Sunday, May 03, 2015

Post-WASC Analysis

No red wine committee.  This was an incredibly sad development and makes me question whether or not the people in WASC were actually involved in Education.  Wine is as necessary as CLAD.

The three days of WASC seemed a lot less invasive than in the past, even though I was involved in two groups.  The people seemed friendly and less looking for problems than trying to get people to be more reflective about their teaching and of the institution as a whole. 

My first meeting was dominated by others in a sales pitchy kind of way.  Sometimes I felt like we were trying way to hard to justify that we were when in reality we really weren’t.  It was kind of a turn off.  I mean, if the purpose is to have an honest evaluation of who you are as an institution then you don’t give off a false personality for the sake of expediency.  Then you never really solve problems.  It was fairly minor in the scope of everything else but it was tedious.

My second meeting was with my department and was much more pleasant.  It seemed like everyone was relaxed and almost having a good old fashioned brainstorming session with the occasional question by committee members mixed in.  It also made me thrilled (yet again) that I work in a department that is solid.  The people and personalities might have changed but the end result is that we have a tremendous amount of respect for each other and a killer work ethic. 

Most of the question we got in both meetings revolved around very particular subjects:

-How are you making adjustments to Common Core?

-How are you engaged in the process of collaboration amongst students within your classroom?

-How are you engaged in the process of collaboration with your colleagues?

-How do you create common assessments that are geared towards Common Core?

-What are your intervention strategies for socio-economically disadvantaged Learners and English Language Learners?

-Did you ever dance with the Common Core in the pale moonlight?

-Do you hear the Common Core screaming?

-Is Common Core your father?

And then whoosh, they were gone.

What was the result?  Who knows.  Our end assembly thingy seemed to last about twenty minutes and never gave us a definitive answer.  There were some good things and some things we could improve on.  But in the end the message still seemed that everyone had to prep for Common Core. 

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The Week that Was: the SBAC That Thing Up edition

Two hour block schedule this week as Juniors took the mandated tests.  Thank God they have all that incentive to do well or……….

Dammit.

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Oh, and those SBAC scores;  going to be ugly.  This isn’t because I’m an overall pessimist, this is because they are ugly all over the nation and teachers are going to need time to adjust everything.  We are talking massive adjustments that will change the overall dynamics of classrooms and environments.  I think that change will be for the better in the long run but in the short term it will look supremely ugly in the test score column.

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Prom is today.  It’s about 15 minutes south of town in Hopland and the school has decided to do something I find interesting.  Students are not allowed to drive to prom.  Nope.  Students will be driving to the school where they will be breathalyzed before they get on a bus and are driven to prom.  They will then be breathalyzed again when they leave prom and are bussed back to the high school.  While I cringe a tad about the whole school bus to prom thing, I’m totally in favor of a major intervention regarding alcohol in this town.  Not only is there an overwhelming problem of teenage drinking, there is a permissive culture of adults who think that it’s almost adorable that teens pre-game to Prom or get blasted for Sober Grad Night.  My old boss once said that a school should be an island of safety for all students.  This is a good step.

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Here’s another great step.  We have a teacher on campus who teaches health occupations and is also a paramedic.  He has a genuine concern for kids and that passion transfers to other members of the staff.  He used the two hour blocks to educate the Frosh/Soph about drinking and driving by having them attend a presentation by the CHP in the gym.  Then the week was capped off by a Every 15 Minutes style drunk driving accident as the students came out to lunch.  The idea was to nail the students as they were leaving at lunch (most do) and have them witness the accident and get the education.  And also do it the Friday before Prom.  From what I saw it was a large success and it didn’t have the mammoth distraction that Every 15 Minutes has for a week.  It was a great lesson.   

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How do you survive a two hour block?   Mix things up like crazy.

AP Comp Gov:  News – Questions – Practice FRQ – Video clip – Discussion – Lecture – Video clip – Break – Lecture – Video clip – Discussion – Writing – Done.

Economics:  News – Questions – Video Prompt – Writing – Discussion – Lecture – Break – Discussion – Video Clip – Writing – Done.

Add in an occasional funny story and the time goes by ok.  I do give my kids a seven minute break for bathroom and vending machines during block schedule.  If we get them in college, we can have them here. 

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First rattlesnake warning!

Living in the Coastal Mountains of Northern California means that summer equals rattlesnakes.  Since the school nudges up to the west hills of the Ukiah Valley, a rattlesnake sighting here and there is not uncommon at all.  Yesterday was the first sighting of a baby in the fields just northwest of campus.  Summer is here!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Week that Was; the OMG THE STRESS edition

It’s currently raining, albeit lightly, in Mendocino County.  This is after a week where you could watch thunderstorms develop over Mendocino National Forest but never feel the impact since they would simply go east.  It was pretty damn humid during the afternoons too.

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Students are stressed.  Senior projects are due.  The realization that the end of the year has hit them.  Senioritis is in full effect.  Ahhh, the joys of an April week teaching Seniors.  Thank God someone has actually taught kids about time management.

Oops.

Yeah, oops.  Not my oops.  Society’s oops.  Because if there is one thing this generation has been told it’s that they can have anything they want without bearing the cost of a choice.  That’s unfortunate because I have kids that are having a massive amount of trouble functioning.  Senior projects are costing classroom days.  I don’t mean the one or two days presenting the project; I mean the one or two weeks dealing with the work because no one has taught the student how to manage their human capital.  Worse, parents are condoning this.  Absences are excused all over the place because of “school stress.”  I’ve looked at the Senior Project and some of these kids’ schedules and if they are stressed now……oy.

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Persepolis went out to my Comparative Government students and as usual the reviews are quite good.  Our local Ukiah Reads group recommended the graphic novel and I require the book for Comp Gov because it looks at Iran during the Islamic Revolution and the war with Iraq.  Most Seniors get it and frown because of the subject, then look intrigued when they notice the comic aspect, then end up enjoying the story that follows Marjane Satrapi’s life in the Islamic Republic. 

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Our Athletic Booster Club wants to brand the school. 

It’s a money thing and since I don’t have $5,000 to throw to new uniforms I have to pretty much fall on the sword of mercy of the Boosters.  The problem is limited selection and the incentives end up going school wide instead of to the basketball program.  You brand a school and all the coaches split $3,000 in merchandise deals.  But I have companies with $1,500 in merchandise incentives just for my program, and that would be nice.  Anyone got a cool five grand to donate to our basketball program?

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I can’t believe that school districts ban student-teacher connections with social media.  Things sent to me this week on social media by my students:  a link to the Social Progress Index, an invite to a lecture on the discrepancy of women in STEM fields, a joke about a Nigerian e-mail scam, and this:

 

Gold I tell you!

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Last Saturday my wife and I hiked in Hendy Redwoods and celebrated the fact living in Mendocino County has its benefits.

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Later start times are now a thang.

Oh look.  Slacktivism! 

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Nothing better than getting someone from Iceland to sign a petition to change the start times at a high school in Northern California.  I’ve seen these attempts at changing school structure before and what I’ve noticed is that the most vocal are usually those that don’t like to admit that their kids are slacktivists too.  Here’s my guess; based on the issue being school start time and the vehicle being Change.org, I’m figuring that this is the hyper-liberal clan that is disappointed that their kids are not as driven as they were during their highly educated activism fight-the-power stage. 

Oh well.  It makes little difference in my case if the start times changed.  But it will totally screw with half the population that is involved in athletics, much of the Senior class that has to work (including those that directly provide for family), and those students who will simply being staying up later for studying and homework.  And 80% of the students hate the idea and want to keep the early start time.  And we changed went to the early start time because students wanted it. 

Oh, and before you spout American Pediatrics data to me, let me remind you that the reports that they use for research show:

A)  Some high schools show marginal benefit to later start times.

B)  Some high schools show no benefit to later start times.

C)  Some of these high schools were in the exact same district. 

I also buzzed around the United States to some of the top public high schools and noticed that start times were not really a massive topic of conversation, or an excuse for poor academic performance.

Start times might help, might help, at a fairly high cost to the institution (transportation) and the student.  Worse, it’s like trying to fix a car with a busted engine by putting on a new coat of paint.  It will hardly make a dent in the issues that matter in getting the kids a good education. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What ever happened to simple?

Did you know that someone out there is spending $324 to invite a girl to Prom?  Actually, someone is probably spending a lot more because that looks to be the national average for someone to execute a promposal; the act of total narcissism cloaked in some “cute” method of asking a girl to prom that is going to end up soaking you for another $500.  It’s been the rage for the last few years and thankfully it seems like the shark might have been jumped in these parts.  My wife had a couple of promposals that she found “adorable” while I’ve had a guy stand on a chair and ask a young lady to prom.  Thankfully my Facebook feed hasn’t been inundated with the lame attempts at selfish tomfoolery. 

But maybe I’m being a killjoy.  Maybe I’m missing the point and should embrace the new and heartfelt traditions of the new generation.  How about a warm and loving promposal video.

Quick side note.  I went to two proms and I might have, MIGHT HAVE, spent half of what one promposal costs. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The week that was; the Local Theater edition

This week I saw a tremendous amount of success. 

One of my students got into Stanford.  Another former student dropped out of college and found her passion.  I ran into yet another former student who was happily married and expecting their first child.   And I saw generations of students, current and a decade past, living their passion and bringing joy to themselves and others.  It was a fairly awesome week

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I haven’t been to the theater in awhile and this week I hit two weekday shows; Spamalot at  the Ukiah Players Theater, and Legally Blonde the Musical at Mendocino College.  One was good and one was fantastic.  The one that was fantastic kept me totally awake and interested for two and a half hours and made me want to join the theater.  I may have to go to more local shows next years since it has been quite the stretch between times I’ve watched a stage.  By the way, if you want to pay for me and my wife to go to New York and watch Hamilton, I’d love you long time.

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Six families have pulled their child for extra vacation time for the next couple of weeks, two weeks after spring break and less than two months before graduation.  At this point I don’t even warn students that it can be detrimental to grades.  I simply give them a couple of my Short Term Independent Study form, sign the paper, and they are off.  Almost no one completes the work while they are gone.  Almost no one studies.  I get it, they’re on vacation.  But this problem is habitual and the teachers usually get the burden of angry parents and grades.  Oh well.  At this point we teach those that show up.

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By the way, I heard that a local school district now gives online credit recovery……..for Physical Education. 

Online.

Physical Education. 

Way to cash it in Education.

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Clubs Day was Friday.  Clubs Day is where different clubs hawk wares and food in the quad in order to drum up membership and raise funds.  The best food is traditionally the Indian Tacos but I could find none and wasn’t about to pay money for Safeway sugar cookies.  I did notice a fundraiser that allowed students to tape teachers to a wall.  For a certain amount of money you could buy a length of tape and add it to the teacher on the wall.  I wasn’t on the wall because I didn’t know and I probably would have said no anyway.  Physical abuse of teachers is no fun.

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Did you know that Ukiah Unified has had three deaths and eleven injuries due to drinking and driving?  I didn’t until I was told this on Wednesday.  I brought it up to my Seniors who admitted that it  happened very often, and then remained silent about being sober drivers. 

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This happened.  I showed it in my fourth period Comparative Politics class because it’s Star Wars.  Period.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sweden and Finland lost PISA ground, not that it matters

The latest scores show that Sweden and Finland, the Scandinavian masters of education, did not fair nearly as well on their PISA exams.  You probably won’t hear about this because the whole “Scandinavia is better than you at educations” fad is so last few year.  That and the fact that PISA is not quite the meter stick that people have made it out to be. 

Check this out.

“Top of the list this year was Shanghai, whose students placed highest across all three areas. The four Asian Tigers -  Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taipei - were not far behind, with regional neighbours Macao and Japan also performing well.”

You do know that three of those locations are cities in China, right?  Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macao are all locations that actually exist in the People’s Republic of China.  Singapore, Japan, and South Korea do not; and Taipei (my guess is that this is Taiwan, not the the capital city) is either a part of China or it isn’t depending on who you ask. 

Measuring China using these three locals is like measuring the Bay Area using Los Altos, Campbell, and Moraga; the results are going to be insanely spectacular but nowhere near the reality because the rest of the region is missing in action.  If we continue to use PISA scores (which we shouldn’t) then I want to know the overall scores of the entirety of mainland China, including those areas where schools totally suck because the headmaster doesn’t have the guanxi to suck up to the local politicians.  I want the good, the bad, and the ugly of everyone, not some measurement that says that the entire United States (or Sweden and Finland) don’t match up to a city in China where poor and rural kids have absolutely no chance of attending a public school, even if the family moves there and works as internal migrant labor (helllooooooooo Shanghai).

Just dump the damn PISA and call it even.