Posts tagged: school

Dr. King, the Pragmatist

By , January 16, 2012 1:56 pm

The Entrance Band – M.L.K.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

A shout out to my friend and colleague, Tyler, whose alma mater, Chapman University, hosted Rev. Martin Luther King in 1961. While the text of Dr. King’s address, found here, speaks specifically to the progress of race relations, both Tyler and I couldn’t help but notice that his characterization of the current status of race relations runs parallel to the current philosophical bifurcation that is plaguing the education reform debates today (particularly as it relates to the hot-button issues of evaluation, and “value-added”).

In short, Dr. King’s call for a realist, progressive, and (most importantly) actionable attitude and commitment speaks volumes. In this analogy, it seems Dr. King can also teach us something about the dangers of extremism and polarization. Simply put, for Dr. King, the biggest problem of opposite and extreme viewpoints is not that they are wrong, but that they lead toward inaction.

Below, I’ll quote a bit of a lengthy portion from the address, but it is well worth it. Dr. King’s words of wisdom continue to speak not only across generations, but in all walks of life.

There are three basic attitudes that can be taken toward the whole question in the area of race relations. The first attitude that can be taken is that of extreme optimism. The extreme optimist in the area of race relations could contend that we have made tremendous strides in the struggle for racial justice. He would point proudly to the progress that has been made in the area of civil rights over the last few decades. From this he would conclude that the problem is just about solved now and that we can sit down comfortably by the wayside and wait on the coming of the inevitable.

The second position that can be taken is that of extreme pessimism. The extreme pessimist in the area of race relations would contend that we have made only minor strides. He would argue that the deep rumblings of discontent from the South, the presence of federal troops in Little Rock, Arkansas, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, and the birth of White Citizens Councils are all indicative of the fact that we are going backwards instead of forwards and that we are creating many more problems than we are solving. And from this the extreme pessimist would conclude that there could be no real progress in the area of race relations.

Now it is interesting to notice that the extreme optimist and the extreme pessimist agree on at least one point. They both feel that we must sit down and do nothing in the area of race relations. The extreme optimist says do nothing because integration is inevitable. The extreme pessimist says do nothing because integration is impossible.

But there is a third position that can be taken, namely the realistic position. The realist in the area of race relations seeks to combine the truths of two opposites, while avoiding the extremes of both. So he would agree with the optimist that we have come a long, long way. But he would seek to balance this by agreeing with the pessimist that we have a long, long way to go.

First Day Back to School

By , January 9, 2012 4:05 pm

Radiohead – No Surprises

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I definitely feel like this now…

#4 Real Coaching – All I Want for Christmas: My 2011 Education Wish List

By , December 17, 2011 6:13 pm

image

The Kinks – Father Christmas

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Dear Santa,

Since I know you keep up on world events via periodical reading, I’m sure you saw the fascinating article appeared in the October 3 issue of The New Yorker, in which the author, a surgeon, noticed that his practice seemed to be stagnating after a number of successful years. He decided to hire a surgeon “coach” (himself a retired surgeon) to watch him perform his surgeries, and give him analysis and feedback based on what he saw.

This is exactly what I’d like for Christmas, Santa. You gave me a taste of this 8 years ago when, as a newbie teacher, I had one of my school’s assistant principals regularly in my classroom, regularly giving me feedback, and regularly offering me suggestions on not only ways to get better, but which other teachers I should observe in order to improve my teaching craft.

Nowadays, this simply doesn’t happen, and when schools do magically find funding for a coaching position, all too often, they are simply overrun with administrative tasks and thus unable to devote any real time to the duty they are charged with.

So Santa (Father Christmas), how about some real coaching. Or if pressed for time, one of these to at least give me a different (and potentially painful) perspective.

#5 More Classroom Visitations – All I Want for Christmas: My 2011 Education Wish List

By , December 14, 2011 9:28 pm

Twisted Sister – White Christmas

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I get it, Santa. Principals are swamped. And with this new round of California budget cuts, it looks as if principals will be more swamped than ever nowadays. The last thing on their plates should be a routine visitation of my classroom, or should it?

Now I’m not suggesting principals frequently stop by to check to see if I’m actually doing my job – I assure you, I am – but as the instructional leaders of the school, to help me hone my strengths and posit suggestions on how to improve my weaknesses.

Santa, as I’m sure you’re well aware, LAUSD has launched a new pilot program that is designed to overhaul the evaluation system, which includes a revamped observation protocol.

However, at present, the potential main pitfall of this new observation is that it doesn’t really address the main failing of the old observation protocol, namely, that principals simply didn’t have or didn’t take the time needed to conduct all these observations, and more importantly follow-up conversations regarding how to actually improve upon practice.

Santa, it’s been YEARS (I believe since the first administration of George W. Bush) since I’ve been observed in a manner that has actually given me feedback on my lessons, my planning, my delivery, and other aspects of my teaching.

So Santa, this Christmas, send some more folks to my classroom. And even feel free to stop by yourself. Cochran Middle School. Room 216. When you find the one with the aura of a dental waiting room, you’ll know you’re there.

All I Want For Christmas: My 2011 Education Wish List (Intro)

By , November 26, 2011 12:31 pm

Low – Just Like Christmas

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Two days after Thanksgiving, one day after Black Friday, one day before the start of Advent and we’re now definitely into the “Christmas season”. When I was a child, I would usually take the post-Thanksgiving weekend to compose a fairly elaborate Christmas “wish list” which I hoped would conveniently find it’s way to my parents through your favorite middleman and mine, Santa Claus.

It’s in that same spirit, I’ll be brining you my 2011 Education Wish List, which, over the next month, will bring you 10 things that I would love to see happen in the “education world” (I can actually promise 10, I’ve got drafts already!).

So, Santa, instead of getting me a wool scarf or some snow pants (if you haven’t been paying attention to where I live), if you could manage one of the forthcoming gifts from my education wish list, I promise to make my way to the “nice” list next year.

Oh yes, and did I forget to mention that I get to share some of my favorite Christmas music along the way? So stay tuned for the first installment coming this Tuesday.

Then The Sun Came Out

By , November 5, 2011 2:47 pm

Vika Yermolyeva – November Rain

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

image

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”, I literally prayed yesterday as I ate lunch at school in the midst of a cold, windy, and rainy day. My first field trip of the year, an afternoon/evening trip to the University of Southern California, was threatened to be marred by a northern cold front, brining in forecasted rain, thunderstorms, and even hail.

As I taught my morning classes, my mood had become more and more foul as the weather did not appear to be letting up. A few students and even my principal asked me if I was going to cancel the trip. Mulling it over, I had confidence in the resilience of my students, knowing that yes, they’d be cold, they’d be wet, but that they’d get to see an amazing college campus in action.

I decided to go on with the trip.

At 1pm, my students and chaperones began congregating at the front of the school, and after all had arrived, we quickly boarded the bus, dodging the raindrops pelting the ground.

As we drove east on Venice, then turned south on Hoover, something fantastic happened; the clouds parted, and the sun came out. And best of all, as my Angeleno readers know, the sun stayed out!

In gorgeous, albeit crisp fall weather, we toured the campus grounds and buildings, seeing the quads, the libraries, Heritage Hall (pictured above), as well as the Trojan marching band practice. We finished the evening with an all-you-can-eat buffet in one of the dorm cafeteria’s. As always, being in an environment where one didn’t have to eat one’s vegetables, and could have 2 ice cream cones if one so chose, was definitely the highlight of the trip for my students.

Now hopefully, they liked it enough to put in the hard work it will take to attend there in 6 years!

Who’s got the better website?

By , November 1, 2011 9:05 pm

The Beach Boys – Heroes and Villains

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

imageThe LAPD website sucks. It’s like a bad nightmare from 2004. And just to give you a sense of how bad it is, they don’t even own the domain lapd.org.

Luckily, it seems to be because they’ve been diverting their internal funding away from technology and into a ridiculously beautiful headquarters in downtown LA.

It was there that this evening I attended a Teach Plus screening (yep, the LAPD has a screening room) of the documentary American Teacher, which is a surprisingly non-partisan account of the ins and outs of the life of a teacher. Addressing such issues as why teachers leave the profession (unsustainably low salaries and burnout seem to be common themes), the film did a really good job describing the policy need to elevate the teaching profession both in salary and, perhaps more importantly, in national esteem.

While it was a great film, the reality that I will never own a home in Los Angeles was once again sadly ingrained into my head. Oh well. At least I have a better website than the LAPD.

“We’re Off” -A Random Computer

By , October 29, 2011 3:09 pm

The Rolling Stones – 2000 Man

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

image

Apologies in advance: this post is a bit wonky.

Last Sunday evening, I got a frantic text from a colleague. “We’re off the PSC list!” it said. An email from my principal a few hours later confirmed the good news. LAUSD had finally acknowledged what we at Cochran Middle School had known for nearly 6 months – namely, that the notion that Cochran Middle School is a low performing school, is blatantly false.

An email from our Superintendent further confirmed this, and shows just how dramatically the district has shifted their view of data. Rather than get into the nitty-gritty of which metrics have bit the dust (so long API, AYP, and PI), it’s a bit more interesting to see what the district has apparently gotten right (and might still be leaving out in this shift).

What LAUSD got right:

While most folks acknowledge that “achievement” and “growth” are two terms that refer to separate measures, they’re too often left ambiguous with respect to the extent to which they refer to schools or to students. LAUSD has correctly begun to note that “student achievement” is different than “school achievement”’/”school performance”. And “student growth” is different than “school growth”. The inclusion of a value-added metric (AGT), even if statistically imperfect, is a step in the right direction.

What I still worry about:

Although AGT is still new, and potentially far from statistically perfect, its mere existence means that we’re actually talking about the right things. Namely, LAUSD is acknowledging that there are non-school factors that influence student achievement, something that unions have been proclaiming for years. One of my worries is that we’re simply accepting AGT as the “right” value-added metric. I’m convinced there are plenty of other variables in the equation that ought to be controlled for that simply are not at this point.

My second worry with this set of new school metrics is that it will create further perverse incentives to “game the system”, meaning, to attempt to improve one’s numbers by “juking the stats” rather than actually by improving instruction. Last week’s This American Life actually provided a fascinating story on what happens (in a police department) when stats become the dominant theme of conversation. Or, simply watch Season 3 of The Wire. Schools are already finding ways to game this new system.

The solution?

  • LAUSD needs to invest further research and development into a better value-added metric.
  • Not only does the criteria for school labeling need to be made public, but the process of generating said criteria needs to be both transparent and include justification. (Thankfully, I have a brilliant colleague working on exactly this as we speak).
  • LAUSD needs to both analyze and address potentially perverse incentive structures created by any system of school labeling.

It’s interesting…after a crazy (and somewhat emotional) week, both my optimism and cynicism are simultaneously renewed.

Why I’m Rooting for the Rangers

By , October 23, 2011 2:40 pm

Mates of State – Desire

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Screenshot_1TV ratings for this year’s World Series are down, as to be expected in any year when it doesn’t include an American League team from the Bronx.

Yet the Texas Rangers v. St. Louis Cardinals matchup is proving to be a bit more exciting than I had originally anticipated.

First, in a game (and an era, really) that can be categorized as more offensively-minded than at any time in its previous history, the first two games were brilliant, low-scoring, one-run beauties in which the most subtle managerial decisions and defensive miscues grossly affected the game.

Second, even in a game that was, by all other accounts, one of the most boring I’ve seen (a 16-7 St. Louis win), the historic still has its way of rearing its head. What will be remembered was that superman Albert Pujols become only the 3rd major league player (and the first in the National League) to hit 3 home runs in a World Series game (Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson are good company to be in), and only the 2nd player to hit safely 5 times (Paul Molitor? Who’s he?).

Third, and perhaps most importantly, both teams, simply by being here demonstrate the value of perseverance, one of the most important disciplines in life (a lesson I constantly try to impart upon my students). St. Louis had lost in a World Series in 2004, to the Boston Red Sox, but not giving up, the eventually pushed their way back, two years later, and won the whole thing. The Texas Rangers made it to the World Series last year, and lost it to the upstart San Francisco Giants. But rather than going home, sulking, and getting lazy in the off-season, the Rangers worked hard to put together a winning staff for this year.

So as it stands right now, St. Louis is up 2 games to 1, with every single game seemingly to change the momentum of the series. The rest is something I look forward to watching.

Oh yes, so why am I rooting for the Rangers?

Why not?

Songs to Get You Through the Week

By , October 11, 2011 3:12 pm

Song to get you through the week (STGUTTW #1):

Friday on My Mind. Originally by the Easybeats, but covered by the likes of Bowie, et al.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Panorama Theme by Themocracy

Switch to our mobile site