Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Chance to Stand Up for What is Great in Our Country

I stand with the journalists at the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and hundreds of other media outlets in saying that the press is not the "enemy of the people" and a free and open press is what has kept this country going as a beacon of democracy.

That the person in the White House - who has always been something of a media whore so this stance seems puzzling - tries, over and over, to whip up anger at the media to the point of people at his rallies threatening reporters personally is shocking.

The basic message that Trump fails to hear - Don't shoot the messenger.

What else is great in our country?  The amazing artists it has produced and today we lost one of them - the great Aretha Franklin.  (She should be part of any history in this country including the fact that her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, was a friend and huge supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr.)

My late husband and I loved the Blues Brothers and Franklin stole the show in her section.  But this is her greatest performance at the Kennedy Center Honors, singing Natural Woman, to its writer, honoree Carole King.

May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

What Would You Call It?

Districts generally require employees who make final decisions on the use of taxpayer dollars to businesses to have on file disclosures about any other sources of income or connections to businesses that work with that district.  

But there is evidence that the line between some school districts' senior employees is getting blurry and it's downright murky in other ways.  

To wit, the story of Dallas Dance, former superintendent of Baltimore County Schools who was sentenced to six months in jail for perjury for not being honest about all his income sources. 

From the Baltimore Sun:

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tuesday Open Thread

 New rules for districts on student discipline from OSPI.
In the 2016–17 school year, 3.5 percent of all students in the state were suspended or expelled. However, the rates of discipline were much higher than the average for certain groups of students. Among students receiving special education services, the percentage was 7.1 percent. For Black/African American students, the percentage was 7.4 percent, and for Hispanic/Latino students, the rate was 4.1 percent.

The Washington State Legislature passed a law in 2016 that aimed to help close opportunity gaps in learning. The passage of the bill pushed OSPI to update the student discipline rules that had been on the books since the 1970s. In rewriting the outdated rules, the agency gathered feedback from families, students, educators, and community members through three public comment periods and eight public hearings.
The biggest takeaway I see from these new rules is to sharply curtail discipline that would exclude a child from class.

Interesting - all of Puerto Rico's schools are going charter (a la New Orleans) and allowing vouchers.  Meanwhile there are stories of missing teachers and large class sizes.  One-fourth of schools are to be closed because of issues around Hurricane Maria.

A sad story from NPR about a teacher grant program started in the George W. Bush administration to encourage teachers to work in high-needs teaching like math and science.  Somehow, during the latter part of Obama's administration, some of these grants got converted to loans.  Imagine getting an expensive gift and then being told later on that you need to pay for it.  DeVos' Ed Department has not done much to help. 
The U.S. Department of Education is in the midst of a top-to-bottom review of a troubled federal grant program for public school teachers. The effort follows reporting by NPR that found many teachers had their grants unfairly converted to loans, leaving some with more than $20,000 in debt. In June, 19 U.S. senators signed a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, citing NPR's reporting and saying "it is urgent that these mistakes are fixed."
Now, documents obtained by NPR reveal that a previously unreported plan to fix the program was problematic from the start and did nothing for the vast majority of people involved.
Also from NPR, advice from a teacher on how to make civics lessons stick (and one tip is an oldie but a goodie):

1) start young (and high school is probably late)
"It is kind of hard to make students grasp the idea that, 'Oh, there's still greater community beyond what you had in school.' That's the baseline of a civic education. This is our community of our country."
2)  Be inclusive.
"What's happening is the affluent communities — political elites — are getting a good civics education," Charles Quigley says. "This is contributing to the empowerment gap."
I'll just add that in many well-off, better educated families, there tends to be more talk about politics and the state of the world.  If that discussion isn't happening at home, it needs to happen all the more in school.

3. Create a civic lab for learning.
"You'd never have a biology class without having a lab," says Louise DubĂ©, executive director of iCivics. "Kids must know, they must learn, they must evaluate, they must have the skills — but they must also do."
It's hard to get his students to connect with what's happening in Washington, so Heuston focuses on local issues like curfew laws and marijuana policy. Then, when national issues come up, his students know how to ground their opinions in facts. 
4. Question everything (the oldie but goodie)
Amy Raper encourages students to do just that. She's an eighth grade social studies teacher in Pheonix, and says, "These kids think, 'Oh, Kanye West says this so it must be true.' I'm like, 'Guys, you have to look at everything. Facebook and social media cannot be your only way of finding knowledge.' " 
 What's on your mind?

Monday, August 13, 2018

On Teachers

So great to know that Vedder understands the value of teachers.
Image may contain: 1 person, text

Let's see who else does:

- Jay Z from a Washington Post story
Before he was rap mogul Jay-Z, and before he was a teenage drug dealer, he was Shawn Carter — a quiet, withdrawn kid who read far beyond his grade level and was grappling with the trying circumstances of growing up fatherless and poor in New York’s Marcy Projects.

As the rapper tells it, in grade school, he found something of an escape in language. He’s mentioned this in interviews throughout his career, most recently telling David Letterman, “I had a sixth-grade teacher. Her name was Ms. Lowden, and I just loved the class so much. Like reading the dictionary, and my love of words — I just connected with her.”
The Seattle Education Association will be having their event this week as contract negotiations continue.  It's a rally at JSCEE on Wednesday, August 15th at 4pm.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Hey Kids, Want to Open a School?

Basketball superstar LeBron James is partnering with Akron Public Schools to open a public school in that district, the "I Promise School".  It opened on July 31st.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Open Thread

From Ready Washington, a survey about the High School & Beyond Plan for high school students.   This is not a coalition I entirely trust - they lean a little ed reform for me - but sign up if you think it will help your understanding about this issue.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Arne Duncan's New Book

Duncan's book is called (and it's a mouthful as he seems to want to give himself a pat on the back) -
How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation's Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education.  It's a long title for a book from for a guy who's been in education work for decades and it clocks in at  just over 250 pages.  The book was released on Tuesday, August 7th but has already generated much discussion (I have not read it yet). 

He starts out this way:

 “Education runs on lies. That’s probably not what you’d expect from a former Secretary of Education, but it’s the truth.”

I think that's pretty harsh but perhaps not entirely untruthful.  The reviews have been decidedly mixed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Wednesday Open Thread

Back from a great vacation break and lots to catch up on.

First, let's look at the district schedule for this week.  There's one big item that jumps right out happening today:

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

New Orleans "Miracle"? Let's Look at ALL the Facts

The New York Times had a two-part op-ed series on the changes forced on New Orleans and their Orleans Parish Schools because of Katrina.  Both were written by David Leonhardt.  Mr. Leonhardt states that he is going to talk about the good and the bad of what happened in New Orleans but rather than do that, he makes excuses about anything negative, hypes up the good and leaves out quite a lot of the bad.

I know you're thinking, "Why should I care about New Orleans and/or charter schools?"  I say it's important to keep up with the landscape of public education across the country because issues tend to land.  As I noted in the Tuesday Open Thread, I believe that the WA Supreme Court is likely to uphold the latest version of the charter school law (and I doubt they will rule this year and certainly won't - as they did last time - right before school starts).

A few quick updates before exploring the "New Orleans miracle."

Tuesday Open Thread

Blog note: I will be taking a bit of a hiatus and so the blog will go into quiet mode.

Boy, do I like this: one soccer ref for school-aged kids has had enough and has a Facebook page where he logs terrible/outrageous behavior by parents at games.  From the NY Times:

Monday, July 23, 2018

My Interview with Superintendent Denise Juneau

I was granted a 30-minute interview with new superintendent, Denise Juneau, on July 16th.  She seemed in very good spirits.  Juneau has a winning way where she neither comes off as know-it-all or gladhander.  I see a quiet strength but we'll have to see if she uses it. I hope my first impression holds true.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Open Thread

Private school report from Education Next tells us (bold mine):
  • Private nonsectarian elementary schools serve a small percentage of the nation’s students, but a growing share of high-income students. Just 1 percent of middle-income students enrolled in those schools in 1969, and the percentage grew slightly to between 1 and 2 percent in 2011. But the enrollment rate among high-income families grew from 2 percent in 1969 to 6 percent in 2011.