Join Focus on Change in Education and Esolution

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

University of California Administration is Incompetent

LA Times Report: by George Skelton
Professors should teach more and do less research, he has said. Administrators shouldn't be paid so generously — into the $300,000 and $400,000 range, plus big perks.
UC contends it has to compete against Ivy League schools for talent.
Nonsense, the governor implied. "Money doesn't buy everything in this world," he told Regent Richard Blum, a wealthy investor and husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. "If it did, I wouldn't have anybody working for me."
UC "doesn't have to follow the Ivy League" to recruit, Brown argued. "People will get very excited about an institution that has a moral depth that transcends the vagaries of the marketplace.... This is not Wall Street. This is the University of California, and we want to be different."
There is no need for tuition hikes. The UC Administrators are incompetent. Look at how they work with CA K-12 Public Schools, and the results. 

All UC Regents are over paid. Napalitano's base pay is $570,000/year (not including pension, health, housing, and transportation benefits). At Each UC Campus there are 9 Chancellors who get >$450,000/yr.+benefits. Governor Brown earns only $173,000/year.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Who Needs Algebra? Geometry? Trigonometry? Calculus? Differential Equations? Statistics? Linear Algebra? Topology? Number Theory?

Ashjame Pendarvis, a first-year community college student, works on her math homework at the University of District of Columbia.
Ashjame Pendarvis, a first-year community college student, works on her math homework at the University of District of Columbia.
Elissa Nadworny/NPR
Let's start with a little word problem. Sixty percent of the nation's 12.8 million community college students are required to take at least one course in subject X. Eighty percent of that 60 percent never move on past that requirement.
  1. Let Y = the total percentage of community college students prevented from graduating simply by failing that one subject, X. What is Y?
    The answer: Y = 48.
  2. And if you haven't guessed it by now, What is X?
    The answer: Subject X equals the course sequence known as developmental or remedial math, and especially its final course, algebra.
"Here at LaGuardia, and at every community college in the country, it is the single most-failed course, and the gateway" that determines who graduates, says Gail Mellow, the president of LaGuardia Community College in Queens, N.Y.
Mellow is one of a growing number of educators out there who believe it may be time to rethink the algebra requirement.
"More than half of the students who come to LaGuardia are not ready for college-level math," she says. "We're pretty typical that way. Should we take them back through high school just because math is important? Or should we take seriously the fact that these are adults, they're overwhelmingly poor, and we want to give them the type of skills that will be useful in their lives?"
'What Is The Purpose?'
Ashjame Pendarvis, 20, is studying in the lounge at the University of the District of Columbia Community College with her laptop, calculator and papers spread around her. She's taking the most basic level of math at UDC.
She plans on majoring in infant and early childhood education, but she has to get two semesters of remedial math out of the way before she can start on courses relevant to her major, and two more of college-level math before she can graduate — a typical required math sequence.
"I feel like, if math isn't important in your career, then there is no need for it in college," she says. "What's the purpose of wasting your time and your money?"
Anyone who's had to deal with math homework probably has heard, or uttered, a version of that complaint. What's surprising is that educators like Mellow agree with Pendarvis.
They're trying a new way of teaching math that gets rid of most algebra altogether. It's being tested on almost 5,000 students across the country. So far, many more students are succeeding in the courses, which abandon traditional math sequences in favor of new content, new teaching techniques and even a little psychology.
You Can Get It If You Really Want
"Adult learning theory tells us that adults learn better when the intellectual work is applicable to their lives," says Mellow, who is on the steering committee of an initiative called Community College Pathways. The new approach seeks to largely skip over abstract algebraic formulas and go directly to math concepts that students will use and find engaging.
Pathways consists of a yearlong course, Statway (for "Statistics") and a pair of semester-long courses, Quantway (for "Quantitative Reasoning").
In their traditional forms, both subjects typically come after remedial algebra in the college math sequence, and are offered for college credit — but these topics have far more immediate applications than algebraic equations do.
"Algebra is useful if you're going to be compounding chemical substances for a manufacturing firm or if you're an engineer," Mellow explains. "But understanding statistics, probability, levels of risk — whether for retirement planning or the risk of your kid getting a concussion in football — those are real-life issues people will face."
Similarly, the Quantway course is organized around concepts important for immediately useful topics: personal finance, health and civics.
This may sound like the old debate over replacing "pure math" with "applied math" or "business math." But Karon Klipple, who directs the Pathways project, says what's even more important to this new approach is changing how teachers teach, and how students think about math — and even how they feel about it.
Pathways tells instructors to emphasize "productive persistence" — using good study strategies, and trying hard. They talk explicitly with students about calming math anxiety. They try things like putting students into study groups whose members are responsible for following up if one of them skips class.
And, amazingly, they've found that simply by teaching students that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use (known as "growth mindset"), the students go on to try harder and perform better.
The Carnegie Foundation started offering Pathways in fall 2011. Currently 49 institutions use the courses, including the California State University system and community colleges in 14 states. The foundation is tracking their success closely, and the institutions are collaborating to see how they can make the courses better. (The Gates Foundation, which also supports NPR, is a supporter of this collaboration.)
So far, about half of the Quantway and Statway students at LaGuardia and elsewhere finish developmental math and earn their college-level math credit within a single year. In the traditional sequence, just 15 percent do the same — and that's in two years.
"We've tripled our success rate in half the time," says Mellow.
Is This Cheating?
But is skipping algebra cheating somehow? After all, the traditional college math sequence has been in place since at least the 19th century. Karen Klipple, who directs the Pathways Project, says they can prove they're not dumbing down Statway and Quantway.
First of all, the material covered in the courses, which do include some algebraic topics, was vetted independently by the Mathematical Association of America, the American Statistical Association and other groups. Second, a report released in July showed that Pathways students, when given the same final exam as other college-level math and statistics students, scored as well or better.
A related question is whether creating alternate pathways means tracking students away from math-heavy, lucrative STEM careers.
"That's what a lot of people say," says Mellow. "I think that the way we do it now allows students to fail multiple times."
She points out that some students who succeed in Pathways gain confidence, and even a love of math, as opposed to the majority of remedial students, who retake courses again and again or drift away from college altogether.
"[Pathways] doesn't feel like closing off anything to me. I want students to have more choices and appropriate challenges."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Teens need to sleep in, High-School start times too early.

Lofgren Wants Congress to Consider Later School Start Times for Teens

Download audio (MP3) 

Research on the importance of sleep for high school students is prompting one California congresswoman to take act action. Zoe Lofgren is introducing legislation in Congress that would require the U.S. Department of Education to research the relationship between school start times and academic performance. Lofgren's action comes on the heels of an American Academy of Pediatrics study which found teenagers' school days should start around 8:30 am to improve learning. Reporter: Ana Tintocalis
- See more at:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Partisan Politics and Public Education

Partisan Politics and Public Education 35 MIN, 19 SEC

More than 1,000 kids from a dozen high schools joined teachers and parents last week on the streets of Jefferson County, a large and politically important suburban area outside Denver. As a result, the County’s elected school board may be re-thinking plans for Advance Placement in American history.
Eric Gorski, Denver Post (@egorski)
Jim Earley, resident of Westminster, Colorado (@SupportJeffKids)
Jane Robbins, American Principles Project (@approject)
Fritz Fischer, University of Northern Colorado (@UNCo_edu)
Stephanie Simon, Politico (@StephanieSimon_)

Listen to "TO THE POINT"

Read the book: The Memory Hole 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Michael Towns - Fishman Prize

Getting Ahead with Physics

In 2012, over a quarter of the Latino students that passed a California AP physics exam came from one classroom. We hear from the class' 
Mr. Michael Towns - winner of the Fishman Prize for outstanding education in low income schools. Citrus Hill High School has created an education machine in Physics and Engineering. Advanced Placement (AP) Courses are not always available to the low income schools.  "There's more than one way to define genius." - Michael Towns on Tenacity.

Monday, June 30, 2014

University of Pheonix Web College Doesn't Work for Students

Review - Center for Investigative Reporting 
The post-World War II GI Bill of 1944 was a hugely successful government program that helped millions of returning veterans get a college education. Under the expanded GI Bill passed in 2008, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have their college tuition paid for, up to $19,000 a year. But instead of giving veterans a launching pad to a civilian career, for-profit schools are making billions in GI Bill money and leaving veterans with worthless degrees and few job prospects, according to an investigation by Aaron Glantz of The Center for Investigative Reporting.
Key findings:
Listen to our segment and read the full story from CIR here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dr. David Suzuki on Education for a Changing Biosphere

Changing the future of Higher Education during the coming global crisis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BBC Education Revolution Documentary (listen online)

Learning with Videos and Video Games

The Education Revolution Episode 1 of 2

Sarah Montague asks what the classroom of the future will look like.

In the first programme, she travels to Silicon Valley, home of the Khan Academy.

The Khan Academy is an online teaching service whose mission is to provide a free world-class education to anyone, anywhere. In Bill Gates' view, it's "a radical rethinking of what it means to go to school". With 10 million users every month logging onto their online videos, Salman Khan - the Academy's founder - is arguably the most important teacher in the world.

Sarah visits schools that are using technology in revolutionary new ways. And she talks to Nolan Bushnell, the "father of modern video gaming". His latest venture is a company called BrainRush. Bushnell believes children can learn almost anything through video games.

We meet Rupert Murdoch's head of education, Joel Klein. His company has developed a tablet that they're rolling out to schools across America.

We ask is this the future of education? Have traditional teaching methods outlived their usefulness? And how do children learn best?

Pay for performance at Rocket Ship Academy in San Jose, CA.
25 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 22 April 2014

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.