Wednesday, September 28, 2005

32

At 6:32 in the morning of September 28, 1973, my mother gave birth to me. Unknown to her, the next 32 years would be full of a smart ass who thought that history was cool, loved basketball, and became addicted to X-Men comic books instead of weed. Who would have thunk it?

After my 30th birthday (a story for later), my birthdays have become a very 'normal' occurrence. Seriously, I don't know exactly how else to put it. Both my wife and I work our ass off, and we come home and crash. So today involved some take out sushi, Gilmore Girls, and a little snuggling. You know what. That was just fine.

Today officially has ended all the bad things that have been plaguing the household lately. Good news has struck twice in a week and that has lightened the mood. I'm dead tired, so I'll explain later.

For those that wonder, "dead tired" is not really a bad thing. Teaching is giving up a whole lot of energy and spirit. My wife and I have been dead tired, but not miserable. There is a difference, and I'll talk later about it later.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Education Carnival. It can only be attributable to human error.

I recently read an article that said that "2001, A Space Odyssey" was an outdated, cheap look at unrealistic science fiction. The effects were lousy, the angle of the movie was confusing, and it was hardly worth a mention as a good movie, much less one of the best. Wow, I can only imagine what this guy thinks is a great movie. I will admit, 2001 is a movie that needs a certain frame of mind to view. You need to understand that the movie has many plot points, and much more depth than is shown. I am an avid fan of the plot points that the movie investigates; the mystery of the Monolith, the evil of HAL, and the entire idea of the evolution/creation of life. The most entertaining of these is the fight between the flight crew of Discovery, and the HAL 9000 supercomputer. Roger Ebert once said that HAL was the most evil villain of all time. When you witness the cold calculation of HAL in action, he has a point. View it, get through some of the musical montages (get to love Daisy), and learn to appreciate the movie on a grand scale.

But before you go repair your AE 35 antenna, go check out the Education Carnival!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Uneventful weekend. Thank God.

It was nice that the weekend consisted of relaxing in front of the tube, grading a few papers, mowing the lawn, and eating way to well. It was a long time in coming. One of the highlights of the weekend was the mammoth book sale that was put on by the Friends of the Library, where a person could fill a shopping bag full of books for $3. My wife and I ended up with 7 full bags of books, 1 1/2 of which is going to my classroom library.
As for eating well, Albertson's had a seafood sale this weekend. Sunday dinner consisted of organic green salad, shrimp skewers, king crab legs, Chilean sea bass, and a 2001 Sebastiani Cab. My wife and I were feeling very well off, to say the least. But we also felt like we deserved it for what we were going through over the last month.
A week consisting of the Constitution is forthcoming. Included will by my students trying to describe their generation, which will be entertaining.
This afternoon had a refreshing change as thunderstorms pounded the area for about two hours. A couple of downpours also helped cool things off. Unfortunately, it is suupposed to be near 90 over the next few days. The typical late September/early October heat up is about to begin.

Friday, September 23, 2005

If it's Friday, it's Volleyball!

When I first came to Ukiah High School, I found out that some of the Administration and a group of teachers had a weekly habit of showing up at 6 a.m. in the gym to play volleyball. It was ugly, but very fun and competitive. So I decided to join in the merry competition. Actually, I wanted to get in good with the Principal and the 2 Vice-Principals that frequented the games. Come on, what better chance than to let them beat on me for awhile. Hehe. That attitude was gone by the third week, when I started to realize that everyone really wanted good play, not slackers. Well, after three years, I stopped going. Last year, I missed the whole year. I decided to return to the courts this morning in an attempt to revive the juices. After all, I'm 6'2", fairly athletic, and I have a wicked serve. Overhand slider serve, baby! I'll have you on a yo-yo!
This afternoon, I remembered why I stopped going. I was totally wasted.
For some reason, I can't find the energy to finish a Friday after volleyball without crashing in the afternoon. Hell, I can teach all day and play 2 hours of hoops easy. Then I can teach the next day no problem. But morning volleyball just blasted me. So I need to decide about going back or not. I think it will depend on the work for the classes on Friday. I was really, really out of it 5th period, and I hate that feeling.
That's not to say the day wasn't good, because it really was.

Quote of the Day from an Intro student studying John Locke.

"I get it! Locke thought the strong guys would punk the weak ones, and the weak ones would get together to represent!"

Word!

Note to nerdy self, excellent job allowing yourself to become reacquainted with Battlestar Galactica. The new Sci-Fi Channel Battlestar Galactica is one of the best dramas on television, and the best science fiction series (with Lost) since The X-Files. Not corny, not hokey, but actually excellent writing and a cast that should be considered for an Emmy nomination down the road. Tonight's episode was one of the best television shows I've seen in awhile. It had dramatic moments that made you feel for the characters and took risks that were totally unexpected. Face it, Battlestar Galactica has depth! This was the end of the season and it will begin again in Janurary. Do this, rent Season One on DVD, and then watch the repeats of this second season on Sci-Fi. I would say that Season Two is even better than the first. Now that I've convinced the non-old school fans, the old school fans get their hook. Richard Hatch has a part in the series, and he does well. It is much better than the original, and I had serious doubts. And tonight they incorporated the return of the Pegasus, just like in the original series. Only, once again, it was much better. Watch it.

Ontario Christian School -lesbians need not apply-, -kids of lesbians need not apply-

Yes, even in the 21st Century.

From AP.

School Expels Girl for Having Gay Parents
Sep 23 7:05 AM US/Eastern

ONTARIO, Calif.

A 14-year-old student was expelled from a Christian school because her parents are lesbians, the school's superintendent said in a letter.

Shay Clark was expelled from Ontario Christian School on Thursday.

"Your family does not meet the policies of admission," Superintendent Leonard Stob wrote to Tina Clark, the girl's biological mother.

Stob wrote that school policy requires that at least one parent may not engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style, such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship," The Los Angeles Times reported in Friday's edition.

Stob could not be reached for comment by the newspaper. Shay and her parents said they won't fight the ruling.

School administrators learned of the parents' relationship this week after Shay was reprimanded for talking to the crowd during a football game, Tina Clark said.

Clark and her partner have been together 22 years and have two other daughters, ages 9 and 19.


I'm actually interested in the theory of having a competitive educational environment , but this is the main reason why I don't think charter schools can work in their current format. Who holds the administration for a decision like this? They are a private entity, concerned with their own welfare, not with the welfare of the student. You can dislike homosexuality, homosexual marriage, whatever, but to expel a child because of the parent's sexual orientation is a travesty. This would never be acceptable in a public school system, and if the district that is affliated with that school has any balls, it would revoke their charter. If there is no district affiliation, then picket those idiots.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. And I'm going to stay right here and fight for this Education Carnival!

It is hard to imagine, but "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" was the target of an attempted ban by the United States Congress, and it was also banned by fascist countries in Europe for being too good at explaining democracy. Beautiful.
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is an excellent portrayal of not only how Congress works, but also the cynical nature of special interest within Washington D.C. James Stewart plays the naive, patriotic American with vigor, and his struggle against the System heartfelt. Be careful about showing this one to students, as it is long and does have some slow areas.

This has been an excellent week, except for Monday night when that coaches all backed down from demanding a pay raise. I can't get into specifics, except to say that the Coaches Association is useless, since we are far from united. Otherwise, I'm starting to reach into the flow again. With my wife's family calming down, and my 30 units of summer school finally over, I can start focusing on the classroom. It felt really good to be back into the groove. My wife also got a new job. Previously, she was a teacher for students with special needs. It was a challenging job. Last week, she was hired to teach Gov/Econ and World History at Willits High School. The job change has already began to show positive effects in different aspects of life.

More later.

But before you begin a massive filibuster over the Supreme Court Chief Justice, or over a dam, go check out the Education Carnival!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tired weekend

I was in Chico all weekend visiting my wife's father. You would figure that Chico would be fun. It wasn't, and I won't get into the whole family thing again, except that it is hopefully going to finally get better. I did run into my old, best friend from 5th-9th grade. It was totally wierd, as we have gone very different directions. I would have liked to chat, but I was on an errand for the family.

I'm bored and tired, but this sounds a little entertaining:

7 things I plan to do before I die:
1) Hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
2) Win a league title with a Boys Varsity Team.
3) Make a difference.
4) Get my pilot's license.
5) Golf under 90.
6) Drive across the United States.
7) Read, a lot.

7 things I can do:
1) Read, a lot.
2) Play basketball with the Varsity Boys.
3) Play Texas Hold'em for hours.
4) Blog.
5) Cook.
6) Garden.
7) Listen.

7 things I cannot do:
1) Put up with depressing people.
2) Watch hockey on television.
3) Put an engine together.
4) Listen to country music.
5) Babysit kids.
6) Play "Nertz"
7) Sit through another union meeting.

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex/another person:
1) Intelligence
2) Soft facial features
3) Eyes
4) Sense of humor
5) Breasts (If you are a guy, and you didn't say this, you are in denial or a liar)
6) Spunk
7) The ability to put up with my shit

7 things that I say most often:
1) Um, no.
2) Jesus God!
3) I'm begging you to ......
4) I mean what I say
5) Toby Keith should have been in the car with Tupac
6) And one!
7) I love you.

7 celebrity crushes:
1) Michelle Pfeiffer
2) Jennifer Aniston
3) Natalie Portman
4) Reece Witherspoon
5) Liv Tyler
6) Beyonce Knowles
7) Lauren Graham

Friday, September 16, 2005

Politicows...............required reading for Social Science teachers

A bovine guide to political theory

Feudalism : You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

Fascism : You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

Pure socialism : You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

Pure communism : You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you share the milk.

Bureaucratic socialism : You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as much eggs as the regulations say you should need.

Russian communism : You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

Pure democracy : You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

Representative democracy; You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

American democracy : The government promises you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow features.

Capitalism : You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Hong Kong capitalism : You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using the letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt-equity swap with associated general offer so that you will get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows? milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the feng shui is bad.

Totalitarism : You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

Anarchism : You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors try to kill you and take the cows.

Dictatorship : You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

Surrealism : You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Please do not feed the Coaches

Well, the coaching salaries are finally coming to a head. Here's a little background.
Late last year, the Union negotiating team and the school district came to an agreement that coach’s salaries would be a top priority if money came available. The coaches in the district have not had a raise since 1991. Currently, schools in our league make 2-3 times our coaches salaries. Plus, Santa Rosa schools go on one, hour long road trip (to us). We go on 12-15 road trips, each over an hour long. Early this year, a little over $2 million was “found” by the school district. To my understanding, the district and the union had created an agreement that would phase in an increase of coaches salaries over 2-3 years. Our salaries would then be comparable to the other coaches in our league.

The motion to vote on our salaries was "tabled" by the School Board, meaning they refused to vote on it. Basically, they have decided to ignore the coaches because they have not found them to be a priority. The union is currently looking into violations of negotiations because the pay raise agreement was made in good faith.

Some coaches have called for a meeting on Monday. At this meeting, we will vote on whether or not to strike, starting on the week of Homecoming. It must start on this week because it gives the school board a chance to meet and resolve the issue. If they refuse to resolve the issue, the strike would start with Homecoming week, and continue until there is appropriate resolution. This strike would include all coaches, for all sports.

Ouch. Homecoming around Ukiah is the most popular event of the school year. So we as coaches have some decisions to make. I'm the President of the Coach's Association, but only a freshmen coach. The heat will not be on me, it will be on the head of the programs.

Go read the article in the Ukiah Daily Journal and give me a little advice. Currently, I am inclined to vote for the strike, but I have very little to lose. I'm an on-campus teacher, I'm a freshmen coach, I'm not in season, and I run a good program. But my goal is to create a competitive, classy and professional sports program at Ukiah High School. Is this action taking us forward, or dragging us farther back?

Newdow vs. The United States Congress

This was bound to happen. The Constitution is rather explicit on the Establishment Clause, thus creating the boundary between Church and State. The question is if the Pledge of Allegiance's "under God" term is more about the history of the country, or an attempt of the government to condone religion. If you were to ask my kids about the issue, 98% of them think the issue is idiotic and that "under God" is more about the history than the religion.
I find it interesting that Newdow et al. feel like "political outsiders" when visiting American classrooms. I feel like a political outsider every time I pass the medical marijuana clinics in town. Can I get a little enforcement of those laws please?
In the end, the majority opinion on why the court ruled as it did was simply to point to the Appeals Court ruling in 2002, which struck down "under God" as being unconstitutional. The court stated that saying the pledge in a public high school, "impermissively coerces a religious act." When you look at the case in terms of straight law, the court is correct. Whether you passionately hate the ruling, in this instance the court ruled as it is supposed to rule, by using the Constitution and precedent in prior case law. Remember, we are not talking a student voluntary reciting the Pledge in the classroom, we are talking about school lead recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. In another part of the case, the judge threw out the motion to make it illegal to recite the Pledge at school board meetings. In the opinion, the judge stated that there are definite differences between a child having to attend school, and an adult voluntarily attending a school board meeting.

But the last subtext of the opinion was the best part of the case, and the part that showed that the judge knows what he is doing. It is an excellent point.

This court would be less than candid if it did not acknowledge that it is relieved that, by virtue of the disposition above, it need not attempt to apply the Supreme Court's recently articulated distinction between those governmental activities which endorse religion, and are thus prohibited, and those which acknowledge the Nation's asserted religious heritage, and thus are permitted. As last terms cases demonstrate, the distinction is utterly standardless, and ultimate resolution depends of the shifting, subjective sensibilities of any five members of the High Court, leaving those of us who work in the vineyard without guidance. Moreover, because the doctrine is inherently a boundaryless slippery slope, any conclusion might pass muster. It might be remembered that it was only a little more than one hundred ago that the Supreme Court of this nation declared without hesitation, after reviewing the history of religion in this country, that "this is a Christian nation." As preposterous as it might seem, given the lack of boundaries, a case could be made for substituting "under Christ" for "under God" in the pledge, thus marginalizing not only atheists and agnostics, as the present form of the Pledge does, but also Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Confucians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious adherents who, not only are citizens of this nation, but in fact reside in this judicial district.


Bravo to the American justice system for having the balls to get it right on this day. Do I agree with the ruling? Not really, I think it is nit-picky. I think Newdow is an idiot, and I think his motives are not in the best interest of anyone except himself. However, that doesn't matter. The court got it right, and the judge explained his plight very well. And as he said, it will eventually go to the Supreme Court, where they will get to deal with this touchy issue, one that truely has no litmus test.

Personally, I don't agree with the "under God" term in a public school either, but I don't think that it is controversial enough for the Courts to deal with. I think the historical importance of the pledge overrides the religious context of the saying. In fact, the concept of "under God" in the pledge is much more nationalistic than theological. Student are under no obligation to recite the pledge, and I feel that is enough.

But I will remain smiling, for today the reverse of Hurricane Katrina took place. Today, the system worked.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

In space, no one can here you recite long passages of the Education Carnival.

Come on.
You know you where scared when you first saw the little alien pop out of the guys stomach. It was the beginning of some great sci-fi horror for the big screen. Alien isn't horribly bloody, and it isn't gross out flick, despite the stomach seen. Instead, it is a brilliantly crafted science fiction thriller that uses the camera and the setting so effectively, that you don't realize that the claustrophobic conditions until the end of the movie. This movie also helped develop one of the first true female action heroes, Sigourney Weaver. So see Alien, at least once. Just don't eat anything first.

School has been better lately, although there is some coaches news that I'll pass along later this week. I'll also tell you how my classes are progressing. Ms. Frizzle is doing the Education Carnival this week, and was kind enough to link my first day, which was a major drag. It has gotten better, but I'm still not recovered from the summer family issues, and I might be traveling again this weekend. Ah well.

But before you go on the run from the perfect organism, go read the Education Carnival!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Tacky is.........

........showing people falling from the Twin Towers, and having the nerve to say "Never Forget" after the picture. I've seen a half dozen blogs show exactly that, and with all due respect to the owners, it is pretty tasteless. You are goddamn right that I want to forget those images. I hope that I never have to see another picture of that again, and I will never show my students those pictures either.
In the end, the event is burned into our minds our souls.

But if you really want to respect the moment that was 9/11, you keep silent, and here's what you show:

I was in Discovery Bay, playing really bad golf.

So my wife's family invited us down to Discovery Bay in East Contra Costa county for a weekend of............well of something.
It actually started really badly, and I mean badly. I can't get into the specifics because that could make life difficult for me :) Let's just say that we left on Friday, made it to Discovery Bay by 8:30 p.m., were back in Ukiah at 12:30 Saturday morning, and finally made it back to Discovery Bay at around 9 a.m. Saturday. For your information, it takes 2 1/2 hours to go between Ukiah and Discovery Bay. Don't ask why, it isn't worth it.
However, the golf course I played in Discovery Bay is very worth mentioning. 15 out of the 18 holes had water and I managed to find the water on half of those 15. So I shot a 114. Believe it or not, I shot par on 3 holes, and had a 9 on three others. Damn pitching wedge was broken or something.
Other than that, her family played cards together on Saturday night. We played Texas Hold'em (I won $2, wife lost everything) and a multi-player solitaire style game called Nertz. I lost at Nertz to my wife's 13 year old niece, who is one of those perfect, cute as a button players that act innocent, then slit your throat at cards. By the end of the night, I was snarling.
Today we slowly worked our way back to Ukiah, stopping to buy some essentials along the way. The two highlights were BevMo, where we nailed a case of mixed cabs that will be laid down for future consumption, and Hot Topic, where I bought my "Vote for Pedro" t-shirt. It was my second stint to Hot Topic, and I highly recommend the experience to anyone who has nostalgia towards the 80's and 90's. My wife and I wished our pocketbooks were a little more fat as we leered over the Metallica jacket, Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt, and old Robotech DVDs. Ok, I leered over the old Robotech DVDs, my wife hung around the Napoleon talking keychain. I did have someone look at me like I didn't know what I was talking about when I said "Oh look, a 'Pretty Hate Machine' T-shirt" I didn't say anything, but I wanted to say, "I was listening to Nine Inch Nails when you were rolling around the floor, drooling on yourself you little prick." My teacher-esque morals won over and I just smiled. Kids these days.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Nice day except for the cell phones

Good news! API up 25 points, and all 16 goals of the AYP where met as well! Back away Federal Government!

Why is it that at every faculty meeting, someone must step up and ruin a perfectly good day. Never mind that the air conditioning didn't work, and the 90 degree weather made the meeting feel like a sauna, or that the meeting last over an hour. The last item on the agenda, for some damn reason, was changing the cell phone policy. Currently, the rule is that cell phones are not to be powered on from 7:30 to 3:40 (the school day). All of the sudden, teachers want to changed the rule to allow cell phone calls at lunch only. Wonderful. Why am I against it?
-Terrific, now teachers set, and then change the rule two weeks into school. Makes us look like a bunch of toothless fools.
-Cell phones are a massive distraction, and allowing them on campus will create more problems in the classroom. I have a "no tolerance" policy to cell phones in the classroom. If they go off, for any reason, they are mine.
-Kids will see lunch, break time, and passing periods as the same thing. Good luck enforcing this rule.
-The teachers that want the rule said that the rule makes teachers look like "thugs in a police state". When a new teacher from Texas heard that comment, the look that came across his face was priceless. This campus is so liberal and open that "thugs in a police state" are the last things that come to mind.

The vote was 42-41 with about 20 abstentions for keeping the rule as is. In true democratic fashion, the principal made a "cell phone committee" to investigate the problem. Needless to say, I will not be on this committee. I was so irritated about the argument that I think I made a small scene at the meeting. Later that afternoon, I called the new vice principal (he taught next to me the last three years) and asked him if I came across like a jack ass. He told me that my initial point was great, but I grumbled too loudly and came across as trouble to other teachers. Wasn't a big deal, but he told me to remember who some of the teachers are and what their deal is.

After that, I remembered what my deal was. I teach, in the classroom. God. Sometimes I forget the whole point of school is to teach the kids, not worry about crap outside of the classroom. That's why I backed out of the Union, and backed away from getting burned out by basketball this summer. Where everything matters most in the classroom, not out on campus where nothing really goes on in the learning process. Does the cell phone rule really matter outside of the environment of my class? No. I wise man that I respect, and that talked to me yesterday, told me many times in the early morning, "The most important thing we do is in the classroom. Let them talk, you teach."

Amen.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

...............Go to the Education Carnival......................

Ok, so it didn't go exactly like that. However the reason that there is no dialogue this week is because Modern Times is pretty much a silent movie. This 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie is not only good because of the comedy, but the message in the first 20 minutes of man vs. Industrialism is excellent. I've shown it to my World History classes my first two years (only the first 20 or so minutes) during the Industrialism Unit, and it does its job perfectly!
The Science Goddess at "What It's Like on the Inside" is hosting the Education Carnival today. The way she has laid it out is worth the read by itself. She does an excellent job!

But before you become an experiment for the Automatic Feeding Machine, go check out the Education Carnival!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Week Two

Labor Day weekend was spent doing little house stuff; putting up shelves, straightening the house, filing, shredding, etc. We're trying to make life a little simpler since school leaves us pretty exhusted during the day, and the weekends are needed to recoup. Today was actually pretty nice. I did a little grading while watching the tube. It wasn't until later when I found out the bad news. Remember the death in the family? Well, now her family is starting to jockey for position in the money department. Unfortunately, this means that we need to stay involved in a situation that takes more time and energy than it is worth. This also means that home will remain stressed for at least the next two weeks. Needless to say, I was unhappy about information. I'm ready to start living OUR lives, as selfish as that might sound.
On a lighter note, this week will begin the exploration into Democracy vs. Dictatorship. I'm going to try a Power Point presentation for my Democracy lecture, and then my standard "notes on overhead" for my Dictatorship lecture. I'm interested in how my students will respond. The Power Point will be shown on the t.v., except that I'm worried that the back of the classroom won't be able to see it. I have the master overhead if there is a problem, and I'll test it out of course. I'm going to end the week with an opinion paper on the problems of America. In the wake of Hurrican Katrina, it will be interesting to read the responses. Intro classes are going to be working on the Preamble, and I'm going to start hammering away with quizzes. Keeping them on their toes is a good thing.
A note from the Union side of things. I quit the Union as a site representative. Besides the fact that I have contrary opinions on almost all issues, and that I think that the organization is ran by incompetent people, the real issue is that I end up spending useless energy on topics that don't mean as much as the classroom does. I'm done getting pissed off about things that have little impact on what goes on inside the classroom. It is what happens in the classroom that is most important. So I'm done with the Union. Now the high school has formed a faculty association and they want to charge $10 to every teacher as dues. Right now I'm so irritated at the whole system that I'm considering asking for a vote from the faculty for the charge. It may sound petty, but our union fees have gone up, our health care fees have gone up, and I give enough money to this school as it is.

So, off to Week Two, the four day work week!

Props to EdWonk

In answering a question about how NCLB has made life tougher for teachers in California, EdWonk presented this very accurate and thoughtful response. He made comments about teacher responsibility and NCLB totally derelict in meeting the needs of many students. It is a comment, not a post that he made, hence the reason I'm posting it here. But it needed to be said. Here is a link to the original post at EdWonks.

The question was: Exactly what is NCLB causing you to do that STAR (the State of California testing) wasn't doing already?

Fair question.

At our junior high school, we were able to make our API (which is similar to NCLB's AYP) as directed by the state and yet fall short on the NCLB mandate. Here is why. Nearly 40% of our students are designated as Limited English Proficient. (85% of the school is Hispanic, many of which are from poor families) This is because either English isn't spoken in the home or the kids have recently immigrated from a Spanish-speaking country.

Under NCLB, after the child has been enrolled for one year, in any American school that child is expected to perform on the reading, math, (and soon science) tests to the same standard as children who grew-up as English speakers.

Expecting kids to master the English Language (especially when it's not heard at home) in only one year is an unrealistic expectation that has been dictated by the EduCrats in far-off Washington.

Then under NCLB the scores of those non-English-speaking children are included in the school's overall score, thereby dragging down the school's overall NCLB rating.

Remember, under NCLB, all student sub-groups must attain "proficiency" in order for the school to be considered compliant. Otherwise, the school is labeled as "underperforming."

Under state guidelines, a certain percentage (I don't know what it is) must make progress toward learning English. Only after the child is designated as English proficient are those scores factored into the school's rating.

It is a distinction with a difference.

For the past three years, the low test scores earned by our non-English speakers have caused our test scores to be dragged down and tagged our school as "under-performing."

My major concern with NCLB is that it treats different populations of students the same and puts ALL the accountability on the school for student progress while exempting students and parents entirely.

Meanwhile, we spend our time and money hiring consultants, attending meetings, and filling-out paperwork in order to comply with administrative directives to fulfill a plan to remedy our school's deficiencies and keep Washington off our backs.

Over the last few years, my class sizes have increased from 20-25 to the maximum of 35 in every class, (due mostly to Washington not complying with its mandate to control our border and runaway illegal immigration) Washington has now directed that we have "special needs" children included in our classrooms. (I have several with severe learning disabilities; they too are expected to meet the same standards as other kids under NCLB)

I've had no type or pay increase in nearly 4 years and yet the expectation of performance increases each year. (Our test scores have been rising rapidly, just not in all NCLB-mandated "sub-groups" see above.)

I have a standing invitation for Margaret Spellings or any one of her Washington experts to come into my classroom spend a week with my 175 students, and "show me how it's done.)

I want to see Spelling's reaction the first time a kid tells her "I didn't bring a pencil or paper to school." "I didn't study for my test."

I would actually pay to watch Spellings have to deal with 35 real kids all day.

I am a Reagan conservative. I fondly remember a time when the G.O.P. stood for smaller government, with less pork, federal regulations, and a balanced budget.

None of that exists any more. With the passage of the pork-filled transportation bill, one can't even blame The War for Washington's out-of-control spending.

As a Reagan conservative, I strongly feel that oversight of public education should be the State's prerogative. NCLB has changed all that. Again, what concerns me most about NCLB is the fact that the schools are held responsible, while high-level educrats, parents, and the students themselves have no responsibility for academic progress.


I would like to add that we missed our benchmarks over the last two years simply because we could not test the required 95% of the students. Parents are allowed to sign their child out of testing, but it still counts against our score. So how the hell are you supposed to deal with a town population that is so anti-government testing, and still meet benchmarks?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bad Vibes Be Gone!

After a good long talk, much of the negativity that permeated the household has been vanquished! You never know, it could return, but dwelling on it does no good.

Thursday and Friday were excellent teaching days. I'm back into full flow mode, buzzing around the classroom, conversing with students in the halls during passing period, and getting the learning energized. Intro classes wrote some very nice essays that were peer edited and returned for final drafts. I only just started to do serious peer editing last year, and it has done wonders for student involvement and achievement. The students interact more, use the dictionary more, and create better work to impress other students. College prep Government also doing well, even though Class A is basically a dead class. It happens to be my earliest class of the day, and if it wasn't for a really involved student, the class would seem like a group of mannequins. I'm still working on them. Friday we discussed the reasons for government and introduced the Preamble, thanks to a rousing cartoon courtesy of Schoolhouse Rock. Those of you that haven't been using Schoolhouse Rock are missing out. The classic 80's cartoon series is still a hit, even with Seniors in high school! Yes, there is a small period of embarrassment that they are watching it. But within two minutes they are singing the songs, and 90% of my Seniors know the Preamble of the Constitution because they can sing it! Just wait until "I'm Just a Bill"!
So thank God the clouds have risen and I can start teaching. Better late than never!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

It only reminds me of 9/11 because it makes me feel like it doesn't belong. People wandering the streets with the blank look of being totally lost. Reports of people attacking hospitals and nursery schools, looking to loot anything contained within them. American "refugees" walking west from New Orleans to Houston. It all looks surreal, again.
You could not have thought that it would get this bad. I remember hearing about the hurricane and the potential for New Orleans to get really nailed. But still, it thought that something like Andrew in 1992 was more plausible than this devastation. I have a couple of thoughts going through my head.
I don't blame George Bush for the slow federal response to the disaster, and I certainly don't blame the Iraq War for the slow response. First of all, notice that there were little to no problems getting supplies to Mississippi, while New Orleans had major problems with the transfers. Why? First of all, the entire city was flooded. Second, the helicopters that did try and deliver supplies were shot at. The combination of the two is a recipe for disaster in an inner city setting. Notice that both Gulfport and Buloxi acquired supplies in plenty of time.
Saying that, the transfer of supplies was still inadequate for this magnitude of a disaster. Whose should take the responsibility? Both the head of FEMA and the secretary of Homeland Security should be fired (not resign, fired) and the President should be damn sure that FEMA does not let this happen again. Oh, and Congress might want to stop with this crap issue of not raising taxes. The budget had specific monies directed at reinforcing the very levy that burst from hurricane Katrina. Who is going to have the balls to make the right choices?
Are we really surprised that New Orleans turned into the classic vision of anarchy? Rule number one in dealing with a disaster is helping those that cannot help themselves. 9/11 was the perfect example of this brave human endeavor, successfully by the way. Yes, people died in the tragedy, but the image of NYPD, Port Authority, and FDNY running into the Twin Towers will be burned into our minds forever. In New Orleans, the image will be the dead next to the New Orleans Convention Center, alone and left to rot. So where was the authority, the leadership? Mayor Ray Nagin was totally ineffective during this whole tragedy. Instead of instilling direction and guidance, he immediately pointed at the federal government and asked for instruction. Katherine Blanco seemed to fall to pieces in the days after the hurricane, only to regain composure after federal aid started to flow. Let us also remember that well over a quarter of the population of New Orleans is impoverished. Nagin demanded a mandatory evacuation of the city, but left the poor to fend for themselves. The buses should have been there BEFORE the hurricane, not days after.

One final thought, and this one is the most serious point that came to my mind in the last four days. This generation of children are officially going through one of the hardest decades in modern history, and it is only halfway over. After the party at the beginning of the millennium, this generation has faced 9/11, the fear of terrorism, the War in Iraq, and now Hurricane Katrina. Yes, we all have faced challenges in our lives, but not like this. Not since the 1960's has a generation faced such calamities of the soul. However, this generation is faced with something much more deep and daunting as they have watched the entire story unfold live on television. None of us can say that we watched this kind history as it happened. These kids have watched it live, and lived it. As teachers, we must prepare them to deal with the world they are about to enter. This could be a defining generation, one that faces the challenges head on and deals with them using courage, strength, and will. Or it could be another cynical generation, full of spite and anger at the government, the world, and each other. In the end, we can affect this decision.
This is what we were hired to do.