Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Okay, You Tell Me What She's Saying

Here's a link the latest column from Times' editorial writer, Lynne Varner. I only had one read-thru and I'm not sure what she's saying. That everything really is all right with education? Help me out here somebody because maybe Iwas just not following her train of thought.

Also, one interesting line "Education is science-based like medicine." Again, help me out here. Medicine certainly does use science as the foundation. But when you are dealing with human beings, either in a classroom or a hospital bed, and it is an altogether different thing. If education was just a formula, I think someone would have figured it out long ago. She references the Gates as well as former Microsoftie, Scott Oki, who is on the education trail with his new book. Why haven't they figured it out? Why isn't there one urban district that has figured it all out?

Because education is hard, individual work. You are trying, in medicine and education, to put into practice something in one area of a person's life. How they choose to react to it, work with it, and all the other factors in a person's life influence the outcomes.

Again, maybe it's just me.


seattle citizen said...

Very eloquent, Melissa. Wow.

That's some fine writing.

Yes. Education, like medicine, is a mix of the empiricism of science and the humane of sociology and psychology (the softer sciences) and a wee bit o' love, compassion and patience thrown in for good measure.

Now, since there's no link, ahem, I guess I'll have to actually sort through the Times' website to find Ms. Varner's latest musings.

WV, tho, would have me sign off and dive into my nestio.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link:A healthy look at education reform.

Charlie Mas said...

I've read it through twice, and I don't detect any perspective on education or education reform. To me, this seems to be a reflection of her young child's joy at an end-of-year picnic. And I'm all for that.

wseadawg said...

She's pushing back against the Obama/Duncan/Gates reform critics by saying, "Oh Gee, it can't be that bad, can it? My kid still has time to play in the park, and he seems happy, so all is well."

Kids who worked in factories in the 1800's still played games after work, so it wasn't like they didn't have any time "to be kids" you know. What's everyone so up tight about?

Blech! Enough Puff Already. Enough!

Dorothy said...

Seems to me that she is saying we need to treat education like medicine, with scientific trials and control blind studies. So let's sign all our kids up, yes?

Even then a lot of people will argue with lots of evidence that medicine only appears to be scientific, but is actually full of decisions made in a complicated culture that isn't wholly scientific, but also relies on anecdotes and gut feelings and "common sense".

Seems to me she is also saying that even though studies show kids can and should have knowledge crammed into them early and often, (horrors! those unschoolers actively keeping knowledge from their children!) she also doesn't correct her own child when he innocently mistakes a rock for a Native artifact. So much for ensuring proper knowledge as young and as accurately as possible, eh?

End of year picnic, yup, I'm with that too Charlie. Let school be out and the real learning begin.

seattle citizen said...

No, and she wouldn't "launch into a lecture" about native tribes in the area when her kid asked...Too bad: the best teaching when comes when a kid asks a question.
But yes, I agree with wseadawg, a puff piece suggesting everythings fine, "momentous" even, with 100 billion coming! Not a word about the layoffs, the disruptions in dapartments and teams, the closures, the assignment plan... the aligned curiculum evidently tied to "performance management" (THERE'S a scientific term for ya!)

BTW, has anyone looked at the district's proposals for the new contract? Talk about change...They want the union out of the way, and I have a feeling it's gonna be one big kerfuffle come August 30...

If you can see the very last panel on my Doonesbury strip (next to "seattle citizen) you'll know how I feel.

Yes, WV, I need a riencout: there's been a deluge going on, and it seems to never stop.

Chris said...

Let me defend science from any perceived abuse...Science being hypothesis-testing and measurement. YES! The field of child development will advance for as long as I can foresee. YES, we can try new things in the classroom and assess what impact they have on our students. Science is NOT taking a yardstick that has NOT been proven worthy (standardized tests) and trying to do stuff that makes that meaningless measure go up. The first step is to define outcomes in a meaningful way. And yes, i have some suggestions, if you want them. Hint: they require tracking post-graduation.

gavroche said...

Some possible news from the meeting at McClure Middle School with Michael DeBell & Reuven Carlyle Tuesday nite: (not sure where to post this)

Tomorrow School District will announce plans to reopen Old Hay in Queen Anne, put money into refurbishing it to make it a K-5 for QA/Magnolia. (Sad news for SBOC, for whom the District never found the money to improve the building while they were there, and so much for the District's stated imperative of saving money by closing Old Hay).

DeBell said there would also be some announcement about RIFs, enrollment and school openings -- hinting at "good news."

Tomorrow the Superintendent's evaluation will also be announced or presented to the Board.

Language Arts curriculum will also be voted on or presented to the Board.

Money for Meany may also be on the agenda.

Alliance for Education has invited NCTQ to Seattle to somehow be involved in the teacher's contract negotiations. A Google search on NCTQ reveals they are a Bush-era national organization based in D.C. inspired by No Child Left Behind, and with an agenda that appears to be anti-teacher's union. They do not appear to be an objective, independent or local organization. (See: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2004/05/19/37letter.h23.html?tkn=PLZFiYu7FFYaHF%2BtpJOhkPwt4IMBcjPavT4e
Here's an excerpt: Teacher-Quality Group's Partisan Ties Obscured

To the Editor:

In response to your article describing a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality ("States Receive Poor Marks for Teacher-Quality Standards," April 21, 2004):

The report focused on "the quality of the standards [states] have set to assess whether teachers now in the classroom have adequate knowledge of subjects they teach," as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The report focused on 20 states; averaged together, the states had a D-plus, according to the report.

Your reporter wrote that the NCTQ "is a prominent backer of alternative routes to certification and helped found the controversial American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, which has produced a test that could be used for licensure."

What you failed to explain is that both the NCTQ and the ABCTE are largely creations of Bush-aligned Republican Party operatives and officeholders. "The National Council" sounds impressive, but it’s entirely self-appointed. It was created by Chester E. Finn Jr. and an array of right-wing academics and operatives. Mr. Finn served in the Reagan administration’s U.S. Department of Education and runs foundations that spend a lot of right-wing, Republican money on research and policy development designed to further Republican Party causes. (...)

Could be an interesting School Board meeting.

WenG said...

@gavroche: Thanks for posting this. This will be quite a meeting.

CPPS and the Alliance have each invited NCTQ. Didn't the district decline CPPS's offer? Is there any other unionized profession that is targeted by interest groups that invite an outside, biased party to help bust up their bargaining arm? Ostensibly, it's all for the kids, so how can you refuse without looking like a monster?

Doesn't this really say one of two things: SPS likes it when fuzzy- looking hatchet wielders do their dirty work, or SPS truly doesn't have a clue but is following a playbook with the right agenda. Close a school. Open a school. Either way, we promise we'll save money. Don't question, everything is fine. And everything we're doing is approved by a narrow faction that wants the kind of change that benefits them, not you?

I have no issue with teachers. You can have a union and still be accountable.

How much money does the Alliance, as ally of MG-J, think the district will save if they stop allowing teachers to create their curriculum and take away bargaining power? NCLB has already made entry into teaching a challenge. As for re-entry, if you stop teaching for a few years? Daunting, to say the least.

The quality or lack of starts right at the top, but I don't see the Alliance doing anything but offer praise to the top. No, I don't see how this invitation is really "for the kids."

M, thanks for posting this. You can read the Times editorial writers so I don't have to. After the Darcy Burner hit piece, I gave up.

Sahila said...

I guess I'm the proverbial broken record... but each morning when I check this blog and find another posting detailing a new or continued move by the District that's contrary to the interests of our kids, I am impelled to say it again...

People - time is marching on by, as is the implementation of all of these measures so many of us have objections to...

now we have the move on curriculum plus the NCTQ getting in on the act, invited in by the Alliance and CPPS apparently, bodies that were spoken of here somewhat positively...

When are we going to stop talking round and round in circles, get together, decide on action - at this point any kind of action would be preferable to none, I'd suggest - and DO?

The District is showing us it doesnt care how much we talk, ask, plead, testify, write...

Perhaps the only thing that will capture its attention is action...

hschinske said...

"In the middle are parents worrying that heightened academics are pushing children too hard. Rebellion is cloaked in trends such as unschooling and homework bans. These movements threaten to ignore an underpinning of education reform: hard-won brain research showing young minds capable of taking in far more than previously thought."

Huh? The people I know who are keen on homework bans in elementary school generally think their children will learn MORE if they are not held back by busywork and made to keep track of piles of paper. Same with unschooling. Seems to me it's the people who think that children absolutely must have hours of homework a day in order to learn anything are the ones who don't trust their children to be able to take in "far more than was previously thought."

Honestly, I haven't seen any evidence of truly heightened academics as a general thing. I've seen more pushing of seatwork and homework at young ages, but that's NOT THE SAME THING as teaching more academic material. I have been in the position of *begging* for higher-level work for my kids. It wasn't *more* homework and *more* paper I wanted. If anything less. I wanted them to be taught new concepts in math, or to be made to write book reports that were a little more complex than "This book is about Laura and Mary and Carrie and their Pa and Ma and their dog Jack" (and not getting a lot more interesting from there ... nonetheless it got a four, because it was long enough).

Helen Schinske

adhoc said...

Yes, I'm with Helen on this one. It's not the quantity of homework that kids get that makes a difference, it's relevance of the work that makes it meaningful and useful. In this sense, more does not equal better.

I'm not anti homework. Not at all. But if I am going to ask my kids to take time our of their afternoon/evening and put effort into homework, then I expect that homework to be relevant and engaging. That does not include piles of math worksheets drilling skills that my kid already mastered, or week after week of mundane "busy work" projects.

Charlie Mas said...

The kids need to practice their math skills at home because the class time is taken up with the inquiry work. There is no class time for them to practice their skills and get that operational competency, so they have to do that at home.