Saturday, January 23, 2010

15 minute break

Prior to becoming a teacher, I enjoyed the 15 minute break my former employers would give after four hours of work. After five years of writing on this blog, I need a 15 minute break. Blame it on the recession, or the birth of my second child in October. I haven't read as much from my blogroll or education sections from the major newspapers. No new books have caught my fancy. As a result, my ideas are dwindling and my desire is waning. So, The Daily Grind is going on break until April vacation (at least for now). I hope you'll come back to visit.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Glossary Part One: A-B

The following words are part of the CALI (Connecticut Accountability for Learing Initiative) glossary--I am offering my definitions:

Accountability--holding underpaid, overworked teachers of poor students responsible for the pathetic organization of multiple district initiatives and lack of proper curriculum, tools, and planning time which results in said students' failure to meet Annual Yearly Progress (see AYP).

AYP (Annual Yearly Progress)--what most predominately affluent, Caucasian school districts meet except in the areas of Special Education.

Adult Outcomes--the purposeful ignoring of parental or administrative influence with the indirect purpose of propigating the notion that our teachers are always to blame for the stupidity of low performing students. Often AO's will point to how Causcasian teachers are not "Culturally Relevant," and therefore incapable of teaching minority students.

Alignment--the degree to which lemming teachers do what the State of Connecticut Department of Education believes is in the best interest of students who they don't know, don't interact with, but really really really care about.

Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives--A nice sounding name to make you belive that the State which owns the highest achievement gap truly wants to educate English Language Learners

Assessment--A quiz or test that is not really all that important unless it has a modifiers like "Common Formative" or "Summative" preceding it. Also, not really important unless it connects with a specific, highly vague standard strand.

Benchmark Assessment--what underperforming schools administer to show the State that they are following CALI when the State sends CALI investigators to monitor CALI implementation.

Benchmark--The actual place that students are at, like four grade levels behind in their reading skills, when they arrive at a high school.

Best Practice--doing whatever CALI tells you to do, even if it does not work despite all of the meta-analysis done by the man-genius Robert Marzano.

Beyond the Blueprint--the techniques used by teachers and administrators that actually work but are too politically incorrect or not en vogue with whatever Columbia's school of education is currently preaching to admit to using. This might include, but is not limited to, shame and embarrassment, competition, or paternalism.

Big Idea--that all students are capable of learning to the same level. The Big Idea is that every student has the same capacity for learning if only we would differentiate for the one's that lack that capacity upon entering a teacher's classroom.

Blueprint for Reading Achievement--A map that tells shows us how all students can read at the collegiate level by the time they reach 18, or 20 if it takes that long. By giving students texts that they enjoy reading, the Magic Literary Critic will then fill in the gaps to help the "different" to make strong text-to-text connections.

Look for Part Two later!

The Heart

I was going to write about something else, but then I noticed a blogger, Ms. Miller, had subscribed to my lowly blog. The post I linked to reminded me of the need for "heart connections" in teaching. Our students, especially the neediest, want to know we are human, that we feel like they feel. Her post reminded me of one of the key moments in my teaching career, one that I should remember more often than I am prone to do.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Moving in the right direction

Twenty years ago, Hartford was outed as one of our nation's most underperforming and racially segregated school systems. The landmark case, Sheff vs. O'Neill, sought to remedy the failures of the district by providing students with choice. In the end, students from Hartford could choose, to some extent, from Hartford schools and surrounding districts. Those districts could reciprocate by sending their students to Hartford schools. The progress has been slow, but the recent inclusion of four Hartford schools on the US News and World Report list of high achieving schools.
Hartford's recent successes, though minor in number, have evolved from innovative programming and inspirational leadership. What the state of Connecticut needs, considering its ownership of the largest achievement gap in the country, is an influx of magnet schools. We also need leadership from our State Legislature to open Connecticut's education system to the type of creativity and dedication brought by these quasi-charter schools. Well, actually, Connecticut needs more charter schools, especially in those areas of the state with the largest achievement gaps: Connecticut Map by performance (where you see blue, yellow, and light blue pocketed together, that is where we need new thinking.)
But in the end, Connecticut needs to move beyond its notorious New England WASPishness and its own focus on personal wealth (look at how we fund education--by individual towns). For such a liberal little state, we sure are rather set in our conservative ways of doing education.