Monday, February 23, 2009
Is it any wonder?
A coworker of mine went online yesterday to see if there was any news pertaining to our workplace, the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC; http://www.eirc.org/). It just so happened that I had a fit of insomnia a few hours prior to her search, so I wrote the post 21st Century Curriculum and Instruction in the very early hours of Sunday morning. Since the blog made a casual reference about EIRC, sure enough, it showed up as a recent news article pertainning to the center.
Think of how tiny and insignificant the blog was. At the time it was there for the purpose of informing eight readers. It wasn't even a ripple in the ocean of cyberspace blogs...but still, it was there, custom-tailored to meet the needs of a coworker who didn't even know the blog existed.
There is a whole new generation that gets it: why carry around a bulky paper with articles of hit-or-miss relevance when the specific news that you are looking for is a mouse click away? Now add to that the recent trend of blurring the line between readers and reporters, through wikis and blogs.
Newspapers will have to follow the readers into cyberspace to maintain readership, keep advertisers and...well...survive. You have to wonder if that is even enough. There is a significant shift going on: the reader, not the newspaper industry, determines what is newsworthy.
There's something to be learned here as future school leaders, too. Your youngest teachers get their news differently; so, because they access information differently, they learn differently and, if unhampered, I suppose they will teach differently. Heaven help the fool who hands them boxes of chalk and lesson plan notebooks on day one, expecting business as usual.
Position Paper #1
Fixing and Preventing the Dropout Rate
In today’s society, few employment opportunities exist that will provide an individual with a living wage and benefits, if they fail to obtain a high school diploma, or the basic skills one should attain upon completion of high school. More specifically, high school dropouts are 20 percent less likely to be employed, than their peers who complete their secondary education. Moreover, those who fail to graduate high school will earn nine thousand, and two hundred and forty-five dollars less per year than their counterparts who have secured a high school diploma.
Nearly, 80 percent of people in prison have failed to obtain a high school diploma. Such a dilemma represents the ill that school dropout rates inflict upon society, as taxpayers are forced to withdraw billions of dollars for welfare services, and high crime rates (National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.)
In the article, Dropouts Give Reasons, Barbara Pytil discussed the results yielded through an interview of five-hundred high school dropouts, ages 16-25 to ascertain the reasons for forgoing a basic secondary education. Almost half of the students claimed that classes were not interesting, while also emphasizing that they were poorly equipped with the necessary skills upon entering high school. Additionally, 43 percent stated that they missed too many days of school; subsequently they lost faith in their ability to catch up on missed work. Close to 70 percent pointed out that they lacked the motivation to put forth the necessary effort to complete a secondary education. Slightly less than 40 percent of the people interviewed listed having a failing grade in classes or getting a job as an explanation for choosing to leave school. Falling into the category of caring for someone, 25 percent claimed to have left high school, as a result of the responsibilities of having a child, while 22 percent left school to care for a relative.
In the article, Thousands of Troubled Students Drop Out Before High School, Mick Dumke stated that 6 percent of U.S. residents eighteen or older have not earned more than an eighth-grade education. Furthermore, the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition claims that 12.5 percent of people in the United States never graduate from high school. The grim reality is that one high school student will terminate their secondary education every nine-seconds. Based on the data mentioned above, high school represents a point in a child’s life where internal and external forces are most likely to influence the discontinuation of a basic education.
The National Center for Secondary Education and Transition cited an article by Christenson, Sinclair, Lehr, & Hurley, (2000), which discusses broad areas that educators should consider in promoting school completion. First, educators must focus on a child’s strengths, instead of deficiencies. Additionally, we must encourage and facilitate the engagement of a variety of individuals in the child’s life to enhance overall support for positive learning outcomes. We must implement programs throughout a child’s life that encourage success in school, instead of attempting to prevent a negative outcome, such as dropping out of school. Educational programs need to adjust to each student at the individual level. Ultimately, interventions must aim to promote a positive outcome for a student, which contrasts with the practice of simply attempting to prevent negative outcomes.
Marcus Moore, Staff Writer for the Gazette.net, discussed data presented by the Maryland State Department of Education in the article, Hispanics most likely to drop out of school. He makes demographic comparisons between various ethnic and cultural groups who attended county high schools in Maryland in 2007. Marcus Moore stated that 5.3 percent of Hispanic-American students and 3.9 percent of African-American students dropped out of high school. Moreover, 4 percent of Limited-English language speakers failed to finish high school. In contrast, 1.4 percent of whites, and 1.1 percent of Asian-American children withdrew from high school. Cultural factors could explain the comparatively disproportionate dropout rates for Hispanic-American and African-American students, when compared to white students and Asian-American students. Additionally, limited English-Speaking skills might initiate some Hispanic students to withdrawal from secondary school.
One can argue a theoretical benefit to having some degree of attrition related to youth attaining a high school diploma. The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, states that students who display behavioral problems are at an elevated risk for failing to obtain a high school diploma. One might discern that the learning environment for the majority of students is enhanced through the elimination of behaviorally disruptive students, which is facilitated when children with behavioral problems choose to withdrawal from school. Additionally, Social Darwinism states that our human habitat contains limited resources, and those who quit school could be considered inescapably ill suited to compete in our society. Hence, if we accept the concept of “survival of the fittest” as determining the fate of all organisms, it would be hypocritical to assume that society should change the current educational paradigm to ensure the success of every child. Finally, from a fiscal standpoint, creating an inclusive educational environment requires more immediate monetary expenditure, which some might argue is unrealistic in times of economic instability.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
That was not the amazing part; after all, EIRC hosts 4 teleconferenced surgeries per year.
robotic surgery. The doctor worked at a machine called DaVinci. The machine is in the operating room to prevent latency, which is the time delay caused by translating analog information into digits on one end of a transmission and reversing the process on the other end. The shorter the distance, the shorter the delay, which is critical for surgeons who are viewing the robotic responses to their movements.
This too was not the amazing part. The amazing part is where robotic surgery is heading.
Once latency is overcome, surgery can be performed long distance. Say you need a kidney transplant and the best surgeon is in Australia. No problem...the surgery can be performed as he/she works from a home office in Melbourne.
I guess it is time to stop arguing about whether or not we should allow cell phones and iPods to be brought to school and start looking at the skills needed for students to succeed in the 21st century workforce. Let's face it: the surgeons who will perform our transplants are sitting in our classrooms right now!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
USA Today had a story this morning that said "the federal economic-stimulus package...will double the country's education budget over the next two years."
Also today, I had the opportunity to see what kind of federal funding is coming to several southern NJ districts. Not bad at all...very few get $0. Most will get tens of thousands of dollars; some will get more.
What does all this mean?
Your district will most likely get flat funding from the state. While that implies that you get what you got last year, you really don't...well over 50% of your school budget goes to salaries and raises will eat up what was used for other things this year. With the federal funding increasing so dramatically, it won't solve 100% of the problem, but for most districts they will be in far better shape than how things looked just days ago.
The last piece of the puzzle is local funding, from your district's proposed budget. This goes to the voters on April 21. In this economy, no one is expecting miracles; but don't be misled into thinking that a budget that is voted down automatically means no increase. When the budget is voted down, it goes to the town government officials who determine how much of the requested budget gets trimmed.
Bottom line: things won't be great, but they could have been far, far worse.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Of all of the theories on learning and current educational practices, few have provided a clearer picture of the effects of poverty on education than Dr. Ruby Payne. Dr. Payne’s Framework of Poverty is a very clear and moving survey of the effects that poverty has on everyday people and their children. In the framework, Payne defines poverty as “the extent to which an individual goes without resources”, and those resources need not be financial only.
Backed by a wealth of research concerning poverty and its effects, as well as some very moving case studies, Payne’s theory researched the differing views and values inherent in impoverished culture. These differences include differences in the way individuals communicate, what they value and how they view the world around them. For example, what matters to those in poverty varies from what those in the middle class or wealth desire. People in poverty are most involved with their relationships with people. This differs from the middle class, which aim to collect things, and the wealthy, which collect rare and one-of-a-kind objects. In terms of money management, those in poverty are most concerned with using or spending money while they have it. The middle class seeks to manage and conserve their funds while the wealthy invest their money in the future. Lastly, in terms of the scope of one’s world, those in poverty are largely concern with local, community issues. Those in the middle class are concerned with the nation and those in wealth are concerned with international issues.
Payne’s research gives those in education a better view of the sociological factors involved with children growing up in poverty. Perhaps the most interesting is the use of register, or the nature of a person’s communication. Those in poverty make use of casual register, similar to a street language. Formal register is the language between students, coworkers and generally used when speaking to authority. Generally, casual register is what school employees teach and test in. Students in poverty may not have any access to formal register other than school and may never learn the “hidden rules” about where and when casual and formal register are to be used. Equally important, the manner in which students are tested is almost exclusively written in formal register. Similarly, wide-scale and standardized assessments are based on the values, and language, common in the middle class.
Aside from the discrepancies between those in poverty and those who aren’t, the framework points to several factors that have the potential to improve the education of students in poverty. With the wealth of research indicating the achievement gap between those in poverty and those not, the framework gives a guide to developing programs catered to the social needs of the student. Perhaps the most interesting application is the development of relationships between school employees and the student. The research from Payne’s work has found that the most important possessions for those in poverty is relationships, and by developing strong relationships with students and families, we can most effectively deliver education to students in poverty. Additionally, by effectively and directly teaching the “hidden rules” of communication, students are better able to navigate the various social situations and appropriately respond with the correct register.
Overall, I feel that Payne’s research and framework provide a good guide for delivering education to students in poverty. By separating from the notion that the achievement gap is caused by racial factors, and focusing on the broad sociological factors that influence everyone in poverty, educators are given ways to shrink the gap without relying on race-specific programs. To put this framework in terms of curriculum, I believe that programming the “hidden rules” of communication and planning strategies to develop relationships with children in poverty would be an effective way to help shrink the achievement gap by fostering strong relationships with families in poverty. If our curriculum is designed to better meet the needs and desires of students in poverty, we are much more likely to shrink the achievement gap without relying on racial differences as the cause for disparity in achievement.
First, let me say that I thought tonight's class was great! To think that there were no prior reports given or papers submitted, our 10 presenters did a fantastic job. Plus we learned new things, like how to use Google's free presentation software. As much as I hate to cut conversations short, I did so with a smile knowing how deeply you were getting involved with the topics. Some of the "perks" of teaching postgraduate level students are that you are very smart and you deeply care about your future positions.
Cutting conversations short brings me to the main point for this conversation: I forgot to tell you about the "comments" option. When you read one of your classmates' blog entries, you can add a comment. Unlike in class, there are no time limits out in cyberspace, so comment all you want!
Here are a few comments of my own, for starters.
No Child Left Behind: This law was up for reauthorization in 2007. It was pushed back until 2008, and many thought it wouldn't be reauthorized so close to an election that would bring in a new president with ideas of his/her own. They were right. However, reauthorization is not a priority that President Obama will address until at least 2010.
Translation: do not expect any significant changes to the law for the rest of this school year, the next school year, and possibly the one after that.
Technology and Curriculum: Podcasts, wikis, blogs, online courses, mp3 players, cell phones with 16GB of memory. Is the "factory model" school finally gone?
Ruby Payne's "A Framework For Understanding Poverty:" Note that not everyone is a Ruby Payne fan. Some find her research inaccurate, even offensive. In either case, you might want to read this fascinating book when the course is over and you have more time for pleasure reading.
Gifted and Talented Education: If the thrust ever returns for stronger Gifted and Talented education, can we please define what this term means? I always thought talented meant something other than academically brilliant. For example, did Bill Gates invent Windows because he was academically brilliant, or because he had the creative talent to see computer utilization differently than everybody else? Or was it due to both traits?