Monday, March 29, 2010

On Vacation (1)

My schedule this week looks quite different from normal... We have splurged on a big family vacation to Hawaii. (maybe I will work into my 70's...) So we are on Maui now and it is beautiful. (ie my 1st time in Hawaii) Below are links to some of the sites... Be back Monday. (maybe?)

Boat and Snorkel
Road to Hana Tour

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Support RAS Arts

Stop by the RAS Spring Art show. It is in the Hennepin County Brookdale Library until April 6th. And though I sometimes question stand alone special programs, I am a huge supporter of general art in the schools. I believe it helps the kids develop additional skills, improve their creativity and broaden their perceptions.
Besides, how can you avoid smiling while looking at a picture of a beautiful fish and stars that was painted by a sweet third grader... Of course, in this case I am likely very biased....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You ALL shall be Punished !!!

Recently I have heard of various class or grade wide punishments being handed out. By this, I mean those punishments where the Administrator, Teacher, Staff, etc decide that the whole class or grade needs to pay for some particular misbehavior.

Having been an incredibly well behaved NERD in my personal K-12 experience, I always found this incredibly frustrating. I mean, why was I paying for the inability of the adult to control their classroom, assembly, etc? The punishment I am referring to usually consisted of extra homework, quiet time, everyone pulling a slip, lost privileges, etc.

Based on my experiences, the root causes I found were:

  • The adult was too focused on gaining the kid's friendship instead of their respect.
  • The adult was disorganized and did not keep the kids engaged.
  • The adult did not proactively address the problematic few quickly enough. (ie infection spread)
  • The adult did not punish consistently, appropriately or effectively.
  • The adult typically then reacts due to their strong emotion, not out of helping the kids learn.

My view is that Adult / Kid relationships operate on a continuum that has Friendship on one end, Respect in the middle and Fear on the other end. I think adults need to show enough self control to stay in the Respect zone. The other 2 ends are simply unhealthy for kids as they develop, as you can see in the behavior of many children.

I love my daughters enough to know that once in awhile I have to be an adult to help them learn. I do this no matter how frustrated or angry it makes them in the short term. Its just part of the job of being the adult.

What good examples or memories of class / grade wide punishments do you have?

What adult beliefs or behaviors made these necessary?

What do you think of my continuum concept and parental responsibility in America.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

RAS IntraDistrict Transfers 2

Well, the comments I referred to have been officially documented... The source I neglected to mention earlier is Supt Sicoli. (in case I was hearing things) Check out Supt Sicoli's comments in the minutes below. Along with some other interesting notes.

It looks like the FAC members are asking some excellent questions. Thanks to them for their efforts.

RAS Financial Advisory Counsel Feb Minutes
G2A Intradistrict Transfers

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Schools for Sale ?

Well, I always try to look for the silver lining !!! So here we go:

RAS to Renovate Schools

The cloud is:
  • RAS will avoid getting voter support of their facility plans by using the "state-approved alternative facilities levy" method of fund raising. This simply means they can raise your taxes without taking it to a vote.
  • RAS will renovate 2 old small schools instead of building one new larger school. Therefore we will pay for 2 Principals, staff, nurses, librarians, etc for the next 40 years.
  • The floor plans and feel will be that of older schools. Low curb appeal to folks that are considering moving here or enrolling, as compared to Forest Elementary.
The silver lining is:
  • The Lakeview and Northport communities keep their local small schools.
  • RAS has no excuse to delay selling the Olson and Pilgrim Lane Elementary buildings !!! (Facility Divestiture Mtg notes)
Let's post the For Sale Sign TODAY !!!

The proceeds from these properties should be able to reduce the need for "state-approved alternative facilities levy" money.

Anything important that I am missing in either category?

Also, has Beacon Academy found a long term facility yet?
Wouldn't it be great to have another CHOICE in the community?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Deep Portage

I just spent the last ~3 days practicing what I preach. I volunteered as a chaperon on a middle school trip to the Deep Portage Learning Center. This is a great opportunity for many of the kids to learn and experience a wide variety of things that they wouldn't in their normal "city" life.

There were ~100 6th grade kids, 4 teachers, 10 parent volunteers and the camp guides. Yes, imagine my daughter, 13 other kids, a guide and myself wandering the North woods. Some of the activities included survival training, archery, rock wall climbing, animal signs, etc. It was an incredible experience for me, and gave me a great opportunity to better understand the incredible rewards and challenges of working with such a diverse student body.

As always, get out there and volunteer. You will gain more than those you help !!!! Questions ?

Deep Portage web site

Saturday, March 13, 2010

No more NCLB ?

Since I am a big fan of Plan, Do, Check, Act. I will be watching this very closely, probably with dismay. I was expecting the government to make some NCLB changes:

  • maybe relax the standards on schools for kids that were physically not capable of meeting the criteria (ie special needs, recent immigrants, etc)
  • maybe develop national standards instead of the current standards that vary from state to state
  • maybe reset the clock somewhat, since we have failed to meet the educational needs of the impoverished and minorities in the allotted timeline
Yet, the following changes seem terrible to me:

  • Removing the regular time based testing progress checks (ie milestones) that ensure kids are proceeding per plan. Then waiting until graduation to see if the schools have failed. How are we going to help the kids at that late date?
  • Lessening the focus on math, science, reading and writing, and allow credit for soft skills. This is just a way to lower the standards. (ditch diggers)
Some have said that Obama has shown signs of opposing the entrenched failing status quo educational establishment, based on this it looks like he has fallen back into line. (ie more money, less accountability) Only time will tell.

Just a reminder, though Bush signed NCLB. Its champion was Senator Kennedy. Therefore it was truly a bi-partisan solution to an American crisis. Thoughts ?

Star Tribune Obama Unveils
Syracuse Huge NCLB Changes

MSN Dismantling NCLB
G2A Sir, The Class is Too Hard
G2A Teaching to the Test
G2A AYP Top 10
G2A AYP Pick Your Corner
G2A School Priorities

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pawlenty: Open that Wallet ?

The comment below was left by an anonymous reader. It is worth some visibility, and is likely to draw many comments. So I pulled it into its own post.

RAS Intradistrict Transfers
That is simply a good thing. The more students that have a chance to succeed and escape the horrors of poverty, the better. Don't we want this in the end? Is it always just about us and our own families? We are the richest nation on earth and we can't find the money to help out needy kids. If Pawlenty would let loose of his tight educational reign, we could actually help all kids. Just think of this example. I always keep a few extra dollars in my wallet so when I travel and see someone on the subway asking for money I can just give it to them. I don't attach any strings to it. I don't think, what if that guy buys a bottle of booze with it. Why should I put a judgement on it? Same with educational opportunities. Isn't it our duty as a society to open our arms to those less fortunate and give them every chance to succeed? I hope we want to help others even if the results aren't perfect or we have to give up something to help out. Imagine, instead of saving up all of this fundraising money to buy smart boards (RSI) we actually put that money to help those who could really use it? Makes you think , huh? I believe our district is strong enough that we could provide opportunity for everyone, not just those more fortunate to have great families, good jobs, etc.

I'll start it out with a few questions:
  • Since the money Pawlenty is trying to not to spend is actually yours, mine & ours. Who do you want to pay more taxes? Or what else should be cut from the budget?
  • Can we stop poverty by giving people money? Or do we actually make it worse by making them more dependent and robbing them of their self esteem?
  • What is the advantage of putting more money into education if it just goes to wage increases? Even if most people's wages are decreasing in other fields.... We are actually going to reduce the number of teacher's due to those compensation increases. (ie bigger class sizes)

I understand and appreciate your empathetic and caring viewpoint. I just think we spend enough, and we need to find a different and better solution. Nobody will fix things if we keep pouring money into the system.

Thoughts ?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teacher Improvement Articles

Thanks to JJ for the link to this incredible article. By the way, it is 9 pgs long so I have only made it half way through.... Lunch is over, back to work...
NYT Building a Better Teacher

Then this one shows up on my home page...
Newsweek Fire Bad teachers

Now if we don't know what makes a good teacher... How do we fire the bad teachers? My first thought is we use the very subjective method used in almost all other businesses. The boss decides based on their perception of the employee's productivity and results ...

Of course then we also need the freedom to fire the Bad Bosses/Principals/Superintendents without big early termination payouts... Thoughts?

Monday, March 8, 2010

RAS IntraDistrict Transfers

Now this is just for discussion purposes, do not panic!!!! There is no pending change that I know of....

However someone influential in the RAS system mentioned several times in different public forums that they did not quite understand our extensive use of Intradistrict Transfers. Apparently, in other districts they often limit Intradistrict Transfers in order to enable more Open Enrollees to enter the district. Therefore providing additional funding for the good of the district's students.

Here is how I think it would work. Let's say for simple math that RAS reduced Intradistrict Transfers to Zachary Lane Elementary by 100 students. The intent being that they would return to their neighborhood schools (ie no head count/funding loss), and those openings would then be filled by 100 Open Enrollees from Osseo or another district. The financial gain to the district would be ~$900,000 (ie 100 X ~$9,000) that could be used for the good of the district children.

I suppose this could also apply to RSIS or any other RAS school that is at capacity due to Intradistrict Transfers.

I am thinking this would not be well received. What are your thoughts?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Free Speech or Lying ?

I never did understand this one, maybe Ron will write in to explain what they were thinking. It seems hard to think an organization or candidate could gain credibility with a suit like this. And without credibility, how can one influence anyone?

Remember that truth is often relative to your perspective... "People do not see the world as it is; they see it as they are - or as they have been conditioned to be." (Covey) With this in mind, would you like to be threatened with arrest for speaking your different version of the "truth"? Especially while defending something that you truly believe in against an entrenched status quo... It is worth pondering.

For the record: I am against deliberately lying to cause confusion and social angst. Now how do we tell lying from perspective? Are we back to judging intent.

I am sure there are 2 very interesting sides and belief systems to this story. Please share your thoughts politely and remembering the G2A rules. I'll have my hand on the delete key...

Sun 281 CARE Loses Lawsuit
Star Tribune Lawsuit filed
HJ Levy Opponents

Thursday, March 4, 2010

And The Buses Win !!!

Well it looks like we will continue to support:
  • the big bus garage and large fleet of buses
  • the large fuels bills and higher neighborhood traffic
  • the drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, supervisors, managers
  • etc
I am certain that I am just missing how this expense is going to help close the achievement gap. There must be a rational reason that we would layoff teachers and increase class sizes, to keep the buses rolling. Maybe the kids are tutoring each other during the commute.

Based on my experiences, I do recognize that the vocabulary of my daughters did increase in size after they started riding the bus. Unfortunately they were typically words that we needed to explain and then dissuade them from using in general conversation...

There are some other interesting links in the minutes, check them out...

RAS Mar 2nd Board Minutes
2010/2011 Budget Adjustments
G2A The Teacher or the Bus ?

By the way, I do understand that providing transportation and choice is deemed necessary to keep more people from fleeing the district. I just believe it is a poor trade off that does not seem to be working based on the student population trend.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Beliefs, Environment and Choice

During my Adult Psychology course, the Professor made the following statement that resonated and stuck with me.

"All people get old, however not all people get wise."

Another Trainer helped me to truly understand that our deepest beliefs, are often more a matter of environment and history than of true learning, self awareness and understanding. Some examples include:
  • Why depression era children were so conservative as adults.
  • Why Christian children typically become Christian adults.
  • Why Taliban children typically become Taliban adults.
  • Why Chinese citizens mostly feel that Taiwan is part of China.
  • Why abused kids often become abusive adults.
  • Why kids raised in Conservative homes see Liberals as wrong.
  • Why kids raised in Liberal homes see Conservatives as wrong.
The reality is that LUCK or FATE determined YOUR BELIEFS not YOU in most cases.

If you disagree with that statement. Imagine yourself as a small child born in these environments and ask yourself if you would have the same ABSOLUTE BELIEFS:
  • Born to and raised in an impoverished family in Haiti
  • Born to and raised in an incredibly rich and famous family in America
  • Born to and raised in a KKK family in the Southern USA
  • Born to and raised in a farming family in China
  • Born to and raised in a family in Palestine
  • Born to and raised in a family in Israel
A strong Christian from another religious organization once accused my Church of failing with me since I still have questions and doubts left to resolve. I proceeded to ask if this means Church is a brainwashing technique to him. Since apparently he feels the Church fails if people have free will when they are done...

Now here is the question, are you going to stick with these until you die? Or are you going to seriously ask yourself the following questions:
  • What am I missing that the other person or party knows?
  • What caused me to feel this strongly about this belief?
  • What adjustments should I make in my thinking?
  • How do these beliefs and actions resonate with my core principles?
Linked is an excellent story/lesson. What do you think? Are your beliefs truly "yours" or have you been brain washed, and then refused to empty your cup a bit? Will you die old, or old and wise? As that writer says: "We're always free to pick up our old beliefs and "knowings" at a later time"


How full is your cup?
Hidden Bias

Monday, March 1, 2010

Healthcare Cost Control (2)

J's comment leads me to the next set of questions:
  • How much is a human life worth in dollars?
  • Does the value of a human life change as they get older?
  • Does it vary depending on their contribution to the economy or common good?
  • If they are a burden on society, do they have a low low value?
  • Who should get to decide what the life is worth?
  • How should we decide when to show mercy for the unlucky?
  • When do we allow natural consequences to punish the irresponsible?
Well, one of the fastest ways to trim healthcare costs is to cap the allowable spend per citizen... This is what is done by European socialized medicine and our own insurance companies. Usually we tend to vilify these folks for being cold, heartless, profit hungry, etc. When in reality they are simply controlling our premiums. This is easy to say while my family and friends are healthy and not having healthcare denied.

Now are people who are financially well off worth more than those that are not? Even if they have lived a very unhealthy and irresponsible life.... I mean they can afford the care, therefore they should have it? Even if they are 80, on oxygen, somewhat confused and needing a transplant of some sort....

The poor or unlucky (ie genetically challenged) who work hard and yet are unable to afford their insurance or are refused insurance. What should be spent on them is therefore minimal? Meaning their life has little value? Even though it is a child with a curable condition who could be a productive citizen for 80 yrs after the intervention...

This leaves us with who is the final Judge of the Life's value and our Responsibility for our situation. An actuary in an insurance firm, a government bureaucrat, etc. Or is it the hand of God that caused us to born in the right country, to the right family, with the right genetics, with wealth, etc.

A higher value placed on each life and our obsession with pushing the envelope appear to be key reasons why the USA spends more on healthcare. Maybe it is like our high military spending... The rest of the globe gets the benefit without the cost.

Now this is one difficult topic!!! Your turn.....

Time Value of Life
Wiki Value of Life
Slate Cost of Living
Harvard Cost Effective Healthcare
Quality Digest Value
Kiplinger Healthcare Rationing
NY Times Cost Effectiveness
NY Times Lessons from Europe