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Lead from the Start: March 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

Try it, you might like it!

The arguments against Optional Universal Preschool that really frustrate me are that it will cost too much money. (along side) What if it doesn't help middle class kids? We'll never know until we try it, kind of like broccoli. There is no research that shows the benefits because it hasn't been tried before.

I just read on Alexander Russo's blog about the Universal PK "juggernaut" facing challenges because no one can agree on what kind of credentials a PK teacher needs. Eventually, I think we should all have teaching certification and endorsement in preschool but, that is a long way off. We can't wait until the staff is all certified to open the preschool. We are going to have to face reality and train some folks, help others get certified, and even start offering incentives to teach preschool, because, unless you work for a preschool program that is funded through a public school, you are probably not going to make enough money to keep being a preschool teacher after you get certified.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Hey Charlie Brown!

Do you remember the Peanuts cartoons where the teacher goes wuh wuh WAH wuh Wa at Charlie Brown. Yup, that's what it would be like, if you were a four year old in a classroom with a teacher who didn't speak any of your language, only you wouldn't be able to understand when to say "Yes mam, he's my dog. No mam, he doesn't have a teaching degree yet."

I love when common sense prevails, especially in early childhood education. For a four year old, it is important to have a teacher speak at least a little bit of your language. Brilliant!! The original context from where I found the off the mark cartoon is about this very subject. Now that is wild.

I read this on the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)

Native speech key for preschoolers, study finds Date: Mar 22, 2007Source: The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC By: Staff Reports
A new study finds that Spanish-speaking preschoolers are better adjusted in class when their teachers speak at least some Spanish, compared to children whose teachers speak only English. The key finding of the study, by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, tends of refute conventional wisdom that English-only pre-kindergarten programs help close achievement gaps among children from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

Click here for the full story. Read this complete story at The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC


Thursday, March 22, 2007

My New Heroes

I have watched as brave leaders of public schools have stood up one by one to be counted in opposition to the absurd requirements of NCLB. Testing ESL students after one year, on an English reading test. ?!

After reading Marc Fisher's article in The Washington Post on Fairfax's fight with the US Dept. of Education's testing of English Language Learners, I have new hope for the future of education.

So, now I have a new set of heroes. Besides Jim Henson and Bill Cosby I have:

Billy Canaday, Superintendent of Virginia Public Schools for understanding that his school systems are trying to do the right thing.
Mark Emblidge, President of Virginia's Board of Education
For backing all of Virginia's school systems and working to create a system that works, based on high standards that honors individual differences.
And now, Jack Dale, superintendent of Fairfax County Schools for just saying, "No."

Here is why:

In the next couple of weeks, either Dale or the U.S. government will blink. Until then, threats and counterthreats are flying across the Potomac. Dale, backed up by his school board and several other Northern Virginia superintendents, insists he will not require newly arrived immigrant children to take the same reading test that other kids take. And the feds reply: Oh, yes, you will -- and if you don't, you'll lose $17 million in federal dollars.

Now that is courage.


Backlash Backer

The amount of detail in NCLB is similar to the detail in a local school board's policy. Of course a local school board knows the schools, the students, the teachers, and the administration.

David S. Broder had an Op -Ed in the The Washington Post today on the backlash of NCLB. I have been taking a course on NCLB this semester and I have learned a great deal. I even did a comparison of the 1994 ESEA (or the IASA) and the 2002 ESEA (or NCLB) The difference is amazing. THe 94 ESEA had words like "If" and "to the extent practicable" NCLB only says the state "will" or blah blah blah will happen...

This is my favorite quote:

"the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, an education think tank, are critical of No Child Left Behind and the Education Department for getting too deeply enmeshed in the day-to-day routine of schools, instead of emphasizing the goal of proficiency in key subjects and encouraging states to find their own best methods of teaching, then testing for results."

Let me just say.... exactly. This is what teachers have been saying but, because of the clever name, we come off as whiners.

This was my second favorite quote:

There are ways to reinforce the goals of high proficiency for all students while reducing the bureaucratic regulations, and that should be the measuring stick for renewal of No Child Left Behind.

As part fo the choir I say, "Hallelujah!!!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

NRS - NCLB? Welcome to the World of Head Start

I have to say that the recent coverage of Head Start's National Reporting System in the Washington Post was exciting. Of course as a Head Start teacher I really want to give my boys and girls the best education I can. But, the NRS was not created to help me teach. In fact, we never even recieved results to disaggregate the first two years we administered it. After that we only recieved scores a year later, after the students had left the program.
But the whole nation has gotten a taste of what it is like to have congress as your local school board with NCLB.
The NRS could never assess the effectiveness of a Head Start program because the education component is only one part of the program. There is family outreach, mental health, physical health, nutrition, dental, social services. It goes on and on but, it works. Head Start children are better off for having these services. I know because I see kids from the same circumstances who don't recieve Head Start services. I wish they could.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The National Reporting System

I found this article on the Washington Post about the Head Start standardized testing for 4 year olds.
Congress is looking at doing away with the NRS.
The test takes approximately 20 minutes to administer. It assesses letter recognition, vocabulary, math skills etc.
Let me just say that when I first administered the test I though this is ok but, we never saw the results. We couldn't use it to teach. Then when we did the post test, they changed all of the vocabulary words. There was no way I could ensure my students were learning what they were expected to learn.
I like to know what my kids need to learn and then teach them, what I don't like is when tests are used for reasons other than helping kids.
Lets hope these bills pass.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thanks Bill

Bill Ferriter is one of the reasons I am the teacher leader I am today. I met Bill at the National NBPTS conference in the summer of 2005. When I met him I new he was something special. He was energetic dynamic and positive. HE was presenting for the Teacher Leaders Network with Susan Graham and two other presenters I can't rememebr but I wish I did.
I asked Bill to please get me into TLN. THe next week he emailed me and I discovered a new land. TLN has shaped me as a professional and given me much more than I have given it.

Bill recently put up a blog post inspired by one of my quotes on the TLN message board.
He went on to deliver a contemplative and very funny entry about why teaching is the profession it is. Here compared teaching to the Bad News Bears. I couldn't agree more Bill.
Here is a bit:

I guess a part of me doubts that we'll ever have a deep enough candidate pool to make fine-grade choices about who "makes the cut" in our classrooms. Education struggles to attract huge numbers at our "tryouts" because we're just not the best game in town. Poor working conditions, low salaries and demanding days that rival work done in any profession only serve to drive prospective teachers away---and make it less likely that we'll ever be able to step up to "the big leagues."
I guess I also wonder if we are really interested in the big leagues? Is accepting the responsibility that comes along with increased accountability and ownership over our profession something that we're ready for? Are we willing to invest the kind of mental and physical energy that it takes to succeed at the top notches of any profession?

If we start to transform education in the minds of AMerica then we will get the candidates we need. I think this will be done slowly but it can be done. One direction I am thinking we should move is recastng the profession as a creative class job.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Are We "The Real World"

My buddy from TLN, Bill Ferriter, asked what is it about school that makes people refer to it as, not the "real world."
Here was my ressponse.

Are we "The Real World?"
I think that this refers to the fail safe nature of schools. In school, students are expeceted to make mistakes and not necessarily have to pay consequences especially if they learn from the mistake.THe merit scholar who forgets to do a term paper because of a big weekend might get a second chance in school. A teacher who fails to meet their students needs might be given another chance. (year after year)
I think there is a sense of limited consequenses in the world of school. In the "real world" if you don't show up to work at an hourly job on time on a daily basis, eventually you will lose that job.
However, this is really a double standard because after leaving the fail safe world of schools, students often find that all the "rules of the real world" they were being prepared for in schools don't acually apply.
Often I hear complaints about the nature of teacher prep and how it doesn't prepare future teachers for the "real world" of teaching. (funny huh?) But, when I have asked academics about this the response is, "My job is not prepare teachers for reality, my job is to get education as close to utopia as I can through the teachers I send into the world." Essentially, why create more of the same when you can send teachers out to have their heart broken because the world is not what it should be?
I don't know where I stand except that I like the rules in the pretend world of education better than in the "real world" The world of education is definitely more fair than the real world. In the world of education I can go compare myself to the standards of the NBPTS, find out I meet them and jump start my career. In the real world, there is no National Board for Artists who want to make a living. It is all about persistence, connections, if people "like" what you do, "get" what you are saying, if you have the "cool" factor, and luck. How much in education is left up to pure luck? (Hey Bill, sort of sounds like policy making doesn't it)