Saturday, February 27, 2010
Equity and the value of AP
Sometimes it is true only in the movies that "if you build it, they will come." On the other hand, they can't come if you don't build it.
That summarizes the dilemma that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools faces concerning Advanced Placement classes. The Equity Committee, a citizen advisory panel appointed by the CMS school board, presented a report this month that showed what it called "opportunity gaps" between high-poverty high schools and others in the system.
South Mecklenburg High, for example, offers 25 AP subjects, while Waddell offers just 10. The report recommends offering a set number of courses at each school and recruiting students to take them.
Solution not so simple
While the advisory panel's recommendations seem to offer equity, the solution isn't that simple.
As an Advanced Placement teacher in a high-poverty high school in South Carolina and the mother of sons who took AP courses, I understand both the educators' and the community's points of view. Advanced Placement classes are for most schools the "capstone" curriculum - the most challenging courses offered for students who have mastered foundational material for high school and are willing to take on the work of a college class. That extra work is usually rewarded with a weighted grade point average that can give students an edge in competing for selective colleges.
In the spring, students take AP exams administered by the College Board, and those scoring high enough receive actual college credit that transfers when they graduate from high school. Entering college with credits already on their transcripts means that students can finish earlier - an appealing prospect for parents who are footing a hefty tuition bill. (Though I would argue that students shouldn't rush through college - but that's another discussion.)
Offering AP courses is neither easy nor inexpensive for school districts, however. Each AP teacher must successfully complete coursework at a summer institute sponsored by the College Board. Each AP teacher must create a curriculum that the College Board vets and certifies. If a certified AP teacher transfers to another school, her certification goes with her - as does her curriculum.
AP's domino effect
AP courses are often "singletons" in a school's schedule, and if the AP enrollment is smaller than an average class size, the rest of the classes in that department are crowded with more students.
Since most schools are using block scheduling, the most successful AP courses - according to research by the College Board - are double-blocked so that they can meet all year long instead of in a single semester.
The criticism that American education is a mile wide and an inch deep is a valid one, and one that goes to the heart of the issues raised by the Equity Committee. Even the most ambitious student would be hard-pressed to fit in 10 AP courses in a high school schedule, much less 25. More importantly, offering many content-specific courses may not be as critical as offering students a deep immersion in a few - and trusting that investing the time and care in a deep immersion in a subject will teach them how to think about what they learn now and in the future more effectively than skimming lightly through many.
A recent study by the University of Texas bears this out. Researchers compared similar students who took either AP courses, dual credit classes offered in high schools in conjunction with two-year colleges, or regular college preparatory courses and found that AP students were far more successful in college than the other two groups. That means that students with the same SAT scores, from the same socioeconomic groups, and from the same cultural backgrounds taking even a single AP course versus any other type of courses did better in college - regardless of the score they made on the final College Board exam.
Cachet is valuable tradeoff
The reason isn't hard to figure. AP teachers are trained to teach to college expectations and have the time and resources to require students to learn to organize their time and develop a work ethic; the nationally normed test at the end of the course drives those expectations; and as the capstone of a high school, AP has a cachet that feels like a valuable tradeoff for the extra work load.
Ideally every high school class should push students to their greatest potential - students can and do get well prepared for work and college in classes other than AP classes.
School districts and their stakeholders need to recognize that expanding the number of AP offerings isn't the same thing as helping students succeed - and that students actively recruited into AP classes will need extra support, including double-blocking classes and offering pre-AP courses in middle school and up.
Then when the district has the resources to build more offerings, the students will come - and will do well.
Observer columnist Kay McSpadden is a high school English teacher in York, S.C., and author of "Notes from a Classroom: Reflections on Teaching." Write her firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, February 26, 2010
There is nothing wrong with those ideas, but the issues go much deeper. My comments:
- Selling equipment is a one time deal. We must eliminate recurring expenses. This financial crisis is not just for this year - we already know we'll be an additional $5 million short for 2011-12, and worst case projections are we will not get to the 2007 funding level until 2016. With 85% of the budget tied up in salary, there is not much left but to eliminate jobs.
- Here is how bad the financial crisis is - if we decided to shut off all electricity to the schools next year (not just turn off the lights), we'd still be $6 million dollars short.
- As for saving on utilities, we already have an energy management system in place which monitors building temperatures, shuts down Heating and AC during times no one is present, and we have the most energy efficient florescent lighting available. I suppose we could turn off lights, but when we upgraded the lighting systems a couple of years ago, we went to the lighting level standard required for schools. If we go below that standard, what would our liabilities be?
Thursday, February 25, 2010
HOW DOES SOUTH CAROLINA FUND EDUCATION?
Did you know that by law the SC State Legislature is supposed to fund each student at a minimum base level determined by the state?
Did you know they have only done so eight of the last thirty-two years?
Did you know that in 2010 we expect the SC legislature to fund public school students at about 60% of what they should be funded by law?
DOES YOUR CHILD WANT TO JOIN THE WORKFORCE?
Students who want to begin a career after high school need marketable skills and workplace experience. The SC State Legislature is underfunding classroom equipment and work-base programs.
DOES YOUR CHILD WANT TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
The military has just released a study showing that many South Carolinians are unable to get into the military due to obesity and reading deficiencies. The SC State Legislature is underfunding school library, P.E. and athletic programs.
DOES YOUR CHILD WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE?
Winthrop gets only 13% of its funding from the state, and out-of-state tuition in North Carolina is about the same as in-state tuition in South Carolina. The SC State Legislature is underfunding colleges and
WHAT DO WE WANT?
What we all want is a productive life for all South Carolinian's. We want reasonably paid jobs for reasonable work for the citizens and economic success for the state. All of that depends on education.
Education is fundamental.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Are you registered to vote? In November we elect a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Superintendent of Education, Attorney General and a number of state representatives. If you are not registered, pick up a form at the York County Library, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Board of Voter Registration in York.
FILL IT OUT
SEND IT IN
I ALREADY VOTE.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Contact your legislators.
Every member of the State Assembly votes on issues that affect you. You have the right to contact any of them, and many will consider what you say. The ones who represent you will listen most seriously.
By mail or telephone: Addresses and telephone numbers for the York County Legislative Delegations to the South Carolina General Assembly are at the end of this letter.
By e-mail: On the internet go to sc.gov/Portal/Category/ELECTEDOFFICIALS and click "Find your legislator." This is more difficult.
Do you want do more to help?
WHAT SHOULD I SAY?
Our representatives receive a lot of correspondence. A short letter, e-mail or telephone conversation does have an effect,especially if it is in your own words. Each person who goes to the trouble to write is known to carry the views of many others who also vote. See below.
An Effective Letter
Dear Rep. (or Sen.)______:
Thank them for their public service.
Introduce yourself. I'm a homemaker, physician, teacher, parent of children in school...
Share what you want. Find a way to fund public education ...
Ask for feedback. Please let me know what your position is ...
Thank them for considering your thoughts.
REMEMBER, Public education is a worthy investment for public funds. We can invest now, or we can pay later for underfunding education by higher welfare and crime rates and lower productivity.
South Carolinians 4 Public Education
2227 Mancke Drive
Rock Hill, SC 29732
Virginia S. Moe
Priority State Funding
Pre-K through 12 Public Schools
Community and Technical Colleges
Here are the members of the 2010 York County Legislative Delegation to the SC State Assembly
Write any SC Senator at P.O. Box 142, Columbia, SC, 29202-0142
Write any House Member at P.O. Box 11867, Columbia, 29211-1867
(803)212-6180 Sen.Creighton B. Coleman email@example.com
(803)212-6410 Sen.Robert W. Hayes, Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org
(803)212-6024 Sen.J.Michael Mulvaney email@example.com
(803)212-6430 Sen.Harvey S. Peeler, Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org
(803)734-3074 Rep.F. Gregory Delleney, Jr. email@example.com
(803)212-6873 Rep.John R. C. King firstname.lastname@example.org
(803)734-3071 Rep.Herb Kirsh fax# 803-734-3342
(803)212-6874 Rep.Deborah A Long email@example.com
(803)734-3073 Rep.Dennis C. Moss firstname.lastname@example.org
(803)212-6888 Rep.Ralph W. Norman email@example.com
(803)734-3040 Rep.J. Gary Simrill firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rock Hill School District Three
Middle School Honors Choir
The Second Annual
Middle School Honors Choir Concert
Saturday, February 27, 2010
South Pointe High School Auditorium
Elizabeth Mixon, Director
Shelden Timmerman, Accompanist
No admission charge- Donations Accepted
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
The latest additions to Q&A on 2010-11 budget can be found here.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Meeting of the Board of Trustees
Monday, February 22, 2010
6:00 p.m. – District Office Board Room
A G E N D A
I. Call to Order
Approval of Agenda
(Under consent agenda, all action items will be voted on after one motion and second to approve them without discussion. If a board member wants any action item discussed or voted on separately, the board member, before the agenda is approved, must ask that the action item be moved to the discussion item section.)
II. Citizen Participation
III. Special Business
A. Recognition of National Board Certifiers
B. Recognition of School Achievement
IV. Consent Action Agenda
A. Approval of Minutes
1. January 25, 2010 business meeting
2. February 8, 2010 work session
B. Approval of Personnel Recommendations
C. Approval of Overnight Field Trip Requests (3)
VI. Report of the Superintendent
B. PASS Data Report
C. Federal Programs
D. Health Services Update
E. Financial Crisis Plan FAQ’s
VII. Review of Work Session
VIII. Action Agenda
IX. Other Business
X. Executive Session – Personnel Matter
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Three "Town Hall" meetings have been scheduled for citizens to hear about the Rock Hill School district's proposed plans to address the $9.4 million budget deficit. Meetings have been scheduled on different dates and at different times so citizens can choose which suits them best. Superintendent Moody and Board Chair Norwood will conduct the meetings.
Each meeting should last an hour. The dates, times, and locations are as follows:
Friday, March 5, at
Thursday, March 11, at the
Monday, February 15, 2010
For the past two days, I have written about the loss of a good friend and inspirational teacher. I suspect I should write about a different topic today, but as most people can understand, most of my thoughts right now center around Ed and his students.
Ed’s facebook memorial page now includes over 850 members, and hundreds of current and former students have written beautiful notes to and about Ed. These notes are indicative of the true measure of a teacher. While education experts emphasize curriculum, instruction, and skills needed to pass state tests, the poignant notes on Ed’s memorial page illustrate that a teacher’s personality, compassion, and interest in students are the traits that students most remember.
What do Ed’s students in the past four decades remember about Ed?
- He loved students, encouraged them, and believed in them even when they did not believe in themselves.
- He had high expectations for himself and for others and never hesitated to correct them when he thought they were slacking off.
- He loved his subject (drama, literature, and music) and was enthusiastic in sharing that love with students.
- He gave the best hugs of all time! One person wrote, “When Mr. Deavers hugged it… was as if he was hugging your soul, he hugged as hard as he could and even though you probably couldn’t breathe, it was a good suffocation.”
- He often stayed in touch with students even years after they left his classroom.
- Ed had an infectious sense of humor.
- He emphasized academics and required students to remembrer what they had learned. One student wrote about how Ed required students to recite famous passages from Julius Caesar whenever he pointed at them – in class, in the cafeteria, at a basketball game, etc.
- He was an enthusiastic learner and reader.
- In addition to being a memorable teacher, he was a wonderful friend to students.
One student who took Ed’s class over twenty years ago wrote, “Ed always said that he had to work harder than others because he would have a shortened life [because of Type I Diabetes].”
While Ed did indeed have a shortened life, oh, how he lived!
Yes, poorer children do fall behind, but parenting is key.
It's the parenting, stupid! As visitors to this blog will know, the influence of parents matters hugely in education. Research paper after research paper emphasises what a difference parents can make to their child's development. And this isn't only in an academic sense, but an emotional sense too. We parents can do such a lot, something which is often missed in the stress over school places and how much a child is actually learning in a school environment.
Today, many will be shocked by the Sutton Trust's latest report, showing that children growing up in the poorest families are already almost a year behind their richer peers by the time they are five. Others, although saddened by this information, will not be at all surprised. It's an issue which comes up over and over again.
Last week Ed Balls came into the office to answer questions about education. There were so many of them (over 300) that they couldn't all be published. Some of these were on the importance of parents when it comes to education. I mentioned this to the Secretary of State afterwards and he agreed that it was a problem. But it seems to be one that no one is quite sure how to address. It's seems very "nanny-state" to tell parents what to do with their own children, and although it often happens, it rarely seems to be targeted. Even though this is so clearly needed.
The new research reveals things which I didn't find very surprising (although that's not to say that I am not saddened by them). The poorest children tended to have younger mothers, for example. These mothers tended to have more children than their richer counterparts. Just under two thirds of the poorest children didn't live with both biological parents by the age of 5, over a third had parents who didn't have a single A-C grade GCSE, and only 23 percent of the poorest mothers were employed when their children were five, compared with 73 percent of the richest mothers.
But when it comes to education - and we are talking about five year olds here, so we are right at the beginning of "real" education - parenting style and the home environment came out as the most important factors explaining the cognitive differences. For example, the research showed that a child who is read to every day at age 3 has a vocabulary at age 5 that is 1.92 months more advanced than a child with what the Trust calls "exactly the same observable characteristics (including income group)", but who is not read to every day at age 3. Similarly, a child taken to the library on a monthly basis from ages 3 to 5 is predicted to score 2.53 months ahead of an observationally equivalent child who did not visit the library so frequently. However, just under half (45%) of children from the poorest fifth of families were read to daily at age 3, compared with 8 in 10 (78%) of children from the richest fifth of families. Rules about bedtimes were also less likely to be enforced in poorer families.
What a problem for modern society - and something so hard to deal with. Children should have opportunities, but how is it best to help them?
Figure 1. Mean developmental ages for 62-month old children on the BAS Naming Vocabulary test, by income quintile
Note: Quintiles are arranged in terms of mean before-tax annual income, ranging from £10,300 for quintile 1, to £20,200, £30,200, £42,900, and £79,500 for subsequent quintiles
When people try to get involved and change the likely outcomes for particular types of children, it's a minefield. You don't want to patronise, be accused of vilifying young mothers or told off for suggesting that it's better for children to have two parents, whether married or not.
Added to this is that those parents who seem to be doing all the right things - reading to their children, taking them to museums and libraries, trying to make sure they get enough sleep and feeding them a healthy diet - feel patronised when told what they think is obvious. We found a "snack swapper dial" in our son's book bag recently. It told us, for example, that instead of giving children sweets, we should try fruit, because it's better for them. Duh.
Class and money, those typically British issues, of course, rear their heads here. Middle class parents have got used to being criticised for taking their children to after-school classes and fussing over their schooling. But the so-called "pushy" parent is needed across the spectrum.
This government has very much tried to make a difference. There will be 3,500 Sure Start centres across the country by the end of the year - and helping families from the very beginning of their children's lives can really make a difference. But more, and different help is needed.
The Sutton Trust research out today says that parenting programmes are vital, and of course these need to be targeted. It also argues that the plans to allocate free nursery education to all 3 and 4 year olds should be "redirected" to 25 hours for 2-4 year olds from the most disadvantaged families. I think this is an excellent idea.
So, let's hope things can be changed, and that the issues can be looked at rationally, without accusations of class prejudice getting in the way. If we want a society where every child has an opportunity to succeed, we have to look at what may be holding them back. Parenting can really be key.
PS Everyone sees things in their own particular way. When I looked at this research, I was surprised to see that the achievement gap was so completely tied up with money. As you can see from the graph above, it's there right the way through. There's a huge gap between the richest and poorest, but also a considerable gap (at age 5!) between children whose family have middling incomes and those on high incomes. I can't see why this would be the case - unless you simply accept (and I don't) that the richest people are innately the cleverest....
Monday, February 8, 2010
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“Students in school now will be doing jobs that are not yet created,” said Mary Ellis, Union County Public Schools assistant superintendent for administration.
It’s the school system’s job to equip them for a global market, she said, beyond bubbling in test answers. “That’s what the state wants, and we’re going to do that, but we’re going to have to prepare them beyond that to collaboratively solve problems and to think.”
School officials say the computers will give teachers access to more information, train students for a technology-centered economy and provide interactive lessons that keep students engaged.
To test the program on different demographics and different sides of the county, UCPS chose 120 sixth-graders from Monroe Middle and 120 ninth-graders from Weddington High.
At just a couple of pounds, netbooks will include programs such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, and give students access to both the Internet and the school system’s own software and applications. They can take the computers home after school.
Ellis said pilot students might be ahead of the curve, but hopes to see all sixth- through ninth-graders with computers soon.
Monroe, a year-round school, will start the program in January; Weddington will begin Feb. 8.
Training for the pilot, dubbed the “1:1 computer program” for individualized instruction, began in early fall with five Monroe Middle and four Weddington High teachers. Training is done virtually, off site and in the classroom about twice a week.
Teachers use tablets, but students will receive netbooks. As a partnership with Dell, the computers are free. Training is paid for by grant money.
At Monroe, the computers will be used for math, science, social
See NETBOOKS / Page 10A
Continued from Page 1A
studies and language arts; at Weddington, math and social studies.
During in-class training, Monroe Middle principal Montrio Belton said some students weren’t sure how to use the right clicker on the mouse or log on to Moodle, a Web application for online learning. Students are now learning computer lingo, such as “URL” and “download.”
Weddington High is already a wireless school; Monroe Middle is in the process.
Teachers as facilitators
Ellis said the computers will in no way replace teachers. They are another tool for teachers to use, Belton said, like notebooks, pens and calculators.
“The teacher is more important now than ever,” Ellis said, “but the teacher is a facilitator.” There will still be lectures and group projects, she added, but “this will be just about the end of whole group instruction.”
Director of Secondary Education Dana Crosson is a former principal of South Providence, an alternative school for students who have trouble in the traditional school setting. Students learn different ways and at different paces, she said, and computers are just one more way to give individualized instruction.
Many special-needs students are still “computer savvy” and interested in technology, Crosson said.
Discipline problems went down and attendance went up when the laptop cart rolled out at South Providence, she said.
Monroe teacher Mildred Douglas has taught for 41 years, but this is the first time she has used computers in class.
“I’m slowly moving into the technology world,” she said. “My children will not talk to me on the phone. I have to text them, and then I text them and say ‘Please, please, ... give me a call.’” Douglas recently learned how to pay her bills online and said the computer saves her time on lesson plans.
Using laptops in class will still be a challenge, she said, but she is open to learning with and from her students.
Computers will give her “more current information” and “instant feedback” on lessons, she said. Seeing 3D rotations and reflections on the computer will also be useful for her math students, she said, who won’t have to rely on her drawing skills.
When her own children went to college, Douglas said, the first thing they needed was a laptop, yet she isn’t quite ready to replace pencil sharpeners with wireless outlets.
“Am I going to give up paper and pencil? No. I think everything has a place.” Douglas said she wouldn’t be surprised if end-of-grade tests are online in coming years.
If a student went to the library to find a book on Senegal for a history lesson, Ellis said, there might be a couple of sources. The Internet, on the other hand, opens up hundreds of educational sites.
“We can create our own textbooks,” Weddington High principal Brad Breedlove said. It’s not just reading Web sites, either, he said, but activity-based learning through interactive sites like virtual labs. Virtual labs are also less expensive than real-life ones.
Breedlove is convinced the computers will be more of a learning enhancement than a distraction.
Ellis agreed, saying research shows that attendance and morale goes up and students’ perception of school is better when they are engaged — when technology is encouraged, not hindered.
David Clarke, a professional development coordinator for UCPS, said with fewer trips to the computer lab, it will also save instruction time. “You have your library with you,” Clarke said.
“Every classroom is a computer lab,” Belton said.
Teachers can project students’ computer screens onto SMART boards to show classmates their work.
Clarke said computers are also helpful for arts courses. As a former band director, he said, SmartMusic records students’ playing at home, shows how accurately they play the notes and lets them play with accompaniment.
Breedlove expects computers to be a classroom staple. “Three years down the road, it’ll be just like taking our textbook to school.”
Students without home Internet access
Monroe sixth-grader Cesar Reyes doesn’t have a computer at home, but prefers one to a pencil and paper. Why? “It’s a computer!” he said, pointing to a classroom netbook.
Reyes said he expects online assignments to be hard at first, but eventually more fun.
Classmate Kayla Hough already uses her home computer to play games and check Moodle.
Their teacher, Kamia Norman, said many of her students know how to use computers and find them easier to learn on.
As of this spring, Belton said just less than 50 percent of Monroe Middle students had Internet access at home. Only a handful more had home computers.
Until most students have Internet access most of the time, Belton said homework assignments won’t require it. Ellis said no grade will suffer for lack of home Internet access.
Mike Webb, assisistant superintendent for building services, added that students will still be able to access sites and assignments from anywhere on campus — the library, cafeteria or gym.
As a former teacher, Ellis said “kids passed ugly notes and drew dirty pictures. ... I would take that up from them, but never one time did I say, ‘You can never use a pencil and paper again.’”
Any sites viewed on campus will be filtered through UCPS’ portal, Webb said. As long as students are using the portal at home, he added, that content will be monitored. Still, he said it’s impossible to block everything, and if a student plugs in a hard wire while at home, it becomes the parents’ responsibility.
In class, students off task can be spotted by a flashing light on the top of the computer. It will flash, for example, if the student goes to a Web site to which he is not assigned.
Teachers can see students’ screens from their own and use that function to watch students work through problems.
The pilot program is free only through the spring semester. Webb said UCPS is negotiating costs to see how much it will cost past that.
In the meantime, with no need for multiple computer labs, Belton said he won’t need as many mobile classrooms, saving the school money.
Stopping in the hallway, Belton dropped a netbook three times, then turned it on to show its durability. If computers are damaged, Webb said, UCPS will try to repair them. If they are damaged again, parents will have to pay a fee.
Still, Ellis said computers could come out to be cheaper than textbooks, some as much as $150. Pilot students can download their chapters instead, also saving them from back aches.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
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