Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Electronics and Brains

It's almost time for me to do my annual "Your Brain on Electronics" week with my 8th graders.  Part of that work includes a survey on which they answer questions about their electronics usage.  I like to give them the results of adult views of similar issues, so if you would be willing, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

This is a seven-question survey (plus demographic information) that will take but a few minutes.  I will not know who you are, so I cannot share any individual responses with anybody.  Please answer, if you'd like.  I'll post results later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Conference Week

It's that week again.  5 half-days, with student-led conferences in the afternoons.  This is one of those rituals we have to do each year.  Let me wax a little vexed....Students who are doing well, don't really need the conference, and students who are doing poorly won't change much from having one.

The idea is that students will think about goals, grades, future trajectories, etc.  Sounds good, and, in theory, it is good.  But reality isn't as good as theory.  Students who take it seriously do so because they take everything (or, at least most of the right things) seriously.  And the students who don't take it seriously don't take nearly enough of the right things seriously.  Adding this conference to that roster of activities isn't going to do much about that....But it is going to allow us to say we've done what we needed to do to help those students succeed.  It's another piece of evidence to add to the pile that says we've provided opportunities for a student to get an education.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

An Inference Exercise

I've used this one to good effect.

The following piece of straightforward text invites rather complex forms of inferential reading and thinking.  

He put down $20.00 at the window.  The woman behind the window gave $4.00.  The person next to him gave him $8.00, but he gave it back to her.  So, when they went inside, she bought him a large -----.

The last word is important!  It gives some vital information.

A lot of students guess MOVIES without even hearing "popcorn."  When I say "cotton candy" they say CARNIVAL or what we call around here THE PUYALLUP (our regional fair).  Since it is "popcorn," we agree they're at the MOVIES.

We also sort out who these people are (probably on a date), how old they likely are (young--teens, young adults, as older adults more likely used credit cards), and where they are--in the timeline of their relationship (earlier, as they're still figuring out payment).

Though, being  inferences, we can't be certain these conclusions are correct, which we discover by way of...

...another practice.

Timmy hung his head dejectedly after the loud thwack as Billy trotted around the bases.  What just happened?

I ask "Who thinks it's some sort of sporting event?"  They all do, so I say "You're's this:"

We discuss that it is possible that a fun-run around the two military bases could take place, and Timmy could whack his head on a pole while Billy keeps trotting along.  But it's much more likely that Billy just hit a home run off Timmy.  Thus dejected Timmy and trotting Billy.

After this, everybody is ready to think about how they make inferences ALL the time, and understand that inferences are

--More than educated guesses, they
--Reasonable conclusions based on what you're reading, combined with what you already know, to determine the most likely possibility.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pacific Lutheran University Talk

Talked about The Normal Accident Theory of Education to several PLU Ed. School students this afternoon.  I'm always happy to talk about that!

Monday, October 6, 2014

As the Lincoln High Turns

The saga goes on.  The staffers who "blew the whistle" say they're being retaliated against.  Indeed, a lawsuit's a pretty serious response.  The district says the three violated privacy laws laid out in FERPA--the federal law protecting student rights.

And they may have...I don't know.  But I do know it sure appears that the district is emphasizing that and minimizing the issue of whether the Lincoln administrators were, in fact, steering underperforming students out of Lincoln (so that Lincoln's graduation rate and test passing rate would improve).

It looks, in fact, like the district wants to silence people who could make trouble.

Yes, Virginia, Common Core Arithmetic is Insane

Check the great "letter to Jack" about half way down.  Takeaway point...All Common Core and no common sense makes Jack a dull boy.

Book Talk Tomorrow

Tuesday, Ocotober 7, 3:45 PM
Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma

Andrew Milton
Will discuss his book
The Normal Accident Theory of Education
Why Reform and Regulation Won’t Make Schools Better

List Price: $24.95 + tax

Special Price at the Talk:  $22, tax included

“Andrew K. Milton presents a provocative analysis of the reasons that the accountability movement is doomed to failure, despite the unprecedented fanfare associated with its implementation.”— Walt Gardner, writer of Reality Check blog for Education Week

“This eighth-grade English teacher from Washington state explains why centrally mandated reforms on teachers, students and schools, imposed by federal and state governments, create unintended failures in complex public school systems. Reversing this trend, by giving teachers, parents and schools more flexibility and more local control, is the better way to improve schools. As Mr. Milton wisely says: ‘The degree to which a school can learn, then, will affect the quality and character of that school. More personal involvement, more collaboration, more trust---a better school will result. No amount of state or federal programs, regulations or mandates will ever replace or transcend that.”— Liv Finne, director for education, Washington Policy Center

“Finally; a book about educational reform that exposes the institutional realities inhibiting past and present efforts at reform, told through the clear eye of an insider. Even more importantly, the author provides the best prescriptions for going forward. A must read for any parent, teacher, administrator and policy maker who wants to achieve reform and not just talk reform.”
Michael Jankanish, National Board Certified Teacher, Tacoma, WA

This book argues that as regulation of schools moves further up the bureaucratic hierarchy (first to state departments of education then to the national department of education) the legal and institutional requirements get more intensive but less concretely useful in class rooms. This bureaucratization serves to ‘tighten’ the organizational environment, thereby increasing the risk of normal accidents. The increasing governmental management, in other words, makes it more likely that schools will ‘fail’ to meet their goals.

Analyses of education are too often developed for public consumption in a fast-moving political world. This book examines some of the deeper organizational reasons why things don’t work so well in school, as well as a look at some of things that do work. Most importantly, the book will explain how the social and cultural expectations of what schools can do may create unrealistic hopes. We, as a society, and schools, as institutions, embrace these unreasonably high hopes at our collective peril.

Andrew K. Milton has spent his entire professional life working in schools and universities. He has taught 8th grade English in Steilacoom, WA for 7 years, and he has taught university-level political science, at several institutions, for 15 years.

List Price: $24.95 + tax

Special Price at the Talk:  $22, tax included