Teaching Reading: Strategies Or Content?

I like this video from Dan Willingham. It makes clear that if we don't teach students a broad range of things, they can never grow. Education is broad when we are young, and gets more specific as we get older. Little kids don't really need to know how to find the topic sentence. They need to understand how the world works, and to do that, they need lots of information; they do not need to focus on strategies. When will folks realize that being well rounded is necessary to becoming an expert in anything?


Thursday Cartoon Fun: Union Busting Edition

"An Era Of Profound Irresponsibility"

This is the Obama I voted for. I think I'm getting fired up again...

Not working? Try this. Transcript here.

Who Gets Intervention, Basic or Below Basic?

Well, if you are a student at my school and you are below basic, you don't get intervention. If you are basic, you will get intervention. This was on the agenda for the staff meeting:
REMINDER: Before/after school interventions: Please let me know if you are interested in doing interventions (6 or 12 week sesions starting in January). First priority is students in grades 3-5 who performed at Basic [emphasis mine] on Spring CST, but other focus students/grades will be considered. We have funds allocated to pay teachers for intervention work...
You might be wondering why the lowest performing students don't get intervention, but the second lowest performing students do. It's because in order to meet AYP for NCLB we must have a higher percentage of students at proficient, and moving basic students up to proficient is easier than moving below basic up to proficient.

So, as I have written before, we are throwing the neediest kids under the bus to move up less needy kids so we can meet our AYP goals; NOT SO WE CAN EDUCATE THE KIDS!

We suck.

24 Years Worth!

All the living Presidents in a row. Jimmy and Bill hate each other. It's still an awesome picture. Notice the colors of the ties. Hmmm.


Mom! Look What I Found!

Many lay people wonder about all the horror stories they hear regarding students and their home life. Some stories are horrible, and believable. Others are too horrible to be believed, and some are too silly to be believed.

On Monday, a student handed me two small packages she had found on the floor near the backpack hooks. As she was walking towards me, arm outstretched with the packages in question shining in the fluorescent glow of classroom lights, I could see what they were. This is the point where all your skills as a teacher of young children comes in.

She handed them to me, said she found them "over there" near a certain child's backpack. I then proceeded to hold them up and ask the whole class, "Whose are these?" to no response.

So, I put them in my pocket. Today I found them in that pocket (as I go from couch to bathroom and back again--bad medicine day) and decided to take a picture and write a little thang about the experience.

So, see what I brought home in my pocket....

Guilty As Charged?

h/t MY

Update: I have received an email or two from folks who know me indicating that I am what is described in the video.

Seat Roland Burris

Roland Burris, Blago's Senate pick to fill Obama's seat, should be seated, just like Mr. Burris has been saying all along. I'm not saying this situation is simple and obvious, though it is. I am saying that if we are to be a nation of laws, and not special privileges for special people, then he needs to be seated. Blago followed the law, even if he is afoul of it now or in the near future, and the Illinois Sec. of State did a stupid thing not signing the certificate. I say seat Burris.

The Wisdom Of The Schoolhouse

Mike Rose takes down the "education reformers" and their attempt to label Linda Darling-Hammond and her ilk as traditionalists; we're not traditionalists! Here's a snippet of his post, which you can read after expansion...
It’s hard to know where to begin to unpack these labels. For starters, the attempt to measure complex human activity (like learning) with a single statistical measure (like a standardized test score) is a century old, and has long been criticized in so many fields on so many fronts as reductive, inaccurate, outdated, etc.. In what sense is this a new approach? It is new to education only in its scale and consequence, but not at all in its innovation or creativity, or—as NCLB has made clear—in its effectiveness.
Reform,” “Accountability,” and the Absence of Schoolhouse Knowledge in Education Policy

Over the last few months on this blog I have been wishing for a politics that is more educational, more worthy of the citizens in a democracy. Well, wouldn’t you know it, some of the most uneducational political discourse of the last month or so emerged around the selection of Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education. I hope this is not a sign of the national discussion of education to come.

One example of the quality of last month’s discussion was the use of the word ”reform” or “reformer,” in the media campaign and reporting related to the selection of the secretary. As things played out, there were two camps vying for the position.

Camp One labeled themselves the reform camp, and they in essence favored a continuation of high-stakes testing as our primary accountability mechanism—and, depending on the person or advocacy group, also supported alternatives like charter schools and/or non-standard teacher certification. Top contenders here were people like New York Chancellor Joel Klein and, the eventual nominee, Arne Duncan of Chicago.

Camp Two was in effect a camp of one person, Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of Education at Stanford, who was a primary author of Barack Obama’s campaign platform on education and led his education transition team.

In the jockeying that preceded the selection of the secretary there were letter-writing campaigns and the internet was abuzz with charges and countercharges. At times, more heat was shed than light. But what is worthy of our attention here was the Orwellian way that Camp One claimed the reform mantle and characterized Darling-Hammond as a “traditionalist” and an advocate of the “status quo.” The labels stuck. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times calling for a synthesis of the policies of the two camps—a reasonable compromise stance—still used the labels: People like Mr. Klein are reformers and Professor Darling-Hammond is a traditionalist.

It’s hard to know where to begin to unpack these labels. For starters, the attempt to measure complex human activity (like learning) with a single statistical measure (like a standardized test score) is a century old, and has long been criticized in so many fields on so many fronts as reductive, inaccurate, outdated, etc.. In what sense is this a new approach? It is new to education only in its scale and consequence, but not at all in its innovation or creativity, or—as NCLB has made clear—in its effectiveness.

And Darling-Hammond as a champion of the status quo? She has pushed from the beginning of her career on issues of equity, the education of underserved populations, the structure of schooling, teacher development, and reform of the teaching profession itself. Her work is certainly open to scrutiny, and one can take issue with particular studies or initiatives, but to label her a traditionalist is a distortion of her record and of language.

In fact, there is something Rovian in all this. “Reformer” became the new “patriot,” a term of assault that constrains and distorts and shuts down further discussion. Come on, people; we have to do better than this, especially where education is concerned. Such use of language is not only inaccurate and unfair, but also keeps us from creative analysis and, yes, with coming up with fuller, richer reforms.


Another term we need to consider—one that I hope we will be able to think collectively and publicly about—is “accountability.” Accountability is central to effective governance, and a citizenry has the right to demand accountability of its institutions. The reigning model of educational accountability is high-stakes standardized testing, and it so dominates mainstream educational policy that few other models are given any consideration.

A new book provides the occasion to rethink accountability. Written by Richard Rothstein with Rebecca Jacobson and Tamara Wilder, Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right begins with a blistering critique of NCLB and offers a more comprehensive state-based accountability model that includes a richer array of tests combined with school inspections. This new model goes hand in glove with a call for a broader—and more traditional—set of goals for American education that include basic skills in math and reading (NCLB’s focus) but, as well, proficiency in science, history, writing, critical thinking and the arts and literature. As well, education should address social and ethical development and preparation for citizenship and for the world of work.

Some readers may be put off by the authors’ take-no-prisoners criticism of NLCB and their call to abandon it completely, but even those folks should read the central section of the book: a summary of some of the areas (health care, job training, criminal justice, corporate incentive systems) where reliance on solitary quantitative measures to assess institutional quality have failed. It is a sobering, thought-provoking history lesson. And that history should be part of our discussion of accountability as educational policy is drafted in 2009.


As I was finishing this entry, I heard one of National Public Radio’s “Letters to the President,” a spot in which various experts weigh in with advice for President Obama on pressing topics: health care, national security, the economy, the environment. This one was on education.

There were three people interviewed. A person from a conservative think tank led off with a call for standing tough on NLCB-style accountability and for alternatives to the public education system like charter schools and vouchers. She also took a swipe at teachers’ unions. Then one of Obama’s education advisors said the president needs to avoid the stale skirmishes, e.g., over NCLB, and put forth a bold initiative, like merit pay for teachers. The third speaker was from another advocacy group and spoke to the need to change our beliefs that poor kids can’t achieve in school.

Regardless of the merits of what each person said, I couldn’t help but notice that all three were from the policy world. There were no teachers or principals interviewed for this “Letter to the President.” There were no parents interviewed (though of course the three speakers might have kids in school, but they didn’t speak in that capacity.) There were no youth workers, no one from social services. There were no educational researchers. And there were no artists or writers or scientists or diplomats. And there were no students.

The NPR spot illustrates a big part of the problem with our national discussion of education, such as it is. It is dominated by policy analysts and advocates, by institutes and think tanks. And those folks have the ear of media; it’s part of what they do, part of the professional network. No surprise, then, that the labeling of the two camps I mentioned earlier made its way so readily into media accounts of the scramble for the top job at the Department of Education.

And there’s a bigger issue here, one that has to do with the nature of policy formation itself. Public policy in the United States is grounded in a technocratic managerial ideology that privileges systems thinking, abstract models of human and institutional behavior, finding the large-scale economic, social, or organizational levers to pull to initiate change. This broad view has its value to be sure—is rich legislative legal, and economic knowledge—but it is often accompanied by an unfortunate and counter-productive tendency; the devaluing of on-the-ground, local, and craft knowledge. In the case of education, pedagogical wisdom and experiential knowledge of schools is at best tolerated but more often dismissed as a soft or irrelevant distraction.

Though “qualified teachers” are praised in public documents and speeches, teachers are often pegged as the problem. And classroom knowledge is trivialized. Teaching or running a school is characterized as just not that hard. And the field of education in general is bemoaned as bereft of talent. I’ve heard these phrases. The sad and astounding fact is that at the state and federal level there is little deep understanding of the intricacies of teaching and learning involved in the formation of educational policy.

The trivializing and distorting of Linda Darling-Hammond’s record was made possible by this disdain for education knowledge coupled with the media’s overreliance on the policy community for news about education.

Barack Obama wants to build bridges, to build consensus. He’ll need to work some magic or exert some will in the Washington education policy community, will need to open up that culture to the wisdom of the schoolhouse. For the history of public policy failure—in health care, in agriculture, in urban planning, in education—is littered with cases where local knowledge and circumstance were ignored.


Horror In Gaza

This is Jeffrey Goldberg via Sully:
One story the media isn't telling, because it's impossible to get this story in these circumstances (especially because Israel stupidly won't allow foreign reporters into Gaza) is how much resentment the Hamas policy of using Palestinians as human shields causes among Gaza civilians. Early reports indicate that Hamas mortar teams were firing from the UN School. This shouldn't surprise anyone.

One more thing, speaking of pornography -- we've all seen endless pictures of dead Palestinian children now. It's a terrible, ghastly, horrible thing, the deaths of children, and for the parents it doesn't matter if they were killed by accident or by mistake. But ask yourselves this: Why are these pictures so omnipresent?

I'll tell you why, again from firsthand, and repeated, experience: Hamas (and the Aksa Brigades, and Islamic Jihad, the whole bunch) prevents the burial, or even preparation of the bodies for burial, until the bodies are used as props in the Palestinian Passion Play. Once, in Khan Younis, I actually saw gunmen unwrap a shrouded body, carry it a hundred yards and position it atop a pile of rubble -- and then wait a half-hour until photographers showed. It was one of the more horrible things I've seen in my life. And it's typical of Hamas. If reporters would probe deeper, they'd learn the awful truth of Hamas. But Palestinian moral failings are not of great interest to many people.
There is a rather horrible picture to illustrate what you've just read, after expansion...

(Photo: Palestinians evacuate the dead body of a child from in the rubble of a four story house that collapsed when struck by an Israeli air strike on January. 6, 2009 in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. By Thair Hasani/Getty.)

Hamas: Killers, Plain And Simple

For anyone concerned about moral equivalency regarding Israel and Hamas, this cartoon is for you.

The Truth About The Panetta Whining

Feinstein and others are complaining about Leon Panetta not being a good pick for CIA. I think that Feinstein saying its a bad pick is a good reason to confirm him and get California a new senior senator!
So what is it about? Simple: fear of accountability for torture.

Thanks to Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin and honest Pentagon brass, we know a lot about torture by the regular military. But we know very little about torture by the CIA because of the coverup by Jay Rockefeller and the corrupt CIA brass.

The CIA brass desperately want to keep everything secret because they tortured people to death, which is a war crime under U.S. and international law, and is punishable by death. JRock and DiFi want to protect the CIA brass, either out of blind professional loyalty or because they approved the torture and share in the guilt.

Leon Panetta would come in "clean" and therefore cannot be blackmailed by those who committed or approved torture. He could fire people, even refer them for prosecution. This terrifies the insiders.

That's what this is all about.
h/t Newshoggers

Update: Sully's take:
The more I think about this, the more it seems to me that the snub of these two was a deliberate signal. Their oversight of Bush's war crimes was pathetic. Ditto Harman. Obama is telling us he is serious about both improving intelligence and drawing a clear line - for the entire world to see - between the United States and the war criminals who will soon be leaving office, and those who enabled them. Meanwhile, more support from the smart right.

Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Depression Edition


Sunday Cartoon Fun: Inauguration Edition

Digby Love

digby is the greatest blogger of all time because she writes stuff like this:
Portrait Of A Jackass

by digby

Don't read this puff piece on Bush if you've just eaten lunch. Apparently, despite all evidence to the contrary, he's a sensitive, intelligent leader with a heart of gold. He's been very misunderstood. (No mention of the massive, overwhelming failure of his policies and decisions.)

Despite the writer's obvious fondness for the Bushian personality, it actually confirms everything I ever assumed about him. He's a self-centered, authoritarian jerk who requires everyone to bow and scrape before him, even though he's an idiot. I've known plenty of people like him. He's America's mean ex-husband and the country can't wait to sign the final divorce decree.

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