Archives for September 2010

10,000 math, science teachers, but how?

President Obama wants to recruit 10,000 new math and science teachers over the next two years to improve STEM achievement in line with an advisory council report.  The feds will develop “a new website and a partnership with Facebook to connect current and aspiring teachers,” reports Education Week, based on Secretary Arne Duncan’s conversation with Tom Brokaw on MSNBC.

In other words, Obama isn’t offering federal money to pay the salaries of new hires — or fund the early retirement of poorly qualified math and science teachers. He’s not talking about a federal bonus to lure chemists, physicists and mathematicians into teaching or jawboning districts to offer differential pay to teachers with hard-to-find skills. It’s a web site and a Facebook account.

Before the recent wave of layoffs, many middle and high schools, especially those in high-poverty and high-minority areas, have hired math and science teachers who didn’t major in the subject, Education Trust complains. I suspect the recession has increased the supply of well-qualified people interested in teaching math and science. Whether they’re able to get jobs is a different story.

Subversion through punctuation

Teaching at a new high school, Miss Eyre defied the zeitgeist and dared to teach a lesson in writing mechanics.

I photocopied handouts with rules. I circled mistakes on students’ papers. I made them write down proper usages of punctuation marks. I did all that and so much more.

And it felt GOOD.

She might photocopy workbook exercises and make her students do them.

I know. I’m a terrible teacher. I’m supposed to assume that my students will magically figure out the rules of the conventions of the English language simply by being wide-eyed ingenues before the great literature of the world and writing about their lives, this despite the fact that relatively few of them have learned any great life lessons at their tender ages.

. . .  I have realized that teaching usage conventions the stupid way has produced, for me, fifteen-year-olds who can’t use commas properly and aren’t even sure what they are. So I’m going to teach them. Because that’s what I do. Ignorance is not bliss.

. . . Jeez, what will I do next? Make everyone in the class read the same story? Force kids not to copy research reports from Wikipedia? STOP ME BEFORE I TEACH AGAIN!

In an earlier post, she tries to persuade a dozing student that he won’t be able to go to college or get a good job if he never does any work in school.

You only have to graduate from high school to become a garbage man,” commented Hector, who sits behind Ross. “That’s what I’m going to do.”

What if the city isn’t able to hire as many trash collectors in the future?

“I’ll just live with my mom,” Hector said.
“Me too,” Ross added.
Mothers of New York City, Miss Eyre wants you to have a talk with your children: What are their plans for the future?

Beauty college

On Community College Spotlight:  Do beauticians need an A.A. in cosmetology?

Plus, online education grows up.

High drop-out rates leave many for-profit students with lots of debt and no degree, charges Sen. Tom Harkin in a committee hearing. But for-profit students seeking two-year degrees are much more likely to succeed than community college students.

The teacher was a hooker

Would You Want A Former Hooker Teaching Your Children? asks NewsReal Blog.

We’re not talking about a sadder but wiser ex-hooker. Melissa Petro, a 30-year-old art and writing teacher at a Bronx elementary school, wrote online about her experiences as a stripper and “sex workers” using her real name and photo. She posted a video in which she talks about considering a lesbian love affair with a fellow stripper. Warned colleagues were googling her, she refused to be more discreet.

. . . through sex work I discovered in myself a seemingly unending source of power and autonomy relating but not only having to do with my newfound ability to make money, and lots of it, anywhere in the world.

. . . In an off the record conversation, a sympathetic administrator kindly asked if I couldn’t publish under a pseudonym. I wish, for her sake, I could. But for sake of the rights and integrity of myself and every other man or woman who makes or has made choices similar to mine, and then tries to make sense of these choices, I cannot. I learned along the way that “you are only as sick as your secrets.”

Then, in the Huffington Post, Petro wrote about her time as a prostitute in a column complaining that Craigslist no longer carries “adult services” ads. She was transferred to a clerical job with no student contact.

Petro, who earns $61,000 a year as a teacher, got tenure a week before her HuffPost column revealed for the first time that she’d been a prostitute, not just a stripper. Despite the tenure, I predict she’ll be fired for unprofessional conduct. After all, prostitution is illegal.

While dragging out the dismissal fight, she’ll find a publisher for the book she’s writing about her experiences as a sex worker.

LA teacher’s suicide linked to ratings

The apparent suicide of a Los Angeles teacher may be linked to the Los Angeles Times’ value-added ratings. Rigoberto Ruelas, 39, a fifth-grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School,  was rated “less effective than average” with average value-added scores in English and below-average scores in math.

A teacher for 14 years, Ruelas was stressed by work and upset by his scores, relatives told KABC-TV.

Life’s a carnival

Bellringers is hosting the Education Buzz, which includes her own post on Picture Day, math humor and bad hares.

It’s a Total Eclipse of the SEN (Special Educational Needs) in Britain, writes Old Andrew. Till now, it’s been impossible to criticize the system.

. . .  if you do not support the most expensive, extravagant, inclusive and emotive ideas about SEN then you are clearly some kind of borderline Nazi who would have had Helen Keller strangled at birth. Competitive compassion is the name of the game and anybody who asks questions like “Is that really a disability?” or “Does that actually help anybody?” must be a sociopath who thinks “A Christmas Carol” should have ended with Scrooge going over to Bob Cratchit’s house and giving Tiny Tim a good kicking.

To his amazement, OFSTED, the education inspectorate, has issued a report on SEN’s flaws.

If you asked OFSTED to investigate the cause of the First World War, they’d blame poor teaching and a failure to monitor outcomes. What is a shock is that OFSTED has correctly identified what is wrong with the system.

OFSTED’s investigation found that half of SEN students aren’t disabled; interventions for students with genuine disabilities are often useless. Teachers fill out paperwork to prove services were provided, not whether the services were effective.

Sound familiar?

Submit here by Saturday, Oct. 9 at 5 pm Central to be part of the next carnival in two weeks.

Sprittibee is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Education profs don’t teach tradecraft

Education professors see themselves as “philosophers and agents of social change, not as master craftsmen sharing tradecraft,” concludes a Fordham study, Cracks in the Ivory Tower,  released today.

More than eighty percent of the nation’s education professors think it’s “absolutely essential” that teachers be lifelong learners, but far fewer believe it’s as necessary for teachers to understand how to work with state standards, tests, and accountability systems (24 percent), maintain discipline and order in the classroom (37 percent), or work in high?need schools (39 percent).

“Too many education professors still cling to outmoded, romantic views of what education is about and what teachers need,” said Fordham Institute President Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Education professors, for example, are far likelier to believe that the proper role of a teacher is to be a “facilitator of learning” (84 percent) not a “conveyor of knowledge” (11 percent). When asked to choose between two competing philosophies of teacher education, 68 percent believe they should be preparing tomorrow’s class instructors to be “change agents” versus 26 percent who believe they should prepare teachers to “work effectively within the realities of today’s public schools.” And while 83 percent of professors believe it’s “absolutely essential” to teach 21st Century skills, just 36 percent say that about teaching math facts and 44 percent about teaching phonics in the younger grades.

However, compared to the 1997 survey, professors are less likely to say struggling with questions is more important than finding the right answer. “Only 37 percent of today’s professors believe that early use of calculators will improve children’s problem?solving skills, a 20 percent drop from 1997.”

While most education professors support pay increases for teachers who work in challenging schools, they strongly reject linking teacher pay to student test scores. Professors split on measuring teacher effectiveness by analyzing students’ academic gains.

Twelve percent of professors surveyed are reformers who oppose the current teacher education system, while 13 percent are defenders of the system, the study concluded.

Teach for America and similar programs are a good idea, according to 63 percent of education professors.

Seventy?eight percent support a core curriculum with knowledge
and skill standards specified at each grade level, but only 49 percent believe state governments should adopt the “same set of standards and give the same tests in math, science, and reading nationwide.”

Physics teacher wins ‘genius’ prize

Amir Abo-Shaeer, a physics and engineering teacher at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, is a 2010 MacArthur Fellow, one of 23 recipients of a $500,000 “genius” prize, reports Noozhawk.

Once a mechanical engineer, Abo-Shaeer, 38, created the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy to give students — half are female — hand-on learning opportunities in science and engineering. The academy’s robotics team is one of the best in the nation. (Click on the link and look at the team picture: I’ve never seen so many blonde girls at a robotics contest.)

With a $3 million state grant and help from parent volunteers, Abo-Shaeer created a foundation to raise matching funds for the construction of a new facility, Elings Center for Engineering Education, which will let the academy triple its enrollment. The capital campaign is about $500,000 short of its goal, but I hope Abo-Shaeer won’t use all the MacArthur money for that.

The New Cool, by Neal Bascomb, slated for March release, follows Abo-Shaeer and his robotics team as they work to prepare for the FIRST robotics competition.

Four-year college doesn’t fit all

Four-year college doesn’t fit all students, argues Beyond One-Size-Fits-All College Dreams: Alternative Pathways to Desirable Careers in American Educator. Low achievers should aim for vocational certificates rather than bachelor’s degrees, argue the authors.

For-profit higher education is a bargain for taxpayers, according to a new study that compares public costs of the for-profit, non-profit and public sectors.

IBM and City University of New York plan a six-year high school-college hybrid that will graduate students with an associate degree and the inside track to a job.

It’s all on Community College Spotlight.

San Francisco may order ‘sad meals’

San Francisco may ban “happy meals” that come with a toy, unless the meal includes a serving of fruit and vegetables or meets the city’s nutritional requirements, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

San Francisco’s “sad meals” should include “creepy, insulting and/or humiliating promotional toys with any meal that fails to meet the city’s exacting nutritional guidelines,” writes Zombie on Pajamas Media.

* Circular metallic stickers featuring a frowny-face and the words “I’m a fatso!” or “Lard-butt.” Parents will be required to affix the stickers to their children’s foreheads during meals eaten in public.

* Wind-up toys which speak any of ten different phrases, including “You’re morbidly obese!”, “Sure, keep stuffing your fat little face,” and “You make me sick, you disgusting pig!” Children can choose either the Sinister Clown, Nagging Granny, or Scary Bully designs.

* Miniature flipbooks featuring full-color photos of actual surgical procedures taken during heart bypass operations and liposuction sessions.

* A new line of collectible figurines called Chubbies, with names such as Friendless Fritz, Diabetic Debbie, and Acne Ashly.

Very few children eat most of their meals at fast-food restaurants. Obesity begins at home. Parents have to stop buying junk food — often for themselves — and start pushing fruit and veg.