Sunday, November 15, 2015

Charter Schools

I left this comment on an education blog and thought I would share it here as well:

Charters aren't going away. But they need reform.

One: Any charter that is not under local control by a board constituted of parents and Duval County citizens should have its charter revoked. No law or change of law is needed for this one; only an enforcement of existing law.

Two: The state of Florida should annually audit the financial records of every charter school that operates in the state. Findings should include prescriptions of corrective action required or the charter is revoked in one year. Findings of fraud, gross waste, or mismanagement should result in immediate suspension of the charter and prosecution if evidence of criminal activity is found.

Three: Local school boards should be empowered to have the final say over charters. No one can open a hospital unless the state determines there is a need. School Boards should have the same authority to say no to charters if there is no need for the charter.

Four: Charters enter into a one-year contract with parents. Charters are not allowed to expel students (known as 'counseling out.')

Five: Charters must provide all services that a public school requires, including ESE and ESOL. The day is done when charters were going to be laboratories of experiment and innovation. Charter School USA, to name only one national chain but I mean all of them, has the resources to provide resources.

Six: Charter school teachers must be certified.

Seven: Charter schools must receive accreditation by a recognized agency within three years of opening or they lose their charter.

If I ever run for the legislature, this would be part of my platform.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Ages of Human History

Here's a silly piece I wrote last night:

Ages of Man

Stone Age
Bronze Age
Iron Age
Silicon Age

Hunter-Gatherer Age
Agriculture Age
Industrial Age
Electromagnetic Age
Space Age
Information Age

Oral History
Cuneiform Age—clay tablets baked in the sun
Hieroglyphics Age—chiseled into hard stone
Papyrus Age—scrolls from reeds or animal skins
Paper Age—then the printing press
Digital Age—electronic storage and the cloud

Sunlight Age
Fire Age:
Dung Age
Wood Age/Peat Age
Charcoal Age
Oven Age
Whale Oil Age
Petroleum Age
Atomic Age
Biofuel Age
Renewable Energy Age

The Chinese would like to tell you to go to hell.
The Russians would like to remind you that they built their empire during the last four and it still exists.
Africans would like to tell you that they had empires too and to stop disrespecting them because their ancestors left no written records.
The Mayans are laughing hysterically because although their empire disappeared, people still agonize over their calendars.
Montezuma still has his revenge and the Aztecs are not forgotten. Sorry, Spain.

This took a weird turn.

Rock Age (gloriously relived in my youth)
Slingshot Age
Blade Age (Sword, spear, and knife)
Shield Age
Armor Age
Arrow Age (Bow, Crossbow, and Longbow)
Gunpowder Age (Cannon, musket, rifle)
Atomic Age
Laser Age

Mesopotamia/Egypt—Counting Age
Greece—Geometry Age
India—Zero Age
Arabia (caliphate)—Algebra Age

Europe—Calculus Age

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Kid, the Cop, and the Video

Spring Valley High (South Carolina): a student is forcibly removed from her desk, thrown to the floor, and arrested.

In case you haven’t seen it, and it is only one side of the story: or

Everyone jumps to judgment on this one. It is disturbing to view an officer of the law manhandle a teenager in that way. I have held off on comment because there is much we do not know, like the context or circumstances and the history of the teacher, class, and student.

I absolutely condemn the actions of the officer.

But I can’t help wondering as a teacher how it could have been different.

In my school system, if a student uses their cell phone during class, we are to confiscate it. If the student refuses to hand it over, we write a referral. Bam! Situation dealt with. Although that policy remains in place, our Superintendent expressed a preference to our principals that he would like us to stop confiscating phones because that puts the school district in the position of being responsible for the phone. What happens if it is lost? The district may be financially responsible.

As a teacher, I would not put a student out of my classroom for using a phone. I would not ask them to leave. That opens me to a power struggle in which I must win or I will lose—in front of the student’s peers. Smart teachers avoid power struggles with students. Tell the student that if they do not stop the misbehavior, they will receive a referral. If the student continues, tell them that they are getting a referral. Then stop. End it while the teacher remains the adult informing the child of the consequence. Go on with class.

There is no imminent danger to life or limb to anyone in the room. There is no need to engage in a power struggle.

Peer pressure is always a feature of a classroom. Given that admins and the SRO (school resource officer) were summoned, it is necessary to remove that feature. Before doing anything, when the student refused to do what she was told, the adults should have taken everyone else out. It is amazing what will happen when there are no peers in front of whom an adolescent feels a pressure to impress.

Class was over for the day. When an incident of this nature takes place, learning is done. Take all the other students and the teacher out. Then the officer could sit down next to the student and talk it out. The admin could have joined the conversation.

No arrests. No violence. Not necessary.

Who knows? They might have learned something about the young lady, something going on in her life, and provided support. There’s a reason she refused to comply. There is always a reason and until we know what it is, we are not in a position to judge.