A plan for the Dayton Public Schools

Saying that Dayton Public Schools are second worst in the state is similar to saying that all Muslims are terrorists. It’s great for headlines, it’s great for political speeches, and putting the district “under review” isn’t going to help. What will help is real change.

The first thing to realize is that Stivers doesn’t need help. It’s a Dayton Public School that’s working. Is it a model for the rest of the district- yes and no. Is there a single silver bullet like “mo money” or “better teachers” that will solve the problems- no. There is no Walmart of educational solutions where you can shop and buy 100 new reading specialists to improve your third grade reading scores- they just aren’t available.

And, a warning – this post is sure to piss off a lot of union teachers. Not because I don’t think you work hard, or aren’t paid enough, but that I think it’s time your profession owns up to the reality that your work schedule was designed around an agricultural economy that is so far back in the history books that if it had a copyright it would have been in the public domain before the Internet and project Gutenberg came along.

To briefly summarize why our schools aren’t competitive, we have to look at what began the great slide to the bottom. “Busing for integration” might have worked if it had a fixed ecosystem and the students didn’t have the option of opting out either by moving or going to private schools (now compounded by the option of just as mediocre publicly funded charter schools). Racial segregation was replaced by economic segregation- and in every study known to man, there is a direct, incontrovertible relationship between poverty and poor school performance. We’re not going to get more wealthy smart kids moving back into the district anytime soon- even if we stop letting outsiders buy their way into Stivers (which is a dirty little secret).

So the question becomes how to change the system to work better for poor kids than for better well off kids? How do you nurture children better on a part time basis? First step, you move to a full time basis. This is the heretical statement that is the key to making a real change. It’s the realization that you can’t half ass anything and expect different results.

Here are the three changes that must be made, and there isn’t anyone with the balls to say or do it, but anything less, will not change outcomes:

–End the 180-day school year.

For comparison: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/educatio/barr2f.htm

Japan 243 New Zealand 190
West Germany 266-240 Nigeria 190
South Korea 220 British Columbia 185
Israel 216 France 185
Luxembourg 216 Ontario 185
Soviet Union 211 Ireland 184
Netherlands 200 New Brunswick 182
Scotland 200 Quebec 180
Thailand 200 Spain 180
Hong Kong 195 Sweden 180
England/Wales 192 United States 180
Hungary 192 French Belgium 175
Switzerland 191 Flemish Belgium 160
Finland 190

What have all these other countries done? Made school more like what a real job is like. Prepared kids for a world where you don’t get three months off in the summer. Note, most of these countries also afford their people more than the two weeks of paid vacation which is becoming a pipedream to many Americans.

More days in school isn’t the only part of the equation, it’s about what they do in school, how they approach the educational process. Common-core skills are more like real-life skills- being able to synthesize answers and solutions- through collaboration, research and analysis. These real-life skills often are best learned in what we’ve called extra-curricular or arts and sports programs. Unfortunately with transportation schedules currently ruling and limiting our time with students outside of the normal school day- many of these enrichment programs were cut. And let’s face it- teachers are the only ones who have a 6-hour designated work day with a 180-day year qualifying as a “full time job.”

It’s time to reexamine why our school day doesn’t equal the parents’ work day- not just for adding extra-curriculars- but for the fact that child care for impoverished homes isn’t a luxury- it’s a necessity. Along with the longer year- comes the longer day. It’s time for a 9-5 minimum school day.

The schedule is also critical- year-round schools show much less drop off, the dreaded summer slide goes away. Why a district in “academic emergency” isn’t on a full-year schedule as the first step is beyond comprehension. So, a longer school year (on a year-round schedule), with longer school days and and the reintroduction of the arts- sports, the extracurricular activities that made school worth going to, are key to making positive change happen.

All this costs money of course, but so do drop-outs who will be a burden to society for the rest of their lives by being unable to compete, to earn, to stay out of trouble. The costs of unprepared graduates also costs in the form of remedial courses at the college level, where costs are the responsibility of the student and their families- or, through more money in government grants and assistance.

We already know the effects of poverty on education, we pay for it by supplying meals to all Dayton Public School students “free of charge” (paid for by the taxpayers) because these are often the only meals these kids get. By extending the school day, and the school year- we may see better chances for poor parents to shift child care expenses to being able to cut food insecurity out even more.

We also have to look at how we’re educating kids. More and more, it’s become a matter of teaching to the tests requiring huge expenditures on new course materials driven by a mega business in educational materials that lobbies for “standards” that are ever changing. It’s time to get off this merry-go-round and realize that the world has changed, and that anything you want to learn about is available for free, on the internet. The text book is dead, and the fancy solutions that they are offering as rentals is another educational fad- driven by dollars that are there to be sucked out of government by the industiral-educational machine.

It’s absolutely critical that we learn to teach using the age-old Socratic method.

Socratic method (also known as method of elenchus, elenctic method, or Socratic debate), named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates, is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.

This is what the “common core” is- a branded and packaged version of education.

Give the kids access to a digital reader- and there are tens of thousands of free books available via Project Gutenberg and others, that are perfectly capable of being used as reading texts. Books were written before 1923 that were worth reading. We read The Scarlet Letter in High School and it’s just as appropriate today as it was then- but we had to buy our copy. That’s no longer necessary if you have the technology in place.

Part of the common-core skill set should include researching and writing your own textbooks. The skills of adding to Wikipedia, building websites and online communities is critical for future knowledge workers- but we’ve not incorporated these skills into the curriculum- because we’re too busy working on jumping though hoops- instead of creating our own challenges. In the extended school day, school year- part of it should include writing your own books, creating your own math tests, devising your own chemistry experiments, writing your own music- because these are the real world skills you were supposed to gain under ANY educational framework- and have been sorely missed by all industrialized educational systems.

There is one other realization that must be made- and that is that all of our kids aren’t in homes that are fit for living in. Either because of extreme poverty, violence, addiction, special needs, Dayton has a population that is under incredible duress, where school is the only sane place in their young lives. It’s time to have a residential/boarding school as one of the options in the educational process. Either for short-term, or long-term students, to remove them from toxic influences. I’d recommend converting the former Marine Reserve Station on Gettysburg into a campus for kids who need more love and protection than most. An attempt was made to open one in Cincinnati- and failed. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or impossible. It just means we’d be innovators like the Wright Brothers- because everyone knew they were crazy and man couldn’t fly.

Because we’re still stuck with a charter school system that requires Dayton Public to breast feed- one of the things that makes all these things difficult is that kids aren’t connected to neighborhoods anymore. One option that should be investigated is to bus kids back to the closest neighborhood school for the extended after-school programming- the arts, sports, coding and homework time after the “conventional” school day is done. This also allows parents and community to get involved in their children’s programming for tutoring and coaching. something the random distributed system we have now isn’t allowing for. Research has proven that parental involvement is a critical step in improving schools- but with current distribution of kids randomly throughout the district- it’s hard to form hard community and neighborhood bonds. Ideally, we’d move away from spending so much on diesel fuel attempting to “balance” an unequal system- but, for now, we’re sort of stuck with the system we have. Emerson Academy in South Park, a charter school, has a high percentage of neighborhood kids- and still doesn’t have the community as involved in the programs as possible. I’m hoping to bridge that gap in the coming months by beginning a literacy and reading program at the school on Saturdays for all ages.

There are no easy silver bullets to turning around school districts- no number of consultants, no new dollars, no supply of super teachers exist using our current structures. Throw those constraints out and try a different systemic solution and see what happens. Because from where I’m observing- there is only one way for the district to go from second from the bottom- and that is up.

Kasich appoints A.J. Wagner to State School Board

Just in:

A.J. Wagner of Dayton (Montgomery Co.) has been appointed to represent District 3 on the State Board of Education. He will assume the seat on August 4, 2014, and must run in November 2014 to retain the seat for the unexpired term ending December 31, 2017. Wagner is replacing Jeffery J. Mims, Jr., who resigned.

The State School Board is woefully short on people who have common sense and really care about our kids. A.J. will be a good addition.

As far as I know, there were no other candidates running in the November election.

Only 1 write-in candidate in Montgomery County- for Dayton School Board

The deadline to file for write-in candidate status was Aug. 16, 2013 – Monday. Bet you didn’t know that. No one talks about write-in candidates much, because it’s believed to be an impossible task. That wasn’t the case in Detroit recently, where Mike Duggan came in first in the run-off primary. The Board of Elections really doesn’t have much to do with write-in candidates, other than set the deadline and put the write-in option on the electronic ballot.

But in the Dayton School Board “race” where we had 4 candidates for 4 slots, now we have a fifth option. Since this is kind of a guerrilla race with the top four candidates advancing, the only way a write-in stands a chance is if almost all the voters choose to NOT vote for the same candidate on the ballot.

That all said Walter J. Hickman Jr., who took out petitions but didn’t turn them in, is now the proverbial fifth wheel running for Dayton Public School Board of Education. He will face incumbents Joe Lacey, Ron Lee, and newcomers Adil T. Baguirov, and Hazel G. Rountree as you learned in this post: No reason to vote in Dayton Public School race

Hickman’s only chance comes if there are a lot of people like me who don’t bother to vote for unopposed candidates, and his supporters only vote for him, but that is a long shot.

Of course, if the Supreme Court would act on the William Pace candidacy, there may be one more write-in candidate, but at this point, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

UPDATE

I’ve been informed by the Montgomery County Board of Elections that while a write in space will appear, only names of registered candidates, “Walter Hickman” will be counted. Even if someone had more votes, they would be reported, but would not be elected. The major question is how much leeway will they allow- is “Walt Hickman” good enough, or will it have to be “Walter J. Hickman Jr.” to be counted?

Why a digital Dayton matters

I was hanging a basketball net yesterday behind a pretty rough looking apartment house. As I pulled up, in my Volvo wagon, to ask if they’d like a new net, I was thinking it’s good that I have a magnet on the side of the car saying “Esrati puts nets on rims” – because I definitely got the feeling that I was intruding, going someplace where I wasn’t welcome. After I hung the net- did my stencil on the ground, put a sticker on the pole and gave away a t-shirt for one of the kids who hit three threes, I was confronted with “but if I vote for you what are you going to do for me?” I tried to point out that I have my answers on my campaign piece- but he didn’t want to read it- he wanted to hear it.

And so I launched into my digital Dayton plan. I told him that there isn’t a job a kid can graduate high school and get without a computer and computer skills, and that currently Dayton Public Schools only had one computer for every four students. I told him that we’re already behind the curve on 1 to 1 computers- that 5 years ago other districts, cities and even states had figured it out.  I said that even giving every student an iPad- that would cost about the same or less than what was squandered in the speculative real estate deal for a new Kroger at Wayne and Wyoming, was a start- but without internet access, it wouldn’t mean anything.

I went on to say Dayton was all excited when it was in the running for Google Fiber- where an entire city would get gigabit speed, 20x faster than what passes for broadband in the region- and maybe 30x what is available in the city where fiber isn’t currently available at all to residential users. But when Google went to Kansas City and then to Provo UT and Austin TX- we sort of forgot about it here- where we actually run a fiber network to control our traffic lights, but nothing else. I said we could put fiber into every neighborhood to build a beachhead where kids could go after school to get online- and then start working to city wide wi-fi. This is also nothing new- the entire country of Estonia has been covered in wifi for over a decade.

These are projects that empower our citizens and give them the ability to grow. They save us from having to pay for data plans on our cell phones- or worry about caps- it provides the ability to connect people with jobs- with services- with each other using tools like NextDoor to organize their community and to coordinate resources.

And even though he knew that I was talking about giving our kids a chance, he didn’t believe me, because we’ve grown to not trust politicians and their promises. We’ve been lied to, too many times. And considering the horrible job we do at informing voters of upcoming elections and candidates and issues, why should he have any clue who I am, despite having run for this office many times over the last 20 years.

The reality is, information is power- and by wiring our community and making it possible for as many as possible to connect, would change the political game and disrupt the party that the party has been having with its friends and family running the show.

I was talking to him about the most critical issue of segregation we need to overcome in America today- the “digital divide” and it isn’t something to pay lip service to, it’s the key to the future.

From the New York Times about a week ago:

Administration officials and policy experts say they are increasingly concerned that a significant portion of the population, around 60 million people, is shut off from jobs, government services, health care and education, and that the social and economic effects of that gap are looming larger. Persistent digital inequality — caused by the inability to afford Internet service, lack of interest or a lack of computer literacy — is also deepening racial and economic disparities in the United States, experts say.

“As more tasks move online, it hollows out the offline options,” said John B. Horrigan, a senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “A lot of employers don’t accept offline job applications. It means if you don’t have the Internet, you could be really isolated.”

Seventy-six percent of white American households use the Internet, compared with 57 percent of African-American households, according to the “Exploring the Digital Nation,” a Commerce Department report released this summer and based on 2011 data.

The figures also show that Internet use over all is much higher among those with at least some college experience and household income of more than $50,000.

via Most of U.S. Is Wired, but Millions Aren’t Plugged In – NYTimes.com.

Those numbers, those people being left out- that’s most of Dayton. It’s all the people who don’t read Esrati.com and vote. It’s the unemployed, the under-employed, the uneducated and the uninformed. I don’t believe government does a good job of creating jobs, but I do believe we can help create an infrastructure that encourages our “social capital” to have maximum access to jobs and to information.

And while my nets on rims campaign is innovative and interesting and newsworthy, you haven’t seen it on the local news, and you probably won’t. Why? Because I won’t be buying TV ads like other candidates, because when I win – I prove that you don’t need to spend $360K to get on the ballot- and win. Local TV is living off political campaign money, and when we all switch to the Internet and YouTube, Netflix and streaming- they become dinosaurs.

No matter how much the incumbents brag about bricks and mortar projects as proof that they deserve re-election, they aren’t answering the question “what are you going to do for ME?”

A digital Dayton is something that empowers all Daytonians, especially our students. It gives them, and their parents and grandparents access to what my readers on esrati.com take for granted. That’s powerful stuff.

If you think this matters, I ask you to do one of three things:

Without those three things, a digital Dayton won’t happen anymore than the Kroger at the corner of Wayne and Wyoming.

No reason to vote in Dayton Public School race

Unofficially, Kim A. Johnson did not turn in enough signatures to qualify for the November 5 ballot- leaving 4 candidates for 4 seats.

Hazel Rountree, who has the backing of Ms. Thompson turned in early, and signatures were certified on Aug 5th.

  • Adil T. Baguirov 630 Maryland Ave., Dayton 45404
  • Kim A. Johnson 4536 Kings Hwy., Dayton 45406
  • Joseph E. Lacey 207 E. 6th St. Apt. 305, Dayton 45402 Blog, last updated in 2009 http://joelaceyblog.blogspot.com/
  • Hazel G. Rountree 2530 Archwood St., Dayton 45406
  • Ronald C. Lee 247 E. 2nd St., Dayton 45402

via Uncertified candidates for Dayton School board- 2 open seats.

This means 2 new faces on the School board. It means no need to campaign, print campaign materials, put up a site, explain your positions.

It means, democracy isn’t really an option for School board. The big question is- will they allow write-ins? That could make it interesting.

Uncertified candidates for Dayton School board- 2 open seats

The Montgomery County Board of Elections hasn’t certified the signatures on the petitions yet,  however, as reported earlier on this site, incumbent Stacy Thompson will not be seeking reelection, nor will the most senior member of the School Board, Yvonne Isaacs, leaving 2 empty seats. Incumbents Joe Lacey and Ron Lee will be running, meaning at most there could be 3 new faces.
Hazel Rountree, who has the backing of Ms. Thompson turned in early, and signatures were certified on Aug 5th.
  • Adil T. Baguirov 630 Maryland Ave., Dayton 45404
  • Kim A. Johnson 4536 Kings Hwy., Dayton 45406
  • Joseph E. Lacey 207 E. 6th St. Apt. 305, Dayton 45402 Blog, last updated in 2009 http://joelaceyblog.blogspot.com/
  • Hazel G. Rountree 2530 Archwood St., Dayton 45406
  • Ronald C. Lee 247 E. 2nd St., Dayton 45402

If any of the candidates would like to provide links to their sites, or have an interview with me, please contact me. Of course, I’ll be seeing them all on the campaign trail and will be posting video of the events online for all.

 

Dayton’s most popular elected official not running again

Stacy M. Thompson, who was appointed to the Dayton Board of Education in 2006 and got more votes than anyone else in the 2009 election, has decided not to run for another term. This leaves at least one vacant seat to fill in November, with petitions due in August with 350 valid signatures (sorry, I don’t know the turn-in deadline– and can’t find it online- Aug 7 by 4 pm).

Other seats up for re-election this cycle are Ron Lee, Yvonne Isaccs and current school board president Joe Lacey. There are several people who have taken out petitions (see list below), but as we all know, this means nothing until the signatures are verified by the Board of Elections. Last time, they had to pull a rabbit out of a hat to find an extra 4 signatures for Nancy Nearny, who didn’t appear to have enough on initial turn-in.

Stacy has been one of the few people who has been wiling to stand up and speak out without fear of censure. She was vehemently against the 30-year tax break for General Electric and was outvoted by the staunch Democratic block of Sheila Taylor, Joe Lacey, Ron Lee and Nancy Nearny.

It’s unclear is Yvonne Issacs, the sole remaining “Kids First” board member, will run again as well.

Stacy was very clear to me, the decision was hard, because she didn’t want to let our kids down, but, with the level of insider politics on the board and lord Joe at the helm, she felt her energy could be better put to use elsewhere. She’s also in charge of her father’s care, and wants to make sure she gets to spend more time with him.

Stacy’s voice will be missed on the campaign trail as well as on the school board.

She’s the only elected official ever to endorse me publicly. For that, I’ll always be one of her number one fans.

Best of luck Stacy. Thanks for your service to our community.

The board of elections has the following list of candidates who’ve taken out petitions, but so far, only Hazel Rountree has filed:

Adil T. Baguirov, 630 Maryland Ave., Dayton 45404 6/27/2013 8/7/2013
Walter James Hickman Jr., 2804 Princeton Dr., Dayton 45406 5/15/2013 8/7/2013
Yvonne V. Isaacs, 4812 Northgate Ct., Dayton 45416 5/28/2013 8/7/2013
Kim A. Johnson, 4536 Kings Hwy., Dayton 45406 5/2/2013 8/7/2013
Chad W. Kingsolver, 2861 Revere Ave., Dayton 45420 2/23/2012 8/7/2013
Joseph E. Lacey, 207 E. 6th St., Apt. 305, Dayton 45402 8/7/2013
Marcus J. Rech, 425 Dayton Towers Dr., 12 E, Dayton 45410 5/22/2013 8/7/2013
Darshawn Phillip Romine, 126 W. Fifth St., Apt. 610, Dayton 45402 5/17/2013 8/7/2013
Hazel G. Rountree, 2530 Archwood St., Dayton 45406 5/1/2013 7/22/2013 8/7/2013
Stacy M. Thompson, 105 S. Williams St., Dayton 45402 5/6/2012 8/7/2013

Pay for performance in public ed is here- for education mercenaries

Much is being debated about the metrics for “pay for performance” in public education. How much of the weight should be given to classroom evaluation and skills vs. performance of students.

But there is a new brand of education professional these days- the “education mercenary” – who promises to do a turnaround and may or may not stick around as the next carrot gets dangled.

David White falls into that category. After success at a charter, he was brought in to “settle down” Belmont High school 4 years ago. He was allowed to hand pick his lieutenants, and brought discipline issues to a halt in a building that some had called a “jungle.” Other Dayton Public Schools principals weren’t too pleased knowing that he was getting a $15K premium just to walk in the door. He moved to Ponitz Career School, last year, ostensibly as a reward for his performance at Belmont, but one year later, he’s heading to Trotwood, where supposedly he was offered a better compensation package.

There are also mercenary superintendents available as hired guns for hire. Dr. Kurt Stanic came to Dayton as a mercenary, and while he was generally merciful in his compensation requirements (which were all gravy since he was already drawing his pension) he had total control of the School Board because he was there on his terms- and he never let them forget it. (This is how his buddy Bill Burgess got the no-bid marketing contract without a peep from the board.)

With the new common core standards scaring the hell out of administrators and school boards, the value of these hired guns with promises of progress but zero commitment to stay, are going up. Falling performance indicators will make it increasingly harder to pass school levies and justify superintendents’ pay packages. White told me that he believed common core standards will cause a wave of superintendent retirements as old dogs realize that their old tricks are about to be revealed for what they are.

One thing that truly reeks about the mercenary model, is that superb, loyal, high performers like Erin Dooley at Stivers, aren’t paid what they deserve unless they leave what they’ve built or threaten to leave. At some point, superstars need to be granted bonuses based on their steady performance, to stop them from following in the footsteps of Mr. White.

Every one of us knows that all teachers aren’t equal. As a student, I knew who was great and who wasn’t, although it wasn’t always instantly recognizable. There are teachers, principals and even custodians who are exceptional at setting the example for students, it’s time for all of us to realize it. If there is one thing I’ve never understood about unions it’s their willingness to fight for members who their peers know don’t cut it. I understand that eliminating biases of all types from the workplace is admirable, but I’d also like to eliminate mediocrity and the idea that a teacher’s value is somehow related to years on the job. The real superstars, won’t stick around long enough to get longevity pay if we don’t recognize their value.

16 years of education, and not a single memorable worksheet

Tonight, Dayton has the opportunity to hear one of those “experts” come in and tell us the secret to education. This one is a “Sir” as in knighted by the queen, as an “educationalist.”

Sir Kenneth Robinson will be giving a free talk at the UD Rec Plex gym at 7:30 pm. But, you can watch these two videos and get a good idea of what he’ll say.



Sir Ken’s specialty is talking about the teaching of creativity. The arts- the non-mass production of education. To bring passion back into learning and the educational process. And while I agree that creativity is one of the most undervalued skills in education these days- and, possibly in life, the problems of our education system may well be mostly moot compared to research about talking to your child before age 5, as pointed out in an opinion piece in today’s NYT:

the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk — Feel Teddy’s nose! It’s so soft! Cars make noise — look, there’s a yellow one! Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! — is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!)…

All parents gave their children directives like “Put away your toy!” or “Don’t eat that!” But interaction was more likely to stop there for parents on welfare, while as a family’s income and educational levels rose, those interactions were more likely to be just the beginning.

The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.

via The Power of Talking to Your Baby – NYTimes.com.

What kind of change could we make in Dayton Public Schools performance by rewarding neighborhoods that set up neighborhood reading sessions for pre-k kids every day? A community that reads together may create the kind of learning community that can start to overcome the obstacles of poverty that have proven to decrease student performance.

But, thinking back over my own education- there is one indisputable fact: I remember about half a dozen teachers/professors profoundly- Susan Forde, Steven Young, Larry Geiger, David DiCarlo, Dr. Cleary, Dr. Jacobs- but I don’t remember a single worksheet, standardized test, or even textbook.

Great teachers, who stir up emotions, who challenge you to think, to come up with answers that aren’t fill in the blank, or memorization exercises, are the ones who made the difference.

Our new “Common Core” still suggests that one-size fits all, and that people need to know certain things- instead of how to solve uncertain problems.

Life isn’t as easy as fill in the blank. There are always many different solutions to every problem. That’s why I’m interested in hearing Sir Kenneth tonight- to see if he can make me think about things just a little differently. I hope I see you there.

Why our elementary education system is ineffective, inefficient and too damn expensive

Reading Time But...

Reading together. By Michael Comeau

I can read and write at a college level. I could do it in the eleventh grade, because of one teacher, David DiCarlo, at Cleveland Heights High School. He taught Political Science and Comparative Government like a college course. I don’t remember a text book- but I do remember high intensity lectures, every day, with writing assignments almost every night. He made us take a ton of notes, pay attention, and work our butts off. He was also the football coach. After him, college at Wright State was a walk in the park. Teachers that pushed students that hard were rare, but more on that later.

Legislators have come to the conclusion that if kids can’t read by third grade, at “level” they need to be held back. I laugh. I never heard of “chapter books” until a few years ago- I thought all books had chapters from as early as my parents started reading to me. When I was four, my father used to read “Gulliver’s Travels” to me- as I fell asleep. If I didn’t know a word, he explained it to me. If I fell asleep- that was OK too- we’d pick back up the next night. I think he also read “Robinson Crusoe” to me- what’s the pattern of a man alone on an island? Sure, there was Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak, but, for the most part- reading was something that happened in our house everyday- and to this day, my parents are voracious readers and the Dayton Public Libraries best customers.

Kids should be able to read before they get to the first grade. That’s the first fail- and it’s not the fault of the government, or the schools- it’s the fault of parents who think a TV is a good babysitter.

But- unfortunately, our legislators have a better solution- and it’s expensive:

Ohio lawmakers are considering tweaks to the coming third-grade reading guarantee to make sure enough teachers will have the required credentials to work with students who are struggling….

Even with the proposed change, a teacher working with students under the guarantee must have done one of the following:

  • Taken graduate courses and passed a test for a reading endorsement.
  • Completed a master’s degree with a major in reading.
  • Gotten high ratings for her students’ academic growth in reading for the last two years.
  • Earned a credential from a list of approved programs being drawn up by the Ohio Department of Education.

The department also will be taking bids from contractors for a test teachers could take to meet the requirements.

via Criteria to teach reading not set.

Yes, my parents both have masters degrees, but I’m pretty sure I can teach a kid how to read without a masters. In fact, when I was in the 7th grade, we were asked to go work with second graders to help tutor them in math and reading. This emphasis on graduate degrees as a qualification to teach is absurd, especially when the costs of our higher education system have skyrocketed over the last twenty years.

About a year and a half ago, I was in Paris visiting with friends. Her children were in schools that catered to international students- and the 2nd grader had at least an hour of homework every day, the high school junior had between 2 and 4 hours of homework every night. For the last three years, I’ve complained that my kids weren’t bringing home homework- and if they had any at all, it wasn’t challenging at all. My friend in Paris pointed out an article about the education her daughter is enrolled in- “International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme and Pre-U” (yep- the story is in British English):

The IB Diploma is a timeless classic, an icon of educational sense and high standards in a world where educational fashion shifts like hemlines, and much-needed clarity of thinking is elusive. The IB has never been more necessary. First, it believes in knowledge, and enables students to acquire it. It believes in the autonomy of subjects and academic disciplines, but also in their connectivity. It is global in its outlook, truly an education sans frontières. And it is grounded in fundamental values about culture and character. Visionary and inspiring, the IB can liberate and motivate the teacher and student. Practical, instructive and aspirational, it is the best possible preparation for university, for the workplace, and more importantly, for life.

Why do I believe this so strongly? The IB develops students that top universities want: students with expert subject knowledge; with the skills good students require – research, essay writing, footnoting; but above all, with the spirit of intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, the ability to challenge, argue and ask questions. Universities are clearly aware of this: the offer rate and acceptance rate for IB Diploma students is notably above other post-16 qualifications, including A levels, with an 87 per cent acceptance rate for UK-domiciled IB Diploma students last year. And in the US, the IB Diploma is a sought-after passport to top universities from Stanford to Yale.

The IB develops the future leaders the workplace needs – people who know how to collaborate and who know the value of teamwork, people with analytical ability, versatility, international understanding. The IB develops what a global society and a local community can’t survive without – individuals who want to make a difference, who have developed the compassion and sense of public duty to contribute.

How does the IB do this? By a mixture of the compulsory and the optional; the IB offers a combination of testing assignments. In addition to traditional written exams at the end of the two-year programme, students analyse world literature (not just their national literature), focus on world events, create mathematical models to investigate them, and show practical skill in the laboratory. An IB student is required to continue studying in all areas of the curriculum at either Higher or Standard Level. All study at least one language, their native literature, maths, the individual and society and at least one science. Within the six subject groups the choice is wide, from French to Japanese, from biology to computer science, from medieval history to ecosystems and the environment.

The IB is assessed in varied and creative ways, including good old-fashioned terminal exams, proper essays, graphical calculator tasks, and the Group 4 Science project, in which students collaborate on a presentation of a broad scientific topic such as “Environment” or “Colour”, drawing on their knowledge across all four science subjects offered within the IB – physics, chemistry, biology, technology and sports health and exercise science. This year students are investigating “Water” and our students will be collaborating with students from around the world through email, Skype and other real-time communication technology to collect and analyse local water samples, explore local environmental issues and present comparative analyses.

But what makes the IB more than the sum of its parts are the three core elements – the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and CAS (Creativity, Action, Service). The extended essay is a 4,000-word piece of original research, tackling a specific question devised by the student and supported by a supervisor. Recent research includes the impact of invasive species on sub-Saharan food crops, or to what extent our brains can compensate for hearing loss. Other exam systems have imitated this, but the IB’s original model leads to truly outstanding pieces of work – some at Sevenoaks have led to publication or patents!

Theory of Knowledge remains unique to the IB. More than its imitator – so-called “critical thinking” – “ToK” requires students to think across their subjects, to connect them, and to take one step back from their own perspective. It requires students to unpick their own assumptions, to think with clarity about real and challenging questions, such as the extent to which disagreement sparks knowledge, or how economic and social circumstances prime us to think in certain ways about the world.

And then there is CAS – Creativity, Action, Service – which carries no points but gives students a structured opportunity to allow and reflect upon the flourishing of mind, body and spirit.

The impact of the IB on a school is liberating and motivating. It fosters a shared purpose and common ethos; it brings students and institutions around the world in touch; it validates the belief that there is no limit to intellectual endeavour. Our students prove this daily – they are getting into the world’s top universities, are moving onto employment with relative ease – to the delight of their parents. Employers worldwide know that IB students know a lot, and more, can do things.

via ‘The IB develops the students top universities want’ – Schools – Education – The Independent.

This doesn’t sound anything like what we’re doing in our schools does it?

A friend, who is a veteran teacher in Cincinnati commented on Facebook about his experiences compared to this:

I taught for four years at the largest IB school in the U.S. It’s an incredibly rigorous program that does truly prepare students for the future. We had many students who would return to us at the end of their first year or first semester of college and tell us that college was easy, compared to high school.

Always remember that education begins at home. The program was driven by parents who demanded much of their kids and much of their kids’ teachers.

I’ll never forget that the first TWO times I got into trouble with my administrator, it was for the same offense: I wasn’t assigning enough homework, and parents were complaining about it.

Compare that to where I teach now. I don’t really assign homework. Why? Students won’t do it. If they won’t do it, the teacher can’t simply give the student a zero on the assignment and move on. It’s expected that we give a second, third, fifth, and tenth opportunity to complete the work. We’re expected to accept work from students even if the work is WEEKS late. For, you see, failure to accept late work would cause a spike in the number of Ds and Fs for that teacher…which means that the teacher will be called into his/her administrator’s office for a lecture and browbeating…because an increase in the number Ds and Fs will threaten the school’s rating on the Ohio state report card.

Thanks for reading. Now, go find a kid, shut the TV off, and read to them. If we built a coordinated network of neighborhood after school programs, I’m pretty sure that my 84 year old mother, would walk down the street every day and spend an hour reading to kids. A few years ago, she had the Iranian kids who lived on the corner in almost every afternoon to help them with their English. If we build the framework, we can fix the problems- and it won’t take more masters degrees.

And, btw- we need more teachers like David DiCarlo- who weren’t afraid to push students way far outside of their comfort levels and make an A almost impossible to get. Thank you Mr. DiCarlo- again.