Category Archives: education

Shiny-Sparkly Internet Thingie

Apparently our brilliant overlords think chucking social studies textbooks for, I dunno, Jetpunk geography quizzes and Wikipedia’d history is a great idea:

In a first for MNPS, the district opted not to purchase social studies textbooks this year when the time came to replace outdated versions every six years.

Instead, Metro administrators have asked teachers to use websites, interactive videos and primary resources as the main way to teach history, geography and other social studies topics. Though older textbooks will still be in classrooms, and teachers can use them as resources, they are no longer the central focus.

It’s a “digital classroom” these days, officials say, and teachers need flexibility to use curriculum not offered in the old-fashioned print textbook.

Ah yes, the “digital classroom,” that great beacon of our future. Last time I wrote about this in 2011, I linked to this New York Times piece about the failure of Arizona’s tech-intensive classrooms to actually educate:

Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen.

To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.

Indeed. It bears remembering that the very people touting the “digital classroom” and education based on computer gimmicks tend to be the same people selling school districts the high-tech gadgetry in the first place. I’ve long suspected that a big part of this push is to basically advertise certain brands to kids, often at taxpayer expense — to create future customers for Microsoft and Apple, for instance, the same way tobacco companies reached kids with their Joe Camel campaign.

It’s also kinda bizarre that we’re going all-in on technology in the classroom on the one hand, while barely two weeks ago we were told how important it is to teach cursive handwriting in Tennessee’s schools. Weird.

But yes, DO remind me how the problem with Tennessee’s schools is teachers and teacher’s unions. I’m all ears.

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Filed under education, Nashville, Tennessee

Kids Today

Saw this ad posted on Craigslist yesterday:

I will pay someone $100 to write a mini-thesis for me. The paper is on the dangers of social media. It has to be a minimum of fifty pages with the appropriate citations.

The ad goes on to give specific details on things like what kind of paper to use, what typeface, paper margins, etc. And then there’s this:

Project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Bachelor of Integrated Studies Degree

Oh, the irony. One of the dangers of social media might be that college professors and administrators have seen this shit before — and they’re perfectly willing to nail your ass for cheating and plagiarism.

Note, he’s a cheap bastard, too: just $100? Seriously? Guy has a bright future in the Republican Party, no doubt.

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Filed under education

Remind Me Again How “Liberal” Chris Christie Is?

He’s a bully:

chris-christie-finger-wagging

But here’s what I saw. After the rally, Christie made his way back to his campaign bus, flanked by low-key security guards. Tomlinson, who had been carrying a sign and handing out fliers from her Badass Teachers Association, asked Christie why he’d called New Jersey schools “failure factories.” Christie rounded on her, blurting out that he was sick of “you people.”

And check out the smug grin on his wife’s face. Of that, Weigel writes:

Mary Pat Christie smiled through the entire talk-off. Why? Because a local NBC News camera was facing her, capturing the scene. Two days later, I don’t see any trace of the video online. Is that a statement on how ordinary the confrontation was? Possibly.

Honestly, “you people”? Really? Let’s remember, this isn’t the first time Christie has blown his stack when confronted by citizens who oppose his anti-teacher agenda.

I don’t get these people who keep telling me that Christie is “really” a Democrat. No, he’s not. He’s another anti-choice, anti-union, privatize-everything asshole. And he’s a bully and a blowhard.

We’ve talked a lot about how right-wingers like a “tough guy.” I’ve mentioned before my Wingnut Friend™ who bemoaned before the 2008 presidential primaries that he “just wanted someone who can kick some ass!” That’s of course all they want: someone filled with a lot of hot air and bluster, who can give voice to their inchoate rage and dissatisfaction. Christie fits that bill nicely, which is why the murmurs of disappointment over Christie’s dropping his anti-gay lawsuit and making nice time with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy won’t amount to squat. As long as someone reflects the right’s anger, it doesn’t matter.

But for God’s sake, liberals. Stop giving Christie a pass. Christie, as Salon has pointed out, is playing on the oligarch’s team. It amazes me how readily people will label someone a “populist” just because they talk like one.

I don’t see anything “populist” in wagging your finger in a public school teacher’s face and yelling, “I’m sick of you people.”

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Filed under Chris Christie, education

Teach Your Children Well But Don’t Terrorize Them, Please

Apparently nobody saw this one coming:

GOLDSBORO (WTVD) — Eastern Wayne Middle School students were terrified when they were told there was an armed robber in the school with a mask and a handgun Friday. However, they quickly learned it was all part of a school lesson.

Nonetheless, some parents are not happy with the exercise and school officials admit it was a bad move.

In a letter that was sent home to parents, the school said it was part of enrichment exercise trying to teach kids to be aware of their surroundings. A school employee dressed up in a ski mask and carrying a fake gun pretended to be a robber.

The school system admits – in light of the school shootings making headlines around the country – they should have been more sensitive.

GEE, YA THINK??!! Morons.

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Filed under education, gun control, gun violence

They Don’t Need No Education

The Teapublican Clown Car has arrived at the station, folks:

A Republican lawmaker in Utah outlined a proposal last week to abolish compulsory education in the state.

State Sen. Aaron Osmond (R) argued that certain “parents act as if the responsibility to educate, and even care for their child, is primarily the responsibility of the public school system.”

“As a result, our teachers and schools have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness,” he wrote in a post on the state senate’s blog.

Osmond told the Deseret News that he wants the public to view education as an opportunity rather than a requirement.

“Let’s let them choose it, let’s not force them to do it,” Osmond said.

Huh?

This is such an unbelievably bone-headed idea, Stacy Campfield must be kicking himself for not thinking of it first.

And yes, Osmond is related to “those” Osmonds. His father was one of the “unsung” Osmond brothers. Now we know why.

While I appreciate that Osmond seems to at least recognize an important issue faced by educators, I’m not sure how ending mandatory education is supposed to solve the problem. I don’t see how not educating the state’s kids serves the needs of the state or of the country as a whole. And I really don’t get how you go from Point A (teachers and schools are having to act as surrogate parents) to Point B (maybe those kids’ parents just don’t want them in school).

I repeat: Huh?

This, my friends, is the utterly predictable place where Teapublican logic leads. Instead of addressing the hard issues, let’s just continue to punish those suffering from said problems while pretending ignorance and illiteracy are virtues.

You know, this country has always been a diverse place, but I remember when there were at least some things on which we could all agree. And one of those things was that education was good. The highest hope parents had for their kids was that they’d get a college education. If you were the first in your family to graduate high school or to get a college degree, this was a good thing. You were proud of it.

WTF, America? Is this what we have to thank for 30 years of conservative talk radio and phony populism?

From the Deseret News link:

Utah’s public education system is currently the lowest-funded in the nation in terms of per-pupil spending.

Looks like Utah lawmakers have already made that choice for the state’s kids. This also explains how someone like Osmond got elected to the state senate in the first place.

Here’s a question: if your own damn legislature doesn’t value education, why the hell do you think your citizens should?

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Filed under education

I Don’t Think “Bias” Means What Glen Casada Thinks It Means

Tennessee Republicans appear to be doing their best to score irony points. Today we have Williamson County Republican Glen Casada, fresh off of wiping his boots with Metro Nashville’s non-discrimination ordinance which protected GLBT and other minority groups from discrimination when the city contracts with private businesses. Casada made sure Nashville’s — and any other city’s — NDO was null and void, so private businesses can continue to discriminate against gays and your tax dollars can continue to pour into such companies. Huzzah.

Today Casada is joining the charge to wipe out perceived “bias” in our state textbooks:

According to Casada, R-Franklin, the question is one of many passages that display bias. Students learn very little about the men who founded the U.S. and what is taught portrays them in a negative light, Casada said. Meanwhile, socialists and foreign “despots” who killed hundreds of their countrymen are praised.

The founders portrayed in a negative light, while socialists are praised? I find this extremely hard to believe. In fact, that defies credibility on all levels. Do show me a history book which only teaches negative things about the founders while praising socialists. I’m dying to see this.

Speaking of portraying people in a negative light, isn’t Glen Casada the one who passed on incorrect information to State Senator Stacey Campfield about Democratic House candidate Roger Byrge? Prompting a libel lawsuit? Why, yes he was:

Campfield maintained in the deposition that he was just repeating information he had received from House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin. Casada and the state Republican Party were also sued by Byrge but settled the case to undisclosed terms.

“I did not say those things,” Campfield said in the deposition. “Glen Casada said those things.”

Pressed by Byrge’s attorney, David Dunaway, about whether he was sorry he had published the comments on his blog, Campfield said: “I’m sorry Glen Casada was mistaken in his report, yes.”

Casada said in court filings that he did not intend for Campfield to post the information on the blog before it was confirmed. But Campfield said he didn’t feel a responsibility to verify what he had been told by Casada.

“If you want to say Glen was reckless, I guess you could say that,” Campfield said.

Campfield said he was contacted by Mark Goins, a former Republican state representative from Lafollete, to inform him that the candidate had been confused with somebody else.

Woopsies. I think when it comes to issues of “bias” and “portraying people in a negative light,” the guy who killed Nashville’s non-discrimination ordinance and spread lies about a Democratic candidate to a known loudmouth with a blog ain’t exactly the voice of credibility.

Also? When it comes to education, the people who have confused religious propaganda with sex education are not exactly voices of authority, either.

Anyway, what the hell do you care, Tennessee Republicans? Aren’t you homeschooling all of your kids so they learn about how Adam and Eve had pet dinosaurs and climate change is a liberal hoax?

Please. The very idea that Tennessee Republicans think they know squat about “bias” is hilarious.

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Filed under education, Tennessee, TNGOP

So Glad We Voted For The “Reasonable” Republican

Look what happens when you vote Republican, Tennessee:

Statement from Gov. Bill Haslam; April 10, 2012:

Governor: Legislation to Become Law Without My Signature

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on HB 368/SB 893:

“I have reviewed the final language of HB 368/SB 893 and assessed the legislation’s impact. I have also evaluated the concerns that have been raised by the bill. I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.

“The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill but will allow it to become law without my signature.”

Got that, Tennessee? You didn’t vote for the crazy Ron Ramsey or the crazier, twitchy Zach Wamp. Nope, you voted for the “grown-up.” The non-crazy Republican. The Reasonable One. And guess what you got! You got the same crazy-assed, half-baked crap as if they’d thawed one of those cavemen they’re always finding up in the tundra and stuck him in the governor’s chair. I ask you: what is the difference? Gov. Haslam has a big sad over the crazy stuff the legislature is doing but who cares when it’s still the law!

Way to go! Now we’re going to be churning out a bunch of idiot kids who think Adam and Eve dined on Bronto Burgers and took their pet dinosaur for a stroll through the primordial forest. But what the world needs are not religious nuts, it needs scientists and engineers. Good going, Governor Goofball. So you didn’t sign the bill, what, you lost your veto pen?

I have friends who are leaving this state. Friends with kids. People who do not think this is a good place to raise their children. It’s really hard to argue with them when the governor doesn’t have the balls to tell the extremists in his own party to cut the crap. And if I can’t convince my friends that this is a place you want to live, how are we going to convince major employers to set up shop here?

Nope, Governor Goofball blames the media. How dare they write about the strange things happening in the legislature!

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Filed under Bill Haslam, culture wars, education, evolution, Tennessee, Tennessee government, Tennessee politics

Charter School Hard Sell

Some well-heeled parents in Nashville are alarmed at the sudden hard-sell they’re receiving from an Arizona-based charter school company trying to worm its way into Metro Nashville. Parents of several Metro students received this personal unsolicited e-mail from Great Hearts Academies:

Rightfully so, parents are angry that their private e-mail addresses were released to this group, and puzzled why they’re being asked to lobby for them to show the school board some non-existent “overwhelming demand.” They’re even being asked to sign an online petition and directed to social media sites. Parents want to know how this breach of private information happened and I don’t blame them; I’d be pissed off, too.

It’s also been revealed that Great Hearts has hired PR agency The Calvert Street Group to help grease the skids. You remember them: they’re the people behind the fake grassroots efforts to save the fairgrounds and kill the new convention center. Ah, is that the sweet perfume of merde wafting my way?

Whenever I see an outside group barge their way into town with heavy-handed tactics like obtaining peoples’ private e-mail addresses and hiring high-powered PR agencies, my bullshit detector goes into overdrive. And then there’s this about The Calvert Street Group:

Copeland, a former Democratic Party operative, has a history of engaging in contentious land-use issues in Nashville. Before founding The Calvert Street Group, Copeland worked for Saint Consulting Group, a company that “specializes in winning zoning and land-use battles,” according to the company’s website. In 2009, Saint Consulting worked on behalf of the developers of the controversial May Town Center, a mixed-use development proposed for the rural Bells Bend community that drew the ire of neighbors before the Metro Planning Commission defeated it.

Looks to me like Great Hearts rode into town loaded for bear. You don’t hire an agency known for ginning up divisive, bitter, community battles if you weren’t planning to wage war. Divide and conquer, works all the time.

Frankly, I find the letter they sent Nashville parents a little disingenuous. Saying Nashville parents have few choices is bullshit; they have plenty of choices. If they don’t like the public school where they’re zoned and their kid doesn’t make the magnet school cut, there are a gazillion private schools, both religious and secular. Heck, I know a group of parents who started their own “school” under a homeschool model. They pooled their money and paid a teacher three hours a day to teach 10 kids.

Oh, you say you don’t think you should pay for private school? Why is that, exactly? Because you pay taxes? Well suck it up. Lots of us taxpayers don’t have any kids at all. We still pay for the schools, and why shouldn’t we? It helps us when the city’s kids are educated, in school, and off the streets. We reap the community benefit, even if we don’t have kids enrolled.

These charter schools aren’t setting up shop in the inner city, they’re hitting Nashville’s wealthy neighborhoods. They’re sucking the students with all of the best advantages out of the system, leaving public schools for the families with few resources and opportunities. Robbing a cash-strapped Peter to pay wealthy Paul doesn’t help Peter’s kids one bit, it just further isolates them. I just don’t buy the argument. As this letter writer observed, operations like Great Hearts are just a way for parents to get their kids into private school on the public dime.

I don’t know much about Great Hearts except that the president of their board of directors is Jay Heiler, one of those right wing wackadoodles of the Barry Goldwater/Joe McCarthy mold. He’s on the record for making intolerant statements about immigrants and gays, which didn’t stop Arizona Gov. Jan (Finger Wag) Brewer from recently appointing him to the Arizona Board of Regents. This prompted much wailing and gnashing of teeth out in Arizona (you can read some of it here).

So, this is who wants to come to Nashville and open schools and teach your kids about hating gays and immigrants. Expect the schools to be predominantly white and in upper class neighborhoods — not exactly the communities underserved in the education department, but big shocker there. And they’ve come in, guns a-blazin’, with the hard-sell and the fancy PR firm and the online petitions.

If it kinda feels like this thing is being rammed down our throats, well, there’s a reason: it is.

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Filed under education, Nashville

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

[update]:

Awesome: Tennessee Teachers Will Evaluate Legislators Who Approved Ridiculous Teacher Eval Scheme

—————————–
Apparently Gov. Bill Haslam has managed to suck the joy out of every public classroom in Tennessee, which let’s face it is the main reason teachers choose that profession to begin with, because they sure as hell aren’t in it for the money.

(Update: speaking of teacher pay, Charles Pierce has a beeeee-yootiful smack down of the latest nonsense from our favorite right-wing talking point factories. Give it a read.)

From the New York Times, we learn that the new evaluation system Tennessee implemented as part of receiving a $500 million federal Race To The Top grant is so arbitrary, divisive and unfair, it’s become an epic disaster:

The state is micromanaging principals to a degree never seen before here, and perhaps anywhere. For example, Mr. Shelton is required to have a pre-observation conference with each teacher (which takes 20 minutes), observe the teacher for a period (50 minutes), conduct a post-observation conference (20 minutes), and fill out a rubric with 19 variables and give teachers a score from 1 to 5 (40 minutes).

He must have copies of his evaluations ready for any visit by a county evaluator, who evaluates whether Mr. Shelton has properly evaluated the teachers.

He is required to do at least four observations a year for the 65 teachers at his school, although the changes suggested last week would save paperwork by allowing two of the observations to be done back to back.

Teachers have it worse. Half of their assessment is based on their students’ results on state test scores, a serious problem for those who teach subjects with no state test.

To solve that, the state is requiring teachers without test results to be evaluated based on the scores of teachers at their school with test results. So Emily Mitchell, a first-grade teacher at David Youree Elementary, will be evaluated using the school’s fifth-grade writing scores.

“How stupid is that?” said Michelle Pheneger, who teaches ACT math prep at Blackman High and is also being evaluated in part based on writing scores. “My job can be at risk, and I’m not even being evaluated by my own work.”

For 15 percent of their testing evaluation, teachers without scores are permitted to choose which subject test they want to be judged on. Few pick something related to their expertise; instead, they try to anticipate the subject that their school is likely to score well on in the state exams next spring.

And this is why we can’t have nice things. Once again, Tennessee is a national posterchild for being unable to, in effect, tie its shoelaces. The Republicans want government off everyone’s back except, you know, when they don’t. Then they’re all up in everyone’s business, like school principals, whom they don’t trust to know their teachers and their schools.

This cracked me up:

State officials have said that by next year, they will develop ways to assess teachers in subjects with no state test.

Mr. Tackett is skeptical. “I’ll be interested to see how they evaluate a band director,” he said.

Yes, that should be very interesting.

Even worse, because we’re one of the first Race To The Top states, all eyes are on us. And unfortunately, our screw-up doesn’t bode well for everyone else.

I confess I’m late to the party on this one. I don’t follow education issues as closely as I should, there’s just too much other stuff I’m more interested in, so there you have it. Tom Humphrey does a pretty good job of delving into the issue, and exposes some really severe denialism over at the State Dept. of Education. Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman seems to think that just a few little tweaks are needed and mostly what we’re hearing is the whining of those pampered, unionized teachers who are just complaining because they’re used to getting their way all the time.

Meanwhile, I’ve gleaned that one big problem is the way we have modified the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) evaluation system. Humphrey writes:

The new system is adapted from the Teacher Advancement Program, which is nationally recognized in education circles, but Lyndal Duke, principal of a Rutherford County Elementary School, said the state ignored helpful components of that model, including such things as having “mentor teachers” to help colleagues, performance pay and intense professional development efforts.

Oh. Right, the stuff that costs money. That figures.

Here’s what one principal told the New York Times about the new system:

He says the new state policies put everyone under stress, are divisive and suck the joy out of a building. “What I need to make my school better is pretty simple,” he said. “I want everybody to be happy. If they’re happy, they will do a better job.”

This is something Republicans just don’t get. It’s all stick with these clowns, never any carrot. They think if they’re the biggest dicks in the room they can force a good performance out of people. At least, that’s kind of how I took Kevin Huffman’s remarks. He’s saying teachers aren’t used to be evaluated, they’ve had it easy all these years. Give it a year, they’ll get used to it, the whining will stop! Meanwhile, you have people who are doing one of the hardest, most under-appreciated jobs there is and instead of listening to the people in the field — the “generals on the ground,” if you will — they’re all like, pfft. What do they know? We’re going to impose these arbitrary rules on you, make the band director get evaluated based on math scores or whatever.

I really don’t think turning our state’s schools into a real-world version of the TV show “Survivor” is in the best interest of our kids. But again, that’s just me.

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Filed under Bill Haslam, education, Tennessee

Suffering Succotash!

Warning to all teachers: apparently grading papers in public is now a subversive act.

Seriously:

As we left we stopped by a group of teachers who were doing a grade-in in an open plaza across from the park.

Grade-ins have become common in cities across the country as teachers gather in public spaces to do work that usually gets done at home, off the clock and unrecognized: prepping for classes, grading papers and doing the unending paperwork that the school bureaucracies demand.

Since there was no open space in Liberty Square, this group of teachers gathered across the street. A few minutes later two uniformed New York cops arrived on the scene.

“What’s going on.”

“We’re grading papers.”

“Can’t do that here.”

The cops disappeared for a few minutes and suddenly there were a half-dozen more New York cops.

“Can’t do that here,” they repeated.

“Thank you, officers,” one of the teachers politely said. And the teachers gathered their tests, folding chairs and hand-made cardboard signs and moved across the street, disappearing into the crowd.

WTF?

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Filed under education, protests