Monday, April 30, 2007

Gage Park in the Sun-Times, and it ain't pretty.

Sun-Times story here.

Most of the students I talked with today at Gage felt the story was unfair (not, however, untrue...even the stuff about guns outside of the building).

Students said other schools were worse off and they wanted nice things said about Gage. Some asked why no mention of the undefeated Lady Owl's softball team? Other's talked about the breakfast with the Lt. Governor celebrating Cesar Chavez. We even have a student who won at the city science fair and will be representing Gage in Springfield (Veronica Magdaleno, featured in the photo from the Sun-Times and super congrats to her!). I tried to tell them the story was about over-crowding and its impact, not a general "what's going on at Gage" story.

Yes, the story in the Sun-Times is true. But to remember why the topic of over-crowding was and is still important, I refer you to one of my first posts, a video of the protest about over-crowding. Originally posted here, I am reposting it for your viewing pleasure.

Another Edition of "Wish I said That".....

"We make learning into punishment. Learning should be exciting, inviting, an absolute turn-on. And it can be. Oh to be sure there are things that require some drill, explanation, but the amazing thing in any class is to see a kid get it, to be so involved in what s/he is doing that s/he loses track of the time, and doesn't want to stop. If we really want to leave no child behind, we have to stop the idiocy of turning school into drudgery, reducing it to test prep, and find ways of invoking the natural desire of all young people to learn. Instead of worrying "Is our children learning?" as measured by mass-produced tests, perhaps we should ask why what we are doing doesn't make them want to learn? " (Bold face mine - Ed.)
Read the whole post over at Daily Kos here. To understand what this person is saying, just walk into a kindergarten room. Rich, poor, white, black...nothing like that matters. They love school and love learning. What is it that we do as educators that has kids doing a 180 within a few years and hating the school experience? If I could answer that I would write a book and retire wealthy.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NCLB a "Criminal Enterprise"

The death of NCLB is right around the corner. From the Boston Globe:

Reading First, created by President Bush's signature No Child Left Behind law, offers intensive reading help for low-income children in the early grades. But investigators say that federal officials intervened to influence state and local decisions about what programs to use, a potential violation of the law. Some of the people who were influencing those decisions had a financial interest in the programs that were being pushed, officials said.

"I think we're very close to a criminal enterprise here," House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller, D-Calif., said at an investigative hearing Friday. "Have you made any criminal referrals, Mr. Higgins?"

Well that just about sums it up.

Whenever I think of scandals on this scale, I always come back to that infamous quote from Republican strategist Grover Norquist: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Then, natch, cue a picture of New Orleans after Katrina.

That is how it is supposed to be. It is Republican (Bush specifically) exercise in governance. It is not an accident. It is supposed to be like this.

I think the word I am looking for is "intent". When you elect people who hate government to run it, well, you end up with Katrina and Iraq, and the list goes on and on.

NCLB is dead. And I'll be glad to help with the remaining nails.

Someone hand me a hammer. Let's put this coffin in the ground.

Republicans have once again killed with incompetence what they couldn't kill with ideology.

And did Chairman Miller really expect an affirmative response when he asked if any criminal referrals had been made? Sheesh. He was, after all, talking to the party of "drown it in a bathtub".

Even he must realize that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Two Students Shot at Chicago Vocational

Bad news, nothing else to say.


Two teens playing with a 9 mm handgun inside a Chicago classroom both ended up shot in the leg after a bullet discharged as they were passing the gun between them, police said.

The boys were sitting in the back of a science classroom at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy on the city's South Side at about 2:15 p.m. The gun discharged as one boy passed the gun to the other, striking the second boy in the thigh and the other near the knee, said Robert Lopez, an assistant deputy police superintendent...

...The teen who brought the gun to school panicked, ran outside the building and dumped the gun near the front of the building, Lopez said. A Chicago police officer assigned to the school confronted the student as he re-entered the building, and the student led him to the gun, police said.

There was conflicting information about whether all students at the school are required to pass through the building's metal detectors.

Lopez said students are chosen at random to go through the detectors because it would take too long to scan each teen.

But Michael Vaughn, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools, said all students are required to go through metal detectors every day...

...It was the second shooting on school property in less than a month. On March 22, two students standing in the parking lot were shot and wounded after a car pulled into the lot and an occupant opened fire, Bond said.

Full Sun-Times story here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Essay Paper is Dead

You should read this essay (even though the essay is dead) from the Washington Post.

Here is an excerpt:

Nevertheless, the educational system needs to acknowledge what the paper is today: more of a work product that tests very particular skills -- the ability to synthesize and properly cite the work of others -- and not students' knowledge, originality and overall ability.

I envision a time when's database contains millions of essays on Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." At that point educators may finally understand that no high school student will be able to write another original word on the subject.

So let's declare "The paper is dead" before the database makes the declaration for us. And let's recognize what the paper has become, so that we can declare, "Long live the paper!"
It raises an important point. How long before the number of essays submitted to Turn It In dot com becomes so huge no kid will anything more to say about a particular subject?

Do you use Turn It In?

Union Election News at Catalyst

Union campaign heating up - A decent round up of the issues, but not much "there" there. I understand why though. I mean, why would Stewart say anything resembling the truth when dissembling works so well for her? Read the article in full here.

My favorite? Catalyst has a graphic on the number of teachers who did not yet have tenure and were "let go" by their principals the last two years (the famous "click").

This is one issue that UPC and Stewart has used to try and pillory Debbie Lynch. What UPC and Stewart never say is that under the contracts UPC had negotiated in the past, teachers could spend their entire career without ever getting tenure.


PACT and Lynch solved that problem. They forced the Board to put every new hire on the tenure track from day one. A vast improvement over the old way of doing business.

The catch? If everyone is on tenure track from day one, principals would get the right to fire when they wanted within the three year period. Seems a fair trade for ending a system where you could spend years and years not working towards tenure. I certainly think the new way is a better way.

So it turns out that UPC's complaints are not very significant (compared to working for ten years and still not having tenure like they had negotiated in the past). Yes, it turns out that most teachers find jobs at other buildings if they are let go from one building. It is not the tragedy UPC makes it out to be. But then, so few of UPC's claims survive the light of reasoned analysis anyway.

Anyways, here is the Graphic from Catalyst:

Catalyst also has a good story on rising health care costs and how, no matter who negotiates in June, will find themselves faced with a financial crisis for CPS no matter who wins:

But that increase would still provide little wiggle room during contract talks, given a cornucopia of rising costs, including teachers’ pension fund obligations, inflation and a possible deficit in the current budget. CPS is negotiating with Commonwealth Edison to hold the line on spiking utility rates.

Each percentage point increase in pay will prove pricey, costing the district roughly $25 million, says Martinez. Districts across the country are typically negotiating 3 percent to 5 percent raises, says Julia Koppich, an education consultant and former education faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley.

Chicago teachers received four percent raises in each of the last four years under the current 2003 contract, an amount that compared favorably with other urban districts. At the time, “teachers were getting 1 percent, 2 percent, if they were getting anything at all,” says Koppich.

Former union president Deborah Lynch took heat for that contract because teachers were hit with increased health care costs. But, as Koppich points out, “health care costs were going up everywhere. [The controversy] was a mystery to me.”

The controversy was a mystery to me. You said it. Now, can we finally put this misinformation to bed once and for all and get on with the job electing PACT and Lynch to represent us? At least with PACT in office, there might be fewer "Valentine's Day" parties paid for out of our dues.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

IDs of 40,000 CPS teachers at risk

From the Sun-Times:

Two laptop computers containing the names and Social Security numbers of
about 40,000 Chicago Public Schools teachers and administrators were stolen
Friday from the district's downtown headquarters, creating the second security
scare in less than six months.

CPS was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's
arrest or recovery of the computers.

The laptops and backpack were taken from a 13th-floor conference room
where two contractors had been reviewing the history of payments to the Chicago
Teachers Pension Fund, said CPS spokesman Michael Vaughn.

The Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft web page is located here. Please take care. I hope no CPS teacher has a problem because of this. This is very unfortunate.

Please visit the FTC to find out how to deal with ID theft.

Read the full Sun-Times story here.
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