Join Focus on Change in Education and Esolution

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) with the mission of providing a world-class education to anyone, anywhere.
"Working from the comfort of his home, Salman Khan has made available more than 1,800 mini-lectures to educate the world. Subjects range from math and physics to finance, biology, and current economics. Kahn Academy amounts to little more than a YouTube channel and one very devoted man. He is trying to provide education in the way he wished he had been taught. With more than 100,000 video views a day, the man is making a difference for many students. In his FAQ he explains how he knows he is being effective. What will probably ensure his popularity (and provide a legacy surpassing that of most highly paid educators) is that everything is licensed under Creative Commons 3.0. He only needs his time, a $200 Camtasia Recorder, an $80 Wacom Bamboo Tablet, and a free copy of SmoothDraw3. While the lecturing may not be quite up to the Feynman level, it's a great augmenter for advanced learners, and a lifeline for those without much access to learning resources."

Watch more videos about Khan Academy.

Dean Kamen's US FIRST foundation

Dean Kamen is an inventor, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for science and technology. His passion and determination to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology are the cornerstones of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. Based in Manchester, NH, the 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.


"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders." - Dean Kamen, Founder


Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

FIRST Values

Gracious ProfessionalismTM

Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST National Advisor and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coined the term "Gracious ProfessionalismTM."

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.

In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.


CoopertitionTM produces innovation. At FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete.

Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.

Next Einstein Initiative

Why is it that America doesn't have a Next Einstein Initiative? - As a boy, I was considered a bit of a math prodigy, they gave me all these logical reasoning tests and put me in special schools. As I finished my formal education, I returned to the concept of "intelligence quotient" and tried to reason out why there were not more people like me, good at math?

I found that the mathematical talents of the brain must be carefully cultivated in youth or else like an unattended garden they will become overgrown with unweeded thoughts, atrophy, and fade. In addition, there is no known gene for Math Genius, there is a spectrum of various math skills, and some savants are born, but in general, the math ability is produced at random among the 8,388,608 possible offspring any two human beings can produce. In short, there is no way to predict who will be the next Einstein.

So, it makes sense to test and cultivate all children, in the hope of discovering unique abilities, and then encouraging them. But in the USA we have failing public schools, and we have horrible math literacy. In our misguided battles over Teacher Union Pensions and Prayer in Schools, we are failing to protect and nurture our garden. That's just brilliant.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SDUSD faces another $147-million in Cuts for 2011

This is all the result of allowing corporations to steal tax revenue to line their pockets.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Only 47% of Black Males Graduate from High School in USA

A new report from the Schott Foundation shows a bleak picture of black males and education. Fewer than half are graduating from high school nationwide. Things are not so troubling among white males or black females, so why is the system failing this segment of society? It's not so terrible in every state, like the Abbott program in New Jersey, which could be an example of how to fix the education system. Then there's Detroit, cited in a recent BET documentary for its "dropout factories."

The foundation's John Jackson and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center discuss what's needed to improve educational attainment among African American children.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Alan Bersin, Villified by SDEA, Vindicated by Student Test Scores

First, understand the problem, the Kids in San Diego were dropping out and failing to meet basic test score requirements. The district couldn't even institute state wide exit exams because more thatn 50% of kids were failing them. Not because our kids are dumb or less capable than the rest of the state or nation, but because we have a large Mexican immigrant community, due to our proximity to the US/Mexico Border.

This community chooses not to learn English, because they can get everything they need using Spanish: TV, Radio, Jobs, Shopping, etc. The only thing they don't have in Spanish is Education. Thus, San Diego, like other major border cities is cursed with low test scores in Reading and Written Communications, and this lack of ability affects student success in other areas and subjects, too. We were effectively creating an under-class of people illiterate in two languages.

Alan Bersin, not an educator, was called in to clean up the mess. He is a person with friends in high places (the Clintons, Kennedys, Governor Arnold), and keeps moving from one government reform job to another. He's a good Sherif not a politician, but he's an authoritarian, he gets the job done even if it doesn't make him popular. When he came to SDUSD he fired thousands of "Teachers Aids", mostly un-certified and under-qualified teachers helpers, who had provide translation services for non-bilingual Teachers in San Diego classrooms with mostly Spanish speaking parents.

Bersin then used the money saved to hire bi-lingual reading teachers, and lower classroom sizes. He instituted his plan for school reform, dubed “Blueprint for Student Success,” which included a one year intensive English Only introduction for non-english speakers, that sacrificed a year of academics to teach the child to learn in English.

“Change must be driven systematically and systemically for more satisfactory results in teacher practice and student gateway skills,” Mr. Bersin wrote in an e-mail. “We need to be open to new ideas and judge them based on results, not on ideology, or whether they threaten entrenched interests.”

The San Diego Education Association (SDEA) Teachers Union and others didn't like being told that they were failures, or the top down, outsider approach that Bersin imposed. They fought, kicking and screaming with all the "Teachers Assistants" and elected a new School Board, that ousted Bersin. It was tragic to watch, and I'm not even involved. The Kids suffered, but they learned.

Now, 10 years after reforms, and 5 years after Bersin left, the San Diego Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has released a report (by authors Julian R. Betts, Andrew C. Zau, and Cory Koedel) that shows Bersin's program succeeded. This report was supported with funding from the Donald Bren Foundation.

Click Here to See Videos
Reading Reform: What Works

Some claim that the reform didn't work at the High School level and above, but this data is a reflection that such language arts reform must take place in the lower grades, because once a student is in High School they are too old to save. The other major critique of the "Blueprint for Student Success" is that it failed to get teacher buy-in.

Some district officials say that a few of the blueprint reforms survive in “bits and pieces” in schools.
“It’s not that one [approach] was better that the other; this is an evolution based on some foundational work that was done,” said Nellie Meyer, San Diego’s deputy superintendent for academics.
“It really has been five years since the Bersin superintendency, and we are still working constantly to build trust,” she said. “We’ve definitely recognized that trust is a component that triggers academic success.”

In other words, the teachers union is more powerful than the Superintendent. As the front line educators, not only do they have the Kids and Parents in the palm of their hand, they have more voters and more money than any school board member. I've seen the power of the Teachers Unions first hand. They have infiltrated the State Democratic Party and control the state assembly. I've no doubt that they are in control, and have been for generations. Which begs the question, "why ain't our kids being educated?" (sic)

Since the Bersin "Blueprint for Student Success" (which I believed in), I've talked to former teachers, principals, and students who say that the plan was hard on them, that it didn't work. They claim that it takes 7-10 years for a person to learn a new language. I don't doubt that to master a new language, like a native, you need a long period of time. I only know English, and I still struggle after 40 years, but I also have no doubt that a pre-pubescent child has a unique chance to learn language quickly, and that by MAINSTREAMING children in all ENGLISH courses they will eventually master English. The ONE-YEAR intensive reading and writing English programs, give immigrants a chance to compete.