Friday, October 25, 2013

Studies show that reasons for teachers quitting, and reports that keep repeating it, have not changed.

In a report that could have come out 15 years ago, The Atlantic made startling, I said startling, conclusions that teacher turnover is high and the reasons are usually based around conditions within the workplace and an overall lack of respect for the profession.  I would make an insanely generalized statement about the state of Education in society but after reading this article, I’d rather look at something more inspiring. 

gymnast-baseball-pitch-o

I’m fairly sure that she’s got the stuff for a number four starting pitcher. 

I would invite you not to take the time reading the article and instead take the time to check out the comments, many of which show that society really has no idea what goes on in schools.  And it’s not even a partial-understand kind of thing.  It’s really a “hey, I bet my child is golden and school is the devil” kind of thing. 

In the meantime we can talk all we want about teacher retention and the same two issues will always come up; administration and unions.  It is often perceived that tenured teachers can’t be fired, and that’s untrue.  Administrations that take the time to go through the process to get rid of bad teachers.  It is also perceived that unions are in the game for the best interest of the students.  That would also be untrue as teacher’s unions are in it for the teachers and would sacrifice students to Voldemort if it meant preventing any subtraction of a sliver of political power the union holds.

When all stakeholders actually want to solve the problems of education, we will!  But in the meantime we go back to whatever show is already in progress…

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Income inequality seems to match learning gaps. Who knew?

I have no problem with people getting rich.  Nope.  I’ll all for everyone living the Daddy Warbucks dream while sipping champagne and eating the finest caviar that you can afford.  Get rich and do what you want with your money.  However, you don’t get to bitch when crime, poverty, and over standard-of-living goes down because you decided not to invest in your country.  If you get the opportunity to get rich, others should have that same opportunity.  Yet since 1978ish it seems that social mobility has taken a nose dive and income divisions have become more than visible, they have become a social drag.

A majority of public school children in 17 states, one-third of the 50 states across the nation, were low income students – eligible for free or reduced lunches – in the school year that ended in 2011. Thirteen of the 17 states were in the South, and the remaining four were in the West. Since 2005, half or more of the South’s children in public schools have been from low income households. 

During the last two school years, 2010 and 2011, for the first time in modern history, the West has had a majority of low income students attending P-12 public schools. 

So I guess this means that “California Dreamin” has a little hiccup.  Those of us that live in much of California have known this for awhile and didn’t need the Southern Education Foundation to tell us that much has changed in the last twenty years.  Here in Ukiah the Free and Reduced Lunch rate is hovering somewhere near 75%.  That’s not something that happened over night.  That’s been developing over the course of the last ten years, and local government has been totally ignoring it.

So, what do?

I’ve mentioned since the beginning of this blog that education funding needs to be taken seriously, and that the current funding method does next to nothing for poor and rural school districts.  This recession was a killer for rural California.  Depressed home values and drained state coffers created a toxic situation in which entire programs were destroyed (arts, music, vocational tech) and new programs never had a chance to come to fruition.  Now’s the time to seriously invest in human capital.  We already have one partial generation of kids that had a school with severe cuts that limited student achievement.  We can get serious and prevent the now evidenced move towards a more stratified society.

And if this report doesn’t move you to action, try Berkeley and Harvard.  The public policy angle on education is startling, including the statistic that we just don’t fund poor schools to near the capacity of other industrialized nations.  Local funding helps the Los Altos and Orinda schools while the Covelo and Oroville schools get kicked in the teeth.  It’s time to get our head out of our asses that everything in schools is the fault of the teacher and start treating the real problem within education and society; taking education seriously.  And it can start by attacking the issue of poverty. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Do the debate, not the ban.

Let’s begin by saying that having a team called the Redskins is phenomenally stupid.  I’m not going to say that it bothered me when I was younger or that I lose sleep over it now.  But age and wisdom have shown me that besides being a horrid football organization, the Washington Redskins pretty much take the cake on having an offensive name.  I mean, where in the hell can someone flaunt something so disgusting and have absolutely no social repercussions at all?

Oh yeah.  Silly me.   A league that promotes murderers, thugs, and profits off of traumatic brain injury isn’t really going to care about a name.  But whatever.  So it’s offensive.  The league is stupid for putting up with it and all that.

Yeah that.

Ok, now that that’s been cleared up, what’s the problem?

The principal of Woodrow Wilson High School, Pete Cahall, told The Washington Post that he was going to ask the student government to debate a possible ban, after a student told him she found Redskins apparel offensive to Native Americans.

It’s nice that the principal has brought the issue to student government for debate.  These are the kinds of controversial issues that are good for high school students to discuss since their next step is heading out into society and discussing them there.  But a ban?  “Hey that’s offensive, let’s ban it” approaches are not practical in any logical sense (they don’t really exist off campus) and probably have some constitutional problems as well.

I teach primarily Seniors, so I believe that high school should be as close to real world as we possibly can get while promoting an effective learning environment.  This includes the ability to not ban everything that is deemed “offensive” because then you have a “school” that is isn’t like the real world; a school that doesn’t allow people to contribute to the marketplace of ideas that free speech and critical thinking allow.  Good for the principal to create the debate.  But hopefully he really makes the situation a teachable moment by modeling the Constitution. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Homecoming, thank God, is over

I made a promise on #sschat that I would try and get through the week without posting “I hate Homecoming” on Twitter.  The week is over. 

And I hate Homecoming.

You can find past Homecoming rants here, here, here,  and this one.  It shouldn’t be surprising that my opinion on Homecoming has changed little since I was first exposed to the March Towards the Spirit Bell.  While festivities have been a tad paired back, the energy put towards this week’s event was insane.  Here’s the highlights:

-Students coming in bleary eyed because they were up until Midnight on school nights working the backdrop, the skit, and the float.

-Students coming in to morning classes because of all the drama associated with Homecoming “unity” in various states of emotional distress.  Some sulked and a few actually cried.

-Internal divisions within classes that led to physical confrontations.

-Divisions within classes that lead to groups of students screaming profanities at each other on campus, and harassing each other on the Internet.

-Parents of students spending over a thousand  dollars on food, supplies, bribes, and various other items to make sure that their class wins some idiotic bell that they will probably see one time in the next nine months.  

My favorite quote was from a higher up who said that community members loved Homecoming but had concerns that their kids were too involved and wished the school did something about it.  The school.  This is the same alumni community that throws a fit when the Homecoming Parade route was changed because the town didn’t have enough police to maintain safety.  The same community that has more involvement in Homecoming that almost any academic function on campus for the entire year.

I guess there is a little hypocrisy on my end since I play the role of Homecoming Grinch very well.  Students see it as a joke.  Some other teachers see me as a joyless jerk that hates watching the kids have fun.  Most nod, sigh, and go through the process while watching the school become a circus.  And yes, I dress up in Purple and Gold on “Purple and Gold” day.  And yes I escort a couple of King and Queen candidates on occasion.  But until we create an event that actually does not disrupt the whole system for weeks, and actually creates a positive impact on the community, I’ll still dislike this annual event.    

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

American jocks are dumb and destroying schools, even if the evidence shows otherwise.

So, yeah, the dumb jock stereotype. 

Funny how that stereotype hangs out in society and is an accepted part of educational system.  It’s interesting that while stereotyping Liberal Arts is frowned upon because they are of such a pronounced intellect, picking on the high school athlete is really cool because we all know that the athletic culture within a high school is full of idiots. 

Isn’t that right Ms. Elizabeth Kolbert of The New Yorker?

Of course, Mr. Evidence might have something else to say about that.

“Seventy-six percent of 6- to 12-year-olds reported participating in some sports in 1997 and in 2007, 56% of high school students reported playing on one or more sports teams organized by their school or community in the previous 12 months.” –U.S. Centers for Disease Control (2010)

Now you calm down, Mr. Evidence.  You’ll get your say when the moment arises.  Right now, Eliz has the floor to explain how the “sports culture” that over half of America’s school participate in is ruining education.

“High school students that participate in sports have higher grades and standardized test
scores in mathematics and language arts courses (Broh, 2002). McNeal (1995) found that student
athletes were 1.7 times less likely to drop out of school. High school student athletes have also
self-reported higher education aspirations, diligence in homework completion, and lower
absenteeism, compared to students that do not participate in sports (Marsh, 1992).” –Journal of Research in Education (2013)

HEY Evidence, knock it off!  Give the esteemed Literature major from Yale, Ms. Kolbert, her say!  Ok Elizabeth….what say you?

“That American high schools lavish more time and money on sports than on math is, I know, an old complaint………But, as another school year starts, it is a lament worth revisiting.”

What is totally amusing about this statement is how dead ass wrong it actually is.  Take for instance, my salary.  I’ve been teaching for 13 years so you could assume that as a public school teacher in rural Northern California, I don’t make that much money.  However, two of me  manages to pay for every single coach, piece of equipment, official, and scorekeeper on this campus of 1,600 kids.  Let’s see, that includes:

-Football, Boys and Girls Cross Country, Boys and Girls Golf, Boys and Girls Water Polo, Volleyball, Boys and Girls Basketball, Boys and Girls Wrestling, Boys and Girls Track, Boys and Girls Swimming, Baseball, Softball.

Everything else comes from sports boosters or parents or coaches.  Basically high school athletics is one of the best bangs for your buck in terms of teaching.

On the academic end our tax dollars pay for every instructor, aide, textbook, worksheet, conference, Professional Learning Community, and such.  Oh, and time?  I measured up the time I spend with my students in the classroom (hours) to the number of hours I spend with my basketball team (including nights and weekends).  Much more time is spent just in the classroom with kids only, that doesn’t count prep work, meetings, tutoring, meeting with kids after school, or grading work.  It’s not really even close.  And I’d consider myself very involved in the basketball program at Ukiah High School.  So, no, more time and money are not being spent on athletics. 

“Nearly all the associations between extracurricular physical activity and
indicators of academic performance
were either positive (52%) or neutral (46%).” -U.S. Centers for Disease Control (2010)

Dammit Evidence, hold on!

Go ahead, Ms. Kolbert.

“Sports, (Amanda) Ripley (author of Smartest Kids in the World) writes, were “the core culture of Gettysburg High.” In Wroclaw (Poland), by contrast, if kids wanted to play soccer or basketball after school they had to organize the games themselves. Teachers didn’t double as coaches and the principal certainly never came out to cheer. Thus, “there was no confusion about what school was for—or what mattered to the kids’ life chances.”

First of all, the focus is on those idiotic PISA science and math scores, and there is plenty of reason towards the conclusion that A) those test scores mean nothing academic, and B) they show all kinds of problems about poverty in society.  But I digress back to Liz’s point of “what school was for" and “what mattered to the kids’ life chances.”  Kolbert did not play sports, and therefore she does not realize the importance of sports to the young American teenager in developing those skills necessary for success: collaboration, work ethic, the ability to think on your feet, competitive edge, the necessity to listen, sportsmanship, compassion, and the ability to mentor younger generations.  Sorry Ms. Kolbert, students are not learning that in the classroom, and most students don’t learn that in the classroom because in the classroom they. are. learning. MATH!  There you go.  Math, the most critical of all job skills.  Who cares about the other skills, right?

“One of the ironies of the situation is that sports reveal what is possible. American kids' performance on the field shows just how well they can do when expectations are high and they put their minds to it. It’s too bad that their test scores show the same thing.”

And Ms. Kolbert’s education from Yale concludes that it’s the sports.  Check the title of the article she wrote 

HAVE SPORTS TEAMS BROUGHT DOWN AMERICA’S SCHOOLS?

Pretty much sums up her thesis.  Although from where I’m sitting the problem might be enabling parents, misguided principals, disengaged teachers, and Kolbert’s own bias towards the “dumb jock” syndrome.  Way to perpetuate a stereotype, Liz.  I’m sure my Advanced Placement students, nearly all athletes, will love an opinion from a bitter liberal arts junky who is pissed off for being cut from the high school tennis team. 

See what I did there?  Sure you did.  Oh Evidence….

“Is participation in extracurricular physical activities at school related to academic performance?

• Yes…... More than half of the associations examined in these studies were positive (52% overall), and almost none were negative (2%). Of note, GPA was positively associated with extracurricular physical activity 12 of the 22 times it was measured. Two studies also examined the association between extracurricular activities and dropout rates and found that participation was linked to decreased high school dropout rates.” – U.S. Center for Disease Control (2010)

  Moving on……