Join Focus on Change in Education and Esolution

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Being a TEACHER means learning how each individual child learns.

The trick is knowing your subject and learning how people learn. The human mind is a complex biological machine with all the flaws and abilities that entails. Each person is unique, each day is unique, and that is why the ART of teaching requires a personal interaction, and can't be done by my computer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This is how Charter Schools Undermine Public Education

Charter Schools, like High Tech High and High Tech High International in San Diego, are often lauded as giving 'choice' to parents of public school children, but they use public tax money and then discriminate against kids. They get to pick and choose the best students and leave the tough students, those with learning disabilities or social problems to the regular public school system.

This is unacceptable. Any school that uses PUBLIC MONEY should not be allowed to discriminate. When TEACHERS fail to teach students, those teachers should be held accountable. The students should not be thrown out of the school when the school fails to teach.

The story below details one charter school network that uses "high standards" as an excuse to expel 'problem students'.

From Here and Now:
We’ve been hearing about the push by civil rights groups and the Obama Administration to end so-called “zero tolerance” discipline policies in schools, which suspend and expel students for often minor infractions.
The critics say it cuts kids out of the education process and puts them in a “school-to-prison pipeline.” The schools say it raises standards.
One group of schools in particular is relying on discipline quite a bit. The Illinois state board of education found that in the publicly-funded Noble Network of Charter Schools, which has 14 campuses in Chicago, 23 percent of students were suspended in 2013. That’s compared to 9 percent suspended at area public schools.
Noble students received infractions for everything from being less than a minute late, to not sitting up straight. Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah has been writing about this in the Chicago Tribune and joins Here & Now’s Robin Young with details.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why Are Americans So Inclined to Disrespect Children?

April 4, 2014  |  Reproduced from Alternet

Although being an adult necessarily means we have all been children, as e. e. cummings suggests [3], growing up is often forgetting. My own experiences as a teacher and a parent have helped me remember what it means to be a child—but they have also caused me a great deal of anxiety about how we view and treat both children and childhood in the U.S.
In one of my early years of teaching [4], I found myself in the exact room at the rural upstate South Carolina high school where I had once been a student. It was the first day of school and I was calling that first roll—a sort of silly but important ritual of schooling for both teachers and students. Just about everyone knows everyone in my hometown, and we are very familiar with the common names of the town. When I came to one young man’s name I recognized, I took the opportunity to make a joke. Rather than pronouncing his name, Billy Laughter (it rhymes with slaughter), correctly, I chose instead to call out "Billy Laff-ter" (rhyming the name with after).
Smiling at my own humor, I scanned the room and then turned my eyes back to Billy; he was red-faced and on the edge of having a very bad first day, one that was likely going to result in his being punished for my having done a very stupid thing. I quickly raised my hand, palm facing him, and apologized. “Billy, my mistake,” I said. “I’m sorry. I was trying to be funny but it wasn’t.” And then I said his name correctly.

Billy had suffered a lifetime of people mangling his name, and he wasn’t in any mood for my being clever on the first day of school.

Several years later, I was teaching a U.S. history class as part of my usual load as a member of the English department. While I was having students form small groups, two young white males bumped into each other, back to back, while moving their desks. I caught the moment out of the corner of my eye and rushed over to defuse the fight that was clearly about to occur.
I wasn’t surprised—this was typical of my small community, along with fights starting because “he/she looked at me wrong.” But some time after this, I read a research study that explained how people in the South and North handle personal space differently. In the South, bumping into someone or looking at someone wrong is often interpreted as challenging someone’s honor, requiring a response. People in the North, conditioned by mass transit and crowded cities are not as apt to find acts of close proximity anything other than that.

Like Billy Laughter above, these young men were on the precipice of being treated as we would treat adults—as if fighting is simple to punish, an obvious and clear wrong. In school, our rules are often shaped in ways that suggest we view children as little adults—and that often means that with children there are no excuses, no explanations.

I want to add just one more event from those middle years of my teaching. While running a drill at soccer practice one day, I heard a comment from a player in a group behind me. I thought I recognized the offender's voice: he was difficult in class and on the team, and worst of all, he was very disruptive at practice. I turned and, without hesitating, announced, “You are out of here."
Throwing him out of practice? No, I kicked him off the team.

As the young man was walking up the hill, a timid player on the team said, “Coach, that was me.”
I had just kicked a young man off the team who had not, in fact, said a thing.

A day or so ago, I received an email from Alfie Kohn [5] about his new book, The Myth of the Spoiled Child [6]. I noticed it was similar to a book I am co-editing, Pedagogies of Kindness and Respect: On the Lives and Education of Children. [7] I also noted that our perspectives on children—on how parents, teachers, and society treat children—appears to be a minority view.
I have been mulling, or more likely stewing, about this for some time: What makes adults—even the ones who choose to spend their lives with children—so damned negative and hateful about those children?

That is the source of my palpable anger at the “grit,” [8]“no excuses,” [9] and “zero tolerance” [10] narratives and policies.

I grew up and live in the South, where the default attitude toward children remains that they are to be seen and not heard, that a child’s role is to do as she/he is told. If a child crosses those lines, then we must teach her/him a lesson, show her/him who is boss—rightfully, we are told, by hitting that child: spare the rod spoil the child. I find that same deficit view of children is not some backwoods remnant of the ignorant South; it is the dominant perspective on children throughout the U.S.

As Barbara Kingsolver explains in “Everybody’s Somebody’s Baby” [11]:
For several months I’ve been living in Spain, and while I have struggled with the customs office, jet lag, dinner at midnight and the subjunctive tense, my only genuine culture shock has reverberated from this earthquake of a fact: People here like kids. They don’t just say so, they do. Widows in black, buttoned-down c.e.o.’s, purple-sneakered teen-agers, the butcher, the baker, all have stopped on various sidewalks to have little chats with my daughter. Yesterday, a taxi driver leaned out his window to shout “ Hola, guapa !” My daughter, who must have felt my conditioned flinch, looked up at me wide-eyed and explained patiently, “I like it that people think I’m pretty.”
With a mother’s keen myopia, I would tell you, absolutely, my daughter is beautiful enough to stop traffic. But in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, I have to confess, so is every other person under the height of one meter. Not just those who agree to be seen and not heard. When my daughter gets cranky in a restaurant (and really, what do you expect at midnight?), the waiters flirt and bring her little presents and nearby diners look on with that sweet, wistful gleam of eye that before now I have only seen aimed at the dessert tray. Children are the meringues and eclairs of this culture. Americans, it seems to me now, sometimes regard children as a sort of toxic-waste product: a necessary evil, maybe, but if it’s not their own they don’t want to see it or hear it or, God help us, smell it.
I just don’t get it.

A child is not a small adult, not a blank slate to be filled with our “adult weariness,” [12] or a broken human that must be repaired. It is also true that children are not angels; they are not pure creatures suited to be set free to find the world on their own. Seeing children through deficit or ideal lenses does not serve them—or anyone—well.

Within the U.S. culture there is a schizophrenia around kids—we worship young adulthood in popular media, but seem to hate children—that is multiplied exponentially by a lingering racism and classism that compounds the deficit view of childhood. Nowhere is this more evident than in the research showing how people view children of color [13]:
Asked to identify the age of a young boy that committed a felony, participants in a study routinely overestimated the age of black children far more than they did white kids. Worse: Cops did it, too...
The correlation between dehumanization and use of force becomes more significant when you consider that black boys are routinely estimated to be older than they are...
The less the black kids were seen as human, the less they were granted “the assumption that children are essentially innocent.” And those officers who were more likely to dehumanize black suspects overlapped with those who used more force against them.
In the enduring finger-pointing dominant in the U.S.—blaming the poor for their poverty, blaming racial minorities for the burdens of racism, blaming women for the weight of sexism—we maintain a gaze that blinds us to ourselves, and allows us to ignore that in that gaze are reflections of the worst among us.

Why do the police sweep poor African American neighborhoods and not college campuses in search of illegal drugs? Why do we place police in the hallways of urban high schools serving mostly poor African American and Latino students, demanding “zero tolerance”? Why are “grit” narratives and “no excuses” policies almost exclusively targeting high-poverty, majority-minority schools (often charter schools with less public oversight)?

When I raise these questions, I can rest assured I will inspire the same sort of nasty response I often encounter when cycling. A few motorists make their anger known when we are riding our bicycles, and I am convinced that while some are genuinely frustrated with our temporarily blocking the road, the real reason they are angry is that we are enjoying ourselves as children do.
And nothing angers a bitter adult as much as the pleasures of a child.

Children are not empty vessels to be filled, blank hard drives upon which we save the data we decide they should have. Nor are children flawed or wild; they do not need us to repair or break them.

Neither are they to be coddled or worshipped. They are children, and they are all our children [14].

Yes, there are lessons to be taught, lessons to be learned. But those driven by deficit or idealized views are corrupted and corrupting lessons. Each and every child—as all adults—deserves to have her/his basic dignity respected, first, and as adults charged with the care of any child, our initial question before we do anything with or to a child must be about ourselves.

In 31 years of teaching, I can still see and name the handful of students I mis-served in my career, like Billy above. Those faces and names today serve as my starting point: with any child, first do no harm.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What happens when you 'Track' students by ability VS mixing them?

For some reason, American Educators have failed to either pay attention, study, or investigate this fundamental question about the nature of education that almost any student can quickly answer with common sense.
What happens when you divide students into groups based upon ability and have them compete? 
Here is a report about what the US Air Force found:

When American Public Schools started teaching in small, one-room school houses in rural towns, they would mix not only ability, but age groups from K-12 in the same class. The older kids would help the younger kids learn, and smart kids would help teach. In this way they learned to cooperate, to see the value in each other, and respect their peers. The older and smarter kids benefited by mastering and retaining the knowledge they learned, and gained status in their communities. The less talented children were supported and learned far more than they would have alone. The entire town benefited from the social cohesion, and teamwork.

Tracking students into competitive groups before college is a socially dangerous and unnecessary  practice. Elementary students should never be put under pressure to compete, Middle-School students should only compete in groups or classes, and High-School students should only compete in specifically defined competitive events such as science fairs, sports competitions, or poetry slams. In school, the teachers should be trained to use the fastest students to help tutor and encourage the slower students in each subject, with special attention given to the middle students as both the social glue and the ultimate gage of the mass class success.

When we work together in education, we achieve more. This is a particularly important lesson for teachers, who need to cooperate and coach each other to deal with problem students, and maximize performance. Leaving failing teachers to struggle on their own only hurts the students.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

California Education Master Plan Fails, so the powers that be change it to redefine success.

From the California Report
A lot of us who came up through public schools in particular have a great deal of affection for the Master Plan. It's a pledge to California school kids that -- whatever your economic situation -- the state will offer you some form of higher education, based on your academic qualifications. Is that pledge now up for debate? - See more at:
I grew up in CA, I went to Community Colleges and UC. We must spend ANY AMOUNT necessary to make sure that future students have every opportunity to fulfill their potential. Every student needs the opportunity to succeed, regardless of economic status. Stop paying anyone in CA Higher Education more than 5 times the average household income of the people we serve (currently $300,000/yr).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kahn Academy - College Prep, how to fix public schools (if you can't wait)

Republished without permission from:

Khan Academy launches new college prep initiative

Thu, 16 Jan 2014 12:23:00
There is a big issue in the education system today. Two out of every three students are not prepared for college level math courses and over half of all 4-year college students do not graduate within 6 years. These students often take on a lot of debt and can’t finish their degrees. Worst of all, they then miss out on today’s most exciting careers because they lack the skills.
“2 out every 3 students are not prepared for college level math courses”
Given our mission to provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere, we’ve been hard at work to increase our college prep content. So, when the White House called (wait, did you say the White House?!) to invite Khan Academy to help students in Higher Ed reach their potential, how could we say no? We had already been creating new math and college prep materials, and saw the opportunity to make an even bigger impact.
Today, Sal was honored to discuss our higher education efforts at the White House and Khan Academy launched a new college prep initiative. We plan to expand this resource over the next few months, and especially look forward to providing college study aids to help students prepare for math placement tests and courses.  
“Already, Khan Academy’s free math resources are helping college hopefuls…today, Khan Academy launched a new college prep initiative.”
Already, Khan Academy’s free resources are helping college hopefuls. Our team was particularly inspired by this young man, whose story was captured on the Humans of New York blog.
"I was born in Egypt…The first time I went to an actual school was middle school, but the whole school was in one classroom, and I was working as a delivery boy to help the family. It was illegal for me to be working that young, but I did. When I finally got into high school, my house burned down. We moved into a Red Cross Shelter, and the only way we could live there is if we all worked as volunteers. I got through high school by watching every single video on Khan Academy, and teaching myself everything that I had missed during the last nine years. Eventually I got into Queens College. I went there for two years and I just now transferred to Columbia on a scholarship."

We would find our efforts well worth it just to impact one student’s life. But what’s incredibly motivating for our team is that we hear of stories like his every single day.
We are humbled to be partnering with the White House on such an important initiative, and are excited about the potential these free resources will unleash.
Get started with our college prep resources today and learn more about our new college admissions resources here.
To check out more information on the White House’s Expanding College Opportunity, click here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

College on the internet - For the price of your time and effort.

The wealth of knowledge once reserved for the Ivy League Elite is now being released for free on the internet, power to the people! In the beginning information traveled slow, knowledge was confined to a few buildings around the globe that are guarded by high entry fees and standardized test scores. The number of individuals who could gain access to information was kept to a short acceptance list while many were given an Access Denied.

But then like a swift kick in the face, the internet came along and changed everything! From media to commerce, the education system is no exception to the tornado that is the world wide web. Where once higher education was reserved for those who could pay the toll, the internet, in all its divinity has endowed us with a free higher education experience for all those who have a connection to the great and powerful Wi-Fi. Here are just a few amazing online institutes that offer free college courses for the good people of planet earth, enjoy and never stop learning!

Khan Academy 

Khan Academy wants to help you learn almost anything for free! Their mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. All of their resources are completely free forever, regardless of whether you’re a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology.


EdX is a non-profit created by founding partners Harvard and MIT. Bringing the best of higher education to students around the world, EdX offers MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) and interactive online classes in subjects including law, history, science, engineering, business, social sciences, computer science, public health, and artificial intelligence (AI). 

Coursera is an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. Their technology enables their partners to teach millions of students around the world rather than just hundreds. “We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education that has so far been available to a select few. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”

MIT OpenCourseWare “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” -Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity. Now the wealth of knowledge from one of the most prestigious technology schools in the world, is now available at your finger tips, without the massive tuition prices and near perfect SAT scores.


ALISON is a two million-strong, global online learning community, filled with free, high-quality resources to help you develop essential, certified workplace skills. “Our mission at ALISON is simple: to enable you, wherever you are in the world, to learn and get certified new skills – at your own pace – using our free, interactive, multimedia.” There are over 500 free courses for you to choose from at ALISON. Every course is standards-based and certified, which means bragging rights with family and friends, an edge in your first job or new job, and inspiration to be all you can be. originates from Denmark, out of Ventus Publishing, established in 1988. Ever since it was founded, the company has focused on publishing education related books for business professionals and students. In 2005 the company made a strategic leap and became the first book publishing company in the world to focus 100% on free eBooks. Ever since, the company has been aiming to set new standards in the world of modern publishing based on the readers’ needs.

Open Yale Courses 

Open Yale Courses (OYC) provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the Internet. The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences.
It is important to note that for now, the majority of these places like do not offer college credit nor a degree, but it brings up a very interesting question. In the pursuit of knowledge is a degree really the only thing that matters? If you learn a skill or trade is proof by action not enough, or does the piece of paper need to be acquired. There are many people in possession of high degrees because they are good at going to school but are still quite incompetent.
Too much emphasis is put on the degree and not enough on actual skills,talents and knowledge. I don’t know about you, but if i learned how to build a Zero-Point Energy Fuel System from MIT, I’m gonna build that Zero-point Energy Fuel System. It is the experience and knowledge you learn along the way, not the piece of paper at the end of the gift shop that says “you where here” that matters. Let your actions speak louder than a degree.

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