Archive for January, 2010

So is Race To The Top about the kids or about the money? Is the objective, lets get the money, and then we’ll fix the kids?

Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Schools, says “in this year’s Expanding Great Options recommendations to the Board… In 2010-11, we would dramatically expand the opportunity for 5th grade students and their parents to choose the middle school options that appeal to them most.”

He also says that “our parents know their children best, and they will make smart choices about which school options best meet their children’s needs.”

Will they? All of them?

Many parents are great advocates for their kids, and I’d say almost all parents want the best for their children. What about parents who are imprisoned, parents who have drug addictions, parents who are incompetent to make these important decisions for their children? Will these children be left behind in their regular neighborhood school?

Something about this plan just doesn’t seem like the best idea to me. Any thoughts?

Not all kids come from the “picture-perfect” family, especially kids from inner-city Baltimore.

Good Luck!

Posted: January 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

I saw a post in the Baltimore Sun today about how Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso wants to allow 5th graders to choose their middle school. He states that “Poor, urban parents should not be imprisoned by their geography and only have a choice of poor schools.” So now instead of having students go to their local school, it’s like putting them all in a big pot and swirling the stew of children. I guess the students whose parents aren’t advocating for them are out of luck; they’re left to underachieve at the local neighborhood school.

I don’t understand why the effort isn’t placed on improving ALL of the schools. Basically, what Alonso is saying to parents is, I understand that your local school sucks, so I’m giving you the opportunity to enroll your child into a school that sucks a little less.

I thought this was a fitting picture to go along with the article:

If you’re new to the blog, I’ll briefly introduce myself by saying that I am a 28-year-old community college developmental instructor. I teach remedial reading courses to college students. I’d say most of my students are in the age range of 18-30, but sometimes I’ll get high school students attending high school part-time and college part-time, and sometimes I get older students who have not been a part of the world of academia for sometimes up to twenty years.

I am in the process of revising my syllabus because I have decided that this semester I am going to be STRICT STRICT STRICT. I am really focusing on accountability and increased workload. I’m hoping that with my revised methods, I can eliminate some of the ridiculous behaviors that I dealt with last semester. Before I list some of those inappropriate behaviors, I would like to state the fact that students who place into these developmental courses either have a high school diploma or a GED. These classes are not meant for dropouts who are pursuing a GED. They are for students who did not test high enough on the college entrance test.

So here are some unacceptable behaviors that I witnessed in my classes last semester:

(1)students repeatedly showing up to class when they felt like it and coming up with an excuse such as “I was having family issues” or “the bus was late,” (2) those late students then interrupting my lesson with requests such as “can I show you the HW?” or standing directly in front of me with their hand out, expecting me to immediately give them the handout that I gave to the rest of the class 10 minutes ago, (3) constantly texting in class, and on occasion even talking on the phone while in class, (4) walking into class with a bag of McDonald’s food, (5) listening to music on the computers while in lab and ignoring my request to turn it off, (6) watching YouTube clips and messing around with Facebook instead of doing work (once I even caught a student looking at porn), (7) missing multiple classes and not even asking what needed to be made up…

I could go on.

That being said though, I do have many students who are respectful and who I can actually imagine ending up with a college degree one day.

One thing I am doing differently this semester is that I am creating a detailed rubric for everything we do. Class discussion now has a rubric, and students will lose a point for being off-task (On Farmville…that’s a point lost for you!), they will lose a point for being disrespectful (laughing as another student stumbles through text), they will lose points for strolling in late, and they will lose points for lack of preparation (what were we supposed to read??).

I know they are considered adults, but I have learned through experience that mentally, many of these students are very immature and I am not going to go easy on them this semester. I have a feeling that this change will make a noticeable difference. I am also almost doubling the amount of work I had my students complete last semester. These new students are going to WORK WORK WORK!

I have found that attaching a point value to anything I want to see in the classroom is necessary. That is the famous question, even in college (“Is this worth points?”). My new strategy is that unacceptable behaviors are worth negative points. Once students get the hang of the new system I’m putting into place, I’m expecting sessions to run much more smoothly (and I’ll keep you posted as to how it all goes).

Can’t Be a Little Bit Pregnant

Posted: January 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

This guy knows how to motivate his students. The entire video is interesting; my favorite part starts at 4:50, when he talks about The Quest for Excellence. “You’ve got to believe in excellence in everything.”

I stumbled across an interesting report, which can be found at this link:

http://www.aei.org/docLib/Diplomas%20and%20Dropouts%20final.pdf

(I don’t know why I can’t get WordPress to create a live link to the site, but once I figure it out I’ll update).

Anyway, if interested in viewing the report, scroll to page 49 to see statistics for Maryland. The report also has college statistics for all other states.

My sister is enrolled at College of Notre Dame of Maryland, which according to this report, has a yearly tuition of $24,500. The University of MD College Park, which is a very competitive school, costs $7,969 per year (a savings of over $16,000 per year). Notre Dame enrolls 1,719 students, while U of MD enrolls a ton more: 32, 660. UMBC costs $8,708 per year and enrolls a little over 10,000 students.

My question is this: Is a degree from an expensive private school more valuable than a degree from a competitive public university? And if the answer is no, then why spend all the extra money? I’d be interested to hear opinions from people attending college or people who have graduated.

The following was submitted by a student who attends Western High in Baltimore. She believes teens should persevere to overcome their adversities, rather than giving up.

“Being a product of thus modern generation, there are many great influences that one could choose from. As the more popular decision of many teenagers today; President Barack Obama has definitely made a great impact and influence on my life! His installment as our president boosted my belief of knowing that I can do anything I want in life. This isn’t only because he was contrary to the past presidential candidates, but because he came from a single family home, and now has achieved the highest power of the country.

Many people are discouraged; especially teens today. Them or their families are not up to standards, according to media’s portrayal of an ideal perfect family, so they force themselves to believe that they are nothing more than their environment. With this, youth are suffering from self degradation and the most common word in their vocabulary is “can’t”. We as youth are taught by society to put forth a minimum effort, and if we don’t succeed at our task, then we should end that trial and try something new. But in reality, we should not try once and quit; we shall keep trying and trying until we succeed and we’re the best at it!

By Obama’s powerful yet simple campaign phrase, “yes we can”, many youth were encouraged to do better, to believe in themselves, and put forth an effort to succeed! The key word in the phrase is “can”! That word is such a subtle word yet very powerful! It uplifts a spirit, and inspires youth to aim for their dreams with a mentality of success!

One phrase that I like to tell myself, when I feel like a task can’t be done is; ‘at first we couldn’t, and now yes we can! It will be done, and it’s up to me to do it. Yes I can!'”

What do you think of the points this student has made? Who inspires you to be successful?

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Excerpts from a student’s essay (one of my favorite essays from last spring):

“Most adults are always quick to say kids nowadays are no good and won’t make it in life. The worst thing about that is that the adults don’t even know the children they talk about. They always use stereotyping as a factor of judging kids instead of getting to know and help them. Instead of saying that a child is no good and needs help, people should feel as if that child is their own and reach out a helping hand.”

“Last, parents should listen to their kids more and hear to what they have to say. Most kids who are out in the streets are only out there because they feel no love at home and feel neglected by their parents. Some parents may tell their child to get out of their face and can care less what they do outside. Those same parents are the ones who are at the funeral screaming not my baby. If they would have just given their child love from the start, they wouldn’t be in that situation.”

I like the student’s neighborly idea of looking out for each other; just as he said, it’s easier to judge other people than it is to help them.

As Stephen Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Look at the word responsibility – “response-ability” – the ability to choose your response.”