Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday Open Thread

Lots to report.

First up, a report on a shortage of EpiPens.  This comes back-to-back with this report from NBC News about a generic finally being available given the cost that has sharply risen over the last couple of years.

Next, I attended the August meeting of the Washington Charter Commission.  As usual, it was interesting and I'll have a separate report.  They did state that one of the newest charter schools,Willow Charter School in Walla Walla, opened on Monday.  That's early.   This leads me to another story about more school districts, in Washington and nationally, going to a 4-day school week.

Naturally, this is about money because districts can save money by eliminating a full day.  (Some add on more time to the four days and/or have on-line learning happen at home.  Yes, I know; this begs the question about when kids don't have that ability to learn online at home.)  Some include childcare but others don't.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal urges patience on McCleary funding and its outcomes especially around teacher contracts. From My Northwest:
“Be patient out there with your school districts, they’re all going through a very new finance system,” he said. “Every single district, for the first time in our state, has to collectively bargain at the exact same time. Normally, it’s about one out of every three or four districts every year. It’s everybody right now because of the new finance system.”

“And districts were treated very differently, ” Reykdal said. “There are some contracts that are coming out and really significant increases for teachers and the districts have resources. There are other districts who just simply didn’t get that kind of resource and it’s going to get a little bit tense over the next couple weeks as that becomes a reality.”

Reykdal is already pushing the Legislature for a levy fix this next session.
In the meantime, the disparity continues with teacher contracts with districts like Edmonds and Bellevue giving teachers double digit pay raises, while Seattle warns it may need to cut staff.
Speaking of back-to-school, a good article entitled, Ten Questions Parents Should Ask Before School Starts. What do you think of them?  I would add: 11) Will my child's teacher tell me what online activities my child gets signed up for and can I opt out and how is my student data privacy protected?  12) Is the building itself safe (from either outside attack or natural disaster)?
  1. What’s the best thing my child is going to read this year?
  2. What one value is at the heart of our school’s culture, and how does that show up on a daily 
  3. On a typical day, how much time will be spent on morning announcements, attendance-taking, and standing in lines?
  4. How will you know if my child is bored to tears and, if that happens, what’s your usual response?
  5. What’s the one paper, project, or unit that I should really expect my student to come home excited about?
  6. In the typical month, how many hours will be devoted to tests and test preparation?
  7. What was the most serious disciplinary issue at school last year, and how was it addressed?
  8. How frequently should I expect to hear updates about how my child is doing?
  9. If I email with a question or concern, how quickly should I expect to hear back?
  10. What’s the most important thing I can do to help my child be academically successful this year?
In election news, a judge has okayed an initiative to be on the ballot in Arizona to tax the wealthy for public education. 

Update on immigrant children in detention; unacceptable:
  • 2,654 total kids separated
  • 565 still separated, 24 are 0-5 years old
  • Parents of 366 are already deported
What's on your mind?

Women in STEM? Don't Count Them Out

A great essay by UW's Computer Science and Engineering's Professor Anna Carlin, in reply to another essay by Stuart Reges, Why Women Don't Code."  It's worthy reading.

I see absolutely no reason to believe we have reached some sort of ceiling in the CS participation of women, because there are so many varied, complex and dynamic factors that affect whether a student studies CS. These factors include parental encouragement, pressure and expectations; socioeconomic factors; existence of role models; access to technology and exposure to programming at an early age; the quality of K-12 education; the culture of the field; self-confidence; gender norms; knowledge of what CS is; the impact technology is having on the economic, scientific and social aspects of our society; and the tyranny of low expectations.

Reges himself notes that 50% of the “women in our undergraduate major are `interest changers,’ which means they weren’t intending to apply to the major when they started our first course. For men the figure is closer to 20%, so there is a big gender gap.” In other words, a much larger percentage of women drawn to the field discover their interest in CS when they take their first CS course in college. This is consistent with my belief that significantly fewer girls than boys learn about programming or CS before college.

In fact, many students come to college having a total misconception about CS. Some of them have been playing video games their whole lives and think that this is what CS is about; others imagine themselves getting rich by becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg. These types of motivations for studying CS in college attract some students but leave others cold. It is incumbent upon us, the educators at every level, to reach out to these latter students, to expose the intellectual depth of the field and to convey the excitement that comes from solving a complex programming challenge.

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:

Monday, August 13, 2018

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: