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Monday, January 30, 2012

All Over the Place Monday Posting

As I begin the first edition of our posting for today, I can tell that it's going to turn out to be one of those days where the stories are incredibly varied, and in some cases, only thinly linked to education. But how can I pass up posting a Philadelphia Inquirer story about a bill to keep bars open an extra hour to help finance schools there. Not-so-happy hour: Proposal to keep Philly bars open to benefit schools draws fire by Miriam Hill and Shaj Mathew begins:

There's nothing like drinking to a good cause, so why not let Philadelphia bars stay open until 3 a.m. to generate more tax revenue for city schools? That's the idea laid out by City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown on Thursday, a concept that immediately drew criticism.

Maybe we should call the section, Pour another tall, frosty one for education, or, If you're not drunk by 2 A.M., you're not really trying.

The Detroit Free Press's Rouge watershed: Students help search for stonefly larvae, assess river's health by Matt Helms tells of kids giving up a Saturday to hunt stonefly larvae in a local stream to test for water quality. It's the kind of human interest story I always like to feature on Monday mornings.

Ugg boot

Why it appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle, I don't know, but Pennsylvania middle school bans Ugg boots made me grin at the inventiveness of middle school students, and how we educators often end up looking foolish in trying to deal with them. The story originates from WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, and tells of a ban on Ugg and similar open top boots because students were hiding their banned cell phones in them during class. The kids can still wear their Ugg and other brand boots to and from school, but must now change to something else when they arrive at school, leaving the potential contraband carrying boots in their lockers. At $149-$220 per pair, school officials will probably get some serious grief from parents over this one.

And I really suppose I should just tell my readers to all go...well, and do what Mrs. Chili suggests on her non-censored, non-education blog, The Blue Door. (She also pens a serious education blog, A Teacher's Education.) You see, I just got an email from the "Nigeria Government/World Bank" that says they owe me and are going to transfer my "full compensation payment total sum of $250,000.00 via Western Union" soon.

Yeah, let's all go phishing today!

Digital Textbooks and a Friend in the News

Rachel PorterWhen I was doing my usual Sunday afternoon scan of about 50 newspapers, looking for great human interest stories to feature above, I ran across Sue Loughlin's Hittin' the netbooks: Schools transitioning to digital curriculum and Valley schools moving into the digital realm on the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. While reading the first story about Southwest Parke Community School's plan to provide "each student in grades 2-12 with a small, Windows-based laptop computer" and begin phasing out hardbound textbooks in favor of digital ones, I noticed several quotes from Rachel Porter, the district’s digital curriculum integration specialist. I met and worked with Rachel a number of years ago on an online, educational initiative, and was impressed with the dedicated, gutsy lady. She commented:

It's just the way these kids learn. They've never known a world without the Internet. They've never known a world without computers, smartphones and tablets. It's just what they know.

Loughlin writes that "the vision is for all teachers in the district to incorporate at least one digital component in every lesson and 'to be non-reliant on printed textbooks by the start of the 2014-15 school year.'" She also quotes Porter as saying, "Students won't be sitting at a computer all day. There are still going to be hands-on activities, labs and discussions." Students in kindergarten and first grade will have iPad learning centers, rather than individual netbooks.

Loughlin's second piece relates that in the nearby Northeast School Corporation, about 550 high school students will rent iPads next fall for the 2012-13 school year. Textbooks will still be in the classroom as a resource, but will not be assigned to students. The iPads will go home with the kids, and the district is still hashing out the policies covering their use.

And while I'm rambling about local school stuff, let me also link to Loughlin's Role Models: Parents honored for continuing education during Deming Elementary assembly. It tells of a student honor assembly at Deming Elementary School in Terre Haute, Indiana, where students received special recognition for improving grades and showing good character. That's a pretty common happening in our nation's schools, but Principal Susan Mardis, a joy to work for, also honored about a dozen Deming parents who are pursuing higher education as positive role models. Pretty cool!

Studying Trauma in Middle Schools

Jill Tucker had an excellent article in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle, Studying trauma in S.F. middle schools. She tells of the first year results of a federally financed four-year study of student exposure to trauma. The findings are staggering:

One in every 6 students surveyed in San Francisco middle schools this year experienced community violence, abuse, the death of a loved one, war or other traumatic event, putting them at risk for posttraumatic stress disorder or other trauma-related problems.

The results showed that on average five or six children in every classroom are burdened by mental, physical or emotional symptoms related to stressful events in their lives outside school, regardless of race, family income or neighborhood.

The screening was the first extensive survey of student exposure to trauma in the district, and is part of a larger scientific study by education researchers at SRI International to test the effectiveness of school-based group therapy to improve student coping skills and academic performance. About 613 incoming sixth-graders were surveyed.

Colorado Bill to Permit Parent Opt Out for Students from High Stakes Testing

Opt Out IndianaColorado Representative Judy Solano has introduced a bill in the state legislature "to give parents the freedom to decide whether their children should take standardized state tests, without it hurting their schools." The Denver Post's Yesenia Robles relates the story in Bill in Colorado legislature puts state-testing call in parents' hands without penalizing schools. The bill reflects the mission of United Opt Out National, whose web site proclaims it as "the movement to end punitive public school testing."

The opt out movement has crossed swords with the Indiana Department of Public Instruction already. Tony Bennett's legions of corporate education "reformers" have been practicing scare tactics in trying to get parents to make their children take Indiana's ISTEP+ exams, as shown by an IDOE memo that appears on the OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement Facebook site. There's also a very active OPT OUT of the State Test: Indiana Facebook page from which I "borrowed" the cool graphic at right.

If you're interested in further information on the opt out movement, check out Peggy Robertson's excellent blog, Peg with a Pen.

John Gregg Selling Out Indiana's Teachers?

On the surface, it would appear that Indiana Democratic candidate for governor, John Gregg, has sold out to the corporate education "reformers" who now threaten to destroy public education in Indiana. Gregg has accepted contributions from, and is heavily supported by Democrats for Education Reform, a group run by hedge fund operators who espouse the worst of Governor Daniels, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, President Obama, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's fatally flawed education "reform" agenda. The Common Errant carries a strongly worded letter from Doug Martin, an Indiana writer and educator, protesting Gregg's betrayal of students, parents, and teachers in the state, Betrayal Merits the Deepest Pit: John Gregg Supported by Corporate Ed Reform Funders.

I met John Gregg years ago at a scouting event he attended at the school where I taught. He was just getting into politics, and later represented our district well. After all these years, it's hard to believe he's turned on us for campaign bucks. I expected better of him.

You can let the Gregg campaign know your views at: http://www.greggforgovernor.com/contact.html. I certainly have.

Dump Duncan Petition

Dump DuncanSome folks have started a Dump Duncan petition to the President in protest of the Obama/Duncan administration's current education "reform" policies. The petition is an outgrowth of a similar Facebook page, and the text of the petition is well written.

While I don't believe for a minute that axing Arne Duncan would really improve President Obama's misguided stance on education "reform," I do think it is a necessary first step for the President in turning his efforts to improve schools towards something that will actually help students. There's no way Arne can preside over a true effort to help students and teachers after devising and supporting programs that have encouraged schools and teachers being rated on high stakes tests (which puts more dollars in the pockets of the test selling corporate "reformers"), more charter schools (often for-profit entities), and school turnaround strategies that close neighborhood schools (often in favor of, you guessed it, for-profit charter schools).

While Duncan never should have been appointed Secretary of Education in the first place, he should have been canned once the half truths and distortions of his "Chicago miracle" came to light. Mike Klonsky's The real Chicago "miracle" - Arne Duncan still has a job and George N. Schmidt's Duncan's lies tell the real story.

Teach in Florida? Go to SeaWorld Orlando for Free

The Orlando Sentinel's Dewayne Bevil had a posting last Friday that related that "SeaWorld Orlando again is offering a free 'Teacher Study Pass' that gives active and certified Florida school teachers entry to the theme park through the rest of the year." Takers for the offer need to pre-register, and bring their Florida teaching certificate, a recent pay stub, and a photo ID when they visit the park.

Odds 'n' Ends

Here are few more conventional link to educationally related stories:

Strident? Strongly worded?

Today's posting is far more politically oriented and obviously reflects many of my personal views on education "reform." When you see the array of organizations supposedly supporting school "reform" today, it's pretty scary. Parents and teachers have to put the hammer on elected officials who are being co-opted and corrupted by the many business interests that see education as simply one more market to exploit.

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March of DimesWednesday, February 1, 2012

It's a fairly slow news Wednesday here, possibly because I read a book and watched a movie with my wife last night instead of getting into my office and writing! But there are some really interesting pieces from the last few days that are definitely worth a look. David Sirota's The "education crisis" myth looks at how the media has bought in to the proposal that we don't have enough properly trained workers in the United States to hold tech and other jobs here. Diane Ravitch focuses on the President's State of the Union comment about wanting teachers to "stop teaching to the test" and his Race to the Top program that encourages such practices in Does President Obama Know What Race to the Top Is?

On the Blogs

Spock for PresidentI thought the image at left was funny. I first ran across it on NYC Educator, but I think it originated at Politifake.org.

Paul Hamilton's Google Sketchup, an Extra Special Tool for Drawing and 3D Modelling on his Free Resources from the Net for Every Learner blog takes us back to a tool both he and I have written about before, but with a twist. Hamilton highlights the free program's potential for some students on the autism spectrum and gets one started on a journey through Google's Project Spectrum. Also see:

 • Google's SketchUp Software and Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Project Spectrum Manual of Ideas for Teachers or Parents
 • Google SketchUp Blog: The strengths of autism shine in 3D by Tom Wyman

Sara Wu offers her views on the New School Lunch Regulations on her Fed Up with Lunches blog.

If you're considering publishing with Apple's new iBooks Authoricon, you might want to first read Ronnie Burt's 3 Major Problems With Apple’s Education Announcement on The Edublogger.

EHT's A Christian Nation? Be Careful What You Preach on History is Elementary provides some insights on the religious beliefs or lack thereof of some of the founding fathers.

Tom Woodward takes a somewhat humorous look at what might result if we took popular song lyrics literally in Police Beat on his Bionic Teaching blog.

Mandy Bellm's A teacher manifesto worth 2 minutes to read, and 20 hours of thought on her Zombie Math Teacher blog led me to David Reber's In what other profession... Reber, who apparently took a bit of a verbal beating after writing a letter to the editor of his local paper, compares the demands placed on educators with other professions in a way that highlights the unfairness of what is currently expected of teachers. Bellm wisely asks in her posting, "Why did politicians decide to start scapegoating teachers for the systemic problems facing education today?"

Odds 'n' Ends

Habitat for Humanity Web banners: Get Involved

Save 40% on Anti-Valentine's Day cards at CafePresFriday, February 3, 2012

On Digital Textbooks

With Apple's recent announcement on digital textbooks, Feds' challenge to schools: Embrace digital textbooks is a timely read. It not only covers the recent announcement from the Department of Education, but also gives some perspective, although from an obviously biased point of view, about the move to digital texts. There are also lots of links to relevant articles on the subject.

Town Hall on Hispanic Education

Even though it remains on my RSS reader, I don't often look at the listings from the U.S. Department of Education's RSS feed. I think it has something to do with a gag reflex. But I took a look last night and found that we're all invited to Join Arne for a Twitter Town Hall on Hispanic Education. The posting notes that "Twitter users can ask questions in advance and during the town hall by using the hashtag #HispanicED."

Wonder if anyone will bring up the quashed Tucson Mexican American Studies program?

Embracing Grace

I was a bit circumspect in my comments on Monday about Rachel Porter, as I didn't want to share anything that would reveal personal information or bring back painful memories for her. But I heard from Rachel this week, and being who she is, she has shared her story of losing a child during intrauterine fetal surgery as a possible source of comfort, strength, and healing for others who encounter similar tragedies. Her site is: Embracing Grace: Coping with the loss of an infant (or trying to understand someone who is).

Odds 'n' Ends

Super Bowl Notes

Living almost a hundred miles from Indianapolis, you might think our quiet area in Indiana wouldn't be affected much by Sunday's Super Bowl in Indianapolis. But past experience with the Indy 500, the NCAA Final Four in basketball, and the like have shown us that unless you have tickets or a really powerful reason to head north, it's a good weekend to just stay home.

Just thirty miles to the north and straddling I-70, Terre Haute often experiences a strong upswing in traffic and business when major events come to Indy. Hulman International Airport on the east side of Terre Haute is expecting 200-300 arrivals this weekend for the Super Bowl. Airport officials are even hosting a party Sunday for the pilots, who apparently don't get to go to the game with their corporate masters. Area hotels and restaurants will be jammed all weekend.

Hometown hero Steve Weatherford has dominated stories in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star this week after bringing along a couple Giants teammates to visit his alma mater, Terre Haute North High School:

Indianapolis, having narrowly hid the last of its dirty laundry with Governor Daniels' quick signing of the union busting Right to Work (for less) legislation, is going nuts with all the attention it is receiving. An Evansville Courier & Press editorial, Teaching creationism belongs in history, lit classes, not science, comments on Republican legislators' efforts after trashing Indiana's schools and teachers last year and labor unions this year to replace science in the state with creationism.

The Indy Star has kept a daily log all week of what the press is saying about Indy. The Huffington Post's Indy gets dose of star power with Super Bowl relates all the celebs in or coming to the Super Bowl. Almost lost in the shuffle, Peyton Manning's surgeon cleared him "to return to the NFL in 2012 during a postoperative visit Wednesday," but the Colts are said to still have "serious concerns about his long-term health. Even with Dr. Watkins' latest evaluation, it's possible Manning won't pass a Colts-administered physical at the proper time."

Common Sense Media has a good, related posting with Sex, Beer, and the Super Bowl: Are Your Kids Watching?

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the big game!

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