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12 posts from February 2012

Rob | Current Affairs, Education, Elementary, Social Issues | February 29, 2012

The Budget Battle in the Other Washington


Spending on education is about 2% of the federal budget.  That sliver of the budgetary pie was $63.8 billion in 2011.  Even in the climate of debt reduction the President’s education budget for fiscal year 2013 is likely to see an increase.  But this budget will need to be approved by congress.  Given congress’ track record of bi-partisanship this debate could get ugly.

Tom | | February 28, 2012

Education and Economics


Budget-picBy Tom

As you may have noticed, the education reform debate has recently been dominated by economists, not educators. Guys like Dan Goldhaber, Eric Hanuschek and William Sanders have been making a pretty good living using economic theory and statistics to affect the course of education reform in this country. Now, I’m in no position to second-guess any of these people. Frankly, all three of them were probably smarter than I’ll ever be before they finished fifth grade.  

No, my concern is whether education in general should follow economic principles at all. As I understand it, basic economics tells us to “minimize cost with regard to a given goal or maximize utility for a given level of cost or input.” If that’s the case, then I recently orchestrated a colossal waste of resources. Behold:

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Teacher Leadership | February 20, 2012

Olympia and Novice Advocacy



By Mark

Today was the culmination of a decision I made sparked by authoring this post, titled "What to do when you need someone to tell you what to do." If you click back to that post, I lined out eight levels of involvement as an advocate for the education profession, and basically posed the question: "how do we move ourselves to the next step in advocating for students, teachers, and the profession as a whole?" Realizing that I needed to practice what I preached, I made the decision to participate in the February 20th WEA-NBCT political action day.

I realized that I was hovering in the lower levels, having occasionally crested as high as level six. Never, before today at least, had I set foot in any offices in Olympia to meet with senators or representatives. Before I reflect on my meetings, I have three simple take-aways from today:

1. This was way easier than I thought it would be.

2. This was easy because we have a system in Washington that seeks to amplify teacher voice.

3. You can do this, too. (See take-away #1.)

Rob | | February 17, 2012

What Was I Waiting For?


The final presentation of the 2012 National Title I conference was a screening of Waiting for Superman by director Davis Guggenheim. This movie has been sitting in my Netflix queue for months but I never got around to watching it. I hate to admit this but I hadn’t seen the movie because I disagreed with the message of the film. After all, who wants their opinions challenged?

Tamara | | February 16, 2012

Shifting the Culture-Part 2


By Tamara

One of Mark’s recent posts discussed the struggle to balance the time and energy we invest in students-especially failing students versus average or high performing students. It left me asking, “And why is tracking such a bad thing?”

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Education Policy | February 15, 2012

SB 5895: The D-Word


Z1DGoNBy Mark

Teacher evaluation is back on the radar. Senate Bill 5895 is due to be heard by the House Education Committee on February 16th (CSTP has produced a summary for quick review, but the whole bill is linked above).

One of the sticking points for me--of which there often many in any policy--has to do with the provision that at least three of the eight dimensions on which I am to be evaluated must be supported with student growth data.

There's that d-word again. 

Luckily, I found language in the bill clarifying "student growth data":

Tamara | | February 12, 2012

Shifting the Culture-Part 1


By Tamara

Travis and Mark have recently touched upon two issues that I am working to get my head around: addressing an institutional culture of sameness and how to equitably budget my time and energy for students all over the needs spectrum. I’m not sure they are even related issues-so I will address them in separate posts-but right now they are the ones with the greatest impact on my life in the classroom.

Mark Gardner | | February 11, 2012

Walking my Talk


Washington_State_Capitol_Legislative_BuildingBy Mark

A few posts ago, I unknowingly issued myself a challenge. I've written here at SfS for a few years, I've been a leader and advocate in my own district, and I've contacted my legislators via email and phone... but I'd yet to move to the next level.

I'll be heading to Olympia on February 20th.

I'm nervous, I won't lie. I'm not always the most confident in my ability to be coherent and articulate when I don't have time to go back to revise (and even then, sometimes...). 

It started when an email from the CSTP-Listserv arrived in my in-box: opportunity knocking, time for me to answer.

Tamara | | February 10, 2012

Alphabet Soup Season


By Tamara


WELPA, MSP, MAP…. What I used to think of as second semester (or even spring) has now become in my mind “Alphabet Soup Season”. It is also when my instructional year is put on hold for seven weeks. For the next four weeks my “teaching” day will consist of nothing but proctoring the annual language proficiency test. It takes four weeks because I have sixty-eight students in seven grade levels to test in four sub-sets: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking (which is one-on-one with each student). Then in late April (as we all know) instruction crashes to a halt again for MSP. I don’t think losing seven weeks of instruction (more, really, when you factor in MAP) was what the feds had in mind when they crafted the assessment requirements for NCLB.

Tom | | February 8, 2012

Teacher Choice?


Images (1)By Tom

Well, now that National School Choice Week is behind us, maybe we can use this week to discuss a related topic; one that hasn’t come up yet on this blog: teacher choice. It’s one thing to choose a school, but once there, most parents have relatively little say in regards to who actually teaches their child.

It’s as if you and your honey spent an hour deciding on a Valentine’s Day restaurant. Then, when you get there, it’s “Welcome to Beth’s Café. You’ll have the patty melt. We hope you’ll enjoy it.”

Let me just say from the get-go that I’m ambiguous on this topic. I’m ambiguous because I'm both a parent and a teacher.

Travis Wittwer | Current Affairs, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Social Issues | February 6, 2012

The School of the Future


Picture 1
By Travis

The school of the future will not be housed on a cloud, or a floating pod. The school of the future will not have whole sides of buildings made out of windows, nor will students sit, discussing great works of literature through their hand-held discussion devices.

No, the school of the future is more real.

It IS attainable.

It IS possible.

The school if the future will have No Tardies, No Failing Students, and No Homework. The school of the future is only a few years away. 

Mark Gardner | | February 3, 2012

What to do when you need someone to tell you what to do.


2BCvkIBy Mark

If you were not aware already, the way we teachers are going to be evaluated in the state of Washington is undergoing change. (I've mentioned it here at SfS twice before: first here, and then a follow up here.)

After a recent staff meeting, the WEA teaching staff in my building was asked to cast a vote between one of two options for "frameworks" upon which our future evaluations would be based in our district. Because people have heard I've been involved with a TPEP workgroup, every few steps I took after the meeting, someone said to me "just tell me, which one should I vote for?"

With all due respect to my colleauges, who I love and I know were horribly over-worked having just finished the frantic rush of sleepless nights that is semester finals, this very question is a symptom of a critical problem I think many teachers face.

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