Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

July 31, 2006

Homeland security

Filed under: High School, Texas, Texas Education Agency — texased @ 3:54 pm

Star-Telegram | 07/30/2006 | Carroll Sr. High to offer homeland-security course:

SOUTHLAKE – Carroll Senior High School students will have the chance to analyze world and domestic terrorism in a homeland-security course this school year.The course — Introduction to Homeland Security — will likely be the first of its kind in a Texas public high school, Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.

Will they also be taught how to use homeland security resources to track politicians fleeing the state?


You can solve it yourself if you do it my way

Filed under: Creative Problem Solving, Education reform, Teacher issues — texased @ 9:55 am

The students are teachers learning different hands-on ways of teaching math.

To take the yawn out of math equations, teach the teachers | csmonitor.com:

Little did she know that her rounds with this set of students would include some discipline. As she steps into the hall, she finds the mirror group already using the laser for trial and error, instead of calculating the angles first, as they were instructed. “You naughty monkeys,” she reprimands. When she gives the laser back later, they find they’ve missed the mark.

“It’s a visceral experience,” Coughlin says. Students sometimes have to go back and analyze what went wrong and try again. And that makes them remember. On her comprehensive exams at the end of the school year, she’s found that they do best on subjects they’ve explored through these kinds of labs.

If the teachers as students have to be disciplined, doesn’t that mean there is something wrong here? And yes, I think there is something wrong. Why does she discipline the students at all? Apparently, the trial and error method will not work and won’t the students learn and perhaps even appreciate the calculation of angles even more so if they learn the hard way? Doing it her way, they haven’t learned to appreciate the power of math or the worth of the scientific method, they’ve learned to follow instructions.

This is what I like about Odyssey of the Mind. The problem would have been phased differently, something along the lines of:

Using a laser and a minimum of three mirrors, direct the laser to hit the target. The entire length the laser beam must travel is a minimum of four feet. After you hit the target the first time, the judges will move the target to a new position and you will have the remaining time to adjust the mirrors to hit the target in the new position.

Hit or miss is less likely to score the team as many points. This results in the students finding and trying different methods to solve the problem rather than being told how to solve it.

July 30, 2006

So what’s the point?

But none of this counts if the parents are the actual teachers and homeschool the children.

Parents should take part in children’s education | The Bryan-College Station Eagle:

Researchers have found that children with involved parents have higher grade point averages and scores on standardized tests, enroll in more challenging academic programs, pass more classes, have better attendance and have better social skills, according to a review published by the Southwest Educational Development Library. A bonus: They also have improved behavior at home and school, the study states.

And then there’s this, another “I can’t believe they said that and I can’t believe they printed it.”

Parents should take part in children’s education | The Bryan-College Station Eagle:

Alma Sotelo, whose son attends Neal Elementary School in Bryan, said she tries to incorporate what her son is learning in class into everyday activities at home. She said her son’s teachers give her advice on things she can do at home with him, like having him help set the table and count the forks to improve his numbers.

Okay, first of all, this is article is supposed to be about parents staying involved their children’s schools as they enter middle school and high school. Is this the best the reporter can do? And she really needed the teacher’s advice to incorporate counting in the home?

Parents should take part in children’s education | The Bryan-College Station Eagle:

Parents should make it a point to show how the child’s schoolwork ties into life at home, said Blanca Quiroz, an assistant professor in the education department at Texas A&M.

Again, this is supposed to be about middle school and high school. I’m sure that most families can incorporate algebra into setting the table or doing laundry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of algebra but again, this is an example of reporting the need for one thing and backing it with anecdotes for another. No wonder education research and reporting gets such a bad rap.

Parents should take part in children’s education | The Bryan-College Station Eagle:

“Some of us have the ability to become overly involved. The key is to know the balance,” Walraven said. “[Parents need to know] the difference between being involved and supportive and being over-functioning, where you’ve crawled into your child’s boundaries.

What wonderfully ambiguous eduspeak. So are they talking about parents doing science projects for their kids, OR parents homeschooling their kids so that they don’t have to learn to put up with bullies or drug pushers, OR parents who might dare to suggest to a teacher a different approach that might work better for their child?

July 28, 2006


Filed under: Homeschooling — texased @ 7:38 am

Recently I had a party and the main course was pizza. When we lived in Amarillo, I used to make pizza frequently since heating up the apartment by using the oven wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is any day in San Antonio except for the day when the northerner comes in sometime around the Texas-OU game and the one day after all the stores winter clearance sales where the temperature drops below freezing and you realize that none of your kid’s winter clothes from last year fit. Since we were long past those days (or they were still in the distance days to come-depending on how you look at), I really wanted to use the bar-b-que grill so I wouldn’t heat up the house.

I figured I should find out if using the grill would actually work before the day of the event so a couple weeks before, I made up a lot of pizza dough and experimented. I tried using the heated stones like I used to do in the over-even more messy than usual. I cooked some in pie tins, some on foil, and some directly on the grill, all with less than desirable results.

Then I decided to try a variation of a technique I read about in the grilling cookbook that I got my husband for father’s day. (It’s got to be the most useful gift for me that I ever got him.) I essentially “toasted” the dough quickly on both sides on the grill and then removed it to put the toppings on it. I then returned it to the grill to melt the cheese and firm up the crust. Success!

It worked out great. I could make up enough crusts and grill them ahead of time and then everyone could make their own pizza. Not knowing what toppings everyone would want, I bought everything and then some. I have enough left over pizza crusts and toppings to last for the summer. Everyone seemed to enjoy making their own pizza and no one died of food poisoning.

So what does this have to do with homeschooling? No one ever taught me to make pizza. It wasn’t delivered, take out, or frozen. I didn’t hire a chef to make it or teach me to make it. Once I started thinking about, I realized that no one taught me how to use the grill or change out the propane tank. I don’t recall receiving lessons on how to use the bread machine I got for my birthday. And no one told me to try different methods to see what worked. If I had discovered that I couldn’t make pizza dough to save my life, I always had the option to hire a chef or take pizza making lessons. I didn’t force everyone to make the pizza using the same ingredients which would have made planning much easier.

Knowledge is not static, we have to learn all the time or adapt. In this instance, it would have been fajitas if the pizza didn’t work out but I could have just as easily hired someone to teach me how to do it. Get the analogy here? Why do people think that homeschooled children whose parents do not know algebra will never learn algebra? Most parents, homeschooling or otherwise, will initially treat a cold or fever at home but will seek out medical attention should the fever continue or their child breaks a bone. We don’t require an official to tell us it’s time seek professional help. We are well aware of our own limitations.

Even teachers acknowledge that there are some situations better handled by people more specialized in the field. However, that specialist is referred to by the teacher rather than the specialist checking up on each and everyone of the teacher’s students.

“Ah, but what about the homeschoolers who don’t…” Of course there are going to be some parents who fail to act in the best interest of the child. But the same thing happens in the public education system. And until the authorities that be document the extent of the problem (and I assure you, they could) then please spare me your anecdotal evidence. For those that might argue otherwise, I want to know when are you going to get your food handler’s permit from the county and let the health department inspect your kitchen? After all, isn’t a well feed child even more basic and critical to the well being of society than an educated one?

Just in case you didn’t quite catch on to what I was trying to get at, I offer the following summary:

1. Learning happens in many ways, very few of them happen at school.

There are lots of ways to learn to make pizza. We are responsible for learning an amazing number of things critical to surviving in the modern world and it’s up to us to figure out how best to accomplish it.

2. Schools, as recipients of public funds are held accountable in how they use the funds. Therefore, teachers must meet specific qualifications and budgets are carefully designed to efficiently use their funds.

I’m not taking public money to learn to make pizzas so I don’t have to prove that I’m qualified to make to pizzas or am using a qualified instructor. I can also waste money on ingredients to allow my guests a full range of the pizza ingredient experience.

3. Schools require that the vast majority of students be taught the same way. If a child fails, she usually repeats the class taught again in exactly the same way. (Kind of like speaking more loudly in English when the Italian speaker fails to understand you the first time.)

I could try making pizza’s in different places using different techniques to find out what worked best for me.

4. Unless schools are willing to start firing teachers and principals (has anyone heard of any teachers being fired because their students didn’t pass the TAKS?), they shouldn’t be worrying about homeschoolers.

Unless I start selling my pizza’s or my guests end up in the emergency room, the health department has got better things to do with it’s time.

July 27, 2006

I’ve Decided to Homeschool–Now What?

Filed under: Homeschooling — texased @ 4:44 am

So you’ve got junior at home now. And then it hits you–what am I supposed to teach him–how am I going to teach him–I don’t know how to teach him–WHAT HAVE I DONE!?

As I’m always telling my son, the first rule is “don’t panic.” Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can do this. You may not know how, but you’ll figure it out. The following are some suggestions on how to go about it.

Give yourself some time. Most people realize that they are going to need some time to review their curriculum options but they often forget that they need time to figure out what works best for their children. You may already have some idea about your child’s learning style in that it didn’t fit in with the school’s teaching style. So now you need to know what works best or you’ll just be setting yourself up for frustration.

If you’ve decided to make the change at the end of the school year, you’ve got all summer to plan. Don’t let it slip away. If you withdrew your child during the school year, it’s especially important for you to sit down and make a plan, even a schedule for research. Whatever your plan may be, simply having one will help alleviate your feelings of panic.

One last note for working mothers who are quitting full time jobs to homeschool. If at all possible, quit at the beginning of summer rather than the end. It will easily take you two to three months to learn to live with your child fulltime. You have both been used to different schedules and interacting with one another in set circumstances. Those will radically change with homeschooling–give yourselves time to adjust.

This is all fine and dandy you may say, but what do I do with junior in the mean time? Remember, learning about junior or juniors, is part of this process. Spend this time trying different activities to find out what is most effective for all involved. Take the kids to the local museums, check out books and videos from the local library, download worksheets and unit studies from the internet, read the local paper, and so on.

There are plenty of resources on how to choose a curriculum so I won’t try to duplicate them here. Just remember, don’t panic, and a couple of weeks without a set curriculum won’t prevent them from getting into Harvard.

July 26, 2006

Carnival of Education is up

Filed under: education — texased @ 10:28 am

Text Savvy:

Carnival of Education 77 Welcome one and all to the 77th edition of the Carnival of Education [raucous slapping-together of hands] [okay now, stop].

I can’t hear you! (cont)

So TEA took it’s fingers out of its ears but now I suspect it will hold it’s breath until it turns blue.

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Local News:

Last week, agency officials said they did not ask Caveon for the names of the additional schools because they did not consider them worthy of investigation. That’s because Caveon used a different type of analysis to identify the additional schools.”I think that over the weekend, people thought about the situation and just realized we need the complete list,” said Debbie Graves Ratcliffe, a TEA spokeswoman.

“And whether we take further action – we’ll have to decide once we see that list.”

“People thought about the situation…” People who? People at the TEA who realized that they screwed up again because they obviously didn’t think before the weekend? People who read the paper and couldn’t believe that TEA didn’t think about the situation it would cause by not investigating the scores?

And what situation? The fact that there is more evidence of cheating or the fact that it was plastered all over the Dallas Morning News? Or the situation the press and it’s readers see where officials in the TEA refuses to take action or give a reasonable explanation for not taking action?

Top Ten Reasons to Homeschool

Filed under: Homeschooling — texased @ 4:54 am

10. Help reduce public school class size (and you’re still paying taxes, what a deal for the school!)

9. You know what they’re eating for lunch (or at least they do because they’re making lunch as part of their science class)

8. Lost permission slips aren’t a problem

7. Forgot books at school-so what? (Or just forget books and start learning on your own)

6. End “what to wear” to school arguments

5. Don’t have to worry about missing the bus

4. Can’t forget projects at home (especially in cases where building/renovating the home is the project)

3. Parent-Teacher conferences are a breeze (I don’t advise actually holding one outloud within earshot of anyone though)

2. Who knows? You might like your kids!

1. Learning is something you do, not where you go

July 25, 2006

No wonder they need teachers all the time

Filed under: common sense, Teacher issues, Texas — texased @ 5:45 pm

Katy Times Online:

During the session’s open forum, the board heard a presentation from Katy Elementary fourth-grade teacher Carrie Lowery, a member of the local TEA, who postured that veteran educators in the district were due a pay raise alongside the new starting teacher salary of $41,000 in the district.Lowery said that she, with 10 years at Katy Elementary, had just crossed the $41,000 threshold herself and that the district should be doing just as much to keep its experienced teachers rewarded as it was for enticing new teachers to come to work in the district.

I realize that not everything that works in the business world translates effectively into the education realm. However, surely it must be more cost effective for schools to retain teachers rather than to hire new ones?

Carnival of Homeschooling is up

Filed under: education — texased @ 10:31 am

The Lilting House: Carnival of Homeschooling Week 30: Schoolhouse Rock:

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 30: Schoolhouse Rock Schoolhouserock Welcome to CoH Week 30! Here in The Lilting House, we are mighty big fans of Schoolhouse Rock (which recently celebrated its own 30th anniversary). It gives us, therefore, great pleasure to present the Schoolhouse Rock edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling. Enjoy!

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