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Public Schools and Choice

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Is it true that public school kids and their public school parents don't have choices?  I'm sure that I will expose my ignorance of the "far right" and the "far left" and their respective discussion points about school choice; but isn't it the case that we already have a fair amount of choice when it comes to educating our students?

"Better Schools"        I think I understand the issue of "better schools" in richer areas.  It goes like this:

Richer people (even upper-middle-class and middle class people) are more likely to have college degrees.Parents with college degrees are more likely to value education.People who value education are more likely to instill these values into their children.Children with parents that value education (especially if their parents--themselves--are college graduates) are more likely to do well in school.Hence, schools in richer areas have students who do well in school.  (I'm defining "…

We Protect Our Students - but we can do better

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I just finished watching the Netflix show titled 13 Reasons Why.  It is about a high school girl that commits suicide and her life in high school during the two years prior to killing herself.  It made me think of all of the efforts and policies and hours spent on keeping students safe in our schools.  We practice fire drills and code-red drills; we encourage students to talk with an adult when they see something or hear something dangerous; and we all make an effort to have good, healthy relationships with as many students as we can.

       Still, despite these efforts we are constantly faced with the reality of high school students riding into their first attempts of adult life without training wheels.  Adults can be warm and friendly and approachable, but they are still adults.  It is too easy for teenagers to view the adults in their life as completely unable to understand the issues that they face.  We can do better.

       In 2014, 1668 teenagers (13 to 18 years old) kill…

Achievement of Poor Students is the Educational Challenge of Our Time

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The data is overwhelming:

10.7 million school-aged children living in poverty (source)Over 50% of school-aged children are eligible for Free and Reduce Price Meals (source) and the results are terrible: Children living in poverty miss more days of schools than children who do not live in poverty.Dropout rates are higher among student from low-income families.40% of children living in poverty are not prepared for primary schooling.Less than 30% of students from the bottom quarter of income go to college; and less than half of them finish college. (source)        The academic achievement of poor students has been a challenge that our nation has seen for decades.  Back in the time when earning a high school diploma was less necessary for acquiring a good job, our failure to adequately help poor students was less of an issue.  The penalty for not succeeding in school, while present, was not so severe.  Low-skilled job, manufacturing jobs, and service jobs were relatively plentiful an…

Education Without Grades

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Imagine P - 12 schooling without grades.

       Learning?  Yes.
       Art?  Yes.
       Clubs?  Yes.
       Teachers, friends, computers, classes, classrooms?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.
       Grades?  No.

       The idea of an educational landscape without grades is not so new and (in fact) there are a significant number of schools that are experimenting this idea right now.  New York High School English teacher, Starr Sackstein, has been talking about this for years.  We still teach and we still assess.  We just don't use the traditional grading system of attaching a number or a letter to that assessment.

       The problem with "grading" is that it has grown to be a monster that we can't control.  Parents and students alike will tell you that they care more about "getting-a-good-grade" than they do about "learning".  As with so many other aspects of American life, grading has become a competition to be won, rather than a method for m…

New Teachers Don't Have to Know Everything

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Starting a new job is exciting...and scary.  And when that new job involves a classroom full of students who are depending on you; and they all have parents who are depending on you; and you're expected to use technology that you've never used before; and some student don't try to do their best every day; and ... and ... and ....  Well, you get the idea.  New teachers and veteran teachers have pretty much the same job and the same responsibilities.  But I've got good news for new teachers:  You don't have to know everything.

       Today's teachers are better trained and better prepared for that first day on the job than ever before.  Policies and laws and general "good practice" have prepared our college graduates well.  Student teaching requirements and excellent mentors during teacher training programs help our future teachers to understand curriculum, experiment with teaching strategies, and learn to interact with students.  But teaching i…

If School was Equal for Everyone

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If school was equal for everyone...


The most struggling students would have the best teachers.  We know that good teachers make a difference in student outcomes.  Our best teachers are also our best motivators; they help students to see the value of effort and their students try hard and do their best every day.  Students who struggle academically need good teachers who believe that all students can learn and show this by their actions as well as by their words.  I hate to say it, but students who have a lot of support at home--students with parents that value education--typically do fine in school regardless of the quality of their teacher.  If there are only a relatively small portion of the teaching force that is in the "best" category, they should be teaching the most struggling students. Students would be allowed to learn at their own pace.  They wouldn't have to "move on" because the rest of the class is learning faster than they are.  And they woul…

What is Blended Learning?

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Blended learning is an education program (formal or informal) that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.

       My school district has begun the journey into Blended Learning over the past couple of years.  As an educator approaching his 30th year in the business, I view Blended Learning as an effort to bridge all of the positive and effective teaching and learning strategies that the educational and research communities have learned over the past few decades.

       Like any new initiative, Blended Learning will take some time for teachers and students and parents to learn and understand.  We will have to discover new and better ways to implement it in a way that is most beneficial to our students.  This effort will be well worth it.  Blended Learning--as I see it--addresses the following educational beliefs:


Learning at your ow…