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The life span of just about anything in educational curriculum is about 3 years. That’s just about enough time for someone, or some group, to start pushing the new and improved version of educating children.
New and improved may be a misnomer. Might also be accurate. Looking very closely at what comes around each year could bring up the “nothing is new under the sun” thoughts though.
The good news here is that those involved with education and the curriculum that drives it aren’t sitting around doing nothing. While it may seem that the ed establishment is a ponderously moving dinosaur, reality is that it is a pretty vibrant and evolving system.
There are those who would very much like to convince everyone that it isn’t, and needs to be overhauled, to their specs, if it is to be productive at all.
This brings us around to the ever-present necessity: follow the money, always follow the money. I don’t think there are too many philanthropists out there, giving their new and improve version of ed away. Some, Kahn Academy being one, but not many.
“So what” you say? Sifting through the various approaches and curriculum to find the truly good takes time and brains, and a genuine interest in helping children to learn.
Spending money on ed du jour, just to add to the bottom line or political aspirations of a company or group, is what we call, in scientific terms, just plain stupid.
Education isn’t a static place. It evolves constantly, and it does so inside the classrooms, with every good teacher figuring out what works best with the class they have for the present year. Last year doesn’t count, and teachers know that.
The ponderously moving suspicion is directly bolted to the fact that the educational system teaches and works very closely with children and their families. It is impossible to know with any degree of certainty what is working this year, with this group of children, in these circumstances, and know it all right now.
Instituting change at the factory level is a snap compared to bringing about change that directly impacts the lives of children. Rather than see the process as ponderous, perhaps thoughtful and cautious are better glasses to look through.
Autumn blew into our area with great fanfare on September 22. A bit of wind, rain, and snow up in the mountains brought the season to us in grand fashion.
As autumn deepens, some really cool things are going to happen, some things that all of us marvel at. The long days get replaced by steadily longer nights. The temperatures tend to drop a bit. Up in the mountains, they drop a lot.
Take the time to pass on some fantastic science info for your little ones, your older children too.
The entire dance of colors that the trees put on for us each year is connected to warm days and longer, colder nights. The shorter days and longer nights trigger the changes.
Do your children know where the colors come from? What happens to the green?
Here are the answers:
The colors are always there. They are simply covered up with green. The green is chlorophyll. It’s necessary for photosynthesis. What your younger children will understand is the chlorophyll makes it possible for the trees to make sugar for their food.
Blotted out by the chlorophyll green are one of two other colors. Carotenoids and anthocyanins.
The carotenoids produce yellows and oranges and browns, the anthocyanins produce reds, blues, and purples. When autumn rolls around, the trees don’t need as much food, so the green gives way to the other colors, and that’s when things start to get really colorful.
The leaves fall off the trees because the trees don’t need them anymore. They’ve done their job of feeding the trees since last spring. It’s time to rest now, much like a long nap.
For the little ones, you can stop here. Throwing in what happens in spring just won’t make too much sense. If they ask what happens, go the library and help them find a book about seasons and trees.
TaDa!! You’ve just gone through some really cool science with your children. Doesn’t matter if it was in your classroom or in you living room. The point is that there is always a time to help your children learn. Tapping into the seasons is easy.
Next step is to head into the mountains and have a good look around at the aspens. Take a look at the trees in your neighborhood too. Enjoy the season!
Remember, assume nothing, verify everything.
In the August 24th edition of the Sacramento Bee, in the Our Region section, page B1, it was reported that one of the superintendents of the Twin Rivers School District “voluntarily resigned”, and walked away with $174,579.60. This is apparently what his salary would have been had he actually worked till June 30 of 2014.
Rob Ball, is, or was, the associate superintendent of business support services. He also served as interim superintendent of the district for a few months last year.
Ball was one of the lucky recipients of a Twin Rivers perk for admin types. The district picked up all of his retirement costs. Everyone else pays into their retirement from their own paychecks. Quite a deal if you can get it. Sounds like a gift of public funds to me.
This perk, reports Loretta Kalb of the Bee, cost the district $51,000 last school year. The article said that he was one of 3 current admin clubbers who got the perk. It’s been going on since the district was formed in 2008.
This practice is so off key that the state banned the practice starting with new hires this year. The current super doesn’t take the perk.
Let’s see. I voluntarily retired in 2010 with 24 years service with STRS, and paid every month into my retirement, and 5 years of PERS, where I also paid into my retirement, and another 11 years of substituting, summer school teaching and special projects for the local districts, for which I received no credit towards retirement.
I didn’t walk away with a years salary, or any benefits at all. Admittedly, I’m not in the good old boy and good old girl club, which is seemingly not to my benefit at all.
As I recall, I may have gotten a hearty hand clasp and a fond “Farewell”, but that’s it. Perhaps I needed to voluntarily resign, instead of retiring. A lot of us retired, voluntarily, in 2010. None of us was rewarded with a chunk of change for doing so. I’m upset at this. I would have enjoyed a years salary while not working.
It’s practices like this, when they finally find the light of day, that tend to push the tax paying public closer to the edge. The reason they don’t voluntarily find the light of day is that they can’t survive in the sunlight, and then the admin clubbers are forced to act like the rest of us.
The idea that such a perk was necessary to attract the best and brightest is just a stinking pile of horse dung.
No reason was given for Ball’s voluntary decision to quit.
Superintendent contracts are public information. If you’re curious about the contract the superintendent in your child’s district has, call the district and ask for it. If they stall, or waver, ask if it’s necessary to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get it.
Follow the money, and as always, assume nothing, verify everything.
The Sacramento Bee, July 31, on the editorial page, presented an article by Wayne Clark, Phd., who is the board president of the California Mental Health Services Authority. Quite a mouthful, that. He is also the Director of Monterey County Behavioral Health.
Clark’s article was titled “Teacher credentialing should include mental health training.” First thought was anyone going through the credentialing process probably could use a little mental health help.
The article doesn’t cover that though. Without naming the research, Clark states that “One in five young people experience significant emotional distress each year, according to a UC San Francisco study.” You’ll have to do the research yourself to see if there is research that supports this, as Clark doesn’t elaborate any more than that.
What he proposes is that educators, especially new ones, should learn about and be able to recognize issues that lead to mental health problems. He correctly states that teachers work with rather diverse and multi-cultural groups of children every day.
He’s also right on target when he says that early intervention pays off in regards to mental health issues. Catching a problem early is always better than later. The thought that teachers should be doing this, however, is questionable, at best.
All teachers have stories, some entertaining, others just downright horrible, of what children have done in the classroom. In the course of a day, teachers, especially of young children, know that just about anything can happen.
A little clarity here: teachers are taught to teach and manage classrooms. That’s what the credential says. Specialities exist for special ed, special day, reading and so on, which require master’s degrees. Admin credentials are different too, and require a master’s degree.
There is nothing in the normal credential that qualifies the average teacher to do anything other than teach. When children act out consistently in class, teachers refer the child to a student study team, or some such group, as a first step. After that, perhaps the school psychologist becomes involved.
A school psychologist is not a psychologist. They hold a master’s degree in school psychology. They are experts in psychometry, a fancy word for testing. They are not treaters. This is important to know if you have children in school.
Licensed clinical psychologists have PhD’s. Licensed clinical social workers have master’s degrees. Both have passed appropriate board license exams that qualify them to treat a wide array of disorders.
Now, after the school psychologist gets involved, tests are administered, some direction for controlling behaviours have been done, and nothing improves, then the child might get referred to a real psychologist, or even a psychiatrist, who is an M.D.
All of this is to say that there is already a working system in place. The appropriate steps, through the appropriate people, are taken. It doesn’t require another layer of cost and paperwork.
To think that teachers, within a credential, can take a class that gives them the tools to diagnose anything that is rightfully in the domain of those who have the appropriate licenses and degrees, is absurd.
It’s already just plain weird when teachers think that someone may be a bit off the bubble. To believe that we could ever diagnose a mental health issue, which may go into a students permanent file, with such minimal training, is disturbing.
Makes me wonder how the finances of Clarks proposal would be. Follow the money. Always follow the money.
Let’s not get teachers involved in any more than we (yes, I’m retired, but still a teacher) already have to do in the classrooms. While Clark thinks he has a really good idea, in reality it sounds like a nightmare.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything.
It’s summer time, and here we are in the throes of a heat bubble. It is hot, even where I live in the mountains.
This is the time of year that children really enjoy. Hot or not, it’s their time. The schedule is whatever they can make it, and what ever the parental units will allow. Staying up a bit later, watching the stars, or just enjoying watching the clock tick past what is normally their bed time is all part of childhood. What a place!
Sleep overs, bed sheet forts in the yard, games that adults just cannot understand even if they tried to, ice cream, fresh fruit, trips to the library, board games that go on forever, electronic games that do the same, reading, especially in bed at night with a flashlight, camping trips, over nighters in the back yard camp, time at the river or one of the lakes in the mountains, riding bikes till they can hardly stand up, special places to relax and be alone, visiting cousins, aunts, uncles, Grandma and Grandpa, playing till exhaustion takes over and they just stop and sleep, running through the sprinklers and spraying everyone with the hose when it’s hot–the list of what the children do over summer is never ending.
That’s not all. It’s all done with gut busting belly laughs, till snot comes out their noses, giggles that light up entire neighborhoods, and smiles that can melt steel. Non-stop.
My oh my, what a wonderful place to be.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything. Watch the children. You’ll figure it out, maybe.
Over and over I am asked about young children and school. When should my little one start Kindergarten? What about transitional Kindergarten? When should my child start reading? Is there something wrong, my 4 year old isn’t reading? And on it goes.
Most of the answers that I hear which push early everything are put out there by people who have not, do not, and probably won’t ever, teach in an elementary, or any other, classroom.
Anyone who is a proponent of privatizing education is by definition pushing early everything. Follow the money, always follow the money. It’s a business model, not an educational model.
In general, here is my response to all those questions. Take your time, there is no rush. There is no documented gain from pushing academics into the early years of a child’s life.
What is documented is that children are natural learners. They are vacuuming up every bit of information that comes across their young minds. When it is time for them to make sense of any of it, they do. It is a developmental process, pure and simple. It cannot be rushed. There is no magic food, music, movement, noise level, or curriculum that can over ride those processes. Get over it.
Childhood is a very special place. Sacred is a good term. It doesn’t last long, and attempting to stampede young children into the adult world is, to be plain, completely wrong and horrendous.
Many years ago, perhaps before many of you who read this blog were born, Peter, Paul, and Mary, a folk group, sang about Puff the Magic Dragon. In the mid 1960′s, the common misconception was that this was a song about smoking dope. It wasn’t, and isn’t.
Read the lyrics. It’s about childhood, how limited it is, and how sad it is when it is gone.
Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a good book to read. It illustrates the same thing.
What is important to know is that once a child goes through the door to adulthood, they don’t get to come back. It’s a door that only swings one way.
Consider that when you are in doubt about whether you child is being pushed too hard, or that childhood needs to be hurried.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything.
There is no simple way to describe how schools receive money and are funded in the U.S. The entire process is an Alice in Wonderland experience, which is to say that falling down the rabbit hole could very well make more sense to the average person.
First, it is vitally important to understand that nothing is free. Nothing. Everything has a cost. Finding that cost can be a bit of long search, but the cost is there.
With that as a baseline, the rest of the picture bounces between federal funding and requirements, state funding and requirements, and local funding and requirements.
It is safe to say that these three entities do not have to follow each others guidelines, nor do the guidelines have to suffer agreement. Even the hierarchy of who dictates what to whom is about as clear as a well mixed mud pie.
Considering that a small school district, with around 1,000 students, in California, may currently have a budget that is around $6 million, and large districts have large multiples of that figure, when calculated for all the districts in the U.S., the cost of schools is a very large sum of money, measured in the billions of dollars.
Every state funds its schools differently. Every district in turn funds its schools differently. Each local school has different priorities and mixes of students along the socio-economic scale, and spends money differently.
That is a lot of “differently’s”. Throw in federal contributions of money and regulations, and the chaos mounts.
What is very clear is that any state or local district that accepts federal money is required to adhere to the federal rules that go along with that money.
This where “nothing is free” comes in. It’s all tax money, no matter who it comes from. The last free ride anyone had was in the baby buggy.
Long history dictates that the money must be accounted for and dynamically looked after. Greed is not confined to the private sector by any means.
Currently there does seem to be interest in granting local districts local authority to spend allocated monies on each unique budget.
If each school was funded equitably, throughout the U.S., perhaps that could be a decent direction to take. They aren’t, and it’s enough to cause migraines thinking about how to make that first step happen.
Therein lies the problem. Whenever large sums of money are at stake, those with lots of it want to keep it. Those without so much want more. There is no level of ethics or intestinal fortitude involved in the process.
For any substantive change to happen, the national, state, and local district policies need to be much more closely aligned. The vast differences in school districts, and schools within those districts, throughout the U.S., have to be recognized.
It is a complicated process that requires careful consideration, perhaps most especially to the law of unintended consequences.
Considering the amount of money involved, the caveat might well be to always follow the money.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything.
In more than one publication recently there have been articles on the increase in the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD among children. The articles all refer to the large increase of children being diagnosed with these conditions. Are ADD, ADHD overdiagnosed in children?
The questions that come up are reasonable. Is there an increase in the ability to diagnose these conditions, is there an actual increase in these conditions among school children, are these conditions being over diagnosed for other reasons?
Diagnosing ADD or ADHD is completely subjective. I’m not aware of a medically related chemical imbalance or other medical condition that can be pinpointed to confirm either one. There are some medical issues that can mimic either one, including thyroid problems, sleep issues and anxiety.
The diagnosis of ADD/ADHD comes after at least 6 months worth of observations for a variety of behaviors. The disorder is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) which has guidelines for the observations.
The question remains. Are there really more cases? Is the system, teachers, care givers, parents, really better at putting all of the observations together to reach a reasonable conclusion?
Or is it the emphasis on standardized testing and scores, media publicity and the social networks that have given rise to the belief that more children are afflicted with ADD/ADHD?
Another thought is that somehow we have lost sight of what young children do, and expect that instead of behaving like children, they will sit quietly and pay attention without causing the adults any heartburn.
Perhaps, with the unrealistic expectation that Kindergartners will now assume the habits of first graders, first graders the habits of second graders, and so on, the collective observations lead to a conclusion that something must be wrong, when if fact, the expectations are what’re out of whack.
School is where most young children spend a large amount of their waking hours. Since a 5 or 6 year old in Kindergarten can’t sit still for desk work for an extended period of time, and the current expectation is that somehow they are supposed to, are they ADD/ADHD? It is vitally important to know that teachers simply do not have the required expertise to diagnose much of anything outside their expertise as teachers.
I speak from my 36 years as a teacher. We are teachers, not MD’s. School Psychologists are experts in testing various things, but they as well are not diagnostic professionals, or MD’s.
Not surprisingly, boys are “diagnosed” at a higher degree than girls.
Another concern is that we are bringing up a generation of teachers who fully expect that young children will sit quietly and just do their work. I for one hope this is very far from happening.
Children wiggle, they squirm. Running, hopping, skipping, jumping are always better than walking. Giggling, making faces, splashing through puddles, and being engaged in many different things at once are what they do. It is not ADD or ADHD, it’s children behaving as children, and there is a big difference.
ADD and ADHD do exist in children. The various versions of hyperactivity disorders are real. Of that there is no doubt.
There is also no doubt that the expanding expectations in elementary school education are developmentally inappropriate. To saddle large numbers of children with a diagnosis that leads to chemical interventions to control behavior is, to be blunt, very, very, stupid.
Perhaps what we need to do is understand that children are not built to be either quiet or still. Perhaps what we need to do is remind our teachers and parents that children learn by doing, and doing means movement and noise. Elementary teachers who expect otherwise are probably teaching in the wrong grade level, or perhaps are in the wrong profession altogether.
Children who are truly ADD or ADHD can benefit greatly from the medications that follow the diagnosis.
Children deserve the opportunity to be children for as long as possible, and that means wiggles, giggles, and great leaps into the fanciful. Let’s all take a breath, and instead of diagnosing every thing they do, simply enjoy being touched by them being children.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything.
When spring nudges winter aside, the opportunities for learning are many, and quite a lot of it happens outside.
Spring isn’t a static event that is the same everywhere. In different parts of the country, spring can either mean that flowers have started blossoming, birds have begun to sing early in the morning, and trees have started the business of sprouting new leaves, or it can simply mean less cold and snow, that eventually leads to flowers, birds, and leaves.
While the differences are certainly there, the opportunities for teaching children, and their ability to learn, exist wherever children and teachers are.
Look at some of things that have been part of the elementary educational system since school bells first started ringing:
- charting the growth of flowers on a tree on campus
- charting the length of shadows on the playground
- keeping track of amount of rain or snow that falls
- recording the high and low temperatures
- planting seeds in class, caring for them, and watching them grow
- figuring out what plants need to grow
- experiments in which seeds are denied air, or water, or soil, or sun to see what happens
- listening to the different bird calls around school or home
- paint spring scenes: flowers, birds, sunshine on the trees
- draw and color a garden
- explore how spring comes about
- read as many stories about the end of winter and the beginning of spring as possible
The list goes on and on. The only limits are the spots that a teacher, parent, or child’s imagination runs into.
The good part here is that all of those things on the list, and many more, fit nicely into core standards or curriculum requirements.
Science, math, geometry, history, reading, language and art are all very well covered. Pick a path, and take it. Learning and education are all around you.
It seems as though there is a problem with high achieving high school seniors who come from limited means and the colleges at which they apply.
The analysis results may not surprise too many people, especially those in the middle and lower economic wage earner bracket. Perhaps it will cause some nose twitching in the well to do ranks.
The long and short of this study is that very bright high school students who score very well on the college SAT’s, if they are from families of limited means, don’t end up at the big Universities.
They tend to stay, or perhaps end up is a better term, at community colleges and state universities. In doing so, their graduation rate is lower than those high SAT earners of well to do families who go on to the bigger universities.
That is not to say, by any stretch, that Community Colleges and State Universities are sub-par. They aren’t. What they don’t have is the depth of funding that allows for greatly enhanced student support. Without the kind of support that the Bigs have, underfunded students just might not make it out the other end with a degree.
There are multiple reasons for this, some of which are pointed out in the analysis.
First, being recruited for a Yale, Brown, Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and others in that kind of institution, isn’t all that likely, especially if the student is too far outside of a major metropolitan area.
Even if the recruiter from Penn State or Notre Dame does make it to the poor part of town and finds a SAT worthy student, that student probably doesn’t have a roll model that would allow them to think that they could be successful at such a place.
If they are offered a full ride to Wellesley, UCLA, or U Conn, they are likely to lack the means to fully participate in the total university experience. The tuition and meal plan don’t really cover all the other things that students from high income families partake of.
Staying at the local level, with what they know, among people they know, can mean a lesser chance of success, as the resources to make sure students do well and graduate are far less at the community college or state university.
It’s quite a puzzle, and one that has long term effects on the lower income students.
What the analysis points out is that the big schools just don’t do enough to make sure high SAT score/Low Income students are recruited aggressively enough, or that the level of financial support that would ensure complete integration in university life, is there if needed.
Before the upper crust gets their Gucchi’s in a wad, it’s not educational welfare. It is an investment in the future that, according to statistics, more than pays off, benefiting the country in many ways.
The gap that is obvious. Lower income, very bright students are not making it to the Bigs like similar high income, very bright students do.
The disadvantages are the contacts that aren’t made, the internships that never come about, the recruiting that doesn’t take place, and other very tangible benefits of attending the more well known schools.
It’s a difficult issue, one that isn’t likely to go away very soon. With the economy in the state of flux that it’s been in, the gaposis will probably get worse.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything. Read the analysis for yourself. Sacramento is mentioned in it.
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