American Education Week

I don’t think I ever remember celebrating Education week while in public school, but I did run across an article on the Grand Forks Herald Site mentioning it.

The celebration isn’t just limited to Grand Forks, North Dakota, however, as all schools across the nation are getting into the act as well. Starting November 15th and ending the 21st, schools will hold such events as open houses,  parents’ day, honoring the support professionals (such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers) that keep the school running, and other various events. Sounds like it will be a fun week for the students and those that work in the school. I also really like the fact that they have a day for the support workers, seeing as they work just as hard (if not more so) than the educators, administrative staff and others. I especially like how they have a day dedicated to those that substitute teach classes. There’s more information on the variety of events taking place next week, along with posters and schedules that parents and others interested can print out on National Education Association’s website.

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New Haven’s reforms are more lackluster then praiseworthy

Today the Washington Post reported on Arne Duncan and President Obama praising New Haven, Connecticut for their new ratified teacher contract for the education system. Even though it’s been touted as innovative, in reality it’s nothing  new and doesn’t really improve the system.

Looking at the list of improvements, I’d have to agree that there is not anything new here. Some of them are not worth  praising either, such as the one that prevents good teachers from receiving a higher pay then bad teachers. Teachers do not make much money as it is, and it is hard to come by a good teacher, especially in primary and secondary education, where students are starting to learn important skills that play a role in the future. It also makes no commitments to close bad schools, which is strange. I would think the system would be willing to close down schools that were not doing well or at the very least, figure out what was wrong and try to fix it. It just makes me wonder, if these are the improvements to the schools, what were the provisions before the new rules took place?

Besides that, it feels as if Obama and Duncan are just patting the head of some of these states instead of really praising states that are looking to make a change outside of the provisions that are already common.

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Obama’s education speech & Wisconsin upping their chances for stimulus money

I meant to post this over the weekend, but got caught up in things. Either way, I thought I’d post Obama’s speech that he gave this week in Madison, Wisconsin at the James C. Wright Middle School.

Speaking of Wisconsin, the governor, Jim Doyle recently passed a list of reform bills in order to be able to compete with other states for stimulus money. The whole story can be viewed here.

There were a couple of bills that were signed that caught my attention. One being the one where teachers can be evaluated for their performance, but not be disciplined or dismissed for a poor performance. Now I know teachers are not totally to blame for a student’s performance; some students don’t take the time to study when they get home, or if they don’t understand the material, the parents have a hard time helping them with it. I also understand teachers are harder to come by, but there are teachers that have the knowledge of the material their teaching, but don’t necessarily know how to teach it to kids.  I know I had teachers, especially in math and english that knew the material really well, but weren’t great at teaching it.

Another one I’m not too sure about is the bill that requires that Wisconsin universities and the Technical School System have access to student data from back in preschool. If it’s referring to what I think it is, it sounds strange. They’re going to judge whether you’ll be accepted to a university or tech school based on how you did from back to preschool?

Require the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Department of Public Instruction to establish a system to track student data from preschool programs through postsecondary education.

Talk about added pressure to kids!

As far as them passing the bills to be eligible to compete with other states, I understand states are in need of money, but I hope Doyle is doing this not just to get stimulus money but to benefit the school system as a whole. He does plan on holding a special session with legislature to pass two other bills so they have more of a chance to win money, so we’ll see if they approve of the bills or not.

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ACLU sues Florida School System

The ACLU is now suing the education system in Palm Beach, FL  over the horrible education being offered at the schools and the fact that graduation rates for the high schools in the Palm Beach School District has been low. The article, which is on ACLU’s website explains how many students don’t graduate out of school and how the numbers are actually not accurate for the amount of students that make it out of high school with a diploma.

I’m just curious to see if the court will take this case, as the ACLU have filed a lawsuit against the Palm Beach School district before last year that’s very similar to the one they are filing now. The previous case, though didn’t go through because they filed a suit against the wrong person. In the 2008 suit, they filed against the Palm Beach School board, as well as Arthur Johnson, the superintendent of the schools in Palm Beach. This time around, in this latest suit, they filed charges against the state of Florida as a whole, including the governor Charlie Crist, a member of Senate, House, and the Commissioner of Education of Florida.

Of course, since it’s the Civil Liberties Union, they do mention that the graduation rate percentage of African-American and Hispanic students is lower than that of their white peers. The Graduation rates is also really low. At first the ACLU is generous, saying about 1/3 of the student population does not graduate from high school, but the reality is that nearly 1/2 of them fail to graduate. That’s pretty bad standards. To be honest, I’m surprised the governor never pushed for reformatting the education system. Maybe because the first suit the ACLU filed didn’t go through, they dismissed the charges. But even so, with that many children not graduating, it should have been a hint to do something with the system since however way it’s currently set up now, it clearly isn’t working.

Parents are also unhappy with the education system, stating that it doesn’t create a uniformed public education.

Of course this is just another example of the state of many schools around the country that have low graduation rates and a lackluster curriculum that isn’t benefitting the students any. Either way, it makes me curious to see how this will play out, especially with Obama and Arne Duncan’s education reform plan that they’ve been promoting. Perhaps it’ll be a test for everyone to see just how well it will work?

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Audio Clips

I happened to run across these stories while listening to NPR today. Though they may not have anything to do with anything political, I still thought these audio clips I found were intersting enough to share.

The first one has to deal with African American students and why they are falling behind with education.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114327591

The next one has to do with Arne Duncan speaking with Latino groups and the Spanish language news organizations, discussing why education is also a civil rights issue.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114277937

This last one focuses on mental health on college campuses. It tells the story of what happened to one family when their child developed bipolar disorder while in school.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114055588

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Texas Schools looking to fix test standards

Looks like Schools in Texas are looking to re-work their curriculumexam testing standards for their proficiency tests. Mentioned in the Dallas News article on their website, many fourth and eighth-graders are taking tests that are below national standards. In fact, Texas is one of 15 states with low proficiency standards for their tests. Especially when it comes to reading.

To be honest, I’m not really surprised to hear that. From what I’ve heard, Texas has been low with test scores and the number of children that graduate from high school for a few years now(Actually the United States in general is low when it comes to the curriculum for testing when compared to other countries, but that’s a different subject). I’m not sure if the Board has tried to make the standards more rigorous for testing in the past, but it’s about time the schools got around to fixing up the curriculum.

What makes it worse is the standards are low on two of the subjects that are most important for students to know, math and reading.

Also, there was one part of the article that kind of made me pause and read it again:

Among the states with the most rigorous standards were Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri and South Carolina. Tennessee had the worst standards.

Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Missouri being mention as a state with rigorous standards didn’t bother me. I don’t know enough about Missouri’s proficiency standards to make a comment on them. But I do wonder about South Carolina being mentioned. Having lived there for most of my life, I just wonder how high they rank with proficiency standards, since I remember the test we had to take our sophomore year just to graduate was actually at a middle school level.

But then, it’s been four years since I’ve been in high school there so maybe they raised the standards for the test since then.

Anyway, what I think would be interesting is if the nation as a whole came up with a certain standard for all states to follow, so that if a child moves from one state to another, they won’t feel left behind or too far ahead of their classmates. I’m not sure how well something like that would work in the long-term, especially depending on money and how much each state really has to invest in the education system, but it would make everyone more equal and the system would be more cohesive instead of having diverging levels of either rigorous standards and below rigorous standards.

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Bill Gates sharing reward with other states

Bill Gates at Watertown Regional Library in Watertown, South Dakota

Tuesday the New York Times had an article dealing with Bill Gates expanding a $250,000 donation from his foundation to all states in the country. This was after other states complained, when back in July, Gates was offering $250,000 to lawmakers representing fifteen states that were in the room with him while he was making the announcement.

Those that argued over his earlier decision felt he was involved with the Department of Education in hand-picking states and that’s pretty much what it sounded like, whether Gates really was doing that or not. In fact, one of the states picked was Texas, and along with the other fifteen states that were originally, these were seen as the states that had the best chance to win federal money.

It kind of reminds me of elementary school and picking favorites.

But what about other states that really need the funding money? Such as schools in Michigan or any of the other industrial states.  Or states in the south, such as South Carolina or Mississippi; as well as the schools up north, like in Vermont.

Apparently the rules for the competition was that states that tended to be favored with the Department were those that were promoting the opening of new charter schools. That’s great and all, but what about other states? They don’t deserve to get the short end of the stick just because they aren’t opening charter schools. Not to mention charter schools may not benefit every area. What may be fitting for one state in a certain city, has a totally different outcome for another.

Either way, I’m glad to see some states complained over the grant money being offered to all states instead of a few. States shouldn’t be fighting over who gets money over another and this way the competition is more fair and not deliberately out to pick favorites.

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