March 12th Regular Board Meeting

It has been a long weekend; very emotional, very poignant, even a bit chaotic.

The Board Meeting

I arrive a bit late, walking in right as Donna Novak was wrapping up her heart-felt words of thanks to the Board and I waved as the family was leaving. There were a couple things on the agenda that initially interested me when I looked at them earlier; 1) Westview renovations since I have some friends who might send their child there next year, 2) Common Core update from Trevor, and 3) the Robeson Academic Spotlight. Unfortunately, they were having a series of technical difficulties which resulted in half the meeting not being broadcast via CGTV (I sure hope the recording survived! – I already requested it and will post it when I get my grubby hands on it), and several issues with presentations, including lack of sound and one projector not working. I had a chuckle when IT Director Roger Grinnip gave his report and boasted about all the technological advancements we have. Gotta love computers.

If I recall correctly Read the rest of this entry »

Curriculum, pedagogy and Common Core Standards

Like Poseidon’s Trident, I have a feeling that education is coming to a point. Sometimes it feels like Government wants to wield this thing to exert their will, and then I read about Michelle Rhee of StudentsFirst and her attempt to bridge the gap between Big Brother and the taxpayers. People (smart, dumb and everyone in between) have spouted out opinions, facts (some with apostrophes) and dogma, for millenia. And we still have issues. Obviosly, we haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Figured out what? Like Douglas Adams writes in his “Hitchhiker” trilogy of five books, we do not even know what the question is. But we know the answer, darnit! 🙂

First I’ll start with Common Core Standards. Then I’ll talk a little about a pilot curriculum being introduced in our high schools. And then we will wrap up quickly with Read the rest of this entry »

Illinois and NCLB

I came across an article listing 10 states that have been granted “flexibility” with the NCLB rules. Illinois is not on that list.

http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/president-obama-our-children-cant-wait-congress-fix-no-child-left-behind-announc

 

Gotta love how the Federal Department of Education says “the burdensome mandates of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB)”. Let’s see, who put that law out there?

 

I could have sworn Illinois was going to file a formal request. Was I mistaken? Did we not turn in all the papers on time?

 

I also seem to remember hearing rumblings about how our Core Curriculum is changing (Common Core State Standards?); I have not yet had the time to delve into that, but I believe it had something to do with how we will no longer be using AYP.

 

If you happen to know the skinny on either of these topics, please enlighten us.

Wednesdays at Houlihans: Dec 7th

In an attempt to drum up some conversation starters and discussion, I am going to suggest a topic of High School options and a more “rigorous” curriculum.

 

To the first, Unit 4 is really trying to gather feedback on what community members want. Do we want a 3rd high school? Where? Do we want a “prep academy” (8th and 9th grade at one campus, 10th-12th grade at the other)? Or do we want to commit to the minimal amount of work to keep the roofs from falling down?

 

The second topic is closely related, IMO, especially if we consider the prep academy. It seems like Unit 4 is quickly adopting “Common Core State Standards” which attempt to better get students ready for college and the workplace. I believe this is the “rigor” that is being buzzed about.

 

So feel free to join us this coming Wednesday, December 7th, to talk about these topics. Bring your opinions.

More about Standardized Tests

The StudentsFirst blog features an article about Michael Loeb lauding the advantages of a good Standardized Test. I am not going to spend much time talking about that particular blog post; it is an interesting read that gives a fairly balanced, if personal, account from one teacher’s perspective. However, I do want to focus a little more on one of the main subjects of the article, Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

 

CCSS at least makes for a good sell; the site is attractive enough, got some flashy things going on, talks in generalized, “who wouldn’t want this” kind of air. The “Key Points” sound great, like this quote from the Mathematics page:

The standards stress not only procedural skill but also conceptual understanding, to make sure students are learning and absorbing the critical information they need to succeed at higher levels – rather than the current practices by which many students learn enough to get by on the next test, but forget it shortly thereafter, only to review again the following year.

 

So where does the rubber meet the road? How exactly are they going to do this through “standards”?

 

What raised the red flag for me was from the FAQ (you do read those, right? *grin*):

Q. Why is the Common Core State Standards Initiative important?

A. We want to make sure that every child across the country is given the tools they need to succeed. High standards that are consistent across states provide teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations that everyone can work toward together. This will ensure that we maintain America’s competitive edge, so that all of our students are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with not only their peers here at home, but with students from around the world.

[emphasis mine]

 

The first part of that Answer is dead on, I love it! Give people high, clearly-defined expectations and get ready to be amazed. But then the author(s) completely threw away any good sentiment with that last sentence. Instead of going through every word of that statement and ripping it apart, let me summarize by saying that I am utterly saddened that our leaders want us (and our children) to focus on beating everyone else, being the top dog, the Big Kahuna. Why?!? Not only am I not convinced that the price is worth it, I am rather convinced that the price is not worth it. Why would we want to turn our society into mathematic wizards?

 

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I personally would want to see us focus on life skills that allow people (not merely individuals, but individuals who function in a way that benefits the whole) to flourish in society as a part of society. So now we have Johnny TwoShoes who can bring home 6-digit bacon but doesn’t have a clue why the poor get poorer, nor could he care less. All he cares about is getting what he “deserves” and taking care of his own.

 

Is that really what you want?