The Parent Trigger and 2 Radical Changes I Suggest for Public Education in 2012 and Beyond

After the reckless voices have waned, people are likely to sit down and discuss real change in education. I think this change will be radical in some ways but in others it will contain common sense that has been a long time coming.

Being a teacher in my area, I’m probably a little more aware of the parent trigger law and the Hollywood movie Won’t Back Down. I’ve watched the media chaos descend into what is now the lowest grossing movie in recent memory. In other words, the movie is no crescendo for the parent trigger movement. Despite that fact, the parent trigger law will bring, and already has brought, some changes to education. I read that education degrees are less sought after than ever. After the reckless voices have waned, people are likely to sit down and discuss real change in education. I think this change will be radical in some ways but in others it will contain common sense that has been a long time coming.


The standardized test needs to go away. I think No Child Left Behind gave us teachers a clear and solid goal and encouraged us to teach to the test. We tried to include all students in this process but as you know, not every kid is a multiple choice test taking success. Like millions of teachers, I got used to this goal however and it became a lighthouse, a navigation device telling me how my kids were doing. It did not guide me to the finer arts like music and art and I had to get creative to get those taught. Furthermore, I even felt at risk of being reprimanded at times when I would incorporate these into the curriculum. Parents are realizing now that they want more than a test for their kids. I am only surprised that the parent trigger law and Parent Revolution don’t measure a school on more than just a test.

Every major news article I read on Desert Trails gives some statistic on how low the percentage is of kids who can “read and write.” Where did they glean this information? I don’t know of any test or company hired that went in to check how many kids can read and write. They are using standardized test results and changing the words from “% proficient on the CST” to “% kids that can read and write.” It’s scandalous really but I would rather look forward with new ideas for teaching than dig in the dirt with this issue. I have a feeling it is far from over. If it shifts focus in education away from the standardized test however, I will see it as having been positive. I wrote a book review on Renewal that discusses some of the possible coming trends in education. Check it out if interested, it has some very encouraging predictions.

To close for now: Student collaboration and open ended questions must be the focus. With our country’s unemployment being as high as it is, we need to foster and teach skills to our kids that will help them find jobs and do them well. The most important skill set one can bring to an interview is the ability to work with others to find productive solutions. After we get a new focus other than the test, we need to be instilling these skills into our kids. As teachers, we need to be brave and address the collaboration piece. There are many times kids can teach something indirectly through a peer group more effectively than when it comes from the teacher. The role of the teacher is to instruct and inspire but we need more now: fostering problem solving skills. The good news is, the Common Core appears to place a high priority on this … awesome! Also, watch for the advent of online teacher jobs. These should be interesting.

Infographic for the Struggle Between Adelanto Teachers and School District

Infographics are a great way people are sharing information online. Below is one I have made for the current negotiations between ADTA and AESD. In you click on the infographic you get the high res version. (ADTA board approved)
ADTAVSAESD_INFOGRAPHIC_SIZE

Readers may use this infographic to spread the word about our struggle. There is no copyright as long as you credit me or ADTAtoday.org as the author and do not modify the content with photoshop etc.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

For placement on your website here is the raw code:

<a href=”https://www.dynamitelessonplan.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ADTAVSAESD_INFOGRAPHIC_SIZE.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-9487″ src=”https://www.dynamitelessonplan.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ADTAVSAESD_INFOGRAPHIC_SIZE.jpg” alt=”ADTAVSAESD_INFOGRAPHIC_SIZE” width=”800″ height=”1035″ /></a>

Should You Get a Teaching Degree in this Economy?

Despite the economy, our civilization will always need intelligent and passionate individuals to teach its youth.

To those curious about a career in teaching: Being a teacher requires a certain type of personality. I think I have the teacher personality. For one thing, I am most happy in a job where I feel I am making a difference. I believe I am making a difference so therefore I enjoy teaching. I also believe the teachers around me are trying to make a difference. Are you thinking about teaching? Do you want to make a difference with your job? If so, read on.

If you are looking at a teaching career and thinking: “Wow, teaching looks secure financially, maybe I’ll go get my credential.” You’re somewhat deluded. There is talk of pulic schools as they are becoming something altogether different in the coming years. But even if it was secure, all the security in the world will not get you through. Only vision and passion can guide you through this demanding profession.

At present there are discussions going on all across our great land about how to make cuts in the classroom. The money just isn’t there any more. It is possible classes will go from 30:1 to 40 or even 50:1 some predict. The resolve of teachers now in the profession will be tested, there is no doubt about that. The people in school now to become teachers should be excited about the career but also realistic that it could years before we ever see hiring like we have seen in the past. The backlog of teachers who are out of work grows every day. These people will be needing jobs when education gets robust again. Don’t let it sway you however if you have a vision to teach. Our civilization will always need intelligent and passionate individuals to teach its youth. It may not have the best pay or conditions but teaching will always have the reward of helping children to grow.

Therein lays the secret of why to become a teacher. A visionary teacher will make it through these tough financial times by putting kids first. If you are new or old or medium or whatever, you can be an excellent teacher if you want to. To those who have the intelligence and passion, I applaud your decision to teach. Go for it.

Opting out of Testing Gaining Favor with Parents? My response

Another educator I follow on Facebook posted a link to an article on this topic. I want to thank him for posting it. Since a comment would have been too long for Facebook, this is my response:

“I think in any profession there are measures that professionals aim for. I have enjoyed the state test as a target most of my 14 year career (I say most because when I first started down in Santa Ana in 1997 it wasn’t yet such a polarized focus). Anyway, I wrote a song called “Get on Board the Standards Train” and did a countdown every year et al. It’s not such a bad thing, you can see it as a sport. When you are running your classroom with that as a corporate goal for improvement, you don’t want parents to opt out. I wouldn’t (and won’t) opt my three kids out because It’s a measurable goal we can celebrate the results of and/or use them to improve given areas. Anyway … I dig all your posts and links so keep em comin’ – just thought I’d give you a perspective where the test is kind of cool and may even be missed. Having said that, I am really looking forward to the transition into common core and the more holistic sort of assessment on a computer that will bring. I agree that the test can produce stress for some kids, that is where the teacher as coach idea comes in. The relaxation of the classroom is just as important as the rigor. A great teacher needs to work at fostering both throughout the year.”

Below is an excerpt from the article that prompted my response:

A small but growing number of local parents are deciding to have their children opt out of the state standardized tests in English and math.

Some parents say they don’t want their children subjected to the stress tied to the tests. Others say they are protesting a school climate they say has become too focused on standardized tests, at the expense of critical thinking, hands-on learning and nontested subjects — from art to social studies.

And some say they don’t believe the tests are even reliable.

“It’s all about the test scores. I’ve seen so much time and so much money spent on this. And they’re not really a valid measure of student progress,” said Chris Cerrone, a social studies teacher who kept his own third-grade daughter home from state tests last week.

via Opting out of testing gaining favor with parents – City of Buffalo – The Buffalo News.

What Should we Test in Public Education?

What should we test in public education? How about: practical job skills, traditional academic skills, and citizenship? To me, these are three great targets to start with.

There’s been a lot of talk this past year about standardized testing in public education. To get a teaching degree requires a lot of discussion on this. There are many points being made on the internet and in books about how standardized tests are not the best assessment of the quality of schools. So what should we test in public education? How about: practical job skills, traditional academic skills, and citizenship? To me, these are three great targets to start with.

Practical job skills are missing in our k12 system now. There are some classes in high schools across the country that attempt this but it should have precedence over all else if we are to prepare our students for a rough economy. Think tanks, collaboration, parent groups, and administration need to come together and brainstorm on this sort of curriculum. Teaching online is proving to be one innovative method toward this. It will have to be a malleable framework since the marketplace changes year to year and sometimes even sooner. One question these think tanks might address is this: “What skills have been universal through the decades in productivity at work.” I think this is the #1 Topic “A” priority item we should address as we reform public education. Teaching to a test gets very few people hired after graduation.

Traditional academic skills should still have priority as well. Language arts and math and crucial to surviving and thriving at work. We should keep the standards and standardized test models and use them but at a second priority. As it has been, the standardized test has been given more attention and focus than it merits, in my opinion. It does however give us a measuring stick that can be useful in planning classroom goals and lessons. This should be woven into the practical job skills aforementioned.

Finally, students need to be taught citizenship. As our system goes through the major changes it is going through now in attempt to escape the recession, our students should be prepared to make their contribution to keep the country strong. There is much material out there on teaching citizenship and behavior skills. This should be sorted through and a new “curriculum” of citizenship should be created. Tests of citizenship would do well to model what good citizens do in America. Very soon, our students will be the citizens of America and the world. How will they be prepared if we don’t guide them with our public schools.

To conclude, I do agree with many out there saying standardized testing is not the answer. At the same time, I feel it may be the answer if the test is based on the right priorities. If we focus on the practical first, we will be doing our students and country a much better service as public educators. Just like the road showing how to be a teacher, every child should have a clear path whatever she/he wants to be.

Public schools gear up for new standards | standards, victorville, gear – Victorville Daily Press

“This is going to be my restaurant,” the fifth-grader said proudly, without breaking her focus. “All my tables are different shapes.”

Ulloa, who attends Eagle Ranch Elementary in Victorville, created detailed plans for a pizza restaurant, which was just one of many group assignments that she and her peers have been tasked with doing in their GATE class.

According to Eagle Ranch Principal Peter Livingston, the school has started to implement the Common Core State Standards, an instruction method designed to teach students to develop higher-level thinking skills, especially in English, language arts and math. Livingston said that group-work is one of the trademarks of the new Common Core standards.

via Public schools gear up for new standards | standards, victorville, gear – Victorville Daily Press.

Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed

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If you haven’t heard the myth of Procrustes and his bed, it’s the story of a man who invited weary travelers to lay in his guest bed. Once in, if they were too tall he lopped off their feet and if too short, he’d stretch them to fit. Horrifying I know and yet aren’t we as educators often guilty of trying to get our students to “fit” the curriculum? Continue reading “Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed”

In the Mean Time, Just Teach Kids

tony-lays-it-all-out-on-the-chalkboardI loved the Nike slogan in the 80’s “Just Do it.” This is something we as teachers in negotiations need to remember. If you read too much of the news around education, it will leave you feeling left out to dry. For some reason the climate in political circle is bad toward teachers. It’s not warranted however. We in education have seen so much good happening in our classrooms, schools, districts, and regions. We know teachers are continuing to pass on knowledge and students are receiving it. There is an issue of economics that has center stage. The conservatives for the most part want higher test scores and they want the ability to produce them without traditionally credentialed teachers. They open chart schools, of which some are very good I must say, that employ low paid teachers that are not unionized. I assume they still must be credentialed but if they can save money I am sure they will find a way around that. We studied hard to get two degrees in college and we long to show our ability in the classroom. We work hard to see measurable growth in our students. Unfortunately, this is not being seen by some voices in our culture.  Continue reading “In the Mean Time, Just Teach Kids”

Common Core – The National Word Problem

1619_131794753693811_1561166653_nIn most math programs in California, you have two types of assessment of the standards: a multiple choice format and an open-ended word problem. Most teachers are too busy to grade a lot of written answers for math so the multiple choice assessment has been the mainstay for teachers. In Language Arts, the same has been true. Why assign 2-3 long written answer assignments when you can just feed multiple choice tests through a scanner and have data immediately … in colored charts. After some more exposure to Common Core, I have come to see it metaphorically as the long written response. It will be harder to grade but the states have stepped up and hired graders to do it. As a parent, I think this is great. It is preparing my kids for the real world. As a teacher, I recognize that the days of the bubble sheet are all but gone.

We can use bubble sheets to build the skill necessary but synthesis of those skills is a year-long revisiting. Practicing connecting standards and identifying them as such will be our challenge. I could almost always show growth when the assessment piece was standards based and each question like a sample of the standard. I actually loved teaching that way. I used EDI to cover every standard and item by item I could see what was strong ad what needed revisiting. Common Core takes that way of teaching about 3 steps beyond. My that I mean, what was “1D” is now “4D” testing. It is no longer multiple choice. We are catapulted into a “national word problem” if you will. I predict national scores will drop the first year. The second year they will rise a little as teachers and students get used to Common Core. The third year, I think we will see growth in the classrooms where teachers are willing to take up the challenge of casting away multiple choice and embracing testing that is more akin to word problems. But what about the kids that don’t do well with word problems? As Bruce says in the photo in this post, “People outside of that structure get lost.” Will we reach more kids or less with word problems? Time will tell.

The Written Behavior Log – A Win/Win/Win

Keeping a written record of things students do is powerful when dealing with parents, the Principal, and when seeking to improve the school’s behavioral programs. It carries more weight than your simple “recollection” of events.

20120817-141710.jpgProbably the best student behavior related advice I ever got as a new teacher was to “Write things down.” Keeping a written record of things students do is powerful when dealing with parents, the Principal, and when seeking to improve the school’s behavioral programs. It carries more weight than your simple “recollection” of events. If Johnny misbehaves, the parent and administration wants to know exactly how and when he did so. This can be a fancy three ring binder you create or just a lined sheet of paper on a clipboard. The only essential is that it must be written in regularly. It’s so important, I say it should be part of any sound classroom management.

3Is2Win 1: The parent. We live and teach in a time where the teacher/parent relationship is constantly being redefined. For one student, you are the “guide,” the “mentor.” This is of course the ideal situation we hope for with all our students. Unfortunately, there are other parents who can be hostile toward teachers. They can complain to no end and even enter the classroom sometimes to share their discontent about their child. These are the ones we must give our full attention. They may have a real concern but in other cases, they may just want someone to hear their complaints. In either case, you need to be a listener #1. Imagine if you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to be heard? What if your child was being bullied? On the other hand, what if your child were accused of bullying? I have seen upset parents calm down quite quickly simply because I didn’t react or reply, I only listened and gave active listening feedback. If something has happened with their child on the offending end, you will have a much better case if you have a written behavior log. You can examine your well reasoned points if you are lucky. Without a behavior log of the events their child was involved in, you don’t have a leg to stand on and they may try to assault your character, saying you have no proof or you make things up. Let me not here that the goal of a teacher should always be so find a positive solution with parents. We, in a real sense, work for them. We do not, however, have to be at the mercy of ones who seek to disparage us because we are allegedly disorganized or without proof.

With_SupesWin #2: Your Boss. The Principal will greatly appreciate your log as well. I think they have one of the hardest jobs in education. They field complaints all day as well as attempt to foster an ideal learning environment. When they get a phone call about a child in your class, you can get out your log and show your observations. Without the log, it is your word against the parent and that put the Principal in a very precarious situation. We all want the needs of the child to be met. The Behavior log can help us to that end, even if it documents what the child has done wrong. We can look at positive solutions. If you simply try to recall what has happened in class, you run the risk of being the problem! That’s right, a Principal may choose to see you as the problem even when the child has done wrong. The solution? Write it down as it happens. This can also be a great tool to pull out during a time of teacher evaluation.

IMG_0045Win #3: The School. The best reason to have a behavior log is to help constant improvement of the school’s behavior plan. You can bring that information to a school site council meeting (or other meeting) and make informed statements about what behavior problems are occurring. If multiple teachers see trends, it can be possible to brainstorm solutions. You can show statistics at parents meetings as well as any meetings that concern student behavior and safety. This benefits the school and the child as well as the family. Most schools in the 21st century recognize the value of those three entities.

To close, I encourage you to keep a behavior log in your classroom. It will foster your professionalism with parents and administration as well as benefit the school. Sounds like a win/win/win right?

Please leave a comment! This is a blog that thrives on other peoples’ opinions. Thank you in advance for commenting.