Monday, February 28, 2011

State university presidents paint grim picture on budget cuts

“State university presidents paint grim picture on budget cuts” by Katherine Long
The Seattle Times
Published 2/24/11
Retrieved 2/27/11
Complete URL:
Intended Audience: higher-education students and teachers

Summary: The presidents of Washington’s three largest state universities were asked to predict specific outcomes of the governor’s proposed worst-case-scenario budget cuts on each of their schools. The presidents’ responses were equally and universally bleak with their firm beliefs that nothing good would come of them as they would ultimately undermine the state’s economy by reducing the opportunity for – and the quality of – higher education.

Key Points: Maximal budget cuts could result in the following:
• Significantly reduced admission of in-state residents. Out-of-state tuition is approximately three times higher than in-state.
• Increased faculty layoffs, including those jobs responsible for the schools’ maintenance and renovation.
• Dissolution of smaller degree programs, as well as reduced enrollment in larger programs.
• A typical four-year degree would be extended to at least five years. Less classes offered per semester would prevent students from taking on a larger credit load.
• Negative impact on the state’s economy. Decreased enrollment in higher education results in fewer higher-paying jobs to inject money back into the economy.

Relevance: Increased enrollment competition and higher tuition rates, as well as a potential decrease in the quality of education, may be enough reason to deter many in-state college hopefuls to look elsewhere to fulfill their career goals. I found some of the comments posted in regard to this article to be especially intriguing:
• “I have a budget cut for them … Stop paying university executives and coaches million dollar annual salaries!”
• “They could save a lot of money if they required tenured and highly paid professors to teach more than one or two classes a week.”
• “Basically just another kick in the gut for the middle class. A first class education is to be a privilege of the wealthy.”

Older teachers would get help to retire early under Senate measure

“Older teachers would get help to retire early under Senate measure” by Andrew Garber
The Seattle Times, Olympia Bureau
Published 2/22/11
Retrieved 2/27/11
Complete URL:
Intended Audience: teachers

Summary: A new bill proposes to give financial incentive to help older teachers more easily transition into retirement at an earlier age (approximately 3 years earlier). The bill would provide a $250 monthly stipend to help cover medical expenses before they become eligible for Medicare. Supporters of the bill predict these expenses will be offset by replacing newer, lower-paid teachers with the more experienced, higher-paid teachers who retire early. The salary difference between new teachers and veterans is reported to be around $23,000.

Key Point: Older, higher-paid teachers will receive financial support to retire early.

Relevance: Allowing – or encouraging – older teachers to retire early creates more room in the job market for new teachers. Not sure how else to say it, relevance is pretty self-explanatory in this case.

WWU suspends drama prof on new accusations

“WWU suspends drama prof on new accusations” by Janet I. Tu
The Seattle Times
Published 2/16/11
Retrieved 2/27/11
Complete URL:
Intended Audience: teachers, education administrators

Summary: A WWU drama professor has been suspended after new accusations of making inappropriate comments to students. Examples include addressing an overweight student as a “400-pound canary,” a female student as a “bimbo” and “slut,” and a student he thought was gay as “precious.” The professor denies all accusations, claiming they are a conspiratorial attempt by the university to substantiate grounds for his termination. The professor has reportedly received warnings about his behavior from university officials since 1998.

Key Points
• A professor has been repeatedly accused of making inappropriate and demeaning comments to students.
• This behavior began 13 years ago.

Relevance: Judging by his age (69) and the duration of his alleged offenses, it is likely this professor has tenure at the university, which implies a higher degree of job security. A new bill has been introduced to Washington legislation that may directly affect the survival of tenured status. See the article “Teachers’ seniority targeted in house bill” (URL: for more details.

Teachers' seniority targeted in house bill

“Teachers’ seniority targeted in house bill” by Queenie Wong
The Seattle Times Olympia Bureau
Published 2/15/2011
Retrieved 2/24/2011
Complete URL:
Intended Audience: teachers and principals

Economic downtime has motivated education-conscious lawmakers to begin looking for new ways to cut down. A new bill proposes to base layoffs on teacher evaluation, rather than seniority. Supporters of the bill claim that students will ultimately benefit when the best teachers keep their jobs. Opponents believe this change in policy will put too much power in the hands of school principals. Timing may be a significant factor in the bill’s consideration, as some fear immediate legislation will disrupt the transition to a new teacher evaluation system currently underway.

Key Point: Teacher layoffs will be prioritized by performance instead of seniority.
• Support: positive step in school reform – the best teachers stay
• Opposition: job security dependent on principal’s evaluation

Relevance: This progressive stance may impact tenure in the school system. Teachers entering the workforce may have more job opportunities, whereas some veterans may be looking for an early career change. Performance-based job security will likely affect intra-school relationships among teachers and between teachers and principals. Whether students will benefit from this change remains to be seen.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Class Size Effects

Susan Graham
The New Normal of Class Size Just Isn’t Normal
Education Week Teacher
February 23, 2011
Complete URL:
Does class size matter? This article is fascinating. The author contrasts what research says about class size with what is currently occurring in regards to the expansion of class sizes. “Students, teachers, and parents all report positive effects from the impact of class size reductions on the quality of classroom activity.” This is not the move we are making, driven by budgets, class sizes are expanding. In our district class sizes will increase by an average of one student in the 2011-2012 school year. In Detroit they are closing half the public schools. High school classes there will average 60 students! “Well, Secretary Duncan reminds us that ‘Many high performing education systems, especially in Asia, have substantially larger classes than the United States. According to OECD data, secondary school classes in South Korea average about 36 students. In Japan, it's 33 students per class.’” 36 – 33 ok, but 60? The intended audience for this article is teachers. This article is relevant because it is the environment we will enter, and the one many are currently operating in.

Conflict Between Budgets and Standardized Testing (Jeff, Topic Nine)

Jason Song
State Education Officials Decry Funding Veto (
L.A. Times
October 28, 2010

Summary: The Governator vetoed approximately $7 million that was supposed to go to a "student data tracking system" called CALPADS. Opponents of the veto claim that it could hurt California's ability to comply with federal regulations and create difficulties implementing the fan favorite value-added analysis at a state-wide level.

Intended Audience: General Public

Key Points: 1) The Governor vetoed a large sum of money intended to go toward the creation of an objective system of student assessment; 2) There is some debate over the proper way assess both students and teachers.

Relevance: Funding is a huge issue right now and so is teacher and student assessment. This article serves as an example of how the two interests can conflict with one another. Implementing systems of data tracking of student scores costs money. States must pay for servers, software engineers, test developers, etc. This all costs money--something that most states are in an extreme shortage of right now. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays itself out over the next few years. Do we go with more standardized tests, more "objective" assessment methods, and spend more money, or do we continue to cut funding for all areas of education?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Teachers Unions - Villains?

Richard Whitemire
Are Teachers Unions Really to Blame?
The Huffington Post
February 25, 2011
Complete URL:
Richard Whitemire makes valid arguments that teachers unions are not the “villains blocking national reform.” In the example of Michelle Rhee versus teachers unions in Washington DC school reform, the unions did not stop aggressive teacher evaluations from being implemented and unions made no attempt to block the firing of weak teachers. The author does note that there were clashes between Rhee and the teachers union, but ultimately the unions did not hinder Rhee from carrying out reform measures. “So if the unions weren't the key villain, who gets cast in that role, both in Washington and elsewhere? This is a target-rich environment: Inertia, a disbelief that schools will never change, suspicion, knee-jerk attempts to blame parents…” The idea of inertia being part of the problem struck me. The problem(s) like Mt. Everest seem insurmountable but if we are unwilling to move then we must stop pointing fingers – unless we point inward. The intended audience would primarily be practioners and administrators, but the general public could benefit from exposure to this point of view. I find this article extremely relevant in light of current events – especially those in Wisconsin.

Making Sense of the Cloud

The tag cloud has become somewhat of a mess. I took it upon myself to try to make a little more sense of it by picking out the most used tags (subject tags with three or more) that were not names of people or publishers.

I thought that I would share my information with you all. I have not gone over the whole list to see if any terms or phrases could be consolidated to clean it up at all; that is something we all may want to consider.

Anyway, here is what I found in terms of hot topic subjects:

Making Sense of the Cloud:

1) The Politics of Education (8)

2) Education Budget (6)

3) Teacher Evaluation (5)

4) Teacher Responsibilities (4)

5) Advanced Placement (3)

5) Diversity (3)

5) English Language Learning (3)

5) No Child Left Behind (3)

5) Value-Added Analysis (3)

5) What are Schools for? (3)

5) What is a Good Teacher? (3)

Not a whole lot of surprises here. We live in a politically charged time, the budget is tight, and the role of the teacher is evolving--causing questions about how they should be evaluated and what their responsibilities are. A big, catch-all tied for fifth, including: the role of testing, teacher evaluation (again), diversity and English language issues, and AP classes.

A little analysis was needed so that I could make sense of the growing blue blob at the top of the blog and I thought I would share it.

Egyptian Extremism and Curricula (Jeff, Topic Eight)

Amro Hassan
Egypt: School Curricula Inciting Extremism to be Changed (
L.A. Times
April 27, 2010

Summary: Note that this article is from a year ago. Egypt's education minister has proposed changes to the curricula that would promote peace and understanding between Egypt's Christian and Muslim populations. Previously, some Muslim educators have sought to encourage confrontations between the groups.

Intended Audience: General Public

Key Points: 1) Religious courses are required in Egypt, both Christian and Muslim depending on beliefs; 2) The education minister wants to alter the curricula to encourage cooperation and understanding between groups (we saw some of this cooperation during the recent revolution).

Relevance: Education shapes society. The decisions that are made regarding what to teach and how to teach it has real life implications in society. This is an example of not so much changing what is taught (religious studies will still be taught), but how it is taught. I continue to ask myself about the political implications of what and how we teach in the United States--specifically in relation to my discipline (history, social studies).

The Drug Free Cure for ADD

OK, this post is just for fun because it came to mind when we watched the animated lecture in Learning Communities it mentioned the epidemic of ADHD diagnoses.

It's dumb, but it's short.

Counting by Race Can Throw Off Some Numbers

Susan Saulny
"Counting by Race Can Throw Off Some Numbers"
The New York Times
February 9,2011
Topic: Discussion of how difficult it is to classify race in an increasingly mixed race society. There is also a "continued discussion" with other writers attached.

Summary: When it comes to keeping racial statistics, the nation is in transition, moving, often without uniformity, from the old “mark one box” limit to allowing citizens to check as many boxes as their backgrounds demand. Changes in how Americans are counted by race and ethnicity are meant to improve the precision with which the nation’s growing diversity is gauged. In the process, however, a measurement problem has emerged. Despite the federal government’s setting standards more than a decade ago, data on race and ethnicity are being collected and aggregated in an assortment of ways. The lack of uniformity is making comparison and analysis extremely difficult across fields and across time.

Intended audience: General Public

Key points: Contrary to the debate on Saturday, the classification of race by the US government is not being pressed by whites for discrimination, but by racial minorities who want to ensure funds for disadvantaged students are directed appropriately.

Relevance: Continues our discussion from the Race as an Illusion seminar.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gov. Kitzhaber launches sweeping overhaul of Oregon schools, colleges and universities (Eighth Article)

Bill Graves
"Gov. Kitzhaber launches sweeping overhaul of Oregon schools, colleges and universities"
The Oregonian
February 11,2011
Topic: Gov. Kitzhaber launches sweeping overhaul of Oregon schools, colleges and universities
Summary: This article says that Gov. John Kitzhaber launched a reform effort today to consolidate control over half of the state budget and all levels of Oregon education in a single board that he would chair. George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System, said the governor is proposing a system that puts an important focus on student achievement outcomes. That means that more and more attention will be given to outcomes of students' achievement, in order to get budget support from the government. There is also a video in the original article.
Intended audience: Teachers, school boards
Key points: 1. Money will be allocated on the basis of education performance goals rather than enrollment, dramatically changing the system's structure and incentives.
2. The governor said he expects a three-year transition to a new system.
3. The governor said the more fluid, seamless system he proposes would ensure more students entered school ready to learn and arrived at college prepared to succeed, saving millions of dollars in remediation costs.
Relevance: It is said by the chancellor that it is a fundamental shift that will really move us ahead. Maybe it is the only way now to make the education system moving on. But let's see how it will work out.

Hooray for Howard Zinn

"Unsung Heroes" by Howard Zinn
"Teaching Unsung Heroes" by Bill Bigelow
Rethinking School Reform, pg. 33-44

Note: My assigned periodical is Rethinking Schools. It happens that the book we are using for this class, Rethinking School Reform, is a compilation of articles from that magazine. Because we are only doing one of those articles for this week's facilitation, I decided to read a few others in the section that interested me-- and to use them for this blog review. Today's is a twofer.

Unsung Heroes
Summary: Howard Zinn, author of the incredible A People's History of the United States and a lifelong social activist, uses this short piece to answer a question that ties in nicely with the responses to the Helen Keller article review. Simply put, he offers up a dozen alternatives to the common canon of American heroes, each of them mapped nicely to the figure that they might replace so that those who worship him or her are not left lacking.

Audience: social studies teachers, general public

Key Points:
  • many of the figures that are offered up as heroes when discussing the history of this country have pretty despicable personal traits and beliefs, revealed when the lens is pulled back from the extreme close-up required to see them as heroes
  • there are plenty of figures in American history to whom we might turn for inspiration in place of them
Relevance: One of the things that came up a few times in the above-linked Helen Keller article discussion was something like "Well, what's the alternative?" I thought the same thing! Because we have all been educated in a system that tends to prefer breadth to depth, and appreciates a shallow and close-up focus on a person's life, not many of us have had the opportunity to explore alternatives. Zinn offers these alternatives, and suggests some starting points for each of the heroes in his list.


Teaching Unsung Heroes
Summary: Bigelow gives a step-by-step lesson plan based on two things: 1) his frustration with students' predictable, "Encyclopedia-like" presentations of famous figures in American history, and 2) his desire to integrate some of the unsung heroes of the previous article. The students react to the novel lesson positively, and he feels that it went very well.

Audience: social studies teachers, general teachers, general public interested in education

Key Points:
  • a key engagement technique was bringing the figures to life; students presented from a first-person perspective
  • Bigelow demonstrated expectations by using a prior example of a successful project
  • this lesson allowed him to integrate social justice and expanded, constructivist thinking into the classroom without being a ranting "sage on the stage"
Relevance: Now that the question of "What's the alternative?" has been answered, we can move on to answering the question of "Okay, so how do I teach it?" Bigelow offers a detailed description and analysis of one way to craft a successful lesson to teach about unsung heroes, and does it in a way that is readable and engaging for us, his audience. Future social studies teacher Jeff, you in particular might be interested in this one if you haven't read it yet! That's why I tagged you on this post.

Parent-Teacher Communication

Larry Ferlazzo
What ‘Star Wars’ Can Teach Educators About Parent Engagement
Education Week Teacher
Published Online February 23, 2011
Complete URL:
This article offers some practical advice for teachers regarding parent–teacher conferences. I will admit it is a bit corny, but there were valid points made too. The author created a mnemonic device with the name LEIA – for Princess Leia from Star Wars. LEIA: L for listening, E for empathy, I for imaging, and A for asking. He went on to describe scenes from Star Wars where Leia demonstrated the above mentioned skills, and then related them to how teachers could implement such skills to effectively communicate with parents. Ultimately the author sees the importance of parent-teacher relationships, and with his simple mnemonic hopes to inspire teachers to work on their communication with parents. He ends with: “May the Force of genuine engagement be with you.” This article was light hearted and useful. It was a nice change from many of the articles I have been reading. The intended audience is teachers. I find this article relevant to any person wanting to work on basic communication skills.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hundreds of Hillsboro teachers rally for support (Seventh Article)

Wendy Owen
"Hundreds of Hillsboro teachers rally for support"
The Oregonian
February 22, 2011

Topic: Hundreds of Hillsboro teachers rally for support
Summary: This articles stated that at least 400 Hillsboro teachers rallied for support and to settle their contract at Hillsboro High School Tuesday afternoon. The Hillsboro Education Association and Hillsboro School District have been negotiating the contract, which covers teachers, nurses and counselors, for about a year. The contract expired last June and negotiations moved smoothly until the two groups reached finances. For the teachers, their salary increases annually, about 5%, for experience and additional education. But now The district has proposed freezing step increases for an uncertain number of years. The assistant superintendent of human resources said that in better times, they can negotiate a contract that pays teachers accordingly. In times like this, unfortunately, they don't have the money to put on the table to give teachers a raise. So far, a date has not been set for future negotiations.
Intended audience: Teachers
Key points: 1.Teachers are paying more for insurance and out of pocket classroom expenses, having larger class sizes and fewer resources, earning less now than two years ago, having student loans for education degrees, working second jobs and long hours.
2. For the district, the sticking point is funding.
Relevance: In times like now, it is understandable that it is hard to pay teachers with increasing salary. But compared to some other careers, teachers are not payed as much as they deserve. I don't know the reason. But I am on teachers side that I work to make a living. Teachers are as skillful as doctors. Being a teacher is as hard as being a doctor. So why the payment are so different?

Michelle Ree and education reform

Richard D. Kahlenberg
Still Waiting for Superwoman
What Michelle Rhee's fans don't get about education reform.
The Slate
February 21, 2011

Topic: Controvertial Superintendent Michelle Ree

Summary: Rhee's message about education reform is very seductive because it's simple and optimistic. Childhood poverty and economic school segregation, in Rhee's world, are just "excuses" for teacher failure. If we could just get the unions to agree to stop protecting bad teachers and allow great teachers to be paid more, she says, we could make all the difference in education.
Intended audience: General Public
Key point: Most education researchers, recognize that Rhee's simple vision of heroic teachers saving American education is a fantasy, and that her dramatic, often authoritarian, style is ill-suited for education. Michelle Rhee's war on teachers' unions was a sideshow that distracted from the more important effort to give more low-income students a chance to attend middle-class public schools.
Relevance: Discussion on both political and practical fallout of current school reform efforts

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

High School Students can Earn College Credit (Sixth Article)

Bill Graves
"Senate education committee approves bill to help high school students earn college credit"
The Oregonian
February 15, 2011

Topic: High School Students can Earn College Credit
Summary: This article stated that the Senate education committee approved a bill that would make it easier for high school students to earn college credit. The bill requires districts to provide high school students access to courses that give them college credits at the same time they earn credits to their diploma. The bill would help some high school students earn a year or more of college credit through dual credit courses, reducing the tuition cost of their college educations by thousands of dollars. The bill directs the state Department of Education to administer a program that would provide grants to train teachers and help students pay for dual credit courses.
Intended audience: Teachers, Parents
Key point: 1. Such dual credit courses can be offered on high school or community college and university campuses. 2. The bill establishes an Accelerated College Credit Account, though it does not say how much money will go into the account, to help pay for the dual credit grant program.
Relevance: If this bill is helping students to reduce their college tuition fee, and earn credits to their diplomas, their tuition fee in high school would be increased. I don't know how they will support economically to the program.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Slam Poetry on What Teachers Make (Jeff, Topic Seven)

Taylor Mali, What Teachers Make (
Social media viral video
October 24, 2006

Summary: A controversial bit of slam poetry denigrating those who judge teachers as a professional class. His basic argument is that teachers are much more than they are given credit for.

Intended Audience: Those who enjoy slam poetry, teachers, those who judge teachers

Key Points: 1) Teachers are awesome, 2) Those who disagree are, well, not awesome

Relevance: Regardless of the merits of the theoretical framework Mali is working within, it is clear that knows how to engage people. Something is to be said about an educator who knows how to engage, challenge, and care about his students. Judging from his bit, he would be a tough teacher (he taught in New York City for an extended period of time), but I would rather have a teacher who cares and is passionate than one who is not. This is not a particularly "deep" topic in any regard, but it is a useful example of a number of admirable qualities (and perhaps undesirable techniques)--certainly useful to think about and enjoy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Advanced Placement scores increase in Oregon

Kimberly Melton

More Oregon students get high marks on Advanced Placement tests

Date Retrieved: 2/14/2011

Topic: Advanced Placement classes

2010 held a record high for Oregon student enrollment in Advanced Placement courses. The College Board’s AP Report to the Nation outlines a 6% increase in AP student performance from the previous 2009 year. The article focuses on the increase of performance and enrollment of students in low-income, ethnic and underrepresented communities. Intended Audience: Everyone.

Key Points:

-There has been a gradual increase in Oregon students participating in the AP program since 2001

-US History is outlined as the most popular AP exam, with English as second.

-Oregon has the highest passing rates in exams for Chinese Language & Culture, Studio Art, Calculus BC and Japanese Language and Culture.

Relevance: As future educators, I think it is important to encourage students to participate in AP courses, not to flaunt passing test scores, but to offer students richer and deeper education and subject content—assuming the classes are designed for these reasons. An important thing to keep in mind is that students who pass these exams with scores of 3 or higher are often given college credit, helping their chances in being accepted to colleges and universities, and preparing them for college level work. I am curious to see what kinds of programs schools are using to encourage students of low-income and underrepresented communities to take AP classes. I am also curious to see if these schools are following through completely—helping underrepresented students get accepted to colleges-- not just stopping the encouragement once the test scores come back.

Virtual Teaching of Chinese Language

Wendy Owen

Shortage of Chinese language teachers in Oregon prompts virtual classes with educators in China


Topic: Teaching Chinese through virtual classes

The Education Service District is planning to offer Mandarin Chinese language classes in Oregon taught by teachers in China, through online courses. The article discusses how Chinese is replacing other foreign languages in many Oregon schools, but since TSPC does not offer an endorsement in Chinese language, it is difficult to acquire licensed Chinese language teachers. Classes will cost $600 per semester, per student, with a maximum of 10 students per class. Intended Audience: the Beaverton school district, students wanting to learn Chinese.

Key Points:

-The program teachers are recent graduates, mostly working out of Beijing University

-State law does not require the teachers to be certified to teach in Oregon; however ESD will ensure all of their virtual teachers will hold a license.

-The Confucius Institute at PSU will provide teachers from China to schools who apply for the program. They will serve as full-time assistants to the Mandarin language teachers.

-myChinese360, the company providing the program, is planning on sending teachers to the United States in the near future.

Relevance: This article is relevant to some of the key ideas we have been talking about in class. The first is the idea of technology. I think this is a great example of how technology can be integrated with education. It is interesting to see how this program will influence the future of virtual classes and teachers. Also there is an interesting idea of cross cultural learning. In this instance, teachers from China will experience what it is like to teach to American students, and not only that, but a I feel a new “virtual culture” will spawn from this program—the idea of a virtual learning and virtual teaching, teaching while not being physically present amongst students.