Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future.
-- Maria Montessori
This is a record of Dan Martin's Education Ride 365. In 2012 he set out to visit all 50 states and speak to educators, and ride 50,000 miles on the Cycle of Education. He did it! The ride is over but his blog remains as a record of the trip.
Education Ride 365
One Year --
50 States --
Goal: 50 States TX LA MS AL FL GA AR NM AZ NV CA OK KS CO WY MT ND SD NE MO IA MN TN OH PA MA IN ME NY NH VT RI CT WV OR WA AK KY ID UT NC SC IL WI MI NJ DE MD VA HI . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . |
Miles per Month; Goal: 50,000 Miles Total (roll over for details)
Trends: Even Bob Dylan Is Probably Shocked By How Rapidly The Times They Are A-Changin'!
In the manner of those beyond a certain age, I am fond of thinking about all the ways life is different now than it was just a few years ago! Many reading this can go back further than my recollection of sitting by our dial phone for hours waiting for that certain someone to call. (Just about the time you couldn't take putting off a bathroom run...the phone would ring when you were clear across the house!)
Before voice mail, we relied on very unreliable micro-cassette recorders to (when it worked or another family member didn't tape over it) save voice messages for us. Before that, there was no choice but to wait by the phone for extended periods of time just to make sure one didn't miss "that" important call!
Nowadays, many of us actually get nervous if we leave home without our cell phone! We are constantly "plugged in." What if something were to happen like you run out of gas or need to reach out to someone immediately?!
The story below documents the trend of a dying art form from a near bygone era! The practice of writing and reading cursive is so pre-21st century that it has become perfectly cryptic to many of our young people. Most schools that are still teaching the art of writing in cursive have cut way back on its emphasis.
Here are a couple of interesting quotes from the full article you can access from The New York Times by clicking the image below:
...."many districts now teach cursive only in third grade, with fewer lessons."
“Schools today, we say we’re preparing our kids for the 21st century,”
said Jacqueline DeChiaro, the principal of Van Schaick Elementary School
in Cohoes, N.Y., who is debating whether to cut cursive. “Is cursive
really a 21st-century skill?”
With schools focused on preparing students for standardized tests, there
is often not enough time to teach handwriting, educators said.
“If you’re a school or a teacher, you can bet that if kids are being
tested on it, that it’s going to receive a priority emphasis in your
Trends: Teenage Drivers Are Dangerous Enough Without Cell Phone Distractions!
Our country is a patchwork of laws that can result in an individual being in compliance one mile...and out of compliance a mile away. Restrictions on the use of mobile communication devices is a prime example. I raise it in this education blog, though, because Texas is unequivocal about one such law involving teen drivers.
Everywhere in Texas, it is illegal for drivers under 18 to use wireless communication devices in the vehicle.
I was unaware of this restriction before reading the collection of legislation---both passed and proposed---outlined on the website pictured below.
Lest you feel unaffected as an adult, click below to see how much variance there is from locale to locale regarding the use of such devices by adult drivers. One mile you are in compliance, but cross the next city line and you are a law breaker!
At any rate, we should stress and constantly remind our most dangerous drivers---teens---that this restriction applies to them across the state of Texas!
Click the site above to be bewildered by the patchwork!
Trends: All The World's A Customer---->Is Your School Ready To Reap The Rewards?
In these tight budget times we are especially reminded of how limited resources can be. Financial, material, and human resources always seem tight and barely sufficient in schools. Now, the bite of recession and education restructuring is hitting bone in many places across our country.
One other precious resource proactive schools constantly nurture and covet is community support. To the proportion your school has this, you probably have a smoother time weathering shortages of the other resources mentioned above. In thinking about this, I recalled Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Effective People as an interesting framework for considering a school's responsibility and wisdom in extending their base and degree of community support through outreach, accessibility, and quality.
Begin With The End In Mind
Put First Things First
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Sharpen The Saw
While Covey was primarily addressing the individual in his book, he extends his philosophy to organizations as well. Setting aside the content of the book, these seven points could serve as pillars of effective school-community relations. As a general framework, the lessons Covey addressed to the individual in this book should be readily applied to how our schools respond to the community at large--->their customers.
The list below is from the book above (that seems oddly dated given its publication year of 2000), nonetheless the list is timeless. It is all about building capital with your customers. The efforts your school expends to build community support and participation will be rewarded many-fold. What is your school currently doing well? Where does it need to improve? How can you get there? In coming posts I will share more ideas about maximizing your school's standing with your community.
The New York Times article below examines the trend towards online learning experiences as an alternative to "in the seat" instruction.
This is a major trend, that could be just as impactful to education in America as the charter school trend has been to public education. Will most all learning experiences eventually be conducted in the "virtual world?" No doubt it is a matter of degree and complexion....rather than an either/or.
In the near-term, the article below considers the quality---including rigor---of online courses.
couple of years ago now, I took a hiatus from school administration to
work on some automation projects in the private sector that allow
schools to work better. I'd been consulting on one of these projects for years. It is EdClick. You can go here to see more of this story.
major project I embarked on was with a distance education company that
partners with colleges and universities to help them deliver their
courses online. Essentially, this company facilitates distance
learning--->from course production to student recruitment to student
retention to monitoring of students....and so on. They basically
provide a near turn-key solution to the delivery of online content.
worked with them through the Fall before deciding that their model was
not for me...and that my opportunities with EdClick and other projects
interested me more. Their model was high volume delivery of inexpensive educational opportunities. That is not necessarily bad.
was a driving mantra. The online landscape (and technology more
generally speaking) is so hyper-evolutionary that the currents are
swift. Done wrong, online education can be BIG business at the expense of quality education.
suspect, though, that online learning experiences are much like "in the
seat" learning experiences---->specifically, they are inconsistent.
I heard a Governor recently say that a parent knows within a week or
two if their child has a bad teacher or not. Isn't that so true! There
are both quality and inadequate teachers in our schools, just like
there are both quality and inadequate online learning experiences.
What are your thoughts?
From the NY Times article:
"Advocates of such courses say they allow schools to offer not only
makeup courses, the fastest-growing area, but also a richer menu of
electives and Advanced Placement classes when there are not enough students to fill a classroom.
But critics say online education is really driven by a desire to spend
less on teachers and buildings, especially as state and local budget
crises force deep cuts to education. They note that there is no sound
research showing that online courses at the K-12 level are comparable to
Click the photo below to access the complete story.
An abundance of research supports the opinions expressed in this CNN.com piece by Laura Sessions Shepp.
Young people will always be a challenge. Their brains are not completely developed and they don't have the wisdom even the dimmest mind will gain over the years.
Nonetheless, as I've reported in previous blog posts, young people these days are making better decisions on the whole.This author and others make a persuasive case for further development of a positive orientation to what kids are doing...and how well, accordingly, so many parents are doing.
Do we reward young people enough? Too much? Should discipline programs be merely punitive? How can feedback and discipline be better tailored to mistakes being handled as true learning experiences...at least as much as they are appropriately punitive?
How often do we fundamentally reevaluate our approach to the young people we impact?
Click the image above for the full CNN.com article
P.S., one notable exception to the progress of our youth:
"One serious problem, according to the CDC, is that more teens are
getting fatter. A lot fatter. But aside from that, they appear to be
taking better care of themselves than the generation that preceded them."
Trends: The Young Will Pay, Working Educators Will Pay, & So Will Our Retired Educators
Are you an educator who has served your time and thought you were out of the vicissitudes of the daily education business? Well, not so fast! The Texas Education Budget Slash of 2011 makes it harder on all educators, even those who put in their years and are now living on fixed incomes. Good grief.
For the full WFAA article and/or a video version, click the image below.
Until recently, being an educator was a very secure career path. Now, with tight budgets, staff layoffs, and increased "accountability stress"----in states across the nation----post-secondary schools are beginning to see declines in the number of people training for a career in education.
Demand for educators will ultimately rebound by virtue of "market forces." We hope.
Education may again become a priority in America! We hope.
Trends: Sexting Can Lead To A World Of Trouble For Young People
People do irrational things. Couple this with the fact that young people do not have fully developed brains and you begin to be able to explain how they could chose to do really irrational, even destructive, things without beginning to realize the serious nature of the behavior.
One very 21st century example of this is...Sexting. A rather lengthy, good read on this trend is in The New York Times today. You can access a full copy of this article by clicking the image below!
It would be wise for
adults to discuss the dangers of this behavior proactively, before the damage is done. After the
fact, the implications of such behavior can change lives forever...for the
"Hispanic students for the first time make up the majority of students enrolled in Texas public schools.
The Texas Education Agency reports Hispanic students this school year
account for 50.2 percent of the state's 4.9 million children enrolled in
public schools, including pre-kindergarten and early childhood
education. Hispanics last year made up nearly 49 percent of the
..."Currently, there are an estimated 2.48 million Hispanics students in Texas public schools."
Class size matters. Does it matter more than the quality of the teacher in the room?
In states across our country, class sizes are once again rising, reversing a several-decade trend of lowered average (even maximum) class sizes.
For an interesting story on this trend, click the New York Times article picture below, or catch a couple of quotes here:
"The increases are reversing a trend toward smaller classes that
stretches back decades. Since the 1980s, teachers and many other
educators have embraced research finding that smaller classes foster
....Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,
who last Sunday told governors gathered in Washington to consider
paying bonuses to the best teachers to take on extra students.
Mr. Duncan said he would prefer to put his own school-age children in a
classroom with 28 students led by a “fantastic teacher” than in one with
23 and a “mediocre” teacher."
Trends: After Katrina Devastation, Schools In New Orleans May Now Offer Young People More Than Ever
Hurricane Katrina was devastating in so many ways. The schools in New Orleans were basically destroyed. As tragic as this has been short-term, it has also provided a unique opportunity for the school system in this great city to fundamentally redevelop. The trend, as highlighted in the article quoted below, is one of parent/student choice from schools with increasingly unique cultures and specializations to cater to a greater range of family (student) preferences.
This trend toward specialization and greater choice is a trend that we are seeing (in varying degrees) in other areas of the country, but in NOLA the storm's aftermath necessitated a more rapid pace of development than is likely to occur where the status quo tends to do until the next day.
It seems that education in New Orleans is on a fruitful path! Geaux N.O.!
From the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune story...or access the entire story by clicking the image below:
Many of the high schools parents may know from before the storm are directly operated by the Recovery School District
and have extremely low test scores. Educators sometimes delicately
steer parents away from familiar names and toward newer schools like Sci
...."It's about fit," said Darcy McKinnon, high school transitions
coordinator at FirstLine Schools, which operates four elementary schools
and will open a high school next year. "I talk to parents and give them
a portrait of the high school. High school X is wonderful and has loads
of extracurriculars, but I also know that it only offers two APs
(Advanced Placement courses). Is your child someone who needs structure
and personal attention? There are definitely kids who need to go to
Easton, Walker or Karr, because what keeps them in school is the purple
and the gold, the football team and the band."
McKinnon advised Tony Watkins, who goes to Samuel J. Green Charter
School, to consider Benjamin Franklin. Though the elite selective
admissions school is a bit of a reach academically, McKinnon believes
Tony could thrive there."
Trends: Race To Nowhere---->Challenging Current Assumptions About How To Best Prepare The Youth Of America For Life
We live in a hyper-paced world. Most of us are over-scheduled and find it difficult to reconcile what we can do versus perceptions of what we should do. This is a well-established trend in American society.
So often, this hyper-pace is extended to our young people and expectations of them...based upon our perception of what will make them successful in life. This is one guiding theme in a new widely-acclaimed documentary called, "Race To Nowhere." In their words:
Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the
country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out
and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and
parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere
points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become
commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness,
depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college
and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.
Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy
makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the
youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading
In a grassroots sensation already feeding a groundswell for change,
hundreds of theaters, schools and organizations nationwide are hosting
community screenings during a six month campaign to screen the film
nationwide. Tens of thousands of people are coming together, using the
film as the centerpiece for raising awareness, radically changing the
national dialogue on education and galvanizing change.
Trends: Teen Cutting Videos Widely Available Online
The human experience is complex. Teenagers are trying to figure it all out. More so than at perhaps any stage of life, this quest often leads to potentially self-destructive behaviors.Unfortunately, some of these are painfully self-inflicted...and on the rise. "Cutting" is one of these.
As an administrator, particularly in middle schools, I was associated with a number of students who engaged in this activity. They are not always troubled souls. At times, some young people are just too experimental for their own good. Of course, there are other motivations and explanations.
The article below is interesting and instructive. Click on the image for the full article from Time/CNN.
Trends: Somewhat-Unique Responses To Projected Texas State Budget Slash
It is interesting to see how each of the districts in Texas are somewhat-uniquely responding to budget cuts projected in the coming two-year budget.
One of my former districts, Decatur ISD, will reduce its budget by $4-5 million.
Click the image above for the full Wise County Messenger article. This district was already operating on the margins in terms of staffing and maintenance. Further onto the margin it and so many other Texas districts move.
Trends: Michelle Rhee Out Of The Capital, Across The Nation With StudentsFirst
Michelle Rhee has been in the education spotlight for a number of years now. Her mission is to put students in the spotlight, as the focus of all decisions made in our schools. It sounds elementary, self-evident, and even a bit cliche---"Students First" should be the filter through which all education decisions are vetted. When Michelle Rhee advocates for it....she seems to mean it.
Much of the recent uproar in states across our country is associated with conservative politicians taking advantage of tight fiscal times to assault collective bargaining rights and other benefits. Unions are under siege. Even right-to-work states, like Texas, are pinching entrenched interests in other ways. Budgets are being slashed, staffing is being reduced, and the unemployed educator pool is ballooning.
It is not just from the right, however, that schools are being challenged. Michelle Rhee is an example of Democratic dissatisfaction with the status quo. After three years of intensely challenging vested interests in D.C.'s K-12 schools, she has established StudentsFirst, an education advocacy group based out of Sacramento.
Trends: New Technology High Schools.........And Other Magnet Schools
Magnet schools---and other 'track-specific' campuses---have been making rapid progress towards establishing relevance and a sharper focus for students who already have a strong sense of what career field they'd like to be in after schooling. These schools are in very high demand, where they exist at all.
Budget woes across the country are threatening to slow this trend. Dallas ISD, for instance, is considering cutting 50-80% of the faculty and staff at their award winning magnet schools. The superintendent is proposing that staff levels at all schools in the district should be equitable in such tight times. Since magnet schools tend to have lower student:teacher ratios, cuts based upon establishing equity of staffing will disproportionally affect the magnet campuses.
As previously mentioned, demand for spots in these schools is high:
"In Coppell, some parents are spending days camping out in line, vying for a spot at the district's New Tech High.
The school is part of the New Tech Network, which includes 62 schools
nationwide. It will feature a new technology curriculum pioneered by
New Tech High School in California."
Will this sort of approach to accessing education begin trending even more greatly than other "school choice" options, such as charter schools? The Texas Virtual School Network is government supporting the education of students through electronic means.
In their words:
"The 80th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1788, authorizing the Texas Education Agency to establish and administer a state virtual school network to provide education to students through electronic means. An electronic course is defined as a course in which instruction and content are delivered primarily over the Internet; a student and teacher are in different locations for a majority of the student's instructional period; most instructional activities take place in an online environment; the online instructional activities are integral to the academic program; extensive communication between a student and a teacher and among students is emphasized; and a student is not required to be located on the physical premises of a school district or open-enrollment charter school."
Trends: Texas School Finance Reform Long On Proponents, Short On Solutions
The bill below is a fairly succinct statement of dissatisfaction with the means of public school financing in Texas--->property taxation. Like most such statements it is incomplete (in that it lacks any proposed solution), but it does express the strong sentiment that something different must be done. It seems to me like the bill, introduced by Texas State Representative Phil King, is but one more push towards fundamental reform.
Having said that, Texas seems quite a long way from sharing public school resources equally. Boy, this school finance reform is contentious business. Is it Robin Hood....or are we in this together? Where are the boundaries of "our" territory? Global, national, state, regional, local, or a 1000-piece puzzle (districts) within our diverse state? Does it take a village to raise a child...or a state...or a nation...or a world?
This seems like more of a call to action than anything. Notice that "repeal" of the Texas Education Code January 1, 2016would only occur if an amendment is passed in the 2011 legislative session that would create an alternate plan by that time. Not likely.
Trends: Lyrics Can Be So Hard To Get Out Of Your Head
Whatever your take on 'learning styles' research (a topic that will be the subject of posts coming soon), it is clear that teachers are trying most anything and everything to get information across to students. Many are trying to teach through music...which is a trend I favor!
Having said that, there is stuff out there worthy of nothing but the effort...while there is other stuff (like my post "History For Music Lovers") that is darn near professionally produced.
While many such resources are free (thus the wide variance in quality), today I was introduced to a company that markets hip-hop music video-based lessons on various subjects/topics. I've only seen one example of their work. It is a tribute to the MLK "I Have A Dream" theme and is embedded below. I thought it was a bit edgy, but worth consideration as an instructional supplement. I'd be interested to review their other offerings.
What are your thoughts? Can greater integration of music into instruction across the curriculum result in greater student achievement? Why have we under-utilized this powerful tool to-date? Have we? Should our entire curriculum (at least the knowledge base) be put to song?! I guess the question then remains the same: to whose song?!
Values---where do they come from? Who should teach them? Is this a major function of the home? School? Community?
Check out this video of a football play below. Is this an o.k. lesson for young people at this age?
Notice the web site featured below the short football video. It is worth checking out. In contradiction to the video above, what do you think about the video on the web site below called "sportsmanship?"
I wish that I could just embed the "Sportsmanship" video from Values.com...but they ask that we not do that. You can see the link for it at the bottom right portion of the screen shot below.
Their site really does have a ton of great video on the topic of values.
A few quotes from the article to further introduce you:
"....She calls herself a full-time recreational mathemusician, an
off-the-beaten-path choice with seemingly limited prospects. And for
most of the two years since she graduated from Stony Brook University, life as a recreational mathemusician has indeed been a meager niche pursuit.
Then, in November, she posted on YouTube a video about doodling in math class, which married a distaste for the way math is taught in school with an exuberant exploration of math as art."
"....At first glance, Ms. Hart’s fascination with mathematics might seem odd
and unexpected. She graduated with a degree in music, and she never
took a math course in college.
At second glance, the intertwining of art and math seems to be the family business. Her father, George W. Hart,
builds sculptures based on geometric forms. His day job until last year
was as a computer science professor at Stony Brook; he is now chief of
content for the Museum of Mathematics, which is looking to open in Manhattan next year.
The summer Ms. Hart was 13, she tagged along with her father to a
computational geometry conference. “And I was hooked, immediately,” she
said. “It was so different from school, where you are surrounded by
this drudgery and no one is excited about it. Any gathering of
passionate people is fun, really no matter what they’re doing. And in
this case, it was mathematics.”
I thought this was an interesting article in The Hartford Courant about the increasing frustration level of many college professors regarding student use of abbreviated (some would say "insanely" adulterated) English in place of proper English. Many secondary teachers no doubt feel the same.
Trends: CHOICE Program...Soon Big Districts Will Not Have A Choice But To Participate In Some Program Like This
Fort Worth ISD is conducting a "Choices Expo" this Friday and Saturday to educate parents and students about their Gold Seal Programs of Choice & Schools of Choice. They tout this program as one that will "lead the nation in transforming the classroom experience as we know it."
On the web page below, you will find the following description of the program:
It’s what every parent wants – a
learning experience that engages their child, supports his or her
interests and opens pathways to success. The Fort Worth Independent
School District is fulfilling that wish with new programs and schools
that will lead the nation in transforming the classroom experience as
we know it. Gone is the old “one size fits all” model of learning. The
District is ushering in a new era with winning opportunities for every
student at every skill level. Simply put, we are giving students and
their parents the power of choice. It is the power to choose courses of
study based on personal interests and passions. It is the power to take
ownership in the education experience. And it is the power that comes
with being engaged in learning and excited about the future.
of the forties, the tug between traditional and progressive education
models is not a new one in America. Nor is the instinct for education
reform. Is project-based instruction today's progressive education?
Just what is progressive education in 2011? Is it compatible with the
accountability movement? Has the traditional model of education won
out? Is technology part of the answer? Where to from here? Or, as
asked in previous posts, what exactly do we want from our schools?
The footage below is seven minutes of "the more things change, the more they remain the same!"
"The world is moving at a tremendous rate. No one knows where. We must prepare our children not for the world of the past, not for our world, but for their world. The world of the future." --John Dewey
Trends: Teenage Birth Rate Continues To Decline...At Record Low
"The birth rate among American teenagers reached a record low in 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported Tuesday (Dec.21), hitting its lowest level in nearly seven decades."
Could it be that the more liberal our society becomes, the more informed young people become about their choices...and more are making better ones? No simplistic explanation like this can explain a complex trend like this!!! Just trying to bait you! What do you think is going on? Please add a comment below!
I attempted to contact TIME and CNN yesterday to ask if the Black Hole picture I posted recently should even qualify for their pictures of 2010 feature. Perhaps, if it should be included, a more complete explanation is called for in the caption.
The result? No contact established. It seems that some companies have become so large and faceless in our new century that it is near impossible to speak to a human who works there. One thing I really appreciate about working with Dr. Tennant at EdClick is that we still engage our customers...in a timely and personal manner. Not a time goes by that we can't speak with a customer within a few hours.
This makes me think again about the question of optimal school and district size. Are some of our districts and campuses too large to effectively provide the personal touch? Some districts, like Frisco ISD here in Texas, have made a commitment to "cap" the size of their campuses. In Frisco ISD's case, they are committed to schools no larger than 4A size.
Are there diminishing returns for school and district size once a threshold is reached? Are some schools more institutional than personal?
Trends: 2010 U.S. Census Released, Texas Grows Again
The 2010 Census results have been released. Official U.S. population: 308,745,538 (give or take 3). Texas gains again. Population of Texas: 25,145,561. Texas had the largest population increase of any state, so it will gain four additional House Congressional seats (for a total of 36). The other 49 states probably hate to hear it.
One very interesting feature found on the story above is a 2010 Census Interactive Map, that has tabs for each census over the past hundred years. It is interesting to see the growth and contraction of state populations over time. Texas is on an uninterrupted incline over that period.
Trends: "Parent Trigger" Coming To A State Near You?
This is a followup to my post, "Parent-Trigger" Law (and Parent Empowerment). The legal right for parents to decide a school's future by popular vote may be expanded to states across the country. This article suggests that New Jersey may be next. The article begins:
New Jersey state legislator wants to give parents the power to pull the
"trigger" on failing schools in a bill he introduced Monday.
In his proposed Parent Employment and Choice Act, also known as "the
parent trigger," Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R., Monmouth) wants to enable
parents of children in low-performing schools to petition to force one
of three overhaul measures, if a majority of parents in a given school
The measures are converting the school into a charter, changing
school administrators, or establishing a tuition voucher program. It is
unclear who would pay for such vouchers.
...Kyrillos' legislation is modeled after a law adopted in California
this year. Earlier this month, the McKinley Elementary School in
Compton, Calif., became the first school to get a majority of parents
to sign a parent-trigger petition, demanding the school become a
Similar legislation is being considered in Georgia, Indiana,
Michigan, West Virginia, and Maryland..."
The New York Times Opinion Pages has a daily feature called "Room For Debate." After a brief introduction, six "debaters" address various aspects of the day's topic. Occasionally they address education matters. Yesterday their topic was, "Stress and the High School Student."
Many social media on the internet now provide a forum for speech of all kind, including some examples we might wish away.
"Is ignorance bliss?" I asked myself this question for days before I wrote this post. Or, "is forewarned forearmed?"
So many other questions about it had me leaning against writing about the topic. After discussing it with a number of other educators, however, none of whom were aware the website below and others like it exist, I decided to post about it.
Indeed, there are other such websites. And the likelihood that there will be more with rising participation is very high. The internet gives individuals a stage (and a huge potential audience) to voice their opinion on people, places, and things. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Guilty by opinion. Praised if lucky, uh, I mean deserving. It is all so public.
Much like the teacher-ratings for individual teachers many states are now publicizing (I wrote about it in a blog entry-- In The News: California Teacher Ratings Released; New York Teacher Ratings Release Delayed), this can feel downright personal and, I bet, can often be off-the-mark! In fact, though those official ratings in the LA Times might get seen by more people, the types of comments that can be left on sites like the one below can certainly produce as least as much damage even when viewed by fewer people.
So, in considering whether to post on this topic, I came down on the side of.......when in a mine field, isn't it best to know as much about the situation as possible? What can we as individuals do to best navigate this mine field? What are the implications for education professionals, campuses, and districts? Clearly it is better to consider these questions sooner rather than later.
When school personnel consider these questions sooner rather than later, potential problems can be more easily defused and this potential "threat" can actually become an opportunity!!! That is the ticket!
A few questions and suggestions for you to consider:
Do criticisms of your school or the administration by personnel mean that
these employees (often teachers) understand but disagree, or does it mean they don't understand? In other words, is better communication within the school needed?
Could comments on TeacherVoice about your school provide insights and a starting point for important discussions with the staff?
If there are one or two
disgruntled comments, is that representative of the entire staff? You may choose to ask
the staff. If the answer is yes, maybe you should do something about
it. If the answer is no, maybe you should encourage your teachers to join in the TeacherVoice discussion and tell the positive side of the story.
Is there a channel for complaints from staff within the school, and
do you take it seriously? If not, you're nearly forcing people with
problems to make them public.
Do prospective teachers check you
out on TeacherVoice or similar sites (almost certainly, they do)? If
so, you'd better know what's being said about you. If it's inaccurate,
take steps to fix it. If it's embarrassing, take steps there too.
Google your school periodically to see what's being said about you.
you have a positive environment in the school, you might encourage your
staff to post comments. If these sites can improve the reputation of
the school, you'll likely be able to hire better staff members than
otherwise. That's good for the school and will be good for the other
Take your story to the Web. Have an informative and up-to-date
website. Keep the community informed through newsletters, blogs and the
rest. By taking the information initiative, it's more likely that your story
will be told. If sites like TeacherVoice bring to light that something
needs to be fixed, announce plans to fix it on your website. (You
needn't refer to the complaints as the impetus to make the
Thank you Dr. Tennant for your contributions to the end of the post!
Competition motivates many of us, particularly in our youth. This article, in The Oklahoman, presents a culinary competition between schools in the Oklahoma City area. Real-world application, relevant to particular student interests, powered by competition...sounds like a winning formula!
As we know, school is not all about math and reading. As most of us appreciate, there are so many other important lessons to be taught and experiences to facilitate. Star educators strive to capture their imaginations and push them to accomplishments they never envisioned. This article is but one way culinary arts and other such programs can bridge the perceived divide between academics and real-world application. I love it!