises great wins for these students or for the nation.

Besides dismembering the Obama Administration's unproductive plan for improving education, Darling-Hammond concludes her excellent column with a clear vision of "what we should do instead" to create "a new approach to federal policy that makes it possible for all students to succeed and creates the momentum we need to regain our status as an educational leader among nations."

On the Blogs

Paul Hamilton's Tumblr Offers Easy Blogging for ALL Learners on Free Resources from the Net for Every Learner tells of the "free blog platform that seems ideal for anyone who is new to blogging."

Diane Ravitch adds her 2¢ worth to the discussion about the recently released study on teacher evaluation in What Value Did the Chetty Study Add?

Michaele Sommerville is into Coloring Books in the Classroom big time on her Kindergarten's 3 R's: Respect, Resources, and Rants blog this week.

The Super Bowl, Professional Football, and Union Busting

While doing some late updates to this page "after the lights came back on," I ran across Sally Kohn's opinion piece about SOPA on, of all places, Fox News, whose owner is one of the biggest proponents of SOPA and PIPA. A link on Sally's personal site led me to her excellent piece about the push by big business in Indiana to pass "Right-to-Work" legislation, The Super Bowl, professional football and union busting. After relating the sad story of retired NFL player Dave Duerson's suicide, she drops the bombshell:

So it should come as little surprise to football fans of all political persuasions to learn that the NFL players association is condemning Republicans in Indiana for trying to gouge the rights of unions and workers in the state.

She goes on to unmask Governor Mitch Daniels and the Republican majority's big business backed plan to weaken unions by fooling Indiana residents into believing the legislation will improve their lives. She calls it "Right to Work… For Less," and then provides the numbers to back up her statements.

The link between Indiana's proposed "Right-to-Work" legislation and education might at first seem tenuous, but this bill is simply Round Two of an attempt by Republicans to fatally wound Indiana's major labor unions. In Round One last year, they stripped teachers of many bargaining rights, imposed merit pay based on high stakes testing, and began diverting millions of dollars from Indiana's public schools to private and parochial schools via school vouchers.

Indiana's labor unions stood shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers in protesting Governor Daniels' rape of public education last year. It's only fair, even if we lost last year, to stand with Indiana's labor unions against another deceitful attempt by Republicans to destroy the protections unions provide workers. Maybe this time around, we'll have some big NFL linebackers and linemen standing with us.

Odds 'n' Ends

It's almost 1 A.M., and I'm just finishing up the second edition of our Wednesday posting. Earlier, I uploaded a quick version that also contained the javascript that will black out this page for most of the day. If it weren't for today being our charity web banner day, I might have totally blown off doing any posting at all.

I did manage to find a few interesting, educationally related articles for this section today. I ran across the first one in my Boston Globe RSS education feed. Unfortunately, the Globe has decided to no longer allow registered users to see their content, restricting it to subscribers only...even for wire service postings. Guess I need to chuck that username and password! I did a quick search and found the Associated Press posting elsewhere...for free.

The next two links are sorta interesting. After a massive outcry about censorship and book banning, the TUSD now claims it hasn't banned any books. It just had the books "that were used as supporting materials for curriculum in Mexican American Studies classes" boxed up and stored, as they were no longer being used in the banned classes. A press release stated, "None of the books have been banned by TUSD, and they are still available to students through several school libraries."

For those of us experienced in sorting out student tall tales, the TUSD release sounds sorta fishy.

Apple Notebook Sale Up to $700 OFF at MacMall.comFriday, January 20, 2012

Race to the Top for Districts

Education Week's Michele McNeil interviewed Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Wednesday. She begins her article, Duncan: It's Time to Create Race to Top for Districts, "Flush with $550 million in new Race to the Top money, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he intends to use the vast majority of it to design a new competition just for school districts." From both the article and the text of the interview, A Conversation With Arne Duncan, it appears that Duncan continues to believe contests are the way to go for school improvement.

Tucson

NPR's Michel Martin conducted a softball interview on Wednesday with John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction in the state of Arizona and one of the chief architects of the law to punish the Tucson United School District and its Mexican American Studies program. Martin came to the interview ill prepared to challenge self-serving statements by Huppenthal. He was able to sidestep the question of whether the law was a reprisal for ill treatment of an education department speaker by students, claim the program had been ruled illegal by the courts (when it was an administrative law judge that made such a ruling, not a federal court), and claim the program had been studied and found wanting when an earlier study of the program that lauded the program was ignored by Huppenthal and the state.

Roberto Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, wrote of the controversy in Arizona's 'Banned' Mexican American Books:

In a development typical of Arizona, the students who walked out on Thursday, protesting the elimination of the district's Mexican American studies program, have – without a hearing – been directed to perform janitorial duties this Saturday: an amazing message, right out of Newt Gingrich's playbook (he has been campaigning in the GOP presidential nomination race, proposing the idea that students should be hired as janitors to teach them a work ethic). Apparently, TUSD administrators are paying attention.

It's more than a little sad that the media, especially those east of the Mississippi, are willing to let yet another outrage in Arizona die so easily. Martin lets Huppenthal, a real bad guy in this story, come off sounding almost reasonable. The school system is still trying to get away with denying book banning by retracing their steps and saying that just seven titles were boxed and shipped to storage. According to Rodriguez, posters and other materials and far more than seven titles were confiscated, boxed, and removed from classrooms in some cases right in front of students.

A Little Fluff to Lighten and Fill Out the Page

Dirty Dancing DVD I chased down a brief AP posting that eventually got the provocative title, Iowa school district bars dirty dancing, to its source at the Des Moines Register. Tiffany De Masters, later assisted by Grant Rodgers, told the story of a school district trying to deal with grinding going on at some of their school dances. Parents had expressed concerns about the practice and along with a few students who "voiced quiet complaints...that other students' actions were making them uncomfortable." (Apparently, there were no complaints from the "grinders.")

The outcome of the story so far is that a no-grinding rule has been passed by the school district. Having chaperoned a few high school proms in the past, I feel for the faculty and staff who get to enforce the new regulation.

Did Santorum Win in Iowa?

As I looked around the Des Moines Register yesterday, it was hard to miss their headline story, 2012 GOP caucus count unresolved, that stated Rick "Santorum finished ahead by 34 votes" in the certified count for the Iowa Caucuses! By the time I got back to the Register to grab a screenshot of the news, it had been replaced with a headline proclaiming that Rick Perry had dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination race and endorsed the Newt.

Having just watched the South Carolina Republican debate on CNN, I was amazed that the subject of education was never raised. Maybe that's a blessing in this time of near constant teacher bashing from politicians.

Hmm..."Santorum" just got challenged by my spellchecker. Think I should google it? Grin

A Reader for the iPad

Apple Computer announced the availability of iBooks 2.0icon, designed for the iPad, yesterday at a press conference in New York. The electronics maker described the app as the vehicle for "an entirely new kind of textbook that's dynamic, engaging and truly interactive." Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education and others will offer educational titles on Apple's iBookstore, with most priced at $14.99 or less according to Apple. A new authoring tool for interactive textbooks, iBooks Authoricon, was also announced (Mac only - requires Mac OS X 10.7.2).

What I didn't find in any of the articles and press releases about the announced app and textbooks was any mention of a reader for desktops, laptops, and netbooks, Mac or PC.

Odds 'n' Ends

HeroesI've thrown a lot of good items into this section today that really deserve more than just a link in a bullet listing. But I'm worn out, frequently striking the wrong keys, and Dreamweaver is getting pretty quirky. It's probably time to quit.

New Desktop Photo for my "New" Computer

I'm now up and running with my new-to-me, seven-year-old twin 2.0 GHz PowerMac tower. I opted to go with a "new" box, as its cost was just slightly higher than a replacement motherboard would have run for my old twin 1.8 GHz tower. Along with the replacement unit purchased on eBay, I picked up more RAM, as the 2.0 tower has more slots, and now have it maxed at 8 GB of RAM. I notice the difference in RAM the most when using Photoshop and Dreamweaver. The slight increase in processor speed really isn't noticeable.

Wandering Jew desktop Gloxinia closeup desktop

Collecting gloxinia pollenAs I was doing some photos for our Senior Gardening web site, I took a few closeups of a Wandering Jew plant that hangs in our kitchen window. When the afternoon sun shines through its leaves, it's quite a site (shown above left). But I couldn't just post the one desktop, as the next one that came up in my desktop photo rotation was my favorite, a tight crop of a gloxinia bloom. At the time I grabbed the gloxinia shot, I was writing a piece about hand pollinating gloxinia blooms and saving and later growing out the resultant seed. We used to do a lot of hand pollinating in the sixth grade science classes I taught for several years before switching to special education. The kids got to take home gloxinia plants, sometimes in bloom, usually around Mother's Day.

Both images above are available for download and use as desktops on our free Desktop Photos page.

Have a great weekend!

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