Archive for January 2003

Bad things about NEA

Thursday, 30 January 2003

I have been a member of the NEA (the teacher’s union, not the artist group) since teaching in a public school. And, I have been told that one reason not to like my union is that the NEA likes abortion and is an advocate for pro-choice.

I’m not pro-choice per se, but I’ve always wondered where my conservative friends got their information. Looking at their webpage, the NEA doesn’t have a link to “Abortions: YES!”

So, for the next few days, I’d like to find out what my union is all about and see for myself if it is a Democratic lobbier (which also I am told) and what they really do for me at the local level.

Again, my conservative collegues would lead me to believe that all things Democratic is all things bad and morally void and just plain stupid.

Wasn’t McCarthy a Republican?

Football vs. Chess

Monday, 27 January 2003

Sunday was a big day for sports: Super Bowl XXXVII and Kasparov vs. Deep Junior. Both were played in the United States and both brought a lot of media attention. The Superbowl was a romp and so was the chess game.

At least Garry came through for me.

The Oakland Raiders’ training camp was in my hometown in Santa Rosa, CA. We heard of how tough and mean those guys were (mid to late 1970s if you remember). And now that they’ve come back to Oakland, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Silver and Black…I was a little sad for the game and the commericals.

Garry Kasparov taking on another computer (last time he publically lost and everyone went into a tizzy). Kasparov did what he was supposed to do and won overwhelmly.
Humans rejoice! (thought the folks that put the program together did a nice job, too!)

Wouldn’t it be cool to hear in the classroom: I want to be a GrandMaster Chess player after college. It sure beats the aspirations of going into professional sports…delusional as it sounds.

No wonder the USA isn’t listed in the top 10, 20 of Chess players. In fact the highest ranking USA chess player is �Alexander Onischuk (#35) and he wasn’t born here (please, I know he’s a US citizen and has all the rights of a citizen). But who amoung us, who went through the US public school system (or any US school system) is smart enough to play the game well?

I wonder if we should shift our priorities around in school.

Inuksuk pix

Friday, 24 January 2003


Inuksuk in front of our house.

Going through the motions

Thursday, 23 January 2003

If you haven’t read about your state-mandated achievement/ability test and how the kids aren’t doing well enough as we’d hope, please email me.

In Indiana, it’s called the ISTEP+ and recently the state DOE asked teachers (144 of them…that number sounds really biblical to me) to help in determining “cut” scores for the upcoming years.

Here’s a tad from the article:

State officials decided not to accept lower scoring guidelines recommended by 144 teachers who spent three days last week poring through the test booklet, trying to determine what students could achieve.

Instead, the state education board adopted “pass,” “did not pass” and “pass plus” scores that will be used during the next six years to measure student academic progress, based on the opinions of an expert panel…

Not everyone is happy with Tuesday’s outcome.

“Why involve teachers in the process in the first place if our opinion doesn’t mean anything?” said Judith Briganti, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Teacher recommendations for the pass scores were not as rigorous as those adopted Tuesday. Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen K. Reed said those recommendations were not the only consideration.

“These teachers did a wonderful job and gave us a starting point. But that was just one step in the process,” Reed said…

But business leaders pushed for the higher pass scores.

“Rigor means tougher standards, not watering it down,” said David Shane, senior vice president of LDI Ltd.

The recommendations of the teachers were adjusted by the Education Department so they would be aligned with the state’s academic standards and would be in compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Snow Days

Thursday, 23 January 2003

Besides having summers and weekends “off,” teachers in the Midwest and the East coast really like snow days…or at least the teachers I know. Get a few flakes in a row in the evening and you want to plan your day out away from school…perhaps the day will yield a memorable moment.

There are some really good reasons why we have snow days (e.g. 16 year olds driving and in the snow). Some folks point out the “bad” on these vacation days and it’s impact on student learning.

Well…teachers get the summers off

Tuesday, 21 January 2003

Strategy: Require more, give less. Add some good old fashioned Guilt (you make more than your students), national pride/everyone’s gotta tighten their belts (though someone’s doing well out there), and sense of obligation (it’s for the children).

More than ever is a good time to get out of teaching and touching the leaders of tomorrow. Though the teacher is qualified, they are making less than their classmates.

But, teachers do get the summer off.

State of the Union, State of Education

Monday, 20 January 2003

The political highlight of the month will be the State of the Union address by President GW Bush and things seem more complicated than the last January performance report.

Funding for the educational reform of NCLB is a big question mark. At least from a federal level, Bush has made it clear that he’s going to give the local school more federal dollars with more strings attached–and this is understandable. Too many reforms have been a federal dollar sinkhole and still the nation thinks that our public schools are substandard (so let’s follow the US business model and set standards…and we should have students take a class in COVERING YOUR TRACKS 204, lesson 1: Dodge ball is out, document shreading is in).

Former domestic policy adviser for Reagan and Papa Bush now turned media expert James P. Pinkerton thinks the answer for funding education is to set a dollar cap for every student in this free land of the brave. In his thoughts for Atlantic Monthly’s preview of State of the Union, Pinkerton asks/tells us that we should follow the Pell Grant program for dispersing the $7k.

His point is well taken. His example of “poorer” states like Mississippi who only allocate $4k is a compelling one. Local control of monies (and curiculum?) has yielded many an unjust practice. Those communities inflict their values on their schools and their society because a community is just that. Local control of a community is the American (I mean, the US) way of life. More federal control is also a fundamental idea in the land of the free and the brave. The tension of local and federal governments is at the core of our version of democracy.

Question: Where did we decide as an nation that all parts of this great nation must be standardized? Why should, say Indiana, be compared to California (though Indiana did plagarize some of their education standards from the Golden state)? Does more centralized control solve any problems for a community?

It’s a Big Yellow Taxi day for me and I’m not sure what King George is listening to this nippy Monday morn.