The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Community complains... not enough tv in classrooms

Okay, my headline's misleading, but MSNBC reports that, "Several organizations in Clarksville are upset that many school children did not get a chance to watch President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony." They have a group scheduled to meet with the school director to discuss this horror.

Um... No one has been robbed of a "chance to watch President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony." You can view it right here in its totality. Schools have plenty of curriculum to cover. While I understand the argument that this was an unusually historic moment, it makes no sense to expect schools to stop everything to view the inauguration. In the Central timezone, the moment coincided with several students' lunch. What to do about that? There are plenty of scheduling and technology concerns here.

I think it's fine (maybe even great) that many students got to watch the inauguration during the school day, but I also think it's fine that many students had other work to do. Why not tape record the event and show it in social studies classes all day on Wednesday? Why do these Clarksville community groups demand live coverage? Provided by the school? (Although this may explain the large number of absences I had in class on Inauguration Day.)

The second principal I ever worked for told me, "I'm still waiting for the day that I parent calls me to talk about curriculum -- instead of dress code, dances, pep squad, cell phones..."

Follow-Up: 100-0 Win... COACH FIRED.

So to recap this blogpost, a private school racks up 100-0 win over a small school with only 20 girls in their enrollment. When the story hits the papers, the school officials apologize and request to forfeit the game. End recap.

Now, I said the forfeiting sounded odd. The team could have lifted their foot off the pedal (or off the neck of their opponents) anytime, but they didn't... then they apologize days later. Now it makes a little more sense.

The coach has been FIRED. It seems that the school board is apologetic, but the coach... not so much. What's really incredible, the coach claims he would never run up the score on anyone.

WHAT!? You mean you put in your bench players, told them to practice defense, and their bounce passes ACCIDENTALLY became the 4th-quarter 3-pointers that fans report?!

Well, there are plenty of places in Texas that this unemployed coach can find a job and be appreciated.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dallas school apologizes for 100-0 win

Here's a good one. A private school in Dallas plays a girls' Varsity game against a small school (with only 20 girls on campus). The underdog hasn't won a game in 5 years, and January 13 was no different. Yes, it was... they didn't just lose, they lose 100-0. Wow. The losing kiddos didn't want to go back out after the 59-0 halftime score, but they soldiered on. Wow.

Now, AFTER the incident became public, the winning school issued an apology. They've even asked the league to let them forfeit the game. Oh, that's nice. We didn't humiliate you enough with the blow-out win. Now a week later we want to give you a charity win.

Okay, story time:

I was working the clock at a JV game. The game was the first week after winter break. The coach told his team, "You don't show up to practice over the break, you don't play." Problem -- only 5 girls showed up to practice. So coach is playing a JV girls' game with no bench. The girls get into foul trouble, and they have less than 5 players on the floor. In fact, at the end of the game, they only had 3 players out there.

I was impressed with the opposing coach. She only allowed 3 players to play offense. They could all play defense, but only 3 could cross the half-court line. She still won handily, but showed some sportsmanship, allowed everyone to get some game practice.

Story time done.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hello, Nurse!

There's a really cute column from the Centre Daily Times (State College, PA -- home of Penn State) this weekend. A kindergarten teacher sings the praises of the school nurse. She ends with a list of her students lesser attempts at getting sent home, such as, "My sister has the weasels," or, "I have a hernia in my knee."

They actually grow up a little in this area by middle school (or their parents are tired of picking them up from school, at least). The nurse at my first campus just dispensed magic peppermints and sent them on to class. School nurses have such an unusual role. Often they have to see past the list of symptoms to decipher which kiddo is looking for an escape from Algebra and which is looking for an escape from bullying. I've been blessed with great campus nurses who can usually tell the difference and take appropriate action when necessary. And, of course, they sometimes get students who are really sick. They do that part of their job really well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Insert School Lunch Joke Here

School Board protesters in Miami-Dade are on a hunger strike. Huh?

This story is a little unusual. Two moms are so frustrated over a 5% cut in the school budget that they are camped out on the high school lawn staging a hunger strike.

Now, the school board is on their side (what school board is in favor of budget cuts?!), but the high school lawn is their chosen site of protest. I also think it's amusing that hunger strikes are now measured in hours. An early newscast reported, "These women have now gone almost 47 hours without food." The Sun-Sentinel article says, "two mothers passed their 71st hour of a hunger strike..."

I dunno... what do you think is an effective method of voicing these concerns?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are All Failures Equal?

Here we go again... the debate with NO research behind it: Should grades range from 0 to 100 or 0 to 70?

Rick Wormeli's viewpoint is stated in a little web-blurb. It begins with a quote: "We don't really need a gradiation [sic] of failure...It's the difference between 'you failed' or 'you really, really, super-sonic failed."[sic]

My gut response is: do we need gradation of passing grades? Is there a difference between 69.6 and 100? Absolutely! Is there a difference between 0 and 50? Absolutely!

We know everyone has different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. It is often useful to measure that. Would we hire a math teacher who is moderately proficient in most areas but knows absolutely nothing about proportions? When I evaluate that teacher's volume of knowledge, do I rate that as a 0 or a 50? How does that compare to a candidate who is moderately proficient in most areas but a little "iffy" on proportions. Big difference.

Look, Rick is a proponent of allowing students to retest over and over and over to gain full credit. If you allow that, then there is (in my opinion) ABSOLUTELY no reason for capping low grades at a 50. If you are allowing a kiddo to bring that 0 back up to a 50, 70, or 100, then why not record the 0 initially?

Of course, I have a better idea... let's actually do some research on this before we argue about it any more!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

TOTAL Recall

In Tuolumne County, California, students have spearheaded a campaign to recall the entire school board. They collected 30% more than the required signatures, and the recall notice is slated to be served in the next few days.

California officials cannot recall a time that an entire school board was recalled. The district is politically troubled, and has had a high turnover of superintendents and board officials lately.

You can read the linked article for details on why the kiddos started the recall petition. It has to do with the firing of a math teacher based on plagiarism charges from "undisclosed" sources relating to the teacher's certification work. Seems really odd.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where Do YOU Draw the Line on School Supplies??

Today's news story of a school in economic crisis comes from Detroit. An elementary campus there sent home a letter requesting donations of toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, and 60-, 100-, or 150-watt light bulbs. (Well, if they're still using incandescent bulbs, I'm not surprised there's a budget crunch.)

This brings up a great topic for discussion... what supplies is it appropriate for a school to REQUEST, and what supplies is it appropriate for a school to EXPECT?

  • Should every kid provide their own paper and pencil? What about markers and scissors? Kleenex? ZIP-LOC baggies?
  • How specific can we get? Any pack of map colors? 16-colors or more? Two RED folders? (That was a fun one to shop for.)
  • What about brands? My nephew's elementary teacher once demanded a specific brand of colored pencils, and a pair of FISKARS scissors. I know of teachers who insist that students bring Dixon-Ticonderoga pencils. (Yeah, we bought the cheap scissors.)
  • What about classroom or teacher supplies? Can supply lists request dry-erase markers for the board or batteries for calculators?
  • Price limit? In the areas of Texas I live, elementary school supplies were usually $100+, but middle school supply lists were expected to be less than $10.
  • In middle school or high school, should each teacher be allowed to issue their own supply list? Should the department agree on a list? The campus? Are electives allowed their own supply list?
  • What happens if the supplies don't show up? Or run out during the year? (How many of you teachers have called home to say, "XXXX has run out of paper and hasn't had any all week. Can you take care of this over the weekend, please?")
Are supply lists appropriate at all? Should schools bear the entire cost of a "free and public education," or is it proper for parents and students to invest in their education by bringing supplies? Should all schools follow Detroit's example and ask students to bring their own toilet paper?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Does Your School Have a Cappuccino Machine?

Wow... there's so much in this story... it's a little long, but I think it's worth the read.

So according to the Chicago Sun Times, it is NOT news that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) bought, "30 cappuccino/espresso machines for $67,000." However, it is almost news that many of the machines went unused, "because the schools didn't even know they were getting the equipment, schools didn't know how to use the machines and weren't prepared to implement them into the curriculum." What IS news, is that, "central office administrators split the order among 21 vocational schools to avoid competitive bidding required for purchases over $10,000." As a result, the auditor says the district overpaid by $12,000.

But wait! There's more!

At one CPS high school, when student athletes sent out transcripts, their grades were changed (raised, of course), then after the transcript was issued, the grades were switched back to their original score. (Wow, that's actually brilliant... How did that even get detected!?)

What's even MORE amazing, they'll never know who did it because staff shared login/password information!

But wait! There's more!!

A district elementary school was overpopulated, and enrollment was cut off. So some district employees got their relatives' kids into the school by falsifying their address information. (This one was done by lower-level employees, so of course, heads rolled.)

Surely That's All!

Crazy! I wonder if our recently nominated US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is familiar with Chicago Public Schools. Oh, wait! He's the Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools! SWEET! Does that mean bailout money will bring a cappuccino machine to my campus>

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Would You Return Your Payraise?

A Georgia county school district is having trouble balancing their budget. Projections put them $1.8 million short. One possible solution? Cancel the 2.5% pay raise scheduled to take affect the second half of the school year. This change would save $2 million.

An article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides details, and nothing is definite yet. It looks like the option will be posed to county employees, and the vote must be unanimous to take back the raise. Wow, unanimous. I'm curious how that's all gonna turn out.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

No gum for you!

How did I not know this? Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore. It may not be imported, sold, or owned. It has been banned since 1992 because it caused all sorts of cleaning and maintenance problems. The tipping point was when vandals would put gum over the door sensors on the new rapid transit system, shutting down the trains. (Imagine... gum shows up on the new carpet in the classroom, so now it is banned.)

Then the story gets really weird. As the US and Singapore were negotiating the USSFTA (US/Singapore Free-Trade Agreement), Wrigley's pushed for a lift to the gum ban. Singapore finally relented to allowing Medicinal-Use gum! You may purchase sugar-free gum with calcium (builds enamel, don't you know). But you must buy from a dentist or pharmacy, and they must keep a log with your name and ID number.

So this reminds me of my Pre-Calculus teacher my junior year in high school. She was convinced she didn't have to ban gum... she only had to tell us one thing. This magical point would make sure we would never chew gum again. She said, "Where does gum come from? Trees! And what do dogs do to trees?" Then she grinned smugly. I don't think it changed anyone's views on mastication.