Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Student is correct, and stupid. Now back to the test…..

So Kyron Birdine was taking one of those idiotic standardized tests that we all love so much.  Of ample intelligence and work ethic, Birdine decided that the test wasn’t worth his time and defaced his test booklet with the phrase “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) and took a picture of said transgression.  Then he Tweeted it.

student tweets yolo

The answer didn’t get him suspended.  The picture of the test did.  It nailed Birdine a four day suspension.  Excessive?

Yes and no.  Obviously the picture was not taken because he was trying to Instagram the answers around the world for people to see.  Not unless the prompt is something like “Write down a four letter word that would best explain how stupid people describe Carpe Diem.”  Yet the rules are pretty clear that you don’t take and publish photos of a fairly important test.  Especially when the high stakes aspect of the test put the schools ass in jeopardy.  Now the school will get increased scrutiny, have to write gobs of paperwork, and risk worse sanctions because a student was bored. 

Which also makes this a classroom management issue.  How in the hell does a student manage to click off a picture on his iPad?  If this was my class during STAR tests and I saw an iPad come out a pack of Velociraptors would drop from the ceiling and eat the iPad while the Grim Reaper came through the door and threaten the very existence of the student.  This is another example of “we are part of the problem” and while the student needs to pull his head out of his ass, so does the teacher.

But don’t worry because testing will now be on computers and that is so much more secure.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Monday, May 13, 2013

U.S. News and World Report rankings show, well, some stuff.

The U.S. News and World Report rankings are out and the information is as irrelevant as ever, although that hardly stops the media from grabbing the magazine and rubbing all over their bodies to produce some kind of Axe Effect. 

But on this blog we take any information that we can get and start to make educated deductions.  So I decided to take the information from my high school (Ukiah High) and the biggest local charter school (Redwood Academy) and do a little comparison examination.  This isn’t a knock on the local charter at all.  But I think some information and analysis should be scrutinized if we are looking to change course in education.

Lets start with a basic overview of Redwood Academy.

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Impressive!  Ukiah gets some recognition from a survey that primarily looks at Advanced Placement participation and test scores, and it looks like Redwood is getting the job done! 

Now Ukiah High.

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Back to the drawing board.  Like most schools in the U.S., especially public non-charters, we don’t seem to be getting the job done. 

Ok, then let’s look at who we-the-teachers are serving.  After all, it’s about them, all of them, in the end. 

Ukiah High

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Sounds about right.  Half the school is a minority population, although that  is no excuse for not getting kids better prepared.  Over 50% of that population is Economically Disadvantaged; again not an excuse for not doing better.  But hey, want to hear a frightening statistic?  We have four counselors trying to meet the need of all those kids.  Because, you know, money doesn’t really matter in education or something.

Ok, enough of that.  Redwood Academy? 

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That’s not quite as much as Ukiah High.  And the 9th grade rise could mean a couple of things; either a rise in overall enrollment or a sharp decline after they start high school.  I looked at enrollment in middle school grades and they are all around 30.  At least Redwood is serving a significant diversity of population; what with two kids designated Special Education and two kids designated Migrant Ed.  Wow.

But the real proof is in the pudding, so on to Advanced Placement information!  Ukiah High.

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Two things stand out here.  First, not enough students are taking the tests.  Even though we have more tests being taken this year than every before, not enough students are taking them.  There are plenty of reasons for that with money on the top of the list.  Hell, over half my Seniors are taking the AP Test and some that I KNOW would get high scores won’t take it because it doesn’t impact their college credits.  That’s fine by me.  But a large and healthy public institution should have twice that amount taking the tests.  The second thing that stands out is that the students that are motivated to take AP tests do very well.

Redwood Academy?

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Huh.

So it looks like a higher percentage of students at the school take AP tests, and by higher percentage it means that the number of students taking AP tests in the Junior class is going to be less than the number of students taking the test in my AP U.S. History class.  And they don’t do as well on the exams.  Well, there goes the theory of class sizes. 

So what can we take out of this whole report? 

Well, I don’t have loathing for Redwood Academy if that’s what you think.  But this fawning all over the U.S. News high school report card really needs to stop because all it does to hump an inequity that exists in education; charters teach who they want and public schools don’t have that choice.  It’s simple to point to schools that have different rules and exempt significant portions of the population, and then call them “wonderful” and give them “silver medals”, and so on and so forth.

I’ll say this again; either let public schools follow the same rules as charters (thus creating a permanent under-class in society and creating a caste system), or make charters serve under the same public mandate (this creating a smaller public school).  Otherwise we are just avoiding the problem of educating the entire population of kids. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Hello? This is Prom speaking. I want your money.

This weekend is Prom at Ukiah High School and being the ever present Economics teacher, I get to be the buzz kill. 

Spending on the annual high school ritual of the prom continues to outpace inflation and grew for the second straight year, hitting an average of $1,139 per family in 2013.

Think this is too high?  Incorporate the car, the dinner, the dress, the tux rental, the limo, the tips, the shoes, the nails, the hair, the make-up, the pre-game booze, the post-Prom party at a friends that will probably involve more expensive booze, and the final 3:30 in the morning meal at Denny’s.  Actually that number might be a little low. 

The last thing I tell my kids before they leave class on Friday before Prom is to be careful, and to consider the real cost of Prom.  Those that understand (which is most) all-of-the-sudden stop, and some will actually utter a very audible “shit.”  This economists in the room will realize that the actual cost of Prom would not be the $1,139.  Nope.  The actual cost is what you COULD be doing with $1,139.  And better yet, those same students start spouting off that the opportunity cost (what they WOULD be doing with the $1,139) is incredible.  Vacations, tuition money, rent for a month or two.  Of course, those that didn’t spend an enormous amount of money don’t have the “buyer’s remorse” because they didn’t have a high cost.  Go figure.

Yep, another message that we are sending to kids; that a fairly useless dance deserves weeks of attention and money because that’s really important.  We continue to shower our children with totally confusing messages; enabling them to death, not holding them accountable for their actions, while still managing to blame everyone else for the insanely high youth unemployment rates, the problems of academic progress, and the proliferation of teenage angst that turns into violence.  When are we going to figure it out.