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Amazon Earth Day 2012Monday, April 16, 2012

Time to Stop Looking for the Easy Answers

An opinion piece by Dean Vogel was published last week on the Voice of San Diego, "a public-service, nonprofit news organization that focuses on in-depth and investigative reporting." Time to Stop Looking for the Easy Answers appears not to have been picked up by any of the wire services or newspaper chains, possibly because Vogel is president of the California Teachers Association, and even more likely because his views don't reflect the media's current fetish with teacher and public school bashing. But his words ring true...if folks would just get a chance to read them. Vogel begins:

Although there is general consensus that the way teachers are currently evaluated needs to change, a broad spectrum of opinions exists about the most effective, productive way to bring innovation to the process. The current system, largely based on singular and fleeting observations, provides incomplete or inaccurate portrayals of a teacher's skills and abilities. Teachers want a system that provides meaningful feedback, improves their practice, allows them to grow in the profession and ultimately enhances student learning. What they do not want — most importantly because it is detrimental to overall student achievement, and also because it is not conducive to their own development as professional educators — is a system based on the belief that the best way to determine teacher effectiveness is by looking only at students' standardized test scores.

Maybe if teachers around the country sent the URL for the story to their local newspaper editors, word might get around.

Social Promotion

Walt Gardner has an excellent posting today, What About Social Promotion? He writes about a recent study that looked at Florida third graders who scored just above and below the cutoff point for promotion/retention. It found that "students in the third grade who were detained and given remediation did better in the short and long run than those who were promoted." Walt adds some important qualifiers to his support of mandatory retention, including:

Nevertheless, it's important to remember that the benefits of retention cited by Winters are based on the rigorous remediation provided by a mandatory summer reading camp and by highly effective teachers the following school year.

I stress the importance of early intervention in order to put an end to the extreme swings of the promotion pendulum, which have undermined taxpayer confidence in public schools.

I'd guess that many elementary educators might quibble with Walt's acceptance of this new research, as the view from the primary trenches is a whole lot different from Walt's secondary experience. Often, promised remediation somehow doesn't happen due to summer vacation plans, funding cuts, and so on. And pushing the remediation into the regular school year sounds great, but again, money and staffing often prevent such prescriptive, remedial teaching from taking place.

Mitt Romney: Clueless on Education

The title of John Wilson's Mitt Romney: Clueless on Education on Education Week pretty well tells the story. Wilson takes some pretty good swipes at Romney's stance on class size ("a ploy of the teacher unions") and an "accountability mentality that assumes his business principles can be transferred to education." But he saves his best for last with an admonition to Romney (that our President should heed as well), parents, and teachers:

I am a big believer that running for office is a journey. A candidate should listen more, pontificate less; learn more, lecture less; and evolve more, stagnate less. Mitt Romney needs more clues from educators, parents, and students. This is your time to engage in your civic duty. Our country needs you to assure the person holding the office of the President of the United States is a champion of children, educators, and public education.

Odds 'n' Ends

AnnieStyx - Edge of the Century Today's edition of Educators' News was composed with the assistance of music by Adele, Aerosmith, Bob Seger, Bruce Hornsby & The Range, The Who, and especially Styx. One of my fondest memories is of my oldest son's high school graduation where he sang the lead to Styx Show Me the Way with the school choir.

And over twenty years ago, Love at First Sight pretty well summed up my first meeting with Annie!

Love at first sight
I know that this can't be happening
No, not to someone like me
Love at first sight
So rare, and so exciting
I only hope this love we found can last

We'll celebrate our eighteenth anniversary next month.

Speaking of anniversaries, Educators' News turns eleven on Wednesday. Be sure to check back then for our Eleventh Anniversary Edition (which is about half written at this point:-).

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - Eleventh Anniversary Edition

Short of Arne nuking some poor, underperforming school, I'm going to ignore most current education news today and just post what I like.

Earth Day Photos

Last year I published some "earthy" photos from our free Desktop Photos page for Earth Day here on Educators' News. Since Earth Day falls on a weekend this year, I decided to move up sharing some of the better shots I took over the last year to this anniversary edition posting.

Indiana sunset

From Estes Park, Colorado

crocuses in yard
Pea blossoms
Ivy Geranium Blooms
At the Zoo
Wandering Jew

On the Blogs

NYC EducatorOnce again, I was considering just skipping our semi-regular On the Blogs Wednesday feature. Then I clicked into NYC Educator, who has a hilarious series of postings, some just images (that I hope he has permission to use) that brightened up my whole day. Since he and Miss Eyre will probably have made several more postings before I get this up, the ones I was laughing at were That Wacky Funster from New Jersey with The All-New Chris Christie Action Figure, Put Another Shrimp on the Barbie, and Alas (Easy Being Green, It's Not).

Sarah Wu wrote last Thursday in We Want to Cook: Chicago’s Lunch Professionals Campaign for Cooking on her Fed Up with (School) Lunch:

Yesterday 200 lunch professionals protested in front of the Chicago Board of Education demanding that real cooking be brought back to school cafeterias. They are sick of reheating frozen food and seeing it thrown away because kids don’t find it appetizing.

Adult Content Alert: Mr. Teachbad, sadly now unencumbered by a paying teaching job, lets loose with another of his all too real, but funny videos, Welcome Back From Spring Break. Teachbad makes his point about useless meetings with administrators with a lot of profanity and, hopefully, exaggeration, having his protagonist say all those things all of us would love to say to bad administrators. But there's a genuine thread of reality in the video.

History is ElementaryEHT had a good posting that I left out of last week's On the Blogs for some unknown reason. A Topic for Discussion...Handicaps and Politics talks about Franklin D. Roosevelt and the press hiding his disability and compares that with a wheelchair bound Georgia representative of the period, William D. Upshaw. It makes for an interesting read. And...I still think EHT's History is Elementary site is one of the most visually pleasing blogs I've ever encountered.

Larry Cuban shares a good piece by Daniel Willingham, Student "Learning Styles" Theory Is Bunk. I don't agree with all of Willingham's thoughts on this one (VAKT stuff), but then, I've been known to give Dr. Willingham a hard time on other subjects (see Rerun Alert: A Time to Say "Screw the Research" below). But I do think most of his ideas are pretty accurate, such as:

According to the theory, if we know what sort of a learner a child is, we can optimize his or her learning by presenting material the way that they like.

The prediction is straightforward: Kids learn better when they are taught in a way that matches their learning style than when they are taught in a way that doesn’t.

That’s a straightforward prediction.

The data are straightforward too: It doesn’t work.

Alexander Russo's Reform: Head Start "Recompete" Prompts Familiar Debate summarizes the debate over the Obama's Administration's new competitive grant structure for Head Start. Russo slips in a gem of a comment in his last paragraph, "Even if you don't care much about early childhood education it's worth tracking what's going on here because the debate is mirror for K-12 accountability efforts."

And Diane Ravitch's I Don't Understand Michelle Rhee on she and Deborah Meier's Bridging Differences blog is an informative read, as always.

Educators' News Commentary

Heinlein pigI pretty well gave up trying to influence elected officials long ago. Those folks seem to be pretty much all bought and paid for already. Every now and then I forget, write someone in or running for office, and then am reminded by their silence or sound byte responses that they're not really listening and probably are somewhat annoyed at me for "trying to teach them to sing."

BTW: I had a lot of fun and wasted a whole bunch of time creating the graphic at left. The photo comes from an old color slide of one of our best sows that I scanned into the computer several years ago. It had lots of dust spots on it, some of which had to be repaired and others that mercifully blended into the hair of the pig.

Creating the text overlay in the OS X version of TypeStyler was a learning experience, as I can't seem to make the new version work as well as the old, OS 9 version did. I also ran into one of those rare occasions when my computer's 8 gigs of RAM just wasn't enough. I had to quit out of TypeStyler, quit a bunch of other applications I had open, and relaunch TypeStyler to get it to work right. I made myself stay with the OS X version, as I spent a bunch of bucks for it and need to learn to use it properly.

Okay, getting back on subject, while I don't post many editorials anymore, I still share my view on current education issues, often with short blurbs of commentary attached to postings about something someone else has written. Since we rarely get a link from other web sites, I ran my own little carnival of best postings here on Educators' News last November. For this eleventh anniversary edition, I've updated that posting to include the best EdNews commentary from the last year.

Clipped - Snowplows and Education (April 22, 2011)

A little quote I sent our President about what teachers really do.


Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys Teachers! (April 22, 2011)

A Walt Gardner posting about the future of teaching got me going changing the title of the popular Ed Bruce/Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson country hit.

Arbor Day and the End of the News (for April) (April 29, 2011)

A story about trees planted...and cut my elementary school that turned into a tribute to a great principal.

Now What Do We Do With Him? (May 12, 2011)

I address the question of "what to do with a Democratic President who really has betrayed the teachers across the country who helped elect him..."

Thanks for all your hard work. You're fired! (June 3, 2011)

The incongruity of a photo op of President Obama (and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden) greeting NASA workers his policies have put out of work really upset me.

SuperTeacherA Few Thoughts on a Sunny Friday (June 10, 2011)

I don't have lots of answers to fixing education that are easy, as poverty is a giant problem that the "reformers" consistently want to ignore. I look back and wonder how my students survived when my first marriage was falling apart, followed by several years when I was again a bachelor and became SuperTeacher, as my faith and my classroom were about all I had to hang onto. But what about those times when we're not SuperTeacher?

I'm shocked, shocked to find that cheating has been going on there! (July 6, 2011)

Call me cynical, but I found the revelations about cheating on high stakes testing in the Atlanta Schools a bit reminiscent of a funny scene from Casablanca. (Also see the Harry Rex posting below)

A Few Words About Linda and Preparing Ones Classroom (July 15, 2011)

While lots of education "reformers" regularly denigrate teachers as part of their game plan to remake education into something run like a business, they often miss the many, many Linda's who start going the extra mile shortly after the Fourth of July and continue to do so all school year long.

What Would Harry Rex Do? (August 17, 2011)

One of my best postings went totally unnoticed by the education world. Maybe it's not popular or politically correct to say one understands (without necessarily approving) why folks have cheated on high stakes testing.

SLANT (August 23, 2011)

A strategy we used to help our special ed students...with a funny gotcha at the end.

Teaching a Natural Talent? and A Few Words About Dennis (August 29, 2011)

A column by Jay Mathews got me writing about an incredible teacher we'd miss today in the search for "the best and the brightest."

Rerun Alert - A Time to Say "Screw the Research" (September 30, 2011)

I do a little rant about a posting pooh-poohing the effects sugary treats have on kids.

The Man I Voted For (October 3, 2011)

I ran into an incredible song that describes just how I feel about our President and what he's done on education "reform," ending war, bank reform, etc.


4 H and an FFA
On a field trip to the farm
Me and friend sneek off behind
This big ol' barn
Where we uncovered a covered up
Moonshine still
And we thought we'd drink our fill
I swallered it with a smile
Brr, I run ten miles

Chug-a-lug chug-a-lug
Make you wanna holler hi-de-ho,
Burns your tummy don't you know
Chug-a-lug chug-a-lug

F.F.A. for All (November 14, 2011)

This one really doesn't have anything to do with the late Roger Miller classic, Chug-A-Lug, but it did get me started writing about the worth of ag and industrial arts classes when they're done right.

It Happens Every Year (December 5, 2011)

Things get a little crazy every year about holiday decorations in schools.

Scripted Teaching and A Little More (December 16, 2011)

A few words about scripted teaching and a cool and successful learning activity that would never fit into scripted, paced teaching.

Want a Beer with your White Castles? and A True White Castle Story (December 23, 2011)

Hey! I use non-educational filler sometimes.

More on the Tucson Mexican American Studies Program (January 9, 2012)

One of several postings I made about the unfair cancellation of Tucson's Mexican-American Studies Program.

Shame on Nick KristofTurkey of the Week (January 13, 2012)

I never thought I'd award the New York Times' outstanding columnist, Nick Kristof, this award, but I did.

The Super Bowl, Professional Football, and Union Busting (January 18, 2012)

Even the NFL's Players Association knows right-to-work laws are wrong.

A Call to Action? and Still on My Soapbox (February 17, 2012)

Deborah Meier suggests it's time for teachers to unite against the forces of corporate education "reform." I also share my disillusionment with Indiana Democrats' gubernatorial candidate.

Almost Equal in Arizona (April 4, 2012)

Not much commentary with this one, just a link to an article and an embedded video of Jon Stewart exposing a bigoted Tucson school board member.

Odds 'n' Ends

That's it for now.

I'm going to take a break from our normal Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule. After eleven years or three hundred eighty weeks (Doesn't quite match, does it?), I'm backing it down to an occasional posting when I think I have something important to write about.

Gotta take a little time,
A little time to think things over...

I'm gonna take a little time
A little time to look around me...

Foreigner - No End in Sight icon

Saturday, April 21, 2012 - You Can't Fix Stupid

I never imagined when I wrote on Wednesday that I was taking a break from our regular posting schedule that I'd be putting something up so soon. But a story out of Georgia about a principal being reassigned for showing his faculty a Ron White comedy routine as a motivational technique got me going again.

Dr. Marvin Crumbs, a first year principal at Columbus High School in Muscogee County, Georgia, showed his staff part of Ron White's You Can't Fix Stupid comedy routine to actually contradict White's theme and encourage his teachers to uplift their students learning.

Teachers complained to the county superintendent, and Combs was relieved of his duties as principal, with a replacement still to be named. Some of Crumbs' staff were apparently offended by White's use of the words "boobs," "titty," and "titties" in the routine.

The story probably would have remained just another example of narrow minded administrative overkill, but Ron White caught wind of it and appeared on CNN, criticizing the school system for their harsh punishment of Crumbs. White commented:

His entire point was that I was wrong. He believes you can fix stupid.

He was just trying to motivate these teachers to go out and give it their all and try as hard as they can to make these kids smarter...

I mean, if you don't like it, you can slap him on the wrist with a ruler, but don't take a man that holds that important a position with this school, take him completely out of the picture, because you feel like he made a slight error in judgment.

That's ridiculous. It is backwoods.

White promised a rally in support of Dr. Crumb "somewhere in the area."

Stuff Left in the "Compose" File

Star Trek Pizza CutterStar Trek Bottle OpenerHere are a couple of items you might consider when shopping for that person who seems to have everything. I ran across the Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutter and the USS Enterprise Bottle Opener on Amazon when obviously searching for something else. But the items were just off-the wall enough for me to write them down in the "compose" file that holds ideas for future postings for this site. (The file is now empty, well, almost...)

Web Hosting Deal

I noticed this morning that our web host, Hostmonster, is again offering a really good deal for new customers on web hosting this month. Every now and then, they run an offer for hosting at $3.95 per month (considerably less than we paid for our latest renewal!). The offer ends April 30.


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