Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oregon and History

Kimberly Melton
Do you know your Oregon history? The Oregonian's quiz reveals mixed results
Topic: History

Oregon senator thinks that students and other citizens will benefit if there was an increase in teaching Oregon history. The argument against is that there is no time, effort, money. The Oregonian offered a history quiz and people did not fair very well.

Key Points: Oregonians don’t know very much about Oregon History

Relevance: The quiz was fact based. How many times have we discussed in class about history, and that it is often thought of as a subject where you must memorize dates, locations, and people? This quiz only added to the stereotype (is it a stereotype if it’s true?) They offered a little bit of information about a pro-slavery governor, but as our Presidents and Slaves chapter in RSS, and in our day of Race Literacy, how much information about Oregon’s legal racism will, or is offered to be taught? Just an interesting read.

holes in school schedules

Betsy Hammond
Portland parents continue to question new high school schedule with empty periods
Topic: Portland School Budget

Basically, this school district is requesting for students to have 6 to 7 classes a day, instead of 8, leaving a 90min block in the day with no teaching, classes, NOTHING. The article did not provide much detail as to how they will supervise, or not supervise students during that block of time.

Key Points: this schedule is offered in efforts to decrease the amount of teachers that need to be cut, and decrease an increase of class sizes. What?

Relevance: You know this might not be a bad idea, if it is handled appropriately. I appreciate the fact that the board is taking risks and coming up with ways to work with their budget, but also keep problems to a minimum for everyone. But if this block goes unsupervised or structured…I don’t even know. Maybe if they get volunteers to help with instructional type activities to help with this block, such as students could: learn Tae Kwon Do! Help out on a farm! Work at a job that works with the school! Clean up the school! Clean up the community! Exercise! This block of free time could be beneficial if handled appropriately.

Oregon prepare for giant earthquake?

Richard Read
When -- not if -- a Japan-scale quake hits Oregon, experts expect deaths, destruction, blackouts and food shortages
Topic: Oregon Quakes

Interesting read about the future and actual state of earthquake risk of Oregon. Main motif here is that a quake about the size as the one that hit Japan WILL HAPPEN…one day. Read on for information on potential damage price, affected areas, and what it could mean for students….

Key Points: Oregon Cascadian fault line will cause a pretty big quake one day. We need to prepare.

Relevance: this brings up an interesting idea—how much money/time should we invest in education and preparation at school on what to do when an earthquake hits. Last earthquake drill I had was either hiding under the desk, or standing underneath a doorway. According to this article, experts are anticipating a big quake to hit Oregon eventually, how shall we prepare for that?

Hillsboro has a Mariachi Band. Sweet.

Casey Parks
Hillsboro School District mariachi band trumpets its success
Topic: Music and culture

Lincoln Street Elementary School has a mariachi band. How sweet is that!? Dan Bosshardt started this band a year ago, with the goal to get students involved in music, which are not necessarily part of the school band. The band is scheduled to play in front of the Hillsboro School Board on May 24th as a means to prove that the band is worth the districts investment. If they do not impress the Board, they will probably get cut. Pressure! Intended audience: everyone, musicians.

Key Poins: The band serves a few purposes: getting Latino students to connect with their cultural roots, brings families together, provides cultural insight and experience to those who wish to learn more about Latino culture, and provides musical education to those who are not normally interested in traditional marching band type music in schools.

Relevance: I’m not a big fan of mariachi music; it all sounds the same to me…though there are some songs that are pretty good. But I am a big fan of getting students interested in music! I just thought this was an awesome idea, to have a mariachi band. I’m sure there are a lot of students who hate the music, or parents who hate the idea, but it is awesome that it gets other children involved in afterschool activities who normally do not like what is already available.

Children react to Osama's Death

The Fine Bros
Kids React to Osama bin Laden’s Death
Topic: kids and current events

This video has a few children watch President Obama’s speech on the death of Osama bin Laden. Afterwards, they are interviewed on their thoughts of the event, along with personal questions on what children really think about Osama, and America. Intended Audience: Everyone.

Key Points: Some children actually have their own (questionable?) opinions on current events, such as the death of Osama bin Laden, while others do not really know who Osama is or why we should or should not care about his death.

Relevance: We often speak about community, and the community of the parents. After watching this video, I wonder how these kids formed their opinion---by mimicking what the parents say? Their peers? This just goes to show you how influential kids can be, something to keep in mind in your own classrooms.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Generation Y Teachers

"Gen Y Teachers Seek Feedback, Opportunities for Growth"
by Liana Heitin
Education Week
Posted online on April 21, 2011

This article is based on a study done in 2007 about Generation Y (born between 1977 and 1995) public school teachers and what they are looking for in their careers in teaching.  It confirms what I had seen in the private sector with employees I worked with and managed.  Gen Y people like frequent assessment and coaching, the opportunity to work with others, to learn from "the masters", being paid based on performance and to not be micro-managed.  What was new to me was the revelation that Gen Y'ers do NOT like standardized tests for a variety of different reasons, though I think they come down to one point: the tests are an unfair assessment of their learning.

Gen Y teachers also said they would stay in their profession for a long time, but as I have seen in the private sector (and the author mentions it also) if the above stated requirements are not met Gen Y'ers will not hesitate to bolt and go elsewhere.  My concern is the school environment will have to drastically change for these new teachers to thrive and survive.  With creativity being stifled, more emphasis on tests and pay not really based on performance, the education environment could become extremely frustrating for them.

When I was managing Gen Y'ers they were my favorite people to work with because they were extremely open to constructive criticism, shared easily with me about their successes and struggles, did not need a lot of hand-holding and tended to be extremely creative in getting the job done.  Schools, restrictive unions and districts and administration need to read this study so they can realize that they have great opportunities with these young teachers, but if they do not let up on the Gen Y'ers' the schools will lose them.

Courage to Blog

"The Courage to Blog with Students"
by Marsha Ratzel
Education Week
Posted online on April 27, 2011

We have discussed this issue in class about whether we should or should not blog with students.  This article really helped relieve my stress when it came to blogging with my kids.  The author, a teacher, gives eight really great points in how to start blogging.

Tip #1: The best way to get your feet wet without drowning is to use a group blog.
Tip #2: Teach students how to write comments.
Tip #3: Use what you already have in your teaching plan, with some minor modifications.
Tip #4: Practice commenting without computers.
Tip #5: Make student use of the class blog a privilege.
Tip #6: You can’t emphasize safety too much.
Tip #7: Decide how you will choose usernames.
Tip #8: Communicate with parents early on.

This article is the best I have seen so far for teachers in not only providing information about classroom blogging, but also providing great resources.  Ms. Ratzel provides many links so you can see examples of what she is talking about and also has links to the resources she mentions.  At the end of the article she talks about a Student Blogging Challenge and also a professional development site, Teachers Challenge, for teachers to learn about blogging and sharpen their blogging skills.

I now am excited to start blogging activities with my future classrooms and to get started in learning more about it.  It will be interesting to see how the blogs turn out!

'Bringing Your Own Device'

"'Bringing Your Own Device' Catching on In Schools"
by Laura Devaney
eSchool News
Posted online on April 29, 2011

I know I have written on this topic before, but I had to post another article on mobile devices because it backed up my article from before.  Yes, I am pushing an agenda!  :)

Though there has not been much research as of yet, the initial findings are showing that the use of mobile devices can really assist in learning.  One person quoted from Catholic Schools K-12 Virtual Learning states they are looking for students to drive the process and that is what is happening.  It is cheaper for the districts if families buy the hardware (which is the one BIG disadvantage as not all families can afford it) and the kids are wanting to use the devices as the novelties of Facebook, etc. are wearing off.

In a district in Georgia, the virtual learning device was not required, but the concept took off in a viral fashion not only among students but among the community and school leadership as well.  What they have found is this type of learning promotes higher-level thinking and creativity.  As an added bonus, they have found that theft and discipline issues involving technology have decreased as well.

Here is a quote from the article as to how mobile devices might be used in learning:  "Research-based benefits of one-to-one mobile learning initiatives might include:
  • Improvements in attendance and discipline
  • Broader array of learning resources and experiences
  • Increased frequency and quality of supportive individual and group interactions
  • Improvements in student and parent attitudes toward the school
  • Increases in student achievement"
As you can see, the mobile device way of learning is for everyone so jump on the bandwagon before it is too late!

Need for More Arts Integration

"New Report Cites Need for More Arts Integration"
by Jenna Zwang
eSchool News
Posted Online on May 6, 2011

Jenna Zwang's article states something most of us already know: that the arts help students learn AND it assists in students learning in the core achievements that are being tested.  The research she cites to back up her premise is a new federal report by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the article states it is the first federal analysis of arts education data in a decade.  The reports recommendations are:

  1. Build robust collaborations among different approaches to arts education.
  2. Develop the field of arts integration.
  3. Expand in-school opportunities for teaching artists.
  4. Use federal and state policies to reinforce the place of arts in K-12 education.
  5. Widen the focus of evidence gathering about arts education.

Of course the irony of this report is our testing is doing the exact opposite of what this report states.  To add to the irony is this quote from the person most pushing the testing, Education Secretary Arne Duncan:  "To succeed today and in the future, America’s children will need to be inventive, resourceful, and imaginative.  The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education.”

From what Zwang quotes from this report there are really no negatives to strengthening schools' arts programs.  Unfortunately with all of the budget cuts occurring around the nation the arts are the areas that are seeing the most cuts.  Schools, parents, administrators, politicians, conservatives, liberals and moderates alike need to understand that in cutting the arts program what is actually happening is you are cutting the learning of our children.

Reading Boosts Brain Pathways

"Reading Boosts Brain Pathways, Affects Multiple Disciplines"
by Jenna Zwang
eSchool News
Posted online on May 3, 2011

This article not only discusses the importance of reading to the brain development in children, but also about how important it is to talk with your kids.  It all comes down to the importance of language in a child's life and how that relates to other areas of a child's brain.  In fact, reading and talking with your child strengthens the connection between the left hemisphere and frontal lobes of the brain that not only kids to do better in reading, but also in social studies, math and science.

They tested this theory on illiterate adults in Brazil by teaching them to read and here were the astonishing results:    
“Lo and behold, their brains changed dramatically in the same way the literate adults who had read their whole lives changed. Their visual perceptual skills improved, their auditory listening skills improved, and their ability to drive this whole left hemisphere symbolic problem-solving way of syncing changed..."

And how is this important to educators?  “The reason [that it's] so important for our educators to know [this] is that educators change brains. They don’t just teach content, they don’t just improve the brain that I already have by giving me information that I hold on to. They actually change the way that the human brain processes information..."  See how important our jobs are?  That is really cool!

And this article is important for all people as it really demonstrates that reading and language are the key to unlocking our learning.  If those skills are not there, then it is really difficult to master other areas.  I remember an old program where reading was being promoted and the catchphrase was "Readers are Leaders".  Its point was people who actively read are going to be the ones who lead the world in doing better things.  Based on this article's information I would say that is pretty true!

Bi-Ligual Education Returning to California (Jeff, Topic Twenty-Six)

Teresa Watanabe
Dual-Language Immersion Programs Growing in Popularity (,0,3841220.story)
LA Times
May 8th, 2011

Summary: Nearly twenty years after California pushed dual-language learning out of the public school system, the method is quickly growing in popularity. The sudden change of face is based on a growing mass of research that indicates English-only learning may not work as well--despite Proposition 227s assertion. California's dual-language programs have grown in number from about 200 a few years ago to over 1,000 today.

Key Points: Dual-language students are out performing their English-only counterparts.

Relevance: I wish this article would have been around a few months ago when we read the chapter about dual-language education. The research overwhelmingly shows that dual-language is better. Will be interesting to see how Californians respond. They did, after all, mandate by law that classes should be taught in English. We should not confuse majority opinion with the truth.

The Union Fights Back Against Value-Added Assessments (Jeff, Topic Twenty-Five)

Howard Blume
Teachers Union Challenges LA Unified's New Evaluation Process (,0,3954012.story)
LA Times
May 8th, 2011

Summary: The union is accusing the school district of violating contractual language by failing to "engage in good faith negotiation" regarding evaluation methods. They have filed a grievance with the board that oversees public employees. This is the latest development in what has become a bitterly divisive battle over teaching and testing standards in LA.

Key Points: Union attempting legal challenge to what they see as "unfair" assessment methods.

Relevance: An update on the evolving assessment situation in LA. Will have broader implications for national standards of assessment--LA Unified is one of the largest districts in the nation.

Trying to Change School Diets (Jeff, Topic Twenty-Four)

Jamie Oliver on Jimmy Kimmel Live (
April 26th, 2011

Summary: An short and interesting video of Jamie Oliver talking with Jimmy Kimmel about school lunches and attempting to make a change.

Key Points: 1) US school food is terrible for our students, 2) We need to make a change

Relevance: It is good to see the food revolution coming to our schools. The class I observe at Cleveland High School watched Food, Inc. a few weeks ago. It is really great to see this sort of education make its way into public schools.

Interactive Budget Map for California School Funding (Jeff, Topic Twenty-Three)

A California School Funding Map Tool (
Linked from LA Times
May 4th, 2011

Summary: Cool map that lets you scroll around California seeing the funding situation of the state's districts.

Key Points: Most of the state is underfunded, but there is a lot of disparity between districts.

Relevance: Another, more interactive, way to see the current budget crisis.

Administrators and Salary (Jeff, Topic Twenty-Two)

Howard Blume
High-Level Salaries Approved for new top Administrators at Cash=Strapped LA Unified School District (
LA Times
May 5th, 2011

Summary: A new administrator position has been created in the district with a pay-scale that begins at well over $137,000. The positions pay would increase to approximately $170,000 over five steps. Other LA administrators are currently making close to $200,000.

Key Points: 1) Administrators are making a lot of money.

Relevance: It is absurd to me that a new admin. position can be created out of thin air with a starting salary four times as high as that of a teacher. Teachers are being let go and admin. is expanding?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Prom Night in Mississippi

Article Author name(s): Produced by Teaching Tolerance, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Partnership with Home Box Office and RTM Productions
Title of article: Prom Night in Mississippi
Title of journal: Teaching Tolerance
Date of publication: Fall 2009 (documentary from July 2009)
Volume of the journal: 36

Intended audience: Middle and high school age students

Key Points: Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman offered to personally pay for Charleston High School’s (in Mississippi) senior prom, under the condition that it not be segregated as it has been in the past. Although the school’s classrooms have been integrated for years, racism runs deep within the city, and parents and many students reacted strongly to the idea of a desegregated prom. Many students were forbidden to attend, and other embraced the unity.

Relevance: Tis prom season! Most high school and middle school students are infatuated with the idea of going to prom, and those younger students aspire to the day they will be allowed to go. I think this is an extremely relevant hook that Teaching Tolerance is using in order to express some very key information around race and segregation, and how these issues are very much relevant in their modern day worlds.

A Girl and a Word

Article Author name(s): None listed
Title of article: A Girls and a Word
Title of journal: Teaching Tolerance
Volume of the journal: Spring 2011
Issue number of the journal: 39
Intended audience: Everyone

Key Points: Rosa is a nine year old student who has been labeled “mentally retarded”. Although she wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, she didn’t like be labeled that way and began to research her label. Rosa’s family ultimately became very proactive about the name of this label and began gathering petition signatures and pushing the Senate to take action against the school district condoning this label. In October 2010 President Obama signed Rosa’s Law, which keeps the phrase “mentally retarded” off official documents. Obama said “What you call people is how you treat them,” he said. “If we change the words, maybe it will be the start of a new attitude toward people with disabilities.”

Relevance: Although it is clear that we cannot prevent people from using hurtful language, we can encourage a more professional and progressive expectation within schools, and at least this is a significant place to start. Tim Schriver, CEO of the Special Olympics says, “Respect, value and dignity—everyone deserves to be treated this way, including people with intellectual disabilities”.

Getting Past the "Digital Divide"

Article Author name(s): Sean McCollum
Title of article: Getting Past the “Digital Divide”
Title of journal: Teaching Tolerance
Volume of the journal: Spring 2011
Issue number of the journal: 39
Intended audience: Everyone

Key Points: When teacher Aaron Fowles inherited his classroom he had 4 outdated computers, two that didn’t even work. Although not a tech savvy guy, buy years end he had updated and restored 8 computers for his room alone, and an additional 16 computers for other classrooms. Since 2009, the government has set aside billions of dollars to ensure that technology reaches the classroom. A significant 97% of all US classrooms have computers, 93% with internet access. However, two issues arrive: 1) that these computers are often non-functioning and out of date and 2) many students do not have private access to technology and home. With no computer at home, student’s technology access is limited to what time can be squeezed in during class time. With 30 students in the class, this time is likely to be very minimal. With some kids getting significant access to computers and others getting very little, a gap is being created among students within the same classes. Donated smart cell phones and other mobile devices like Kindles and iPad’s can be used to bridge the gap between students who have home access to technology and those who do not. Utilizing this technology allows students to learn on their own, research independently and have broader access to interesting materials not usually presented to students as part of the curriculum.

Relevance: Technology changes very quickly and if not appropriately addressed by teachers, IT will leave students in the dust if they are not given the basic computer skills and the opportunity to experiment with techy tools.

The Human Face of Immigration

Article Author name(s): Maureen Costillo
Title of article: The Human Face of Immigration
Title of journal: Teaching Tolerance
Volume of the journal: Spring 2011
Issue number of the journal: 39
Intended audience: Teachers, students and the community

Key Points: When 8th grade English teacher Mindi Rappaport asked her students their opinions on the issue of immigration and what they knew about, she got a strong consensus: Legal immigrants are good, model residents; “illegals” are very bad. Most people can say that their families have immigrated from other countries and continents at some point over the past 400 years. By now, most of these families have assimilated and lost touch with their native language and traditions that have not survived past third and fourth generations. However, this is not the case for those first generation immigrants whose parents moved here to provide a better life. For these families, language and native traditions still hold strong, and it is entirely simple for society to pinpoint these families and often make the assumption they are illegal.

Students work on a “Family Heritage Project” and really ask some critical questions about their own beliefs and their family history as it relates to their own immigration. The project is successful as “students build a cultural identity for themselves as well as a family history of resilience”. For students to hear each other’s story really tears down walls and allows students to make common connections amongst themselves. Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) is the creator of the controversial documentary series 30 Days, which is frequently used as a tool to open student’s eyes and expose them to other culture and circumstance, providing some enlightenment. The overall goal of the Family Heritage Project is to “build empathy, break through common mindsets and encourage students to examine their received notions”.

Relevance: It really is amazing how strong of an opinion such undereducated students can have about very serious national issues such as immigration. It’s really important that students don’t form opinions simply based on what they overhear of their parents discussions, but rather by researching and investigating the issues and forming their own thoughts.

Planting Seeds, Growing Diversity

Article Author name(s): Vanessa Hua
Title of article: Planting Seeds, Growing Diversity
Title of journal: Teaching Tolerance
Volume of the journal: Spring 2011
Issue number of the journal: 39
Intended audience: Students, parents and teachers

Key Points: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has long been dominated by white male students, and now is the time for women and students of color to make a breakthrough into the scientific curriculum of our schools. It’s not that there have not been notable minorities who have great contribution to the STEM fields, but rather their work has not been highlighted and added to curriculum, and it should be. The STEM fields are dominated 2 to 1 by male employees over female workers.

STEM teachers should aim to integrate lesser acknowledged scientists, preferably women and minorities, when discussing principle discoveries by the common, more popular researchers. Teachers say that my including the lesser known details of the field, stereotypes can be shattered and students can benefit from true discovery learning. Teachers must present STEM professions as passionate ones that break the mold from what students tend to think. For example, that engineering is not like being in a science club working with the “nerdy boys”, but rather than engineers are necessary to create almost everything, from toys to model homes. Using these examples, students can be prompted to relate the STEM fields to their own lives, and also ask parents to help students learn relevant STEM lessons outside of the classroom. For instance, one student’s mother discovered that although not a rocket scientist, she loved gardening; therefore she was a great asset to her daughter in the field of botany!

Relevance: Science teacher Alison Seymour summarizes the issue well, stating, “A diverse background brings diverse ideas. Thinking out of the box is a big part of science, which you won’t get if everyone is from the same background and education.

iPads for All

Kindergartener’s Getting iPads (April 8, 2011) Accessed: May 8, 2011

Topic: Kindergarteners in Maine will be getting their own iPads.

Summary: Kindergarteners will be given an iPad to use for assistance in learning to read, learning letters and alphabet sounds, and in other ways. The school district will be paying for these as learning devices.

Intended audience: General Public

Key Points:

  • Kindergarteners will use iPads to aid in regular learning activities.
  • The school board voted unanimously to approve the purchase of iPad 2s at $475 per iPad
  • The idea is contentious. There are people who strongly support it and others who don’t.

Relevance: I am torn on this. I think that iPads and other types of technology can be great teaching tools. It’s awesome to see the kids engaged and interested in learning things that are often presented as tedious/boring worksheets but on the other hand I struggle with the idea of plugging kids in at school when they are plugged in so much at home. I think that the iPads could be used as a tool, but I really don’t think it’s necessary to purchase one for every 5 year old. Why not just get a handful for each classroom?

High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries

The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries” by Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari

New York Times, April 30, 2011

Topic: We should pay our teachers more

Summary: This article talks about how backwards our system is that when it is not working well (poor student performance) that teachers are blamed. The authors liken teachers to soldiers on the front lines of the education battle. It is pointed out to us that when we don’t get the results we had hoped for in military endeavors, the soldiers themselves are not blamed, the planners (rightly so) are blamed. So why is it that teachers are blamed when plans created by policy makers, administration, school boards, etc. culminate in poor results? The op-ed piece argues that we should be paying our teachers more. It touches on teacher retention rate, teacher salaries in high performing countries (Finland, Singapore, and Korea), and support for teachers.

Intended audience: General Public

Key Points:

  • Don’t blame teachers when they are carrying out the “orders” of higher up planners. Don't shoot the messenger.
  • Teachers make 14% than professionals in other occupations that require similar education
  • Other countries pay their teachers more and support them by providing training and development
  • Teacher retention rates in the United States are terrible – 46% quit before their fifth year – and this is expensive.
  • If there’s a will there’s a way.

Relevance: We all think we should be paid more – it looks like someone else does too. It is interesting to see the difference in salaries (purchasing power wise) between us and some other countries. I think this goes along with the idea of ensuring that teachers are seen as professionals.

Don't Get That College Degree! It's Not Worth It!

Don’t Get That College Degree! Intellectually and Financially, Studies Show It’s Not Worth It” by Jack Hough

New York Post, June 28, 2009 Accessed: May 8, 2011

Topic: College degrees are a bad investment

Summary: The author argues that a college degree is no longer worth it. He presents a financial argument as well as an argument that there are so many barriers to getting into college and that inflated grades and fluff classes have really made it intellectually pointless as well. As a suggestion for reform, he says that we should have testing to certify what students have learned (such as those used by many institutions to give credit for passing tests).

Intended audience: General Public

Key Points:

  • A college degree is a bad financial investment
  • Getting a college degree does not provide good learning or intelligent people
  • Alternative to college degrees should be standardized testing so people may prove what they know and build a resume based on tests passed

Relevance: A friend mentioned this article to me the other day, and I had to see what it was all about. I am a little scared, because he seemed to be so gung-ho behind the idea that perhaps a college degree really is pointless. While the author raises some important points that we have talked about in class (college isn’t for everyone, starting salaries are often not that great even with a degree and loans can be daunting to pay back, a degree doesn’t mean you get a job, learning can happen in less traditional ways, technology has opened up many new pathways to learning, etc.), he also provides some pretty crazy examples. He uses being accepted into a private university as his example of all the barriers in place to higher ed. While it may take many months to get started at a private university, there are many easier and more accessible paths to higher ed. In order to be accepted into Portland Community College, for example, all you have to do is apply. Once you are accepted, you may register for classes as soon as they are opened to you (based on number of credits). The idea of doing away with college and degrees seems totally crazy to me, and his example of the two friends reminded me of a dumbed down version of the game of “Life” where you choose to go to college or work. Sometimes the worker wins, sometimes the college grad wins, but a lot of times it’s a crapshoot depending on other choices you make throughout your life (having children, real estate investments, etc.) and sheer luck.