Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Let’s welcome new education laws in California!

While you’re kissing a complete stranger at midnight on January 1, 2016 there are some new laws that will go into effect for us educational folk here in California.  Shall we take a look?

Mandatory Vaccines (SB 277) Requires full vaccination for most children to enroll in school, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, in order to attend public or private school regardless of their parents' personal or religious beliefs.

I’ve always thought that parents that don’t vaccinate their children are pretty much on par with bath salt dealers and ISIS.  They not only present a danger for their own children, they present a danger for society as a whole because they won’t remove the tin foil from their head to get the facts about immunization.  I’m a little safer thanks to this law.

High School Exit Exam (SB 172, Liu) Suspends the administration of the high school exit examination and removes the high school exit examination as a condition of receiving a diploma of graduation for each pupil completing grade 12 for specified school years.

YOU GET A DIPLOMA….AND YOU GET A DIPLOMA….AND YOU GET A DIPLOMA!

Good news for those that didn’t quite earn a diploma but managed to get an education that is somewhere below the level of eighth grade.  If you passed high school with good enough grades, and you graduated between 2004 and 2015, you will be getting a diploma.

Even if you failed the California High School Exit Exam.

There are three positive things that came out of the era of the mess that was No Child Left Behind. 

1)  The term “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”  This was important because it is true.

2)  The use of data showed that we are totally underperforming to our Black and Latino students.

3)  A minimum skills assessment to graduate high school.

The Exit Exam (nicknamed CAHSEE) was the bane of the existence to many teachers mainly because it was ANOTHER test to be given to students on top of the STAR test which measured the No Child Left Behind nonsense, and currently Common Core.  With the test contract expired, California decided to stop offering the Exit Exam (wanting to mix it with Common Core later) but was left in limbo because a lot of students that had graduated yet were still allowed to take it…now couldn’t.  So they suspended it……back to 2004.  This means that every student that didn’t pass a basic skills exam that any eighth grader should pass will now be given a diploma.  Why?  Probably because the test was racist, sexist, and discriminated against those in poverty because that’s a great way to bail out an education system that allowed students to take the Exit Exam once in 10th grade, twice in 11th grade, and up to five times as a Senior in high school.  Oh, and the English section requires a 60% to pass.  The Math?  A 55%.

Trying to meld it into Common Core is a great idea.  Simply granting a waiver to a decades worth of students shows that the government doesn’t really have confidence in its teachers at all.  With a small margin of error, about 10% of high school students could not pass the CAHSEE.  10%.  And those were disproportionately Latino and Black students.  But while the data shows that schools, parents, and communities have have along way to go in meeting the needs of these populations, Senate Bill 172 gives the whole thing a “meh, it’s good enough” approach.  The same approach that has plagued the system for a long, long time. 

Sex Ed Instruction (AB 329, Weber) Changes sexual education courses from voluntary to mandatory. Updates curricula to include, for example, more information about HIV and the spectrum of gender identity. Parents will need to specifically opt-out​ their children if they do not want them to receive the instruction. 

Mandatory sexual education courses are a good thing.  I remember when it was controversial to talk about HIV in 1991 in high school and I’m embarressed that it was even a thing.  Gender identity?  I have many feelings on the issue of gender identity, most of it revolving around the mantra of “I could give a shit.”  I always find it interesting and hypocritical about how most of society in all spectrums treats the issue of gender.  But gender identity taught in schools will probably cause enough controversey to remain entertaining, so be it.

Gun-Free School Zone (SB 707, Wolk) Persons with concealed weapons permits will no longer be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on public or private K-12 schools, universities or colleges. There are exemptions for certain appointed peace officers who are authorized to carry a firearm by their appointing agency and certain retired reserve peace officers who are authorized to carry a concealed or loaded firearm.

Police officers should carry guns on campus.  No one else should.  Those morons that believe that more guns create a safer environment that deters crime have no evidence that backs that up and are fools.

“Yes means yes” (SB 695): Teaching students about consent will now be included in high school health education classes. This law requires schools districts to include in their health classes, which are mandatory for graduation, lessons on the importance of consent for sexual acts, or that “yes means yes.”

This is disaster written all over it.  Just so I’m absolutely clear, we are going to tell high school teachers that teach health education, from dedicated health specialists to the 30 year veteren PE teacher that has to teach it and resents the hell out of it (and every spectrum in-between) that THEY are going to explain what consent is?  Oh this is gold.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the issue of consent should be discussed.  But this just has the potential of being a total and complete mess.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Day 23: Dinosaur National Monument

The day changed because of weather.  It looked like it might storm early on so we hustled the 35 miles out to the Canyon section (the east side) of Dinosaur that was actually back in Colorado.  After talking to the rangers in the Visitor’s Center we drove the 30 miles north to the actual park and started the hike at the end of the road; the Harper’s Corner hike.  The hike would take us out along a ridge about a mile and a half out to a point overlooking the Echo Park and the Green River.  The weather was not looking great but the drive was long and we wanted to get walking.  We grabbed a bottle of water and headed out.

We broke our own rules.  About a mile into the hike we heard our first thunder and the rain started.  Shit.  It sounded far off so we half jogged out to the point.  This is not what you are supposed to do, especially on an exposed ridge or a canyon point.  When we hit the overlook we were in a steady rain with a decent wind, and we could see the storm cell coming up the canyon. 

Not good.  And not smart to be here.

For the record, we have to come back here.  The views were great regardless of the rain and wind.  The Canyon section of Dinosaur is already on our list for a future trip and guess what; the views of Dinosaur to the south are as good as any that we have seen on our trip.  It’s out there but it’s so worth it.

Except that now the thunder was sounding sharp. 

We jogged back to the car and made it without incident, although we were not happy with ourselves because the trip back was fairly stressful.  We worked our way back down the Harper Canyon Road but couldn’t really stop because the wind and rain didn’t really let us out of the car.  By the time we reached Highway 40, the rain (of course) had stopped.  Instead of going back we decided to hit the western section of Dinosaur National Park.  This was the location of the famous dinosaur quarry. 

We headed back into Utah to the Quarry section of Dinosaur and first hit a couple of small hikes.  We walked two box canyons and started a canyon hike until we heard the thunder.  We went back to the Visitor’s Center and took a small tram to the dinosaur quarry.  You can either take the tram up or walk up.  We decided to take the tram up and walk down.  It was only about a mile and half.  The quarry is very interesting; a half excavated rock quarry of dinosaur bones that has been encased in a large building.  It looks unreal, meaning it looks really, really cool….if you are a child.  For adults?  Meh.  It’s neat for a little while but the fossils are petrified and only one really looks like the structure of a small dinosaur.  The rest are independent bones except for a couple of skeletons in a small glass case.  It was nice but we probably won’t be returning to this side of the park.  We walked done the hill from the quarry, watching the clouds move in and the seemingly ever present sound of thunder in the distance.  We stopped in a couple of locations to see fossils in the rock but eventually moved expediently back to the car, and headed back to Vernal.   

This was a quick trip to Dinosaur and we didn’t realize that it could be so big.  There is a strong chance we will be returning to hit the east Canyon section for a visit to Echo Park in the near future.  It’s just too awesome to pass up.

Trails Hiked:  Harper’s Corner Trail, Plug Hat Trail, Box Canyon, Hog Canyon, Fossil Discovery Trail

Miles Hiked:  5

Friday, December 25, 2015

Reinvention or revision or recalculation or reassess or whatever

Ever notice that this blog seems to disappear around the first two weeks of November, only to reappear around Christmas?  Yeah, didn't think so.

There is a direct correlation between posts and basketball, and my Christmas present is going to take care of that.  As usual the end of the year brings forth reflection and pondering about what life holds for me.  I'm already on the path to making that happen.  I'm already on a path to make myself a better teacher and a better husband.  It's a path that was really started years ago and much of what has happened in the last few years was about pulling the trigger.  Well, we are now off and running in another direction.

My teaching has to improve.  I drop into survival mode for four months of the year and I'm tired of the half-assness that is involved with something I'm passionate about.  On top of that I need to incorporate the "whatever" stipulations that are coming down the road from Standards and Practices.  They are annoying at best but still require additional human capital to apply, and that resource has been more and more stretched.

I also need to address this next generation of technology and teaching.  Look!  We have Chromebooks!  Look!  People use the Chromebooks instead of teaching!  Look!  That's doing it wrong!  In a world that has now espoused the glory in technology replacing everything, it looks like technology is being used as the answer; when it is supposed to be a tool.  Not THE answer.  A tool.  In a meeting with middle school teachers the first thing out of the mouth of a younger teacher was "how much do you incorporate technology in your classroom?"  The frightening part wasn't that I don't make a massive point to incorporate technology just for the sake of incorporating technology, the frightening part was that it was a meeting about writing.  The question should've been about teaching, not technology.

And there is too much going on in the world for me not to write.  I miss writing.  I think I actually write well and need to write to keep my mind from exploding.

So what's next?