Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

August 31, 2006

Politics matter in education

Filed under: Education Finance, education priorities, Texas Parent PAC — texased @ 10:34 am

Texas Parent PAC backs Democrat:

AUSTIN – Texas Parent PAC, a group that proved influential in this year’s Republican primaries, made its first endorsement for the general election Tuesday, backing Ellen Cohen, the Democratic candidate in Texas House District 134.

This is the group that all those “in the know” in Texas politics said didn’t stand a chance in last year’s elections.

Texas Parent PAC backs Democrat:

Parent PAC won a high-profile GOP primary battle in March when Arlington educator Diane Patrick defeated House Education Chairman Kent Grusendorf.Eight Republicans and one Democrat backed by the political action committee won primary and special elections this year, of a total of 18 candidates endorsed.

It’s nice to know that the little guy can still make a difference without a personal fortune, even in Texas.

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Everman principal resigns

Filed under: Accountability, Parental Involvement, race, Texas — texased @ 4:28 am

Star-Telegram | 08/30/2006 | Embattled Everman principal to step down:

Everman High School Principal Kathy Culbertson is leaving her post following two weeks of turmoil over remarks to students that some considered racially insensitive.

Maybe they will get a principal who will try to find out why African-American students do poorly at Everman compared to other schools.

Star-Telegram | 08/30/2006 | Embattled Everman principal to step down:

Tammy Mosley, a parent who demanded Culbertson’s ouster, praised district officials for listening to parents’ concerns.”They listened, and I’m glad she’s gone,” said Mosley, whose son is a sophomore. “That speaks well for our district.”

Let’s hope the parents continue to take such interest in their children’s education to see to it that science scores will improve.

August 30, 2006

Who needs art education to be exemplary?

Apparently the school with reprimanded art teacher is rated exemplary.

Star Community Newspapers:

Frisco ISD scored an overall rating of Recognized and nine individual schools earned an “Exemplary” rating in the preliminary Texas Education Agency’s 2006 accountability reports.The scale of performance goes from Exemplary to Recognized to Academically Acceptable to Academically Unacceptable.

The nine schools that earned Exemplary ratings were Curtsinger, Smith, Fisher, Borchardt, Spears, Sparks, Riddle, Pink, and Bledsoe elementary schools.

Is this how the rich school districts get rich?

Filed under: Education Finance, Texas — texased @ 10:38 am

KERA: Texas Lottery Commission campaign targets lottery revenues spent on education (2006-08-30):

The state agency in charge has tried many tactics to get people to buy lottery tickets: higher jackpots, adding an extra ball to the drawing – even trying to convince people the basic jackpot of 4-million dollars is a lot of money. A new campaign, however, touts how Texas lottery revenues have contributed more than 8-billion dollars to education over the past 8-years. That’s far less than Texas annually spends, but the Lottery Commission’s director of media, Bobby Heith, says a billion a year is nothing to dismiss.

I take it you’re supposed to buy a ticket to support education. So if enough people in poor school districts buy lottery tickets, their schools will get better?

August 28, 2006

Contests for the social sciences and literature

Filed under: Homeschooling — texased @ 8:58 am

I don’t use a history or social science curriculum. My son loves history too much to be bound by any particular text book. When he had a choice between going to Disneyland or a tour of Civil War battle sites, he choose Gettysburg. He isn’t limited to the Civil War period either. He’s learned quite a bit about the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, Tudor England, World War I, World War II, and post Renaissance Europe.

The only profession he has ever expressed an interest in (and I’m talking even about the four year old fireman stage) was college history professor. Since he is a high school freshman this year, I pointed out that he might want to demonstrate his history skills by entering a contest. He’s decided on the National History Day contest. However, there are quite a few opportunities available to homeschoolers and I’ve listed some of them below.

First Freedom Student Competition

Student Competition:

The First Freedom Student Competition is a national essay contest, offering 9th – 12th grade students nationwide an opportunity to compete for a $3,000, $1,500 and $750 award, as they examine religious freedom, its history, current importance, and relevance in their lives.

National History Day

Programs:

National History Day’s core program is a national contest for students in grades 6-12. The students conduct extensive research related to an annual theme and present their findings in one of four categories: exhibits, documentaries, performances or papers. Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills while creating their entries.

The Center for the Book

Letters About Literature (Center for the Book: Library of Congress):

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, in partnership with Target Stores and in cooperation with affiliate state centers for the book, invites readers in grades 4 through 12 to enter Letters About Literature, a national reading-writing contest. To enter, readers write a personal letter to an author, living or dead, from any genre– fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic, explaining how that author’s work changed the student’s way of thinking about the world or themselves.

American Foreign Service Association

Essay Contest Topic:

Analyze and explain how the members of the Foreign Service promote United States national interests by participating in the resolution of today’s major international issues

National Peace Essay Contest

2006-2007 Topic: Youth and Violent Conflict: National Peace Essay Contest: Education: U.S. Institute of Peace:

In this exercise, you are the leader of a United Nations task force on youth and conflict. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has asked you to develop programs that (1) prevent young people from turning to violence, or (2) help them to rejoin their community after a conflict. Base your program on an analysis of two foreign conflicts—at least one case should be post-Cold War— in which young people were involved in the fighting. At least one case should include efforts to prevent young people from fighting or help them rejoin society after conflict comes to an end.

August 27, 2006

Football heresy in Texas

Filed under: cultural values, education priorities, High School, sports — texased @ 10:57 am

I’m not against paying football coaches for more hours but this justification is ridiculous.

Texas football coaches winning the wage war over teachers:

“And the return on the investment of football coaches is well worth it,” Neeley said. “I know Coach Aymond doesn’t make enough for what he does. Just look at how many scholarships he’s gotten kids over the years.”North Shore has had 36 players earn Division I-A college football scholarships this decade. Texas sends hundreds of football players to top programs across the country every year.

So four kids a year get a scholarship from football? How does that compare with the AP Calculus teacher? I suspect with the amount of money spent on football, it would be cheaper for the school just to fund four scholarships a year and do away with the program.

But wait, football coaches do more than that.

Texas football coaches winning the wage war over teachers:

“I believe a coach has two tasks,” he said. “One is a minor one, and that is really teaching techniques of the game and skills of the game. The major task is the intangibles that coaches bring to the table. Good coaches teach leadership skills and sacrifice and dedication and unselfishness.”

If football is really about developing the leadership skills, etc. of the students, then why isn’t available to all students? Rather than schools play each other, why don’t high schools form intramural teams within the schools to play each other?

Granted, not everyone can or wants to play football just as not everyone who wants to take AP Calculus can because of the lack of skills or desire. However, why doesn’t someone do a return on investment of equipment, facilities, instructors for football compared to the AP classes? Which do you think would be serving the bigger population of students? Oh, but then you can’t cheer for your team during an AP exam.

I know a high school algebra teacher who initially thought that football coaches must be talented in motivating their kids to practice and keep up their gpa. She thought that she could learn something from them to help her unmotivated students. After talking to some of the football players and observing a practice, she realized it had nothing to do with the coaches ability. If the kids didn’t want to practice, they were simply cut from the team. She didn’t have that option.

A local Little League baseball team was doing extremely well and was one round away from going to the world championship. This happens in August. One of the starting pitchers was told by the football coach that he wouldn’t be playing quarterback and could expect to sit the bench if the kid missed a practice to pitch in the next game. He was the next pitcher in the rotation but decided to stay in town so that he wouldn’t loose his starting job in football. I don’t know how the football team did but the baseball team lost the game.

Another middle-school kid has been told he’ll sit the bench if he takes time off to rehab his knee which he strained outside of school. The doctor would like to remove some of the fluid on his knee and see if anything else is damaged. The decision is ultimately the parents but it’s nice to see the coaching staff so supportive.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some excellent football coaches out there who develop their team members as well rounded individuals and they do put in a lot of hours. But lets not pretend that this isn’t about cheering on a winning football team.

August 26, 2006

We would be a great school if it weren’t for the students

This is sad.

Star-Telegram | 08/26/2006 | Don’t blame kids for unacceptable rating:

Everman High School’s problem is much deeper than hurt feelings.

Everman’s problem is a matter of science — teaching it.

Everman is worse at teaching science than any surrounding high school, including neighboring schools in Fort Worth. In Dallas, 18 of 21 traditional high schools have better science scores.

Across all grades, poor students in Everman lag 10 points behind poor children studying science in Dallas or Fort Worth.

Everman High School is now rated “unacceptable” by the state.

To compound the problem, Principal Kathy Culbertson blames the students.

Twisting the meaning of state test results, she went on the public-address system and announced to the entire school that “African-American student performance” was responsible for the state rating.

Wrong. It was her own staff’s failure to meet an abysmally low state standard, not only in science but also in math.

Race is not to blame.

African-American students do better almost everywhere in Texas than at Everman High School.

At James Madison High School near Fair Park in Dallas, 80 percent of the students are poor, and most are African-American. But 53 percent of those students passed the science test.

At Everman, the figure was 32 percent.

I thought the goal of NCLB sub-categories was to ensure that the schools didn’t leave any group of children behind, not to find a group to blame.

August 25, 2006

Art museums can be hazardous to your job

Filed under: censorship, cultural values, Frisco ISD, Sydney McGee, Teacher issues — texased @ 8:59 am

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Collin County News:

Ms. McGee, who has taught in various Texas districts for 28 years, said she visited the museum and spoke with museum staffers before the trip to ensure that it was appropriate for the fifth-grade class. Ms. McGee said she does not know which piece of art offended the parent, and the district did not identify it.

Ms. McGee said principal Nancy Lawson called her into a meeting the day after the trip to admonish her about the parent’s complaint. Shortly thereafter, she received a negative review and a series of directives about displaying student artwork and creating lesson plans.

“You have to start somewhere when you’ve seen things you don’t believe are in the best interest of the students,” Superintendent Rick Reedy said.

Why didn’t they tell her what art piece the parent found objectionable? They would be doing the museum a favor as well since it thought that the exhibit was appropriate for 5th graders. Maybe the parents are relatives of John Ashcroft.

August 24, 2006

Not all high performing schools appear to be high performing


Statement by Secretary Margaret Spellings on Release of NCES Study on Charter Schools:
Secretary Spellings today made the following statement on the NCES report, “A Closer Look at Charter Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling”:

Many charter schools are still relatively new, and we need to examine how they improve student performance over time for a better picture of how they compare to traditional public schools. Charter schools are empowering low-income parents with new educational options and providing an important lifeline for families in areas where traditional public schools have fallen short of their responsibilities.

I have visited high-performing charter schools all around the country, and I have seen how they take the most at-risk students and refuse to give up on them. These schools are pioneering new classroom strategies that will help us raise achievement in all our public schools.

So if they’re high-performing then we already know how they are, er, performing?

NCLB even for the summer

The Education Wonks found an article on a Texas school district that suspends kids who don’t do their summer reading assignments.

The Education Wonks: Overboard? – Thoughts And Ideas Freely Exchanged:

“We’re letting them know, in the world, education doesn’t stop when you leave the schoolhouse door, and just pick up again the next morning,” says Dr. Larry Lewis, PhD., Lancaster Schools Superintendent. “It’s 24-7/365, in this school district, if we’re going to make you the global competitor that we expect you to be with all those students in the world.”

Unbelievable. Of course education doesn’t stop when you leave the schoolhouse door but I think there is a strong argument to make that the school’s control does. Parents (and the tourism industry) worked really hard to move back the school start date to Labor Day for all school districts in Texas in order to preserve the “traditional summer vacation.” Guess it doesn’t mean much if the schools can tell you how to spend the summer vacation.

The Education Wonks: Overboard? – Thoughts And Ideas Freely Exchanged:

Many parents told CBS 11 News they were given plenty of notice from the school and around town. They say there’s no excuse for students not doing the reading and applaud the schools efforts.

So how about adding some math workbooks to the summer assignments? Or maybe since the schools don’t have time for physical education or the fine arts anymore, they could require students to participate in a summer sport or write reports on concerts they attended or a museum visit.

I think what is more disturbing is the punishment for not completing the assignment. Do they suspend students for not doing their homework during the school year? I don’t know about Lancaster but around here they just get a zero and go on. By giving such punishment, it appears to be a blatant demonstration of the school’s power to control of the student and subsequently the family any time, any where.

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

Ms. Kersh said students new to the district have until Sept. 15 to turn in their work.

Why do new student have to do the work if the whole point is that the assignments are supposed to be continuing the education process outside the classroom? Are these students going to actually be behind if they don’t complete the reading? It seems that the administration has gotten the part about education happening everywhere, they just haven’t figured out that it can happen without the school’s intervention.

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