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The continued flow of cash out of district coffers and into the technology providers is ramping up. In a Sacramento Bee article, February 23rd, Diana Lambert wrote a piece outlining what is taking place.
School Districts throughout the greater Sacramento region are spending millions of dollars on new computers. Apple and all of the PC vendors are the direct beneficiaries of what the districts perceive as necessary new tools that are able to sync with the new computerized educational testing that California will require in the 2014-2015 school year.
For the state to push the testing onto an internet reliant, web-based system may seem a bit counter intuitive. The big computer initiatives that the state has launched over the last few years have been resounding flops. The reasons are many, but the flops are real, and have been very expensive.
Sac City spent $9 million on 6,372 MacBook Airs. Elk Grove: $5 million on 8,000 Chromebooks. San Juan: $1.56 million on 4,218 Chrombooks. Folsom Cordova: $1 million on 2,600 Chromebooks. Natomas: $623,000 on 2,100 Chrombooks. These purchases, according to the article, include “carts, headphones, and other technology.” That’s just 5 districts in the Sacramento area. It’s also just a bit more than $17 million. There’s over 1,000 school districts in this state alone. Do the math.
That’s a big risk, in a lot of ways. It is an amazing shift of funds.
It’s so amazing that it bears a very close look at who, exactly, benefits from this spending.
In a related note, down in the Los Angeles Unified School District, schools have shut libraries. LAUSD just finished spending an enormous amount of money on their laptops for all program. I do think that a billion dollars is a lot of money.
In the meantime, elementary students, especially at less affluent schools, are locked out of libraries. It’s partly a union dispute over credentialed librarians versus “library aides” or “media techs”. Most credentialed librarians are gone, and the district put non-credentialed aides and techs in to run the libraries in order to save money.
What has happened is that there’s a few metric miles of perfectly good books, that elementary students love to hold and read and take home, that are out of reach.
It’s a totally sad state of affairs. No libraries? Really?
As always, assume nothing, verify everything. Then, follow the money.
In the previous post, I wrote about the rapidly changing educational landscape. The speed at which technology is changing, and the extremely embedded nature of it in everyday life, is spurring massive changes across the entire educational spectrum.
We have come a long, long, way since the days when a computer was a big deal in a classroom. What we have now is a plethora of computing devices in classrooms, from Kindergarten to Graduate school. It’s not just one kind of device, running on one operating system either. It’s multiple devices running on Android, Apple, and Windows systems.
The idea of 1:1, which is one device for one child, is already out of sync with reality. That initiative was aimed at having every child in a school district have a tablet or lap top of some kind. What happened is this: “every child”, especially as they move up through the grades, probably has their own device, an iPad, lap top, tablet, nook, kindle, smart phone and so on. Now, districts have to plan for, and accommodate, far more devices, most of which they have no control over.
The advent of X:1 presents quite a few issues that districts have to deal with. The issues aren’t equal across districts either. Small, rural, or less affluent districts will face a different set of issues than larger, more affluent districts, not in the scope of what needs to be done, but in the ability to fund, short term and long term, the infrastructure needed to support what is taking place.
Simply having enough tech staff available to keep the system running is somewhere near the top of the list. Along with those support staff, districts have to have a clear notion of what and how they will support these various devices. Considering that a district like Twin Rivers can’t even get heating systems installed and running, this could be a biggie.
If children are bringing their own devices (BYOD), the burden on the district to supply devices goes down. The other side of that is how the district will support the school supplied devices and the devices that come from home. If all those devices are going to be able to access the school’s local area network, who is going to manage that?
If the district has that many devices on the school’s network, how much traffic can that network stand? If the capacity isn’t robust enough, to what extent does the district increase capacity? It’s an interesting question. If the system chokes up, everything chokes up.
School supplied tablets, iPads, and so on, are relatively easy to keep track of. Not so when it comes to the personal iPad, tablets, smartphones etc. that come along with X:1. Security of the devices is always an issue.
Does logging into the school’s web system require passwords? How secure is that system in the face of all those devices jumping in? The districts will need to make certain, as much as is possible, that devices that are logged into the school’s system are clear of malware, and that there’s a robust firewall that will keep unwanted sites and code from infecting the entire school net.
Expanding the concept of “classroom” will be an interesting conversation. What is clear is that distance learning, in-house online learning, and learning from home will probably increase. It would be stunning if that didn’t happen. The entire school family, parents, students, staff, and community, is going through an exciting time in education right now. Nothing is static. Put your seat belt and helmet on.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything.
1:1. X:1. Common Core. BYOD. MOOC’s. Distance learning. Bandwidth. Anything here sound familiar? No? You probably aren’t alone.
Eduspeak has always been a bit on the snooty order. Only those in the know, knew. If you didn’t have the secret handshake or the correct pucker factor, you weren’t going to know. For very busy parents, and those outside the system, staying plugged in to current trends can be a bit of a challenge.
There is also an age factor involved in all the acronyms. If you are solidly in the Boomer Generation, it’s probable that you are less likely to know what any those terms means. Anyone below that Boomer mark probably does, and for those who are way below it the probability goes way up.
All of those terms have to do with schools, and they are all related. Not only that, but the pace of change will mean that some of them won’t be around in their present form for long. Technology is a rapidly moving issue.
1:1 means one device for one child in a school district. Tablets, iPads, ThinkPads, laptops, and so on, are the devices. X:1 refers to a number of different devices for each child, not all of which are supplied by the district. That ties into BYOD, Bring Your Own Device, which results in X:1.
That relates directly to Bandwidth, which is the electronic pipeline that the internet flows through to your home, school, or business. More devices require more bandwidth. Distance learning is related to all of it. The traditional classroom isn’t the choice for everyone, and in the traditional classroom, learning isn’t restricted to the physical classroom. The lesson could just as easily be from somewhere else, or where ever you are becomes the classroom, which is distance learning.
MOOC’s are related to all of it too. Massive Open Online Courses is what that stands for. In order to either have one, or participate in one, you need bandwidth, a device, and the ability to connect from where ever you are. All of this is part of the ever changing landscape of education. How is Common Core involved?
There is a heavy technology component of Common Core, and all of it revolves around the various iterations of local area and wide area networks. None of these, by themselves, drives the education machine. All of them, together, drive it.
What isn’t covered in this particular piece is how all of this works, and what it takes, and will take, to make it work. That’s a whole different subject, one that is absolutely welded to the entire ball of wax. Stay tuned, and as always, assume nothing, verify everything.
In a never ending story, in a never ending attempt to make money, the “educational reform” movement, such as it is, will target tenure rules and push for private control of education in California, again.
In his column in the Sacramento Bee, Dan Walters outlined the probable upcoming attacks. Cloaked in the mantle of school reform, the reforms are thinly veiled attempts to strip teachers of tenure and to transfer as much money as possible into the coffers of the various pet projects of what is termed the “educational reform movement.”
While it is commonly recognized that California really should devote more money to the schools, the business types want control of the money mainly so that it doesn’t end up in teachers paychecks. The thrust of the upcoming legal battles is, again, focused on teacher tenure, charter schools, and vouchers.
Here’s Walter’s take on it: “It’s a complicated conflict, but in its simplest form:
• The establishment contends that the state’s rather poor educational outcomes would be markedly improved by sharply raising California’s below-average school spending;
• Its foes don’t dispute the need for more money, but say that structural changes are needed to empower parents, widen educational choices, use test results to evaluate teachers, and make it easier to weed out incompetent teachers, regardless of seniority and tenure.”
The “establishment” translates to teachers and teachers unions and associations, while “foes” translates to business types, consultants, and those with political aspirations or agendas.
While it may seem noble to bang the drum for structural changes that “empower parents, widen educational choices, use test results to evaluate teachers, and make it easier to weed out incompetent teachers, regardless of seniority and tenure”, those are nothing more than political buzz words that have been carefully crafted by a raft of highly paid political consultants. Throw in evaluating teachers based on student test scores, and the rhetoric gets even more fanciful.
First, stripping teachers of tenure rights simply means that more mature, and more expensive, teachers will be replaced whenever it is expedient, with younger, and much cheaper, teachers. Those teachers with many years experience are much more likely to question policy decisions and to critically examine curricular change than newly minted rookies. In short, they’re much more difficult to steamroll.
It is a given that in any group of professionals there are a few duds. Due process, however inconvenient, is critical when anyone is threatened with losing their job. Younger doesn’t mean better. Older doesn’t mean incompetent. It’s a matter of money, pure and simple, when the “reformers” start talking.
Second, the transfer of money from the public system to a voucher system or private charter schools doesn’t make much sense. It is difficult to find a record of benefit to students related to either vouchers or charters.
Third, given the amount of money poured into initiatives to change the system in California, it seems prudent to question the return for the investments. Who, exactly, is going benefit from these changes? When groups–StudentsFirst being one of many–spend over $1 million in one year (StudentsFirst in2012) to influence “school choice” and tenure initiatives, the warning bells should go off.
The question is whether political consultants, big business, and organizations run by ex-rookie, and completely ordinary, teachers should have to prove some kind of verifiable expertise in education prior to claiming to have the answers to what makes a good school system.
California, and the nation as a whole, cannot afford to allow the public school system, which always looks for better ways to educate the children in its care, to be hijacked in order to enrich those who would benefit from a corporate take over. It’s a gamble we cannot afford. Whenever I hear of these pseudo-reformers, I start looking at the money trail. When the trail is followed, credibility mostly takes a dive. These people aren’t philanthropists. Follow the money, always.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything.
Winter is just one week away. We are in the last days of autumn, a beautiful time of transition.
It is also a beautiful time for some classroom fun, no matter the grade. Teachers, especially elementary school teachers, have a wonderful opportunity to delve into some pretty cool science with the younger groups, and with the older ones, more in depth explorations.
The Winter Solstice marks a pretty significant part of the year. Since the Autumnal Equinox back in September, when daylight and night time were of equal length, daylight has quietly been losing time, literally.
With shorter days and longer nights, autumn provides a rich environment for school children of all ages. The change of seasons just adds to that richness.
The last full day of autumn will be on Friday, December 20. On December 21, the solstice will occur at 9:11 a.m. PST. On this day, day and night start to switch rolls. The first full day of winter is on December 22.
From the 21st all the way through to March 20, the days get longer while night time hours are shorter. On March 20, the Vernal Equinox, night and day are again equal in length.
It looks like the sun is lower in the sky, and it is. The reason it is lower is where the science part comes in, in many ways.
On this day, the earth has reached a milestone. Our north pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. The sun hasn’t actually dropped in the sky. We have simply tilted away from it. Pretty cool.
Depending on the grade level being taught, this information is ripe for quite a lot of celestial science.
For the little ones, the Kindergartners and first graders, a simple way to illustrate what the solstice means, and to bring to life this slowly changing phenomenon, is to go outside.
Take a piece of chalk, which hopefully still exists in your classrooms, and, noting the time, measure the length of the children’s shadows. Do that every day, at the same time, with the same children, and have fun with the results.
For the older ones, a little math comes into play, a bunch of reading is warranted, and some earth and sun science is called for. Art should be in the mix too. What a great package of opportunities.
At the very least, going outside and enjoying the change in the sunlight is worth the time. Understanding the seasons, and the reason for them, provides great teaching moments in any classroom.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything. Do go outside though, and enjoy the season.
Another educational approach is on the boards. Project Based Learning is one of the current “in” trends. Again.
Nothing in education is static, no matter what the critics and pundits say. Teachers will tell you a much different story.
There’s also not much that is new. There are buckets full of approaches and initiatives that are repackaged, with new and shiny ribbons, though.
PBL is an old idea, now ready for another go at being the best thing in education since recess.
It’s central premise is that children learn best while doing, and doing things that are relevant and meaningful in the context of the children’s lives.
One might think that that is something that is one of the “duh” statements, but judging from the emphasis on high stakes testing, one might find oneself wondering about that.
How old is this approach? Think back to Confucius, Socrates, and Aristotle, and you’d be in the ballpark for learning while doing. Actually, think back to when dinosaurs roamed the planet, and early humans were competing for food and shelter. Learning by doing was a do or die proposition.
The concept of learning through a hands on approach, which includes questioning, a lot of inquiry, critical thinking, and continuous seeking of what works, is deeply embedded in education, not just the PBL strategy.
Perhaps one of the more mind numbing approaches to education involves treating students, at any level, as passive recipients of what ever is being taught. Once again, the high stakes testing business pops to mind. Think “No Child Left Behind”.
There is good in all this, whether it is Project Based Learning, which was popular about 20 years ago, or Flipping Classrooms, or STEM, or whatever else is out there. The good part of it is the ongoing search for teaching excellence, using multiple approaches, for all students, of all ages and abilities.
Children, and all learners, who are actively engaged in exploring a given subject, simply learn more, and more efficiently, because so much of their brains, along with their bodies, are driving the access to knowledge.
It’s a bit more loud, and active, and certainly more messy at times, than a teacher droning on and on to students who are required to sit quietly and, at all times, listen-please-to-what-I’m-saying. Stop talking!
The repackaging of all the approaches is simple, and predictable. Every 3 to 5 years, the new and shiny stuff come out. Why? Follow the money, always follow the money.
As always, assume nothing, verify everything.
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.
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