Friday, May 30, 2008

Worse week...

This has been the worst week of my career, and today was the worst day. I really, really dislike my job right at this moment.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Want to feel old...

Want to feel old?

Ask your kids what a record is.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Anchorage School District Adopted Everyday Math

I was poking around the Anchorage School District website, and discovered that the ASD just adopted Everyday Math 2007, Third Edition. It will be mandatory for all ASD schools within two years. It was done with little controversy and no protests.

Saxson math lost out because it scored poorly on the rubric they used to evaluate the different programs.

Here is the "Student Lens" part of the rubric:

I. Student Lens

The materials provides the following for the needs/rights of students:

a. The purpose of learning, including objectives, standards, goals, criteria and evaluation rubrics are clear for students

b. Students can choose from a variety of strategies to explore, solve, and communicate math concepts

c. Students are engaged through a variety of activities which may include independent projects, cooperativelearning, manipulatives, technology, collaborative work, etc.

d. Students have opportunities for self-monitoring and self-reflection

e. Materials make connections to real life applications

f. There is support for individual learning levels

Is it just me, or does anyone else get the feeling the evaluation was rigged?

I am so glad my kids are going to get "opportunities for ... self-reflection" in their math class. I was afraid I was going to have to sign them up for yoga class.

Should I be worried?

p.s. Anchorage and Alaska are awesome. I am taking the summer off of school so I will be blogging again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How TFA harms education...

I originally posted a version of this post over in the comments at The Socratic Method:

While I admire the mission of TFA, I am starting to have an issue with what I perceive as TFA elitism. For such a tiny percentage of classroom teachers, they have a large percentage of the education media coverage. They fill a niche, but TFA is never going to fix the system. Furthermore, the focus on overachieving young do-gooders minimizes the endemic issues present in the education system; poor education schools, poor pedagogy, and poor working conditions.

Imagine if instead of focusing on the glory boys of TFA, the media started focusing on school districts like Gering, which D-Edreckoning has profiled. By doing nothing more than adopting a curriculum and pedagogy that has been around for 20 years, the school has made amazing progress. They haven't started recruiting Ivy League graduates, they haven't thrown dollar after dollar at the program, they haven't relied on the public social welfare programs; all they have done is improve the way they teach.

Will the media pay attention... of course not, not while they have the glamour boys of TFA to profile... because it’s a much more interesting story to read about a Yale graduate working in the inner city using sheer strength of will to teach low income students, than it is to read about some small midwestern school district using methods like direct instruction. After all, if only those teachers would try a little harder... the system would be fixed. Please...

Update: Obviously TFA hating is starting to get trendy. Check out Teach For America-Debunking the propaganda. I also found a great summary of studies done of TFA effectiveness over at the NCATE website, of course I think the NCATE is as big a problem as TFA.

For the record...(what really scares me)

For the record, TMAO at Teaching in the 408 has been one of my favorite bloggers, and a prime motivating factor in my drive to become a teacher after I retire, but ever since I have found out he is resigning, I have been a bit annoyed.

In his latest post, TMAO goes through all the reasons why he didn't resign, including this last one.

I’m burnt-out. This is another one of those things I hear teachers say frequently, and more often than not it prompts an immediate, and probably unfair, response: Burnt-out? Fool, you gotta be on. fire. first. then maybe we can talk about burnt-out.
I'm not happy unless I'm putting the best product in front of kids, but I'm not necessarily happy in the constant construction and revision of that product. I'm not happy unless I use work hours 80-82 to take kids to the District All-Star Basketball Game, but I'm not necessarily happy working hours 80-82. I'm not happy unless I'm being the teacher I see in my head, but the process of finding that guy and living as him no longer makes me happy.
I'm sorry, but what he describes sounds exactly like burnout. I just completed 18 credit hours in one semester with a 3.8 GPA, but I had to take the semester off. While I enjoyed learning, I enjoyed my classes, and I enjoyed the sense of satisfaction I got making progress towards my degree; I just didn't enjoy studying anymore. I didn't enjoy the long weekend's writing papers. I quite simply was burntout.

Perhaps it's the military NCO in me, but I call it like I see it. Instead of trying to make play word games about the reason he resigned, I am much more interested in what he thinks the system could have done to prevent his burnout. What could of he done differently to prevent his leaving the profession?

Supposedly it's not because he wasn't supported, or prepared, or successful, but it must be something... because if there is nothing the system could of done better, and there is nothing he could of done better, then it seems to me the whole concept of education reform is f*cked.

Perhaps what really annoys me is that in his resignation, I have to face my own insecurities. If the system can't keep a bright, articulate, dedicated teacher like TMAO, then what chance does someone like me have?

I'm scared because if I were his situation, then I would probably be resigning as well.

Disclaimer: Despite rumors to the contrary, I am not reconsidering my future career choice. Us military types can't let TFA'ers get all the glory. :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I don't get it...

I don’t get it…

Boys are improving, Girls improving faster = no crisis

Minorities improving, Whites improving faster = crisis

Standardized tests = bad, unreliable if they show racial/ethnic achievement gap

Standardized tests = not bad, unreliable if they show boys and girls relatively equal

Grades = important for college

Grades = unimportant for measuring gender gap

via Joanne Jacobs

Alaska Warm

I have decided there is warm and there is "Alaska warm".

Alaska warm is 55 degrees on a beautiful May afternoon. There is snow on the mountains and the grass is just turning green. Intellectually you know its cold, but you still find yourself wearing a short sleeve shirt and basking in the sun.

The Air Force pays me to live here, can you believe it?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower

Remember that guy, Professor X, Kevin Carey was pissed off at? well here is the article that set him off, along with an excerpt.

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower

I wonder, sometimes, at the conclusion of a course, when I fail nine out of 15 students, whether the college will send me a note either (1) informing me of a serious bottleneck in the march toward commencement and demanding that I pass more students, or (2) commending me on my fiscal ingenuity—my high failure rate forces students to pay for classes two or three times over.

What actually happens is that nothing happens. I feel no pressure from the colleges in either direction. My department chairpersons, on those rare occasions when I see them, are friendly, even warm. They don’t mention all those students who have failed my courses, and I don’t bring them up. There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty.
I really don't like the guy, but he tells the truth. Some people simply don't have the capability to do college level work, but do have the capability to imagine themselves as some sort of "feel-good segment on Oprah."

Needless to say, the paper she turned in was a discussion of the pros and cons of gun control. At least, I think that was the subject. There was no real thesis. The paper often lapsed into incoherence. Sentences broke off in the middle of a line and resumed on the next one, with the first word inappropriately capitalized. There was some wavering between single- and double-spacing. She did quote articles, but cited only databases—where were the journals themselves? The paper was also too short: a bad job, and such small portions.

“I can’t believe it,” she said when she received her F. “I was so proud of myself for having written a college paper.
I am not sure how I am meant to feel after I read the article. Unlike Kevin Carey, I don't get pissed off at the state of the K-12 education system. I do feel sorry for Mrs L., the poor middle aged woman in the article who has never operated a computer and can't string together even a decent paragraph. It's heartbreaking when she receives her "F", but at least she had a chance... and if she had a chance, so did the 37 year old enlisted guy who works full time, raises 5 kids, blogs semi-regularly, and just completed 18 credit hours with a 3.83 GPA.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Quick and the Ed: Cruel, But Not a Hoax:

There's a good higher education article in the The Atlantic this month, not on-line yet, titled 'In The Basement of the Ivory Tower.' It's written by an anonymous 'Professor X,' an adjunct English instructor at both a small private college and a community college in the northeast. The gist is that many of his students are woefully unprepared for even the introductory courses he teaches. So he must fail them, exposing, in the words splashed across The Atlantic's cover, 'Higher Education's Cruelest Hoax.' Either that or, as the article's blurb puts it, the 'destructive myth' that 'a university education is for everyone.'

One thing's for certain: this piece will be catnip for those who like to adopt the contrarian too-many-people-are-going-to-college-these-days position. This is an especially attractive stance for elitists and/or people who spend a lot of time searching for opportunities to loudly begin sentences with some variation of the phrase 'I know it's not politically correct to say this, but...' as if this denotes intellectual bravery of some kind. The article's sad story of one Ms. L, who says she was 'so proud of myself for having written a college paper,' only to be crushed by a grade of 'F,' will be used as evidence that we are not doing people any favors by letting them into college. Charles Murray has apparently written a whole book about this--adorned with blurbs from Jonah Goldberg, Bill Bennett, P.J. O'Rourke, and Tom Wolfe no less--to be published later this year.
I love it when Kevin Carey gets pissed off.

There is a whole spiel about how adult non-traditional students are big dummies, the system failed us, we can't write sentences, colleges makes lots of money off of us, Charles Murray is evil, some students shouldn't go to college, that's B.S., poetry and Hamlet are a waste of time, adjunct professors are underpaid, etc, etc, etc, bla, bla, bla...

Writing as an adult non-traditional student, it's true. Many of us are big dummies. You should see some of the crap posted in my online and evening classes, especially when I was taking them at a community college in South Carolina. I finally transferred to an online four year college school/program that targets military students and the quality of my classmates has increased immensely.

Of course us online students have to be at least smart enough to navigate online classes. We also have to be fairly self-motivated to complete the classes, and the vast majority of us are holding down decent enough jobs to be able to afford the tuition.

Ironically, I want to get my bachelors degree in order to get a job earning less that I would if I stayed doing the same thing I am doing now.

Another one bites the dust...

Teaching in the 408: Meet Jake:

Jake's a graduating senior at Yale, with only a few days left, which means that as you read this, he is either hungover or drunk.
Jake's gonna report for duty at the TFA Los Angeles Training Institute sometime in the middle of June. He doesn't know how to diagnose, scaffold, or assess. He doesn't know what CELDT stands for and wouldn't know what to do with that information even if he did. Jake thinks objectives are something second-tier applicants put on the top of resumes and he's generally aware that standardized tests are badbadverybad, but couldn't really tell you why in any great detail.
Let's hope the smart-and-excited-trumps-experienced gamble pays off.

Let's hope like hell, cuz Jake or someone like him will be in room D2 next year, teaching my kids. I resign on Monday.
TMAO, a TFA alumni is resigning. I loved reading his blog, but it just won't be the same if he isn't teaching. Without his personal stories, he will be nothing but another highly educated, articulate, ex-teacher pontificating on the problems with education. Want to bet he ends up as a policy wonk at some education think thank? I will also give you 50/50 odds that he writes a heart wrenching book about how the young idealistic teacher ventured into the inner city to save the poor brown masses, but was stymied by the evil establishment.

Then again, maybe he will open up his own charter school, that's what all the cool TFA alumni do.

Note: Yes I am cynical today, but I spent all last week researching education programs for after I retire, and one of my favorite teacher blogger quits. Oh well, there is always dy/dan.

p.s. Just came across another TFA quitter.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Alaskans kids not on the path of higher education - KTVA

Alaskans kids not on the path of higher education - KTVA

A new study released by the Alaska Commission on Post Secondary Education shows Alaskans kids are not on the path of higher education. In fact, a high rate don't even make it out of high school.

Stacked up against the rest of the nation, Alaska's children are near the bottom, when it comes to high school graduation rates and college success. Those stats are causing a lot of educators to sit up and take notice.

The numbers are staggering:

"For every 50 Alaskan ninth graders, 31 will graduate high school, 14 will go to college and nine will return to college after their first year. Only three will get their college degree within six years."

Personally, I just don't think you can compare Alaska to other states.

Despite our extremely low ranking in college completion, our average income remains above the national average. Many jobs in Alaska, just don't require a college education. There are plenty of workers who make way more money welding up on the north slope, than they ever would if they got a degree at old State U.

Having said that, Alaska's reliance on oil and fishing as core industries will not last forever. If our state is wise we will start transitioning our priorities now.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I might...

I think I am going to take the summer off school. I am completely burnt out. I will have completed 18 credit hours this semester, not to mention my full time + job supervising 28 personnel in my section.

What does this mean for you? I might just get off my lazy ass and start blogging.