Sunday, August 29, 2010


Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the goes the old JAWS promo. I thought the water for teachers would be a little safer when the Bush administration packed it in. First came Obama's "Race to the Top," (why must it always be a competition with winners and losers?) and then this bizarre notion of "value added" teachers from an article in the L. A. Times. Now you know by the sound of that phrase the business model applied to public education is alive and well. A small amount of research leads you to this wonderful paragraph from the Rand Corporation's study linking achievement tests to teacher "performance." (Hey, we're not trainin' seals heah!")

What Is a Teacher Effect?
Applications of VAM often model growth or gain scores as a means
of measuring the effects of incremental inputs on incremental out-
come—as the definition of value-added suggests (Hanushek, 1979).2
Appropriate interpretation of VAM results requires that the causal
effect be explicitly defined. Typically, there are multiple ways to de-
fine a causal effect, and some estimators can provide unbiased or con-
sistent estimates of some causal effects but not of others. For example,
Angrist, Imbens, and Rubin (1996) demonstrate that, under general
assumptions, instrumental variable estimators provide estimates of the
average causal effects of “treatment” on those who will take the
treatment when it is offered. However, they do not necessarily esti-
mate the causal effect of treatment on the entire population or on all
people who were offered treatment. Alternative assumptions are re-
quired to make inferences about those causal effects.

I often wonder about the amount of money used to produce and promote bullshit like that. I see children's faces, their hopes and fears, the daily substance or lack thereof in their lives. Who's zoomin' whom folks.
Then just when you thought...I heard last week about something promoted by the Gallup (as in polls) corporation purported to be a predictor of successful teaching. Apparently there is this "test" that is popular in many districts that has serious impact in determining who is hired and who is not. I've seen some of the questions and scenarios that this test uses. Sort of a multiple choice what would yo do type of thing. I don't know what is more chilling: a.) that prospective teachers are subjected to these things, b.) that admisistrators actually trust, validate, and believe this is time and money well spent or c.) all of the above.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grocery Store 2010

I walk half a mile to my local the grocery store,
I leave with one bag of popcorn and 38 words on a receipt;
4 inches of paper that includes the time and date, my cashier today's name, and reminders that
if I click, they deliver,

Today I returned to to the "friendliest store in town" to buy a paring knife.
It came on a card shaped like a green apple and included a protective blade cover;
Pictured were one lemon, one orange, one tomato, and one green apple because the knife
comes in "Colors Inspired by Nature."
The green apple nature inspired card also told me that my new paring knife is
a Swiss innovation
made from Japanese stainless steel
It warns of sharp edges and to keep out of reach of children in English, Spanish, and French,
The paring knife, like most everything I purchase was
Made in China

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Announcer Larry Collmus calls the 7th at Monmouth Park

Who says there is no magic in horse racing?
This call will put Larry Collmus in the the the Hall of Fame.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Face the Music

I suppose it's no surprise that Facebook has morphed into so many networking splinters. It seems like every time I go to a new food cart, it already has a Facebook page. A disgruntled airline flight attendant has a melt down and by that afternoon he has a few hundred followers on Facebook. This can't be good. And yet, there are some unpredictable side effects of posting a Facebook profile that are at once both fascinating and frightening.
I guess we all have a few "friends" who aren't really. They have bored their way into our collection of people like small wild fish who enter any body of water that will have them. Irrigation ditches, farm ponds, isolated streams, creeks, lakes. Moved in like flood water, there they are and we really have no idea how they got there. Oh I know we could put the pieces together and probably figure it all out. Somebody's brother or sister, friend of a friend, follower of a follower, or even "accidents." People appear and disappear, don't they?
There are a couple of other phenomena, orchestrated by Facebook, however, that offer intriguing possibilities. Many people have Ex's as Facebook friends. You get to see how their life without you is turning out. This can work both ways. Enter the phrase too much information. It begs the question would I be better off just imagining how someone's life is going or actually seeing it in pictures, and status updates? We who have lived awhile get the benefit of changing hair color, waistlines, complexions and the ever popular "relationship status."
And along came politics. Like many I have a clever response to that one. I don't like political labels because they mean nothing, yet most people go with them...with pride. Here's the dilemma: people you know from one particular realm can be 180 degrees from your politics in the real world. Case in point, my thoroughbred horse friends are mostly religious and conservative. While they are extolling the virtues of home schooling or Rush Limbaugh, they can easily see that I'm considerably left of center, anti-war, pro-choice anti-death penalty, and not the least bit offended by most words or phrases with social in front of them. (hint: social justice, social security, social programs, social studies, social-ism)
So what does all this mean? You can't hide? No, maybe you refuse to hide. Maybe it all leads to tolerance. After all it's there for the world to see. For the world to confirm.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Did The Bell Ring?

The Back to School commercials couldn't even wait for August 1st this year. They slipped in before the last day in July. These are the days that mark the end of summer for teachers. It's the second week of August and already some are in their classrooms, attending meetings, adjusting schedules, making changes. Some are already teaching, so a former colleague told me last week. This 2010-11 school year will mark the 4th year now I won't be going back with them. My semi-retirement has been successful. My full-time days are over. I succeeded in securing a part-time position as Supervisor/Mentor for beginning teachers. STILL...I feel the pull. Of course, my "teacher dreams" continue, with new motifs. For awhile there, it was the I didn't really retire dream, I just did for a short while. I usually end up in these dreams in another school, often a MIddle School not high school, and always there is one class, the last in the day, that I somehow haven't been to in awhile. This is a group I don't look forward to, but I need to organize and keep forgetting about. Sometimes in this dream I don't make it on time, or find that I have forgotten to attend this class. Imagine me forgetting to show up at one of my own classes! I love these dreams because they keep talking to me, keep telling me something, keep me emotionally charged. Sometimes I can't find the office, can't find or never bothered to use attendance sheets, and on rare occasions, I don't know my way around the campus. Seems to me that's directly related to the new school that has been built on the sight of the one I taught at for 30 years.
The pull works in other subtle ways too. Yesterday I bought a package of small 3x5 colored index cards. Teaching so many subjects in English and Science Science over the years I found color coding helped. Guess it's just a part of me now. Another part of that dying world that I still find useful to negotiate my living one.
This school year, as I enter the classrooms of beginning teachers for my observations I'm going to pay special attention to human interaction. Using the technology available is certainly an advantage. But at what cost? I'm wondering how effective or ineffective we are becoming at working with one another. What's lost or gained for the writing process when all writing is done on the keyboard. Are there any characteristics or components of yesterday's classroom that simply can't be replaced in todays? I'll be watching.