21 April 2007

Behaviors that Affect Learning

Reading to Young Children
Young children of well-educated mothers are much more likely to be read to every day by a family member than are children of less educated mothers...

Parental Involvement in Schools
The percentage of students whose parents reported involvement in their schools rose significantly between 1999 and 2003 across several measures, including attendance at a general meeting, a meeting with a teacher, or a school event, and volunteering or serving on a committee...

Watching Television
Black students are much more likely than white students to watch four or more hours of television per day on the average weekday. Among eighth graders in 2003, for example, 61 percent of black students watched four or more hours of television, compared with 24 percent of white students...

Learning Disabilities
Children covered by public health insurance are almost twice as likely as uninsured children and children with private insurance to be identified as having a learning disability (12 percent of children covered by public health insurance versus 6 percent of uninsured children and 7 percent of children with private insurance in 2004)...

In 2004, around one out of every 10 males ages three to 17 were reported to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder by a doctor or other health professional...

After-School Activities
Between 2001 and 2005, the percentage of students participating in clubs, community service, and sports increased. In 2005, sports had the highest participation rate for after-school activities, with 31 percent of kindergarten through eighth grade students participating...

View entire file here ...

Is Out of School Time Critical for Students?

School-age children and adolescents in the United States have a lot of discretionary time (6.5 to 8 hours per day). Participating in organized out-of-school time programs and activities is one constructive and safe way that children can spend their free time. These activities can provide supervision, fun, and opportunities to develop new skills and relationships with others. Research has shown that consistent participation in organized, high-quality out-of school time activities can have both educational and social/emotional benefits, and may have the most positive effects for youth who are most at risk. Understanding who participates is an important question to answer in order for policy makers, funders, and practitioners to identify gaps and target resources.

Race and Ethnicity Facts....
- White children participated in at least one out-of-school time activity at very high rates in the past 12 months; 83 percent of white children ages 6-11 and 81 percent of white adolescents ages 12-17 participated.
- Black children were less likely to participate than white children in the past 12 months; 65 percent of black children ages 6-11 and 72 percent of black adolescents ages 12-17 participated.
- Latino children participated the least in the past 12 months; 50 percent of Latino children ages 6-11 and 60 percent of Latino adolescents ages 12-17 participated.
- White children were more likely to participate in both clubs and sports.
- Black and Latino children were more likely to be in no activities compared with white children.

Read the entire article at Child Trends 2006

Are smaller schools better for teachers and students?

Teachers in the small public high schools cropping up in many U.S. cities find the human dimension of their jobs bringing both strains and rewards.

"About how many hours did you put in a week?” Starting at 8 in the morning, the faculty members at Ms. Madell’s new, small secondary school in New York City routinely worked till 6:30 or 7 at night. And then, after the teaching, planning, meeting, and tutoring, she and others went home many evenings to solitary thought and a heap of student work.

Now as a co-founder of a school not unlike her old one, where she plans to keep a hand in teaching while coaching her colleagues, the 39-year-old mother of two is about to ask a fresh band of teachers to shoulder similar burdens. The audacity of it makes her laugh.

“There’s no way I can do [that job] and be a parent,” she admitted.

A major strand in the current national push to improve secondary education is the movement to scale down schools into smaller, more personalized units, especially for students facing the greatest obstacles to success.

Hundreds of small schools and learning communities have cropped up in recent years, famously helped along by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $1.5 billion campaign to raise the numbers of students who graduate from high schools ready for college and work. (The foundation also helps support Education Week’s annual Diplomas Count report on graduation-related issues.)

The question prompted an eruption of laughter. But there was nothing funny about the answer teacher Jody Madell finally delivered.

Whatever promise the small-schools approach holds, though, there’s widespread agreement it won’t be realized without a sufficient supply of teachers who are up to a triple threat of challenges: urban teaching in the context of a start-up operation, often with a heavy dose of surrogate parenting thrown in.

And as Ms. Madell and many other small-schools educators can attest, ensuring that supply will be no simple task.

“Human capital is going to make or break this enterprise,” said Timothy S. Knowles, who directs the University of Chicago’s Center for Urban School Improvement, which opened its first small high school last September and plans several more. “Our view is human capital is gold.”

Many of the new small schools, especially the ones in cities, virtually guarantee teachers long hours as they struggle against the inadequate preparation of their students. Teachers pour their time, too, into shaping the new institutions, where they are obliged to wear a number of hats.

Ironically, it is the human dimension of small schools—precisely the attribute that experts see as their greatest strength—that can be the most draining. When a school is small enough for teachers and students to know each other well, teachers come face to face with the meager advantages available to the youngsters they teach.

“You can read the first paragraph of their biographies and be in tears,” said Christopher N. Maher, the founding principal of the Academy for College and Career Exploration, a small high school that opened in Baltimore in 2004. “If you are a teacher, especially in a small school, you feel it.”

Read this entire article at Education Week, by Bess Keller, at http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/04/18/33strain.h26.html

Small Schools in Big Districts

New York City
1.1 million students
■ 184 separate small secondary schools have opened within the district’s governance structure since 2002, when the system made them a priority.
■ Another 25 or so such schools are expected to open by this fall.
■ Some 20 additional small schools have been operating since the early 1990s.
■ The newer schools generally enroll no more than 600 students, while the older ones generally have no more than 450 students.
■ 19 charter schools that include or will include the high school grades have opened.

Los Angeles
708,000 students
■ 143 “small learning communities,” or SLCs, have been approved for 23 of the district’s large high schools; three-quarters are operating.
■ The district’s SLCs enroll no more than 600 students.
■ By the end of the 2007-08 school year, all 31 remaining large high schools are to convert to the SLC structure.
■ Six separate small secondary schools operate under district governance.
■ 32 charter schools that include or will include the high school grades have opened.

415,000 students
■ About 50 “small learning communities” are currently operating.
■ 15 large high schools are on track to add another 60 or more SLCs within the next two to three years.
■ More than 20 separate small high schools are operating under district governance, with more planned.
■ 10 charter schools that include or will include the high school grades have opened.

SOURCE: New York City Department of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District, Chicago Public Schools

11 March 2007

Newsletter - March 10

Our goal with this edition is to get you up to speed with the changes on the web site, which has been up for just about 12 weeks. In that time the responses we received exceeded what we expected. The down side is we are playing catch up. The good side is that we are connecting with sincere folks like you that have similar education goals to ours: 1) integrating green education in the classrooms and 2) improving education.

Giving students opportunities to be global citizens means building character, which in turn helps improve education. There is work to do in making sure that the stakeholders in education understand the basic issues at a classroom perspective. Putting a mechanism in place that provides feedback directly from people involved in day-to-day school activities is the intention of our work. Your voice, the feedback you provide, contributes to that intention.

Table of Contents
1. Update on Integrating Green Education in K-12 Classes
2. Collecting Voices to Improve Education
3. Membership Services Enhanced
4. Earth Day Resources
5. Believe It or Not

Update on Integrating Green Education in K-12 Classes
The new Green Vendor Marketplace connects teachers and schools with green vendors. As a member you can explore the links to review green products and green services. Our intention with this marketplace is to disseminate information that supports schools to initiate green projects and make campuses healthier and more eco-friendly. We want to facilitate students and teachers working with opportunities to learn and build life skills while they work on green projects and become better global citizens.

We will be hosting a Green School Symposium in December with the help of our sponsors. Check the web site for more details. This promises to be a ground breaking meeting in the area of curriculum, campus facilities and green guidelines for K-12 classes.

Are you doing a green project at your school? If so, tell us about it. We want your news on the web site. Send us an email to describe your green project today.

Collecting Voices to Improve Education
Additional reports cards have been introduced and are available. We need your help to collect relevant feedback to help define the specifics around improving education. Who knows best? Teachers, students and parents do. They are the people involved in the nuts and bolts of education everyday.

Is more better? Congress is now considering making US schools open for business longer each day. Read about it now by clicking here.

Membership Services Enhanced
FREE member services are more comprehensive. Members have access to FREE tools to support them in integrating green education into class curriculum and improving education in their classes. We have posted several links to "green" projects underway at specific schools, which gives students a chance to see what their peers are doing.

Earth Day Resources
Celebration of our wonderful planet is just a few weeks away. Teachers can use the Student Green Survey form, which is a free download offered to members. When the form is completed each question is worth points. The total score at the end explains what level of effort is being made to protect out environment. Log on to member services and get the form today.

Have an incredible and informative Earth Day resource? Send it over and we'll post it for everyone.

Believe It or Not
You can see these and other articles at our site in the News and Research section.

Think recycling works?
Watch this car crusher create bits and pieces from an entire car. Click here

In 2006 the US reached a historic milestone -- 300 million people. Over the past century, the population has tripled, making the United States the fastest growing developed country in the world, and the third largest overall. Click here.

If students believe they can improve their intelligence - they will. Click here.

Project based learning works. High school robotics team turns heads as they exceeds beyond the possible. This is what teaching is all about. Click here.

19 February 2007

The under rated value of attitude

I think education is meant to be a service to all young people in our country. Unfortunately, our forefathers did not list in the Bill of Rights that every student has the right to an equal education. Nonetheless, giving a basic education to all youngsters seems a pragmatic approach to insuring that as these folks grow older they will care for themselves and those around them; in other words be good global citizens.

I read an article today at NPR, that really hits this nail on the head. It’s a study pointing out that when you make children aware their intelligence will grow if they tend it – they do tend it. For me, understanding that means recognizing the ground floor in the institute of education. Yet, leaving it just to teachers to sort out the how’s/why’s of having students understand this study becomes a daunting task. Parents need to take it on too. The trick is, can we instill in young students this power of their own perception without blaming, shaming or guilting ‘em into it?

We need to work on this as a collective whole. Instead of forcing young students into verbal corners about why they should do homework, we need to take time to have them understand they are building their intelligence ... day by day ... every time they make an effort and when they sweat the tough stuff. This will take time and patience; two ingredients every household seems to be lacking today in our rush to stay afloat. Without this type of ground floor installed, students will have a tendency to continue negating what school is really about: building life skills for the future.

Read the study here:

15 February 2007

School environments - are they healthly?

As a teacher I understand the importance of education; however, I am not sure we cover all the basics students need. For example, when do we teach them about the criticality of a healthily environment? I know as a biology teach that we have 6 weeks to cover ecology, which doesn't leave much time for drilling down on the how's, why's and what's of being environmental stewards. Yes, there's time in class to discuss the importance of recycling and share some facts, like the hundreds of years it takes for a plastic diaper to decompose. It would be better if we can instill in students the importance of environmental friendly behaviors so they can practice them - but that takes time and it's not a "Standard" in our District.

Looking from a whole different point of view, what about the status of our nation's school buildings? I know at our school we have one very old building. Teachers that have been in that one for years swear its' air system is spewing bad stuff. I don't mean to point fingers, I am simply saying I don't think there is a procedure in place to check the health of school buildings....and that scares me. One think for sure, schools carry lots of germ and bacteria. If you need the evidence .... look at the the sick sniffing, coughing, blurry eyed students traveling the halls every day.

On another approach all together to the environment in schools, why hot have facilities produce an income. Here in AZ we have lotsa sun. Why not put some solar panels on the schools? They will be active all year long. Surely in the summer, when school is closed, they can produce energy that will be sold back to the utility company. Better yet, the students can work on these projects. Doing that they obtain life skills, learn environment stewardship, and help the school economically. It's time to get out of the box on how we think about school environments.

We need to make sure our students have healthy buildings and we need to help them understand the necessity of being environmental stewards.

30 January 2007

What Teachers Make

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued,"What' s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, then began...) "Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental... You want to know what I make?" (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.) I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math. I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the United States of America. Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.) "Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant... You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?"

What are teachers?

I have been busy dealing with the overwhelming traffic at the website. Your comments and appreciation make this hobby the best time I have ... besides teaching class. :)

We started this site the beginning of this month. In the last three weeks we have moved up 3,000,000 web sites due to the major traffic from you all. Please keep you ideas and thoughts coming.

Here is a great "teacher metaphor" my sister sent me today. It says so much about what teachers can do ....


The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued,"What' s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, then began...) "Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't
make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental... You want to know what I make?" (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.) I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math. I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand to
say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the United States of America. Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.) "Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant... You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?"

THIS IS WORTH SENDING TO EVERY TEACHER YOU KNOW. (And everyone on your mailing list, for that matter).

THERE IS MUCH TRUTH IN THIS STATEMENT: "Teachers make every other profession."

19 January 2007

Education Reform - The Necessary Cornerstones

Is the dream of education in high school being realized …. Is secondary education getting students better prepared for their futures?

Remember, I am a teacher …. My two cents says “not.” School isn’t getting the job done today. There are three points I think make the cornerstones to rebuild our secondary education system:

1. Effective teachers

2. Whole teaching

3. Curriculum reform

Effective teachers are noticeable. They are passionate and compassionate. They are flexible and thus have excellent classroom management and students naturally do better since they are interested in what is being taught. The methods used by these teachers engages students. I don’t consider national board certified teachers to be necessarily effective.

Whole teaching criteria means subjects are meaningful and pertinent, while the class environment is such that it's conducive to learning. Teaching methods comes into focus here. Are students better served using project based learning or is a computer game more functional? What best stimulates knowledge transfer, along with appropriate cognitive skills and learning behaviors?

Curriculum reform points to teaching students with material that is directly applicable to their life ... today, tomorrow and gives them choices to study depending on the future they pursue? Integrated are performance based assessments that measure comprehension and not memorization. Technology will play a role here as it needs to facilitate learning and assessment whenever possible.

Here are some articles that are great food for thought in examining our secondary education system.

Study for NBPTS Raises Questions About Credential

‘Tough Choices’: Change the System, or Suffer the Consequences

18 January 2007

Is Education Preparing Students - Teacher Quality Essential

Research indicates that expert teachers are the most important—and the most inequitably distributed—school resource. In the United States, however, schools serving more than 1 million of our highest-need students are staffed by a parade of underprepared and inexperienced teachers who know little about effective instruction, and even less about teaching English-language learners and students with disabilities. Many of these teachers enter the classroom with little training and leave soon after, creating greater instability in their wake. Meanwhile, affluent students receive teachers who are typically better prepared than their predecessors, further widening the achievement gap.

Promoting literacy involves teachers using an effective methodology to accomplish and support student ownership, teachers acting as a facilitator, and teachers stimulating student problem solving skills. The cognitive conditions necessary for accomplishing literacy include 1) retrieving information such as prior learning; 2) presenting the project material; 3) providing learning guidance throughout the material and through student/teacher interactions; 4) engaging students in reading, writing, and discussing; 5) providing feedback through peer/class/teacher discussions; 6) assessing performance; and 7) enhancing retention and transfer through peer/class discussions to apply the project material to life outside the classroom.

The population of ELL students is on the rise and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Students from non-English speaking backgrounds represent the fastest growing segment of the student population by a wide margin. From 1991 – 2002, the number of identified ELLs in public schools (K–12) grew 95%, while total enrollment increased by only 12%. In 2002 – 2003, more than 5 million school-age children were identified as ELLs, 10.2% of them being K–12 public school student population. These students speak more than 400 languages combined, but nearly 80% are native Spanish speakers. From various reporting sources, there is constant news about the achievement gap between ELL students and native English speaking students. According to a compilation of reports from 41 state education agencies, only 18.7% of students classified as being limited in English proficiency met state norms for reading in English.

The notion that we can remain a world-class economy while undereducating large portions of our population—in particular, students of color and new immigrants, who are fast becoming a majority in our public schools—is untenable. Mostly because of these underinvestments, the United States continues to rank far behind other industrialized nations in educational achievement: 28th out of 40 nations in mathematics in 2003, for example, right behind Latvia. Meanwhile, leaders of countries like Finland that experienced a meteoric rise to the top of the international rankings have attributed their success to their massive investments in teacher education.

We need to invest in our teachers from whom we expect so much. This will greatly enhance the ability to make the promise of education available to all students.

17 January 2007

Education - Robotics Team Highlights Necessary Learning Environment

Education … is it fulfilling the dream of preparing students for their future?

I was going to begin this by pointing out how the majority of education provided in high school DOESN’T get students “out of their box” in terns of critical thinking skills. I’m not here to blame the students, teachers or parents for this … just stating my observations. The evidence for this is in low achievement scores, increased drop out rates from high school, fewer students attending high education, fewer high school graduates moving in to degrees in technology and science … that’s enough for now.

Then I remembered the robotics team at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix. A school placed one block from a major freeway artery and in the poorest part of AZ. However, those kids have stunned the nation by consistently placing in national competitions, after they beat MIT (yes, the university). And yes, I have talked about this team before.

They are a poster example of students moving forward in developing critical thinking skills and demonstrating success from it. How? Well, their teachers say the class work takes place in a project based environment with students learning from each other, one where the teachers act as facilitators and not the typical instructor or lecturer. The classes for the robotics team won’t fit in a traditional school schedule and students come in to work before school, after school and on weekends …. WITHOUT having to be bribed or cajoled. Hard to believe but nonetheless true.

So, yes … education has the potential to teach students critical thinking skills they will always be able to use….. just have to locate where that class is taking place in your area.

More on the robotics team …..

Wired Magazine article

Washington Post article

Team Web Sites


16 January 2007

Is Education Preparing Students - Character Education

Continuing from yesterday … are we fulfilling the promise of education … preparing students for their future?

I hate to seem so negative, but a conversation I had today with another teacher today reminded me another important aspect I cannot find in the achievement tests I must give or ones I have reviewed …. character education. Are we providing opportunities and reinforcing to students the value of being global citizens, stewards of the environment or compassionate to one another?

After all, they can be brilliant at math, know how to conduct perfect experiments and be excellent writers … but will they be able to balance a checkbook, understand a financial statement, comprehend the consequences of limited water resources, the ecology required for clear air, or discuss disputes without having to rage?

After a day of working with students, I am reluctant to go on tonight. I am sounding so negative about what education students currently receive, suffice it to say I think little to nothing is being done in secondary education to include topics in character education.

We need to give our future leaders of the world a basic foundation for moving forward in life. An essential part of that foundation are the skills of being global citizens and stewards of the environment, and a recognizable level of interpersonal skills. I think including character education in the curriculum is a smart strategy to accomplish that.

In case you wondering about character education, check out this useful resource on the subject for all grade levels http://www.goodcharacter.com/.

15 January 2007

Is Education Getting Students Prepared?

This week let’s talk about the dream of education – in honor of Dr King.

Sometimes I talk to my students about what education means to them. Their most common responses are (not in this order): 1) education gets me prepared, 2) I have to go – it’s the law, 3) and I don’t know.

I am going to make a bold presumption here .... most people think education is getting students prepared for the rest of life. If this is the case, then it naturally follows that we have to ask, what is secondary education preparing students for?

From a teacher point of view ... my answer is for students to go to higher education.

Realistically, I have to say students aren't being prepared for the future by current secondary education. Why? I see two distinct sets of students in my classes: those wanting to go to college and those with no plans to go to college.

Today, the gauge of learning is based on students scores of required achievement tests. With that focus, we are missing the boat of preparing students for the future. For example, if a student isn't going to college/university, why do they need to know about cells and genes? Would they be better off knowing about basic nutrition and taking care of the environment? I think so, but in my district we have to teach all students about genes and cells since that is what the achievement tests are based upon. Go figure, if a student has no interest in the subject being taught during class .... are they really going to work that hard to reach success? More likely, that student will be absent from class or possibly disrupting it when they are there.

Here is my first observation to explain why education is not fulfilling the dream of preparing students for the future.

1. High school has two sets of students A) those who are going to college and B) those who are not.

Those sets are determined by the students themselves. Yes, we can cut up that pie by race and socio-economic status. However, the fact remains – no matter how you dice it up – there are two sets of students. From what I have seen, I believe that a students' motivation determines where they are going.

So why do we teach the same curriculum to students who have different future requirements – based on the choices they have made. I think a better approach to having students be prepared is changing the curriculum so both get sets a basic core set of subjects, then the education road forks into two specific paths with specific subjects for each fork.

09 January 2007

NCLB - Time to Renew ... Do you agree?

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is it the right approach or a bad one? There are a lot of difference views out there. Basically, I think everyone will agree it’s an effort to improve the reading, math and science skills of students by making states more accountable for the results of elementary and secondary students that attend their schools.

After that premise, the controversy begins: 1) what is the appropriate way to fund this accountability of the states that the federal government is now requiring, 2) what are the best methods for measuring improved learning skills, and 3) what are most accurate processes and procedures for recording and identifying results.

Personally, I think – as a teacher – that the premise of NCLB is good. After that I think the federal government should bow out and let the educators resolve the issues. Seriously, the federal government cannot even balance their own budget, how can they be setting policy on how to best educate the next generation of leaders in this great country? Perhaps – just like teachers need to attend professional growth classes to get renew certification – politicians need to attend professional growth classes on balancing budgets to be eligible for reelection….

The point of view form the white house:

Great article by wikpedia on NCLB fundamentals and issues:

NPR – National Public Radio – five interviews/podcasts that talk about different aspects of the controversy with people in the trenches:

NCLB Project Center:

Washington Post: Billions for an Inside Game on Reading ….
...... the billions have gone to what is effectively a pilot project for untested programs with friends in high places.”

08 January 2007

U.S. public schools could have as much as $77 billion...

U.S. public schools could have as much as $77 billion more a year to improve teaching if they reduced spending on seniority pay increases, teacher's aides, class size limits and other measures often found in teacher union contracts, a new study contends.”*
Jay Mathews

I think Jay has a definite possibility for raising money or freeing up money in education. My question is, what is the benefit for students? Is that money going into purchasing real tools that students can use for learning and if so – what are they and when will they arrive? In other words, if the money is going to end up on a budget line and then tools never get purchased then everyone loses. This simple sounding scenario shows the complex equation of education. A feasible idea to raise money …. yet that money can get lost in the inefficient system management pervasive in the business of education.

* Find this entire article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/07/AR2007010701098.html?nav=rss_education

07 January 2007

Students - Deservers and Earners

A girl is caught with a note and quickly tears it up, blushing, as her classmates chant, “Read it!” The teacher tries to demonstrate simple machines by pulling from a box a hammer, a pencil sharpener and then, to her instant remorse, a nutcracker — the sight of which sends a cluster of boys into a fit of giggles and anatomical jokes. This NY Times article says it all about a tough day for teaching……

I am one of the lucky teachers cause I have had other successful careers, which allow me some experience to fall back on when the teaching gets tough.

Sure, we can say that every person in a career has a hard day now and then. When I was a project manager at IBM there were ridiculous days too … but I was sure getting compensated for those trying moments. When I ran an insurance business there were plenty of tough days and the same when I was a sheriff deputy …..

Yet teaching is so high profile since parents actually expect, unlike any other profession, that teachers can work magic with their kids … that is a big point. When is the last time a parent tried to teach their kid about ecology or history? Do parents even spend quality time with their kids these days? In fact, do parents even really discipline their kids? So teachers have this job to teach and discipline while students carry in their emotional and mental baggage from home ….…. I think there is a oversized expectation of EVERYONE that teachers have this magic dust we sprinkle on students and they just start behaving “correctly” since our classes are stuffed and the kids have to take numerous test cause lawmakers think that will help them understand why kids aren’t learning ……

I remember once when I was student teaching to get my certificate a parent called the school to complain that I wasn’t allowing the student to retake a quiz because he was absent – I was stricter then – and so I got a visit from the Assistant Principal (AP) to discuss my actions … yes I did recant and let the student take the quiz …. live and learn that’s a favorite mantra of mine.

There are two types of student as far as I can tell. One group thinks they deserve everything. The other group, which I prefer, thinks they have to earn what they get. You guessed it, the “deservers” think they start with an A. The “earners” understand they have to achieve an A. The “earners” remind me of my high school days … I get along with them much better.

What are your kids … what were you in high school … a deserver or an earner?

06 January 2007

National Curriculum - is it an idea whose time has arrived?

Just when we thought there was enough testing, the UK folks think that it’s an feasible idea to test 14 year olds on computer skills. I think the good thing here is the government folks listened to the teachers who thought the test was so wrong and failing at the very purpose of the test its self…. to keep pace with new technologies such as music sequencing and digital image editing.

The UK does something I like though .… we should adopt it here in the USA ... implement a national curriculum. A national curriculum lays out in phases or grade levels the core subjects students will be taught throughout their school life. The key here is this type of curriculum doesn’t take away a teachers’ creativity in making and delivering the lesson. And, this type of curriculum makes sure all kids are learning the same content.

Here is the link on the computer tests I mentioned:

Here are good resources to explain a national curriculum:

Understanding the National Curriculum

National Curriculum

National Educational technology Standards

05 January 2007

Teacher Search Engines: Science, Lessons, Methods

The majority of teachers, as I was talking about yesterday, are doing a remarkable job! It’s unfortunate - in any profession - when a few folks spoil the reputation of all the committed and hard working professionals.

To help teachers, especially in science, here are three specialized search engines that focus in finding useful teacher content on subjects and methods:

1. Biology and Chemistry Labs for class
2. Science Teacher Material
3. Teaching Methods


Biology and Chemistry Labs for class
This search engine is loaded with sites that have online resources to use in front of class or at a computer lab with class. It also has hundreds of traditional resources relating to all the concepts in these two sciences to get material, handouts, and read about real time issues.

Science Teacher Material
Here are thousands of specific sites relates to earth science, physical science, life science, geology, physics, and chemistry for material that can be used to do lesson planning or to use as a supplement for a certain topic being discussed.

Teaching Methods
Every wonder what the different teaching methods are? This is the portal where you can get all that information. For example, do a search on “teaching methods” or a search on “self regulate learner” or “constructivism” or “skinner” and so forth. Read this material and find ideas for incorporating different learning theories into lessons to see what is most effective.

To add a resource to these search engines please send an email to reports@educationreporting.com with the information.

04 January 2007

Teaching is an Excellent Career

In case you are wondering, I am pro teacher. I do think that teachers, when given the necessary support, can and do produce extraordinary results. Right now I am a science teacher in a public high school. This is my third year teaching after leaving a successful career in business. I see many good teachers doing amazing things with students …. opening many doors intellectually and emotionally. Teachers have the best job since we are able to work with the minds and hearts of the future leaders of our planet.

I also think there are teachers who need to retire. I am not saying there are bad teachers, just teachers who, it looks like to me, no longer have the passion they once had for the work, so it’s time to go. This happens in any career people work in. After a while it’s possible to loose the passion …if you are in law enforcement, a business owner, a politician, whatever career you have chosen. That is what happened to me working in business and that is why I left. How can anyone do an excellent job without passion for the work?

Teaching involves more than lesson planning, lesson delivery and classroom management. I was looking for a purpose statement or job responsibility statement for teachers in my district but I haven’t found it. It must be around somewhere. In business that was the first thing you saw when applying for a job: 1) the responsibilities for this job are thus …., 2) the skills needed for the job are thus …., and 3) the pay range is thus based on experience and skills. I really wish public education was run more like a business cause I think the teachers who are doing great work will be rewarded while the teachers who need to go will be leaving …..

Anyways, I am pro teacher and I don’t think the computer is a sole answer for teaching, although it’s a great tool if we can get it in the classroom and not just at a lab … but that is another blog page.

Here are some teacher resources ….

National Association for Prevention of Teacher Abuse

Teacher Support Network

Teachers Count

03 January 2007

Leverage Student Feedback to Improve Academics

In Quality Counts 2007 From Cradle to Career, Education Week, it was reported that a consistent lack of communication contributes to students becoming lost and not succeeding in public elementary and secondary education. Whether a purchase is done online or in a store, chances are after the sale an opportunity arises to take one type of customer survey or another, because the company making the purchased product wants to understand the rationale behind the purchase and learn about customer satisfaction. Nowadays, businesses make a concerted effort to learn about their customers. In contrast, the business of public education does little to pinpoint the teaching methods that support behaviors and cognitive processes to help customers, the students, learn. I'm not advocating more or different tests to examine what content students learn, however; I am pointing out the necessity of identifying what classroom activities/methods produce the most effective learning environment for new concepts.

Instead of focusing on building new tests to measure content assimilation, we need to focus our efforts on understanding what works in each teachers’ classroom to reinforce knowledge transfer by collecting student feedback. Comprehending the success of classroom instruction is more than criteria reference testing. Collecting reliable and valid feedback means all students are given an opportunity to respond to questions dealing with classroom instruction they received in every class. The activities in math class that support a student in learning may not work in their English class. To have a sensible and meaningful dialogue about student learning for improving academic progress, we must include appropriate student feedback into the equation.

School districts of all sizes, can benefit from outsourcing administrative functions, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Indeed, there is an urgent need to use pertinent student feedback in evaluating classroom learning, which can be easily accomplished using Internet based surveys to generate comprehensive reports.

Let us hope that the decision makers in education see the light and begin listening to their customers.

02 January 2007

Useful Finance, Performance, & Demographic Data

Greetings in 2007, may this new year bring us closer to beginning some meaningful process changes in the education of our country’s greatest resources – our teenagers.

I finally found a site with stats about what we spend on schools and how we spend it. Standard and Poor’s is doing an excellent job with this “School Matters” site they created. That they do it speaks volumes about its' reliability and validity. The site is located at http://www.schoolmatters.com/.

In 2004 we had 49 million students in public schools and were spending $4,910 on instruction for each student in 2003. Yes, those are public tax dollars being spent.

There is a ton of information here. You can drill down by state on performance, spending, and demographics or look at the national averages. This is an excellent resource to learn more about specific schools and who the education leaders are in a specific geographic location.

Happy browsing!