Saturday, April 2, 2011

PTA's new focus is "advocating for funds"

Not your mom's PTA: Fun fundraisers yield to advocating for funds
That's the headline of a article spelling out out why the PTA's new focus is on defending against education spending cuts during these tough economic times.  Although this new priority is understandable, I wish PTAs would spend more energy helping schools learn how to do more with less, since increasing productivity may be the best way to advocate for our children as government funding continues to feel the pressure of a faltering economy and crippling deficits.
Several straight years of budget crises that threaten to change the nature of public education have inspired the venerable PTA to modernize its approach to defending schools and students. Local and regional PTAs across the state are now trolling through legislation and contracts, fighting state-aid cuts, and meeting with lawmakers in an effort to get a seat at the lobbying table....
The cuts are devastating and coming at the wrong time, said Lex Kessler, a member of the Somers PTA Council. He said American kids are falling behind their peers in other countries, especially in math and science.
PTA members should be reminded that higher education spending has not correlated with higher student achievement levels.

Somewhat surprisingly, an ex-PTA president serving as a state legislator is advocating for the tax cap.
Even Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, a Democrat from the Sound shore who started out as a PTA president decades ago, changed her position and said she is backing a cap this year so she "can be at the table" and push for mandate relief.
Any discussion of a tax cap must address ballooning debt payments and pension and health-care costs, she said.
"I'm trying to offer some simple, but necessary changes to it," she said.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by this comment:
I do applaud all the PTA volunteers for their time & effort. However, their mission should not be a lobbying effort for the teachers & union.
The PTA should be asking the teachers how to do more with less.
Read the entire article after the jump.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Linda Darling Hammond on teaching as a profession

Linda Darling Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University and former education advisor to President Obama's presidential campaign:
Q: How does teaching compare to other professions?

In this country, teaching is not yet a profession. A profession really has at least three features. First of all, everyone who is admitted to entry into the profession commits themselves to practice with the welfare of clients first and foremost as their major goal. It's like the Hippocratic oath in medicine. Second, everyone who's admitted to practice in a profession has demonstrated that they've mastered a common knowledge base and that they know then how to use that knowledge on behalf of the clients that they're there to serve. And third, a profession takes responsibility for defining, transmitting, and enforcing some standards of practice to protect the people who they're there to serve. Teaching has not acquired those three traits yet.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Lottery schools" admission rates continue on downward trend

As reported in the Washington Post, admission rates declined slightly for some top-rated colleges.

2010 Admission Rate
2011 Admission Rate

Should an AP Chemistry teacher be paid the same as a second grade gym teacher?

From an article about the downsized New York State budget, a comment critical of public education's teacher compensation structure raises a sometimes controversial point. insane and indefensible compensation philosophy that pairs a 2nd grade gym teacher as an equal of an AP chemistry teacher...
It's hard for me to accept that both teachers should be compensated the same.  Market conditions should play a factor in teacher pay; otherwise, excellent math and science teachers are difficult to recruit.  On the other hand, some argue that early elementary teachers are performing such an important job that they should be compensated at the same level as the AP chemistry teacher is.
Here's the complete comment:
"It is not enough to solve all of our problems," said Kim Foskew, president of the East Ramapo PTA Council." How apt.
Yup, it's your problem ... not the problem of the taxpayers. And the problems? Unrealistic salary schedules, unreformed pension programs, pro-level athletic facilities and sport expenses, idiotic elective classes, nonsense phys ed programs, social engineering efforts of all sorts, out-of-control special education expenses, total addiction to every asinine educational whimsy, relentless waste of technology of all sorts, teacher union domination of the entire institution, waste of all sorts ... from textbooks to paper to talent, an insane and indefensible compensation philosophy that pairs a 2nd grade gym teacher as an equal of an AP chemistry teacher, palatial educational plants, meal give-aways, a school calendar that hasn't changed since Rip Van Winkle, and a total, never-ending "screw you" to taxpayers year after year.
Yup. You do have problems.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Census population numbers seem inconsistent with school numbers

Over the last ten years, total population in our local town increased by 3% while the number of residents under 19 years of age increased by 8%.  Meanwhile, our school district has experienced a 36% increase in student population over that same period, quite a significant discrepancy.  I wouldn't expect the difference to be so large.  Lots of babies born in the last five years?  I must be missing something.  The number of out of district special education students may have increased over the last ten years, but that would only account for a small part of the discrepancy.

2000 Total Population
2010 Total Population
Percentage Difference

2000 Population Under 19
2010 Population Under 19
Percentage Difference

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

“Teaching in the U.S. is unfortunately no longer a high-status occupation,”

Andreas Scleicher, who oversees PISA, recently commented on the teaching profession.  In the United States, there is wide disagreement about the definition of a "successful" teacher.
“Teaching in the U.S. is unfortunately no longer a high-status occupation,” Mr. Schleicher says in the report, prepared in advance of an educational conference that opens in New York on Wednesday. “Despite the characterization of some that teaching is an easy job, with short hours and summers off, the fact is that successful, dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay and, in many cases, insufficient support from their leadership.”...
University teaching programs in the high-scoring countries admit only the best students, and “teaching education programs in the U.S. must become more selective and more rigorous,” the report says....
...the point was not that the United States spends too little on public education — only Luxembourg among the O.E.C.D. countries spends more per elementary student — but rather that American schools spend disproportionately on other areas, like bus transportation and sports facilities. 
“You can spend a lot of money on education, but if you don’t spend it wisely, on improving the quality of instruction, you won’t get higher student outcomes,” Mr. Schleicher said. 

For the entire article:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Separate boys from girls in the early grades

Maybe single sex classes can help improve boys' reading skills.
An increasing number of Cape Town schools are opting to separate boys and girls because of the key differences in the way they are able to learn and cope with their emotional maturity....
Boys were nine to 15 months behind in reading but the same amount of time ahead in maths, science and spatial activities. For this reason pupils at Sun Valley were separated in grades 1, 2 and 3.
Keller said that in these early years girls were more adept at reading, leaving boys in the same class feeling they were not interested. When boys were in a separate class they were able to learn to read at their own pace, and enjoy doing so. 
Indications that it might improve achievement levels:
And on the list of the top 10 performing schools in the province in the 2010 final exams, half of the schools were girls schools. Of the other five schools, four were boys schools and only one, Westerford High School, was co-ed
But the article does not state what percentage of schools are coed.

Richard Whitmire writes that This Is Leonard Sax's Argument