Saturday, May 28, 2016

Snyder names 21st Century Commission

The important question no one has yet asked is whether the results of this panel will have any staying power in the coming years and decades? Or will it just be another target of political whims in our broken political system created by term limits and gerrymandering? 

Without staying power, the time and money put into this process will be a waste.

And if all it does it focus on wrongheaded policies such as mandatory testing, school rankings, teacher evaluation, or expanding corporate charters, they should simply quit before they start.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Michigan continues to starve its public school system

Amber Arellano of EdTrust-Midwest is highly critical of Michigan's public schools and heralds Massachusetts as an example of what works. What she conveniently ignores, because it goes against the grain of her wealthy financial backers, is that Massachusetts actually funds their schools while Michigan has been starving public school kids since 2008.

State General Funding Per Student Still Lower Than 2008 in 25 States | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Monday, May 23, 2016

Future of Public Education: A possible scenario

So here's a conceivable scenario for the future if radical legislators and corporate hacks continue pushing charters on a public that chooses to remain ignorant of the problem:

1. Traditional public schools will disappear because a dual tax-supported system is not sustainable over time.

2. Corporations that run charters will open and close them at will, shutting them down entirely in areas where the profit margins are low.

3. As corporate-run charters become a majority of schools, corporations will demand more public dollars to compete in the marketplace and will use political money and power to force state legislature's hands.

4. Like runaway college and university costs, the demand for entrance by the "average student" will force costs at corporate charters and private schools to skyrocket.

5. Legislation will materialize to allow corporate charters to charge a variety of fees and possibly tuition to keep up with rising costs and greater demand; by now the traditional public school system will pretty much have disappeared due to bankruptcies and apathy.

6. The percentage of children uneducated in formal school settings will skyrocket due to their local schools having closed and inability of the corporate charter system to expand to meet 100% of the non-private-school demand.

7. I'll let you fill in the consequences to our society from this point on.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

New York Times: Money, Race and Success in our School Districts: Still another ranking by poverty

Another frustrating measure of the impact of poverty (personal and community-wide), transiency, and limited English language skills. This is very much why the current educational structure of our schools no longer works (hasn't since the 1970s) and must be redesigned to provide grade-less, competency-based, 4Cs learning so all students can eventually attain a high level of learning in areas THEY are interested in, that will help them pursue THEIR dreams for THEIR futures.

We’ve long known of the persistent and troublesome academic gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers in public schools. 
We’ve long understood the primary reason, too: A higher proportion of black and Hispanic children come from poor families. A new analysis of reading and math test score data from across the country confirms just how much socioeconomic conditions matter.
Children in the school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts.
Even more sobering, the analysis shows that the largest gaps between white children and their minority classmates emerge in some of the wealthiest communities...
Yet our state legislatures in Michigan and every other state continue to drag their feet by underfunding public schools while providing business tax cuts and shelters for the wealthy. They also fail to remedy the inequity of school funding and in many instances, school districts in wealthy communities receive higher levels of per-pupil state funding than in poor districts. And most poor communities cannot provide the bonding levels necessary to improve or replace aging school structures so kids often attend school in the worst conditions.

New York Times: Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares
A comparison of 6th graders in every U.S. school district. (click to enlarge)

I'm honest enough to show you where our school district stands as far as our 6th graders are concerned, and I've documented relentlessly the past eight years why that's so, much of it on this blog site.

Where does your district fall in the ranking and why? Follow the link to find out.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Life in a Kindergarten Classroom

Today, I had my first-ever experience substituting in a kindergarten classroom. It wasn't planned, but then again maybe it was.

Yesterday, I noticed that I didn't have anything on my calendar for today so I thought a Friday off to do nothing might be in the works. I have some vacation and personal leave time available so why not? But last night I began to waffle and decided to set my alarm as normal and see what the morning brings. Alarm went off, I got up, showered, downed my usual coffee and off to work I went. But decided to make it one of my occasional (not enough) "No Office Days" and spend the entire day in our schools.

First stop, the Early Childhood Center about a half hour before the start of the school day. But before I knew it, I was subbing in a kindergarten classroom because the scheduled substitute decided to turn down the assignment. And because the look on the principal's face was one of desperation. Certainly can't blame him.

So off I went to fill in for Ms. Swem and meet my 27 (only twenty-five were present) darling 5 and 6 year-olds.

What a ride! The teacher had great, detailed sub plans but pacing the day was a struggle from the start given that I lacked any recent classroom experience and never filled in for a kindergarten teacher. But the career Army in me kicked in and decided come hell or high-water, the mission will be accomplished.

Then the kids showed up and I learned a whole different set of lessons.

But we made it. As a team. Well, some of the time as a team.

Well, actually we were never really a team, but for one day it didn't matter. I think we enjoyed each other's company and learned a lot about each other's world.

Yes, there were challenges most of which I still believe are the result of our penchant for pushing academic learning down to the earliest grades at the expense of socialization and school-readiness, but that's for another blog post another time.

As for today, every superintendent that hasn't should spend a day in kindergarten. Your empathy for both kids and teachers will grow a thousand-fold.

I believe fate decided I didn't need the day off and I'm glad it did.

Enjoy your weekend. I certainly will.