Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Power of Demographics

The Enquirer - Waldorf School teaching by arts:

While Ohio requires that kindergartners in public school be "reading ready" by first grade, Waldorf lets youngsters learn to read at their own pace, even if it takes until third grade.


"School is not so much about learning factual information," she said. "It's about how you figure out how to learn and make good decisions, how you conceptualize and imagine."
School Demographics

White, non-Hispanic 87%
Black, non-Hispanic 10%
Asian or Pacific Islander 3%
Rich white people trip me out.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jim Rex, superintendent of education

Brad Warthen's Blog: Jim Rex, superintendent of education

I listened to the debate. I have read their platforms. I have made my decision.

UC would admit 'broader swath' of students under proposal

MercuryNews.com 10/27/2006 UC would admit 'broader swath' of students under proposal

Colleges are constantly tweaking their entrant requirements to broaden diversity. At first they tried this:

Signed into law by Gov. Pat Brown in 1960, California's master plan of college eligibility guarantees a spot at UC for the top 12.5 percent of the state's high school graduates, who are ranked by test scores and GPAs earned in UC-approved college prep courses.
But that only made things worse:

But that approach has widened the ``achievement gap'' in the increasingly diverse state. Access to UC for many racial and ethnic minorities and for students at ``disadvantaged high schools,'' as defined by socioeconomics or geography, is consistently low.
Now they want to try this:

The recommendation means that a student with a C+ (2.75 GPA) average, who was likely to be shut out under the old system, would now be eligible to have their application reviewed -- giving them the opportunity to list leadership positions, jobs or ways in which they have triumphed over adversity. Low SAT scores, while still considered, would not close the door..

Of course it will be hard for the poor rich and middleclass kids to show that they triumphed over adversity when they had the misfortune to be born to parents with a college degree.

Sooner or later someone is going to propose to simply make college entrance a lottery system, which is the only way they will ensure balanced racial and geographic diversity. Of course this would only ensure that their entering Freshman class is balanced. In conjunction with the lottery, they would probably need to eliminate other hinderances to diversity such as grades. To account for the dismal graduation rates of minorities, they should eliminate the outdated requirement for a high school diploma. Instead just open up the lottery system to the entire population of California.

Of course instead, the UC system could throw their considerable influence around to help fix the current K-12 education system which disproportionately fails disadvantaged populations.

Its ironic that the same systems that decry the number of students who need remedial classes in math and english also continually try and find ways to lower the bar. Sometimes it seems like the whole education system has become a vicious circle.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Its Over!

Soccer season is finally over so we can return to our normal after school routine, and I can resume my extra-curricular tutoring. We also got our first report cards so I also know more specifically where I need to direct my efforts.

1st Grader - she got all proficients on her report card, but we disagree. We are not at all happy with her reading skills and are going to concentrate on phonics. We don't yet have a organized method of doing this, but are looking into several programs. Right now we just attack each word, one at a time.

3rd Grade Girl - Her only C was in reading. She is already getting after school tutoring and her reading has made some great strides. We are going to have her preform more out loud reading to us so we can monitor her progress. We are also going to work on her multiplication times tables. She is pretty good in math, but we want her to make sure that she is ahead of the power curve. We believe that multiplication facts are the key to almost everything at this level of math.

3rd Grade Boy - His lowest grade was in health which makes it hard for us to help him, since we have he hardly has any health homework. We will be more proactive about the subject. One thing that he could really use is some organizations skills... he really is a scatter brain.

6th Grade Girl - Our hardest worker. Math was her worst grade, but we have pegged it to a lack of mastery of the multiplication tables. We are continuing to work with her on this, because it will help her division and factoring skills. In reading she is way above grade level and is quite the book worm.

10th Grader -What a challenge she is. We recently pulled her off the cheerleading squad, because she 1. got caught smoking as school and 2. slacked off slightly in her English class. She is perhaps the most frustrating since her standardized scores are WAY above average. She, like me as a teenager, has a lazy streak. I wish I had parents like me when I was that age, because my life would of turned out a lot different. As long as we stay on her she will excel, but if we blink... then its back to mediocre. Hopefully, with several more years of nagging, she will internalize good work habits.

After spending two to three hours a night at the soccer fields, it is such a relief to have time at home for the little things. We were eating take out almost every night, but now we have to get back into the routine of cooking.

Closing the Gap, Child by Child - washingtonpost.com

Closing the Gap, Child by Child - washingtonpost.com

In 2004, Gates, the principal, was stunned by scores showing that just two-fifths of his black students had passed the state reading test, compared with three-fourths of his white students.

Even before that year, the school had sought to raise minority student performance. (Scores among Hispanics at the school and others in the county were also a problem.) Hollin Meadows offered after-school tutoring and recruited volunteers to mentor selected students. Gates said the school had energetic teachers. But it wasn't enough.

In retrospect, Gates blamed a tendency to "teach to the middle." He said lessons too often were aimed toward the majority and were not tailored enough to individual students. So teachers generally would march through the curriculum on the assumption that students would either learn the material or eventually catch up.

For most children, that approach worked. But in an increasingly diverse school, some fell through the cracks. "We had kids coming in with different needs, and we didn't say, 'We have to meet you where you are at,' " Gates said.
Why did it take NCLB to force educators to acknowledge what school reformists have been telling them for decades?

Ladson-Billings cited an elementary school in Madison where black students trailed white students. She found that some basic lessons -- such as learning sounds that correspond with letters -- went untaught.

"What teachers said to us is, 'We don't actually teach that,' " Ladson-Billings said. "Most middle-class kids were learning that at home."

Well duh! I know that many teachers and educators have their own kids. Is there some sort of disconnect between what they observe at home and what they do in the classrooms?

Educator's need to come over to my house someday and see what I have to supplement. I spend my afternoons teaching multiplication tables, factoring, algebra, phonics, history, and just about every other subject that should be taught at home. Somehow I manage to teach all these subjects to my five school age kids is a very limited amount of time. Is it too much to ask the teachers to do it at school?

Next leader of L.A. school district vows to remove 'bad teachers' - Los Angeles Times

Next leader of L.A. school district vows to remove 'bad teachers' - Los Angeles Times

"It's called the right teacher in the right classroom in the right school…. Some people do not belong in the classroom, OK? They don't belong there. We're gonna get them out. The question is how is the system going to react to the way we get them out."

I am assuming that all you education junkies are keeping up with the soap opera that is the LAUSD.

I have to wonder if Mr. Brewer (the new LAUSD school chief and former military office) is going to be more than the LAUSD Board of Education bargained for when they hired him.

Now if Major Villaraigosa can managed to shirk the United Teacher's Los Angeles union's influence, perhaps the LAUSD will have a chance.

Charters hurting IPS | IndyStar.com

White: Charters hurting IPS IndyStar.com

Got to love this story; charter schools doing exactly what they are intended to do... forcing a the Indianapolis Public Schools to improve, look outside the box, and compete.

A break in launching new charter schools, White said, would give IPS time to stabilize its enrollment and draw students to new academies and magnet schools. Those are among a wave of reforms and initiatives launched by White since he became superintendent in 2005.

Those improvements are coming, charter school advocates said, only because of the competition from charter schools and the alternatives they offer to parents.

"The very reason IPS is doing what they're doing is in response to these new choices at charter schools," said Kevin Teasley, who oversees two Indianapolis charter schools as president of the GEO Foundation. "I just hate to limit those choices. It's shortsighted and doesn't take into account the forces of the market."

Now the IPS is asking for a time out, a delay in opening more charter schools to help them fully implement their reforms. It's not like they have the last 100 years to reform is it now? Its hard for me to feel sorry for the IPS when there are successful school models out there (thanks to Charter Schools) that they can adopt to improve their system. It may be painful, but I have no doubt that they will find their way.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sara Comes Around

As I noted a few weeks ago, Sara from the Quick and the Ed seemed to be against single sex education:

Its been fascinating--and disappointing--to me to see how conservatives, who are generally skeptical of conferring victim status, and critical of untested new educational ideas, seem to embrace both so uncritically when the "victims" are boys and the education "innovations" include single sex schools and implementing gender stereotypes in the classroom.

And here:

Educators, parents, and policymakers should therefore be skeptical of simplistic proposals aimed at fixing the boy crisis, such as expanding single-sex schooling, implementing gender-based instructional techniques, or funding new federal programs aimed at improving boys’ achievement.

But in her latest post she says:

...believe in giving children and their families more educational choices, and I think the bar for excluding an entire category of choices (such as single-sex schools) ought to be quite high, and that critics of single-sex education haven't met it yet.
Its what I have been saying for a while:

Any single sex education program in the country should be optional and benefit both genders.
Of course she doesn't come around completely... she is still skeptical about the application of gender differences to education, of course I am guessing that she doesn't have children or any long term experience in a classroom... but we hold out hope. The first step is always the hardest.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Educating School Teachers

Via Edspresso, I just read this report on Educating School Teachers.

Frankly, it is too depressing to quote, but can be summed up as saying that our current system of educating teachers leaves a lot to be desired.

I have seriously been considering a second career in education after I retire from the Air Force in a few years, but reading this report certainly makes it a tough decision.

-- deleted paragraph --

While Teachers unions fight against merit pay, I myself would prefer it. Of course I have never been accused of being modest, and have a competitive nature that would love the challenge of proving myself in a way that would allow me to see concrete results for any effort or skill I put into a job. I wonder how many other potential teachers there are out there like me; intelligent, hardworking, and looking for a challenge, but staying away from a job that doesn't provide any concrete feedback or award for accomplishments.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Homework assignment stolen from Instructivist.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Carolina School for Inquiry - Takedown

Carolina School for Inquiry

Lets take a closer look at this new charter school, the Carolina School for Inquiry. First of all, here is a bit of history from this article in The State.

When a group of Columbia parents considered expanding a popular private preschool and kindergarten program, they lit on the idea of a charter school. At first, they considered a partnership between the nonprofit Harmony School and a newly formed charter school.

"We realized you can't have a private board interfere with a public board and vice versa," said Jeannie Eidson, a Harmony parent and Carolina School planning committee member.

Plus, parents don't want anything to endanger Harmony's stellar program, Mandrell said. So the parents began planning a charter school separate from Harmony but based on its beliefs.
So many mistakes begin with the best of intentions. Poor rich people… a misguided set of parents who loved their private “inquiry learning” preschool and kindergarten, decided to create their own charter school based on the principle. I am sure they were a bit upset to learn that as a charter school they had to open up enrollment to the surrounding poor minority community. Of course I have no doubt they convinced themselves that “inquiry” based learning will work for everyone, and not just their high SES kids.

Of course, the private Harmony School knew that it might not be a good idea. From another article in The State:

Eventually, though, it became clear that yielding control of the charter school to a parent and employee-run governing board, which is required by law, was a bit risky for the intimate Harmony community, said Deborah Holmes, school director. "We don't know what conflicts could possibly happen," she said.
Gee whiz, what possible conflict could happen when you try and use an unstructured curriculum with poor urban kids… perhaps anarchy?

But not to be deterred, the Carolina School for Inquiry pressed on and opened its doors this year.

Now let’s see what sort curriculum they use at this new school. You guys are lucky that I love you, but I had to read through this drivel to extract some key points.

Unfortunately, our traditional educational system has worked in a way that discourages the natural process of inquiry. Students become less prone to ask questions as they move through the grade levels. In traditional schools, students learn not to ask too many questions, instead to listen and repeat the expected answers.
Straight away we can see where this is heading, anyone want to bet that they eventually say something to the effect that facts are over rated because they can change, and its more important to know how to learn.

Memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today's world. Facts change, and information is readily available -- what's needed is an understanding of how to get and make sense of the mass of data.
Damn I am good, so basically inquiry learning is constructivism on steroids.

Unfortunately, the website doesn’t let us know what reading/ELA curriculum they are going to use, but we can make an educated guess based on their math curriculum, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space.

Among their many hair brained idea’s.

They choose from a variety of concrete materials and appropriate technology, including
calculators, as a natural part of their everyday mathematical work.
That’s it; forget the multiplication tables, because they can just use calculators.

They find more than one solution to many of the problems they work on
Someone explain to them that while there may be more than one “method” for solving a problem, there is only one correct “solution” to any given math problem (K-12 math that is), and that some methods are more effective than others.

They express their mathematical thinking through drawing, writing, and talking
Of course they do, because you know actually doing math in math class is sooooo overrated.

They move around the classroom as they explore the mathematics in their environment and talk with their peers
Wouldn’t want the kids to get bored sitting at their desks learning.

In Investigations, homework is a vehicle for connecting school mathematics with students’ everyday lives. Homework is an extension of classroom work. Students are asked to work on problems that extend and solidify their mathematical understanding. Sometimes homework offers review and practice of work done in class, sometimes preparation for upcoming activities, and sometimes numerical practice that revisits work from earlier units.
The real secret to Investigations… send home homework so that the parents can teach their kids what they should of learned at school. Great for high SES kids, but a disaster for low SES working parents.

I think Mathematically Correct best sum’s it up:

There is nothing to recommend about this program. The use of this program in our public schools is a strong argument for vouchers.
Unfortunately, since this school just opened, we won’t get any test results for at least a year, but somehow I have a feeling that it won’t be pretty. Unfortunately, charter schools like this will only serve to give successful charter schools a bad reputation. Perhaps the kindest thing I can say about this charter school is that its an option and not the only choice that parents have.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Stand and Deliver

Via Edspresso, I came across this article by Jesse Jesness on Jamie Escalante of Stand and Deliver fame.

While it’s a great article that tells the story of how administrators and bureaucrats effectively destroyed Jamie’s AP calculus program at Garfield H.S. in East Los Angels, I did detect one misconception.

In the article, Jesse writes the following:

Whether the administration will take it is another question. We are being primed for another round of "education reform." One-size-fits-all standardized tests are driving curricula, and top-down reforms are mandating lockstep procedures for classroom instructors. These steps might help make dismal teachers into mediocre ones, but what will they do to brilliant mavericks like Escalante?
insinuating that standardized tests limit the creativity of effective teachers, which is a common argument by the anti-NCLB crowd. Jesse misses one point… that he himself addressed earlier in the article.
Escalante’s students surprised the nation in 1982, when 18 of them passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam. The Educational Testing Service found the scores suspect and asked 14 of the passing students to take the test again. Twelve agreed to do so (the other two decided they didn’t need the credit for college), and all 12 did well enough to have their scores reinstated.

In the ensuing years, Escalante’s calculus program grew phenomenally. In 1983 both enrollment in his class and the number of students passing the A.P. calculus test more than doubled, with 33 taking the exam and 30 passing it. In 1987, 73 passed the test, and another 12 passed a more advanced version ("BC") usually given after the second year of calculus.
Emphasis mine. Notice the common theme? Jamie Escalante’s whole program was geared around teaching his kids to pass a standardized test. Testing does not and should not be deterrence to outstanding teachers; instead it should serve as a measurement stick for successful teachers to use to judge their performance.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Parentalcation's readability scores:

readability grades:
Kincaid: 7.4
ARI: 8.0
Coleman-Liau: 10.2
Flesch Index: 72.9
Fog Index: 10.5
Lix: 37.8 = school year 5
SMOG-Grading: 9.8

sentence info:
10872 characters
2464 words, average length 4.41 characters = 1.38 syllables
142 sentences, average length 17.4 words
40% (58) short sentences (at most 12 words)
16% (24) long sentences (at least 27 words)
21 paragraphs, average length 6.8 sentences
2% (4) questions
38% (55) passive sentences
longest sent 53 wds at sent 42; shortest sent 1 wds at sent 83

word usage:
verb types:
to be (78)
auxiliary (44)
types as % of total:
conjunctions 5(111)
pronouns 12(305)
prepositions 12(284)
nominalizations 2(55)

sentence beginnings:
pronoun (39)
interrogative pronoun (3)
article (8)
subordinating conjunction (5)
conjunction (2)
preposition (9)

Well its better than I thought. It appears I write at about a 10th grade level. According to the website, I should be aiming for an 8th grade level if I want to reach the general public.

Note: Sarcasm intended for last sentence. I always thought it was funny that we send kids through 12 -13 years of school with the intension of getting them all to read at the 8th grade level.

TAG: What a waste of time!

My son's Talented and Gifted program is a waste of time. My son's TAG teacher (the art major) called complaining that my son doesn't seem to be engaged in the class. Of course he doesn't, the program is a pull out model that only meets for 3 hours once a week. The teacher told me that my son doesn't seem to be up to speed on his Latin root words that he is learning and seems to be lost in class. I had to remind her that he has been diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, which means that he has problems processing information and instructions. I also reminded her that he was identified for the program because of his "math" skills and not because of his verbal skills (he is low average). I asked her what math she was teaching in the class... and she fed me some BS answer about decimal placement and fractions (obviously made up on the spot). Well duh... that’s what they are doing in his regular class. It doesn't take a genius to see that if they can't effectively teach concepts whether its math or latin if the kids are only being exposed to it once a week. I am so seriously considering pulling him out of the program. If he was struggling in reading or math he would get after school tutoring, direct instruction and all sorts of extra stuff, but because he is only "advanced" they put him in this class that pays lip service to education. Well let the other kids waste their time learning through "art" projects, I can and do teach him more by tutoring him for around 15 to 30 minutes a day once or twice a week. If I was rich or in an affluent district, he would be an accelerated math class every day... but no. My low rent school district ignores the needs of its strongest students because they are more worried about improving their "failing" students, which by the way are "failing" because of they don't use the most effective teaching methods.

Can you tell I'm a little pissed off?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Achievement First: Would it work in a rural area?

This morning I came across the Achievement First Charter School website. Not only does Achievement First appear to be highly successful, they have an excellent website that breaks down their philosophy, curriculum, expectations, and methods. One of the most interesting pages I came across was their "12 Lessons about School Reform". Here they are:

1. "These kids" CAN Learn
2. Leadership Matters - Mightily
3. Teachers Are More Important Than Curricula...
4. ...But Some Curricular Are Better Than Others
5. "Mere Mortals" Not "Superhumans"
6. An Unwavering Focus on Student Achievement
7. Interim Assessments and the Strategic Use of Data
8. One Hundred 1% Solutions
9. Serve ALL Urban Kids
10. Sweat the Small Stuff
11. Fidelity to a Clear, Consistent Model
12. Flywheel v. Doom Loop

I would love to see whether this model would work in the poor rural areas of South Carolina. Most charter school systems have targeted urban areas, since there is more money to be made there. It would be more difficult to attract the quality of teachers to rural areas, and their money per student is a lot less than urban districts, but if these charter school systems are truly out to prove that their methods work universally then the "corridor of shame" is the place to do it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Career Choices

More and more, I have been considering going in to education after my retirement from the AF in 3 years.

After my retirement, my plan is to use my GI Bill to finish up my Bachelors degree at the University of South Carolina. For a year now, while I have been knocking out general education classes, I have been trying to decide what to get a degree in. Mechanical engineering would be the obvious choice since it’s closely related to what I do now, but I still haven't made up my mind. I have also debated getting a degree in Math, but I am also interested in Education.

I wouldn't mind being a teacher, but seriously, I don't know if I could take the pay cut. Lately, I have been considering aiming for a degree in education psychology or research. I read so much about education theory as it is, I figured I might as well get credit for it. Perhaps I could teach for a few years and then move into administration... reform from the inside. Of course, if I did go into education, I know I would have trouble keeping my opinions to myself during all the education classes.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Advice for Teachers

mellowman, one of my commenter’s made a great suggestion/remark.

He said he liked class websites that allow parents and students to see and/or download homework assignments.

This is one of those great ideas that would require an extraordinary amount of discipline from the teacher. Updating a website can be a time consuming practice, but the benefits would be immense.

Perhaps teachers should create a blog for each class. With today’s web based tools, it would only take a few minutes to create a blogger post and upload it to a website. They could do a short post outlining the homework assignments and any class notes. If they had electronic copies of any worksheets it should be relatively simple to upload it as well.

Parental Struggles Update

Just clarification of my earlier post Parental Struggles. The school imposed punishment is for one day of in-school suspension.

The idea to attend school with my niece is our punishment in addition to the school punishment. I can think of nothing more embarressing than having your uncle sit in all your 10th grade classes with you and hang out with you at school. I expect I will get some funny stares and a few smart ass comments, but we can not accept behavior like this. Besides, I will get to see the quality of teaching that goes on at our local High School, and I might even learn something.

Need Advice/Help!

Teachers, experts, parents... we need some advice/help.

One of our 3rd graders is behind in her reading comprehension skills. She is already getting after school tutoring that utilyzes computer based instruction, but we would like to know what else we can do to help at home. One idea that we had was to have her read out loud to us for her daily 15 minutes of reading and her reading worksheets, but we are unsure if this is the most effective method. Truthfully, we have limited time to spend hours of one on one instruction (6 kids, including an infant) and we can not afford private tutoring. We are looking for things that we can do to help her get more out of her current assignments and extra things we could do that take up no more than 20 to 30 minutes.

Parental Struggles

Niece busted for smoking at school. One day in-school suspension. In addition, I am going to take a day off work and sit in every class with her one day next week. Nothing worse than having a parent attend school with you. We also e-mailed every teacher of hers and let them know to report any misbehaviour, missed assignments, or unusual behavior.

I am disappointed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Advice for Teachers

"Parental involvement" it's one of those complaints that I run across frequently in the edublogosphere, but perhaps what we really need is more "teacher involvement".

A rough calculation shows that I have dealt with over 25 different teachers in my kids educational careers, and in that time I have seen a wide variety in the quality of teachers, the personality of teachers, and the style of teaching. I have seen strict disciplinarians, teachers that all students love, mother figures, burn outs, etc..., but I have made some observations about somethings that most good teachers have in common.

1. Organization. At the beginning of each school year we make an effort to drop in unannounced on our kids teachers, and one of the first things we notice is how organized their desk is. I know this might seem trivial, but we have noticed a direct correlation between the effectiveness of a teacher and their organizations skills. Teachers with messy desks are usually the same teachers that lose assignments, have trouble finding information if we ask for it, and are less likely to respond to notes from us.

2. Availability. Somehow, the good teachers always find time to talk to us when we drop in to see them. There is nothing more frustrating than playing note tag with a teacher when we are trying to get information or clarify something with the teacher. I recently had a teacher tell me to stop by after school to get some information, but when I did they were in the middle of a "conference". Don't tell me to stop by unless you know you are going to be free to talk with me... I work for a living.

3. Honesty. We know our kids aren't perfect and when we talk to/conference with a teacher we want to know exactly what our child needs to work on, the more specific the better. We don't want to know that our kid is "acting out", we want to know exactly what they did under what circumstance so that we can address it specifically with the child. If our child is struggling with something, don't tell us that they need help with "math" tell us that they don't know their "6x times tables".

4. Email. Everyone else in the world uses it, but for some reason teachers don't use it to help with communicating with parents. Instead of sending a note to school with a 1st grader, it would be so much easier if we could send a email and know the teacher was going to read it in a timely manner. In addition, instead of sending all those copied notes, send us an email, I know not every parent uses email, but a large majority do.

5. Pre-plan homework. We love teachers that give us all the homework for the week on the Mondays. That way we can have the kids work ahead if we know that they have a soccer game on Wednesday.

So teachers, if you work on your "teacher involvement" we parents will have an easier time working on "parental involvement".

Thursday, October 12, 2006

First Microsoft Now Google!

Education is booming business. Google is entering the education world. They have created Google for Educators which is intended to be a clearing house for how educators can use Google tools to enhance education. Like Microsoft, they have their own lesson plans, but unlike Microsoft their lesson plans appear to actually teach kids.

Google Earth is the coolest thing since sliced bread and I have to admit I have spent hours on it exploring the globe. Google has partnered up with Discovery Education to provide some fairly interesting lesson plans that utilize Google Earth.

And no, I am not against technology despite my tirades against the School of the Future. Technology, used correctly, is a great tool to enhance content knowledge. Using Google Earth to help teach geography and history is a stroke of genius.

Microsoft can take a lesson, but instead they waste time with lemonade.

South Carolina Education Roundup

Here's what’s happening in South Carolina Education News:

The push for school vouchers continue to make the news.

Controversy over a recent decision by the State Board of Education to give the same status to "dual-credit" classes as to AP/IB classes for qualifying for state scholarships. Parents who go to affluent schools that provide these classes are against this decision. They make the point that AP/IB classes are tougher than "dual credit" classes. Unfortunately, not all students have access to AP/IP classes, so the scholarships help kids from affluent schools disproportionately.

Lexington 1 school district implements language immersion program. I think this is a great idea, and conveniently we were planning on moving to this school district in two years when I retire from the Air Force. It will be too late for most of my kids, but my baby daughter will be able to take advantage of it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Reading and Braces

This morning I got to speak to my first grader's teacher. I asked her if they used phonics at all to teach reading. She told me that "they" don't like them (the teachers) to use any one method of teaching, but she tries to use a little phonics during the lesson. I also asked if they used any reading programs, and she said no.

In other parenting news... my 3rd grade son is getting braces today. Just in case anyone wants to feel sorry for me, do you know how much money I am going to spend getting five kids braces. Four of them will probably overlap having braces. I am going to buy the orthodontists' vacation house for him.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another Report from the First Grade Trenches

D-Ed Reckoning: Report from the First Grade Trenches

Seriously if you don't read KDeRosa's blog on a daily basis, you are missing the best commentary in edublogging on the net. Enough kissing ass.

Since I also have a first grader, I thought I would compare my child's school experience with KDeRosa's.


In math, for example, they've only taken home about three homework assignments. One assignment asked them to draw pictures of things having numbers, like a clock or calendar. Another asked them to find a picture that told a math story--there are three dogs and two cats in this picture, how many are there all together.
In math, I think our school does a little bit better. We get about 3-4 math worksheets a week. It started out pretty basic the first two weeks, but quickly improved. Last week, all of her worksheets were on addition and subtraction. She seems to have quite a good grasp of the subject, so I have no complaints yet.


I hesitate to call what's going on reading since there is so little actual reading going on. The kids were given a DIBELS test and broken up into reading groups. Whether they were broken up by ability, I do not know. Teaching consists mostly of letting kids pick out books they like and letting them "read" them independently. If the kids can't read yet, they can look at the pictures. That's nice.
Our child is assigned 10 spelling words a week to learn. The words correspond with the words in her weekly reading story. She really stuggles with her reading, and seems to have no concept of phonics. Her teacher appears to be teaching her how to sight read. Unfortunately this means that she struggles with new words.


We aren't very happy with her teacher overall. I have been to the school several times and the teacher gives the impression of being unorganized and very inexperienced. Reading homework has been especially difficult, and often ends up with us getting very frustrated. While I am satisfied with her progress in math, I suspect its mostly due to innate aptitude instead of sound math instruction.

We do supplement her instruction at home, but we are nowhere as organized as KDeRosa nor are we able to spend the amount of individual time that he does.

Booo Yaaaaahhhhh

Girlfriend talks to district. Principal gets call. Dr. Counselor gets call, fixes problem, and apologizes.

Now wouldn't it of been much easier for him to hook us up at the beginning instead of having to get "talked to".

Also, niece is allowed back on cheerleading team. One rebel teenager turned into all american girl. We rock!


Bait and Switch

In my last post I said this: "I had to raise hell to get her enrolled in honors and college prep classes."

It appears I wrote to soon. When we got the hardcopy of my niece's schedule yesterday after school, she was NOT put in honors classes, despite Dr. Counselor looking me in the face and telling me that she would be.

My niece had some bad thing happen to her as a child that are still with her today. She is on daily med's to help her. The first semester of her freshman year she got into some "trouble". She was sent to us for her 2nd semester of school. Because we knew she was smart, we got her into honors classes despite her having terrible grades at her last HS. This is the results:

1st Semester Grades (She was absent most of the semester)
Math 69%
English 73%
NOTE: they actually gave us the highest "F" possible out of pity

2nd Semester Grades
Honors Algebra II 96% with a 98% score on the end of year exam -- year average 86%
Honors English 95% with a 100% score on end of year exam -- year average 87%
Honors Biology 82% with a 81% score on end of year exam -- year average 83%
NOTE: She wasn't in Biology in her first semester so her score on the exam reflects her literally only having 1/2 the course and having to teach herself the first half of the class!

With scores like this, we think that it is perfectly reasonable for us to expect her to have honors classes this year. It wasn't her or our fault that she had to attend another school for the first semester. She actually only got to attend 3 weeks of class at the school before she was allowed to sit out. (Long story, the situation was caused by lax parenting and a pyschologist that is ready to make any diagnosis that a parents asks for)

This is a school that serves a majority of disadvantaged students. Our niece, with the right parenting, can be a true success story at their school, but only if they help us help her.

Note: Not that it matters, but our Niece is Hispanic, so having her do well will also help them show that they are making gains on the "achievement gap"

Right now, my girlfriend is at the district office ready to raise hell with the district superintendent if that’s what it takes. I hope this gets fixed, because they have no idea the amount of fury that she can rain down on someone if they mess with our kids.

I have tried to avoid naming schools and people on this blog, but I have never been so tempted to identify the perpetrators.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Arggggg - Block Scheduling

I just got back from registering my niece at the local high school... what a frustrating experience. The school counselor was so condescending. I had to raise hell to get her enrolled in honors and college prep classes.

I also discovered that South Carolina uses some sort of block system. They have four periods a day. A class can either be a quarter class or a semester class. One semester class is equivalent to what I would consider one year of a normal class. For instance my high school math geometry class was a year long, but my niece's class is only one semester. Here is the conversation that followed:

Rory: So she could conceivably take two math classes in one year and do two years of math in one?

Dr. Counselor: Well actually no. Students are only allowed to take one core class of math or English a year.

Rory: Is it done like that in all of South Carolina?

Dr. Counselor: Yes, it makes it easier for students to transfer between classes.

Rory: Doesn't that affect how the students do in their classes, since many kids will have to wait anywhere from 6-months to a year between classes?

Dr. Counselor: Well maybe, but I have never looked into it.

Rory: Well I have seen the test scores, and that probably explains why South Carolina does so poorly on the SAT.
Seriously, it just seems idiotic. If someone has 1st semester algebra I in 9th grade that finishes in January, they might not get to do Algebra II until the 2nd semester of 10th grade… a full year between courses that obviously build upon the previous classes foundations.

When I went to High School, we had six classes a day. Math and languages were a whole year long. English classes were only a semester long, but you had to take at least one English class each semester… i.e. a composition class one semester and a literature class the next semester.

The other thing I learned is that the High School doesn’t do AP or IB classes at all. They actually have the local community college come in and teach a college course, in which they earn High School credit and college credit from the college.

I don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand it does make sense, since I know there is a problem with some AP or IB instructors not being qualified to teach. Of course they will never make Newsweek’s list of top High Schools in the Country since the rankings are entirely based on AP and IP results (let me know if I am wrong on this).

Another thing… I have to pay for my niece to take the PSAT as a sophomore even though it’s a requirement to get into the South Carolina’s Governors School for Science and Mathematics. I also had to pay a bunch of school fee’s… isn’t public education meant to be free?

Update: A little googling led me to this great site on the problems with Block Scheduling by Jeff Lindsay. To sum it up... block scheduling sucks for the following reasons:

1. Limited attention spans of teenagers
2. Time between consecutive classes creates needs for remediation
3. Its a bummer for athletes and music classes
4. Difficulty when school is missed
5. Problems transferring.
6. Math, science and Foreign languages are better taught in small regular doses instead of intensive long sessions.

Looks like I found my next crusade!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Education Myths

Swamp Fox Insights points to this great essay entitled Education Myths by Jay Green.

Allow me to paraphrase.

1. The money myth: Throwing money at schools alone does not improve educational outcomes.

2. The teacher pay myth: Teacher's salaries are competitive when compared with people with similar skills and qualifications. High-performing graduates aren't taking up teaching because there isn't enough incentive for strong performance or longer hours.

3. The myth of insurmountable problems: Don't blame social problems, reform schools.

4. The class size myth: The benefits of reducing class size aren't worth the expense.

5. The certification myth: Reward teacher's performance instead of certifications and "paper" degree's.

6. The rich-school myth: Private school's perform better than public schools, despite the average private school tuition being less than that of the public schools average dollars per pupil.

7. The myth of ineffective school vouchers: School vouchers really do cause public schools to improve.

While I agree with many of the author's points, I am not sure I agree with all of his conclusions.

One of the problems with many school reformers (of which I consider myself) is a tendency to come across as advocating "vouchers" and competition as the end all solution to improving our countries education system.

One of the arguments that reformers always use, is how our students perform internationally. Yet, there seems to be almost no effort to emulate the best practice's of some of the high performing nations.

More Fun with the School of the Future

Microsoft's High-Tech High, A Philadelphia High School Has No Textbooks, Blackboards Or Paper But Plenty Of Laptops - CBS News

“One half of the period you're learning math, the other half of the period you're learning science. But it all comes together,” said one student.
So thats how to improve math and science performance; cut down instruction time. Duh... why didn't I think of that!

This is a $63 million project, and with so much emphasis on high-tech elements, you might expect that it would be more expensive than traditional schools. Officials say that is not the case.
I see the accountants for Enron found new jobs.

New school, free laptops, no wonder so many kids want to go there. There's no entrance exam, only a lottery. Fifteen-hundred kids applied, 170 got in — most of them African-American. There is an exit exam of sorts — in order to graduate, they have to apply to college.
Wooo hoooo, If I apply to graduate school, can I skip the rest of my college education?

The ultimate test will be whether technology as tutor will actually help students learn.


Im Back!

Well I'm back, one kid richer. Thanks to Dennis and Mrs Q. for your kind words... I appreciate them.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Adding one kid.

My 16 year old niece is coming to live with us. She originally came to live with us in December of 2005 because she had several issues (stole car, failing every class, drugs... etc) and her mom couldn't handle her.

In six months, we managed to turn her into a church going, straight "A" student. This summer when she went home to stay, her mom (my sister) and us got into a "spat" over our parenting style (strict), so her mom decided to send her to Los Angeles to live with her grandma (my mom). We told everyone that this was a horrible idea, because my mom's is just to easily fooled and not that involved, but everyone said that she was "fixed" and gave the credit to the medication that she had been put on.

After less than 6 weeks after starting school she was slipping into the same old patterns. so she is coming to live with us again.

I know, I know... this means we will now have 6 kids but she is family and she needs us.

Me and Shannon know we can get her back on track. She just requires some parents who are involved with her school (we get weekly updates on class progress), and some parents that sent reasonable expectations and limits.

Our results speak for themselves. When she came to live with us last December she was literally failing Every class. We advocated for her at the local school and got her into the college prep curriculum. The results... Straight "A's for her last semester and "B's" and "C's" for the year. Our goal was to get her through 9th grade, and we did it.

What does this mean to my loyal occasional readers? Well 6 kids gives me even more creditablity and a high schooler means that now I get to criticize the upper grades as well as K-8. (sic)

So... I am off to Los Angeles later today and will return Saturday. I managed to get a next day round-trip flight for $250 to pick her up. Priceline rocks!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Shop class redux

Response to Righwingprof comment in my last post:

rightwingprof said...
Except that testing had nothing to do with shop classes disappearing; the ever increasing pressure for everybody to go to college did, long before testing.

Completely agree.

First of all, standardized testing doesn’t and shouldn’t measure ever single subject taken in High School. It should evaluate students on basic core skills such as reading, writing, some civics/history, science and math.

Most HS students take 6 classes a semester, 2 of which are usually filler elective classes which are not usually covered under standardized testing. It use to be that once upon the time, you could choose between woodshop and biology, but not anymore. Somewhere, some idiots got in their heads that the sole purpose of High Schools should be to prepare kids for college, and despite the obvious fact that there aren’t even enough universities and colleges with places to accept everyone. There has been a tendency to require a more and more rigorous college prep curriculum simply to graduate HS.

Unfortunately this thinking is almost guaranteed to set up a large percentage of students to fail. Student’s who aren’t cut out for or don't desire to attend college; find they struggle in a system that is only designed to prepare them for a college education. Their only option is to stick it out in classes that they don’t need or aren’t interested in so that they can perhaps find a technical college or trade school after they graduate. Of course, many student’s find simply find this too challenging and just drop out of school. Even if they do graduate, they find that they are too burnt out on education to continue on with any decent job training.

What I would like to see, is our one size fits all system replaced with a system that provides an excellent college preparatory foundation for those who would benefit, but also an option that provides a more practical route that works hand in hand with local business’s and technical/community colleges to provide high quality training in the skilled trades. There are many occupations that are high paying, do not require a college degree, but do require a technical background and skills training.

Perhaps what we need is a system that provides different categories or levels of the traditional High School diploma. This system would allow students who are on a college prep track to have their class standing and GPA compared fairly by universities. It would also give student’s that might be at risk of dropping out another avenue to pursue. If a student who for what ever reason was struggling with the normal college prep curriculum had an option to become certified as a mechanic, plumber, electrician, or some other highly skilled trade, they might be more willing to stick it out til 12th grade.

Now I know that I will get many people who say this is nothing but “tracking” which has become a dirty word in our current system. Of course this is a form of tracking, but it’s tracking with an end result that all students will graduate with knowledge and skills that benefit them and the nation economically. Yes there should be provisions put into place that allows students to change course mid-stream, providing they demonstrate the ability to successfully complete the required “requirements” for the new track, just like a student in college is able to switch majors.

Many European countries have systems that work along these lines and as a whole, provide a much better trained workforce. I lived in several different European countries for over 12 years and witnessed first hand what a decent education system can do. In Germany I had a friend who self-admittedly would have never made it through college, but he attended a trade oriented school that allowed him to eventually secure training as an aircraft mechanic. He currently makes quite a good living, but I can't help but wonder what would of happened to him in the United States.

Our economy requires more than lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, and accountants to function. It requires high skilled mechanics, air traffic controllers, plumbers, electricians, nondestructive inspection technicians (what I do), and a variety of other jobs that do not require a traditional high school education. Today many of these jobs are learned through on the job training or technical colleges, though there is no reason why they couldn’t be taught at the HS level.

There are avenues for people to get this skilled training, but they often require expensive training that ensures only the priviledge have access to it. If you don't believe this, go look out how much it costs to attend ITT. I don't want to know schools like ITT since they provide some much needed skills, but I wonder if the instructors at ITT don't get frustrated that their students never learned how to use simple hand tools or don't know how to an internal combustion engine works. Maybe they would be happier if their students showed up already certified to weld or able to use a computer aided drawing program.

Note: My girlfriend who is a nursing student, reminds me that there are many healthcare related occupations that do not require a college degree.

Shop class is back!

CNN - Rebuilding shop classes in U.S. high schools

Vocational education classes, once commonplace, began to languish as standardized tests started to determine success and failure and college became a singular goal. Now called career technical education courses, they are beginning to enjoy a renaissance.


Around the country, high schools are being transformed into career academies or adding smaller vocational schools within their buildings. In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley recently announced an initiative that will let high school students become qualified to work in particular industries. Students would then use their certificates to find high-skill, high-paying jobs.
This rocks... common sense in the school system.

Not all kids are going to college, thats a fact. Providing kids who aren't going to go to college with high quality training in the skilled trades is good for the kids and good for the country.

Many european countries have understood this for a while and have an excellent trades program, many with formal apprenticeship programs.

I have an idea formulating, but I have to go to a meeting...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Self-promotion and Self-criticism

In keeping with the time honored tradition of shameless self-promotion, I have an article up over at edspresso commenting on a recent op-ed by The State newspaper.

I hate reading my own posts. Unlike 99% of education bloggers, I do not have a college degree, and while I think my blogging has improved since I started, but I am no where near the level that I would like to be on. So if your reading my blog, I would like to offer a heartfelt thank you for ignoring my spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and lack of expertise and reading my idea's (whether you agree with me or not).

Wooo Hooooo we are mediocre!

The State 10/03/2006 College study ranks states K-12 system in the middle nationally

Gots to go to work... but the article is about this report.

Sara, Sara, Sara

Sara Mead responds to this article by Judith Kleinfeld over at the NRO, which critizes this report by her saying that the whole boys failing crisis is overblown. Her rationing:

Kleinfeld has to seize on this silly exchange because the actual reasons that I argue we should be cautious embracing "boy crisis" hype have nothing to do with "men oppressing women." Rather than falling, boys' achievement has actually increased over time on a host of measures. There are some places where that's not the case, and even where it's rising, boys' achievement isn't rising fast enough or as fast as that of girls. But that doesn't discount the fact that boys are doing better than in the past in many ways.
Me thinks she doth protest to much. Lets have a little fun.

Kleinfeld has to seize on this silly exchange because the actual reasons that I argue we should be cautious embracing "boy crisis" the income inequality hype have nothing to do with "men oppressing women" "rich oppressing poor" Rather than falling, boys' achievement poor people's quality of life has actually increased over time on a host of measures. There are some places where that's not the case, and even where it's rising, boys' achievement poor peoples quality of life isn't rising fast enough or as fast as that of girls the rich. But that doesn't discount the fact that boys poor people are doing better than in the past in many ways.
Wow... that was fun, but I'm tired... you get the point, using this logic would allow us to ignore half a dozen other "gaps". Lets move on to see what she says next.

More significantly, I'm concerned that generalized fears about a boy crisis distract attention from the groups--students with disabilities, poor and minority youngsters of both genders (although the problems facing boys in these groups are more pronounced)--who suffer from much more significant educational gaps. And I'm concerned that a lot of explanations and solutions being peddled for the boy crisis are based on ideological agendas, misinformation, and little hard research--exactly the recipes for goofy educational practices and bad curricula that have been undermining our education system for years. There are perfectly good reasons to be concerned about the impacts of the boy crisis hype and some of its practitioners' recommendations for boys, leave girls out of it for a moment.
Wait... is she saying that we shouldn't worry about boys because she doesn't like the solutions that boy advocates are proposing? Ok, I'm not an expert but aren't the usual boy crisis solutions single sex education, more male teachers, and different teaching strategies? Seriously, none of these solutions seems to be outrageous. Its not like people are proposing that we lock girls up and don't send them to school. Come to think of it, wouldn't most of these strategies help girls as well? (except for the lock girls up one :p) Wouldn't closing the gender gap also help close the achievement gap, since the gender gap is larger among minorities?

Sara's last line sum's up her fears:

Its been fascinating--and disappointing--to me to see how conservatives, who are generally skeptical of conferring victim status, and critical of untested new educational ideas, seem to embrace both so uncritically when the "victims" are boys and the education "innovations" include single sex schools and implementing gender stereotypes in the classroom.
Wait a minute here... who said anything about implementing gender stereotypes. I have not come across a single supporter of single sex education that has advocated "implementing gender stereotypes". Lets play our little game again:

Its been fascinating--and disappointing--to me to see how conservatives liberals, who are generally skeptical of all for conferring victim status, and critical supportive of untested new educational ideas, seem to embrace reject both so uncritically when the "victims" are boys and the education "innovations" include single sex schools and implementing gender stereotypes equality in the classroom.
I couldn't of said it any better myself.

Disclaimer: I am a bit of a liberal myself (loved Bill Clinton, not fan of Bush, think Iraq war is not going so great, support gay marriage, believe in progressive taxes, believe in a minimum wage, think there is systemic racism in America, etc...). I know Sara cares passionately about education and I read her posts regularly, I just think she is a bit off the mark on this subject. For the record, I reject the ad hominem attack on her made by Judith Kleinfeld.

Monday, October 02, 2006


A new chapter in education: unschooling: Controversial home-taught approach lets kids take the lead in learning - Newsweek

Interested in the Greeks? Start cookingWhile homeschooling began as a trend among fundamentalist Christians with largely religious motivations, unschooling is more about educational philosophy. It’s rooted in the belief that humans are naturally driven to learn and will do so fiercely if left to their own devices.Unschooling is difficult to define because no two unschoolers do the same thing.

Kike homeschoolers, unschooled children don’t attend traditional class. Unlike most homeschoolers, however, unschoolers do not follow any sort of curriculum. Children are allowed and encouraged to set the agenda and pace using their parents, their own lives and their homes and communities as resources.

So if they want to spend all day learning about bugs or gardening, they head outdoors. If they’re interested in criminal justice, parents might set up a visit to the police station or help them get books on the subject. If something about Greek mythology piques their interest, maybe they’ll cook Greek food or write a play about Perseus and the Gorgon. Or maybe not.

“Here’s how I define it: Unschooling is allowing your child as much freedom to explore and learn from the world as you can comfortably bear as a parent,” says Farenga, co-author of "Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling."

Others have called unschooling ambient learning or child-led learning. Some call it bunk.

You think?

I am for choice, but not all choices are good.

Boys, Girls, and Monkeys

The LA Times has this op-ed up by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett on single sex education.

What they say:

Are single-sex classrooms the magic bullet that will produce academic achievement in public schools? Or are they simply a trendy idea based on bad science and even worse public policy? There's a real worry that the latter could be the case.

Militant advocates of single-sex schools get a lot of ink in the national media but, unfortunately, little skepticism. Leonard Sax, bestselling author and executive director of the National Assn. for Single Sex Public Education, is spearheading the idea of vast gender differences in the brains and learning styles of boys and girls. Other "experts" confidently agree. But peer-reviewed studies and many of the nation's top researchers disagree. The American Assn. of University Women warns that not enough scientific evidence exists to show that single-sex classrooms improve student performance.Our own investigation finds that, too often, the claims made for great gender differences turn out to be highly exaggerated. Here are some examples:
[bla, bla, bla]
I am way too lazy and stupid to tear up the article with a paragraph by paragraph rebuttal of their arguments, except to say I think its all BS. Luckily my lack of credentials allows me to refute all their arguments with the following.

Boy Monkeys play with boy toys and girl monkeys play with girl toys.

OK, that’s not fair, no one can resist cute little monkeys, but who needs monkeys when you have real schools getting real results. Do you think Dent Middle School in Columbia is going to get rid of its “Two Academy” program?

In matched pair analysis TWO 6th grade boys and girls showed a greater growth in scale scores on the 2005 PACT.
I get it, I understand. Women’s groups are worried that once again they will be given the short end of stick when it comes to education. I have four daughters so I can sympathize. Any single sex education program in the country should be optional and benefit both genders. Unfortunately Rivers and Barnett have decided that single sex education is bad… under any circumstances. They conclude the article by saying:

We know that children learn in many different ways, but segregating them by sex will serve most of our children poorly.
No exceptions, no qualifications. They don’t want us to have a choice. Enough said.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

South Carolina Superintendent of Education

In the coming weeks I am going to be concentrating more on the race for the South Carolina Superintendent of Education between Jim Rex and Karen Floyd.

My hope is to provide impartial commentary to help myself and other SC voters decide between the two candidates.

Obviously, I waste spend a lot of time writing and reading about education, because I believe that education reform is desperately needed in this country. Both candidates are trying to present themselves as reformers, but the key is exactly how and it what way would they go about this.

As far as I am concerned, the only difference between the two so far is their positions on school vouchers and Governor Sanford's "Put Parents In Charge Act". Floyd is for it and Rex is against it.

I am somewhat ambivalent on school vouchers. I do not believe that school vouchers by themselves will encourage public school reform, but I am not vehemently against them. I worry about funding, private school tuition inflation, and the attached strings that would be on private schools if they accepted government money.

I am strongly in favor of charter schools, and not just charter schools that replace existing public schools. I want to see every parent in South Carolina have a REAL choice as to what school to send their kids too. There is no reason why we have to continue with our one size fits all approach to education.

Measuring School Performance and School Choice

Ahhh... the great NCLB debate. The NY Times has another article comparing NCLB accountability standards with that of Florida's A-Plus plan, entitled As 2 Bushes Try to Fix Schools, Tools Differ

NCLB was a great start in providing a standardized accountability system. While it's helpful, NCLB has several flaws; the use of widely varying state tests as its measuring device (I am in favor of National Standards) and its AYP provisions that are almost guaranteed to eventually label every school in America as failing. I need to research Florida's A-Plus plan more, but this article certainly makes a great point on how it's plan and NCLB can look at the same school and come up with two different results:
R. J. Longstreet Elementary School here in Daytona Beach is an example. The tidy one-story building near the Atlantic Ocean has fallen short on the federal yardstick every year, but Florida has given it an A for five years straight.

It earned its latest A because on tests in spring 2006 tests 80 percent of students met “high standards” in reading, math and writing, and because 60 percent of students, and nearly 80 percent of the lowest-performing students, increased their scores. In August, the school received a $42,800 reward check.

“Congratulations on your outstanding performance,” Governor Bush wrote to the school.

But it fell short on 2 of 17 federal requirements, and that was enough to fail under the federal system. On a writing test administered to 55 fourth-grade students, 50 needed to show proficiency; 48 did. On math tests administered to 42 disabled students, 21 needed to score at grade level; 20 did.
It seems to me there are two different ways in which to rate schools: performance and progress. For example, consider the following illustration (assume the demographics are exactly the same):

School A has 70% of its students score advanced in (some random subject) at the beginning of the year. At the end of the year, 70% of its students advanced.

School B starts the school year with only 20% of the students scoring advanced and at the end of they year, 50% of the students are scoring advanced.

Which one is the better school? Which one would you rather send your kids to? If your child was already advanced, I suppose it wouldn't matter, but if your child started out as merely basic or proficient, then the choice is easy.

I don't think that a single letter grade can accurately sum up all schools. What we need as parents is more data. I want the before and after scores for every school, every class, every subject, and for each demographic. The more data we have as parents the more informed a decision we can make about our children's education.

I don't think that there is one model of school that is right for everyone. There are many arguments for and against school choice as it relates to market forces and school improvement, but I don't think that it should be the only reason for justifying school choice. Even in high performing districts, I believe that parents should be able to have the choice to make a decision as to what sort of education is provide to their kids.

One of the reason's our higher education system is envied in the world is because kids have a choice. They can choose between liberal arts schools, comprehensive public colleges, engineering schools, or any type of school out there. All types of institutions might provide an excellent education, but in different ways and in different areas.

Instead of having to choose between a high performing charter and a mediocre public school, wouldn't it be better if we could choose between two equally successful schools that stress different areas of expertise or different styles of learning.

Corporal Punishment

In Many Public Schools, the Paddle Is No Relic - New York Times

As views of child-rearing have changed, groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Medical and Bar Associations have come out against corporal punishment.

“I believe we have reached the point in our social evolution where this is no longer acceptable, just as we reached a point in the last half of the 19th century where husbands using corporal punishment on their wives was no longer acceptable,” said Murray Straus, a director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire.

Among adherents of the practice is James C. Dobson, the child psychologist who founded Focus on the Family and is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most influential evangelical leaders.

DuBose Ravenel, a North Carolina pediatrician who is the in-house expert on the subject for Mr. Dobson’s group, said, “I believe the whole country would be better off if corporal punishment was allowed in schools by parents who wish it.”

I am not exactly sure how I feel about this. I went to school in New Zealand until I was 10 years old, and corporal punishment was used there... I understood that if you crossed the line their would be consquences.

I recognize that there are benefits to corporal punishment, but unfortunately it has the potential to be abused.

My hope is that more effective instruction would reduce behavior problems and eliminate the need for it.