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Recent Comments

Re: “Calling a Truce

Random thoughts...
"...the meeting devolved into accusations, raised voices and sarcasm."
The meetings (plural) did not DEVOLVE into acrimony - the meetings were deliberately taken there by district employees who were paid to be at those meetings with the express purpose of ensuring that ONLY the "district´s message" got presented.
"Nationally, they’ve been dubbed the “math wars.” Should teachers focus on critical thinking and student exploration? Or, instead, go back to the blackboard with classic formulas and heaps of calculator-free homework?"
Mr. Walters, you present the public with a false choice here. Are you that committed to the discovery program, or to carrying the water for a failing system, or are you really unaware that if that was a quote given to you IT IS A FALSE CHOICE?
It is not a choice between critical thinking and student exploration vs. classic formulas and calculator-free homework. Mastery of basic skills and fluency in classic algorithms ENABLES critical thinking and exploration.
"Reformers believe that memorization of formulae, tables and processes are less important than children understanding how math works."
I have yet to hear a cogent argument for exactly HOW children are supposed to understand HOW math works if they don´t FIRST learn the PROCESSES.
"And none of those six strategies included the traditional vertical method, the sort where you’d “carry the one.” In fact, when she sees her students bring in homework completed that way, she calls their parents and asks them not to teach their children to use the traditional method yet."
PARENTS - If you took the time to teach your child to read before they entered first grade, and then sent your child to the first day of school, and then received a call from your child´s teacher asking you to NOT teach your child anymore "traditional" reading skills - wouldn´t you demand your son or daughter be removed from the clutches of this insane teacher? Why is math somehow different?
PLEASE, teach your children fundamental math skills. Continue to teach them these skills and help them to practice them. ESPECIALLY the use of vertical format addition, subtraction and multiplication. Also, please teach them LONG DIVISION, traditional, boring old LONG DIVISION! The same long division being learned around world.
WHY should you have to teach this to your child? Because, without risking our our employment - we may not teach them. Note, I did NOT say we can´t - we have the ability. What we lack is permission. In fact, we a proscribed from doing so.
We must have your child discover how to divide, then when the become frustrated by the task we must "show" them a couple of alternative methods to divide. When they are thoroughly confused by the multitude of inefficient "methods" of division our bosses demand we show them - we must move onto something else. What we may not do is show them the tried and proven highly efficient method FIRST, ensure they have it down by having them practice it, then give them homework to set the practice firmly in their heads...
"Eventually, by the third grade, the children are taught the traditional method, she says."
Patently FALSE. Not true. A lie. Not in the curriculum.
- And if there were any truth to statement - ask yourself WHY these children have to wait 3 years to finally be taught the most efficient method. Why they´ve had two years of getting inefficient methods drummed into them... (Hint: Because District 81 department of Teaching and Learning says that´s the way it will be. Those people are nothing if not committed.)
Re: Investigations curriculum
"Fortunately, it’s an ideal time to switch. The textbooks are not only at the end of their traditional seven-year replacement cycle, but with Washington state adopting tougher, nationwide “common core” standards, textbooks in all sorts of subjects — including math — will need to be replaced."
The Common Core State Standards are NOT tougher. In fact, they are weaker. Much weaker. But our board and administration fell all over themselves to sign us up. But any curricula will have to align with the CCSS, hence the curricula will be Constructivist in nature.
I could go on most of the night,
Spokane - take your children out of our schools and teach them yourself, or private school them, OR - demand that the board and administration stop this discovery nonsense.
Math war. What war? Parents and children lost this one long ago. It can be re-fought - but that takes time and commitment from parents and citizens who are not suckling at the edu-ocracy teat.

Posted by brimjoh on 09/06/2012 at 7:17 PM

Re: “The Ask

So, Mark Anderson, associate superintendent of the district, says "The nature of the requests are getting more and more expansive."
Perhaps the nature of the requests is getting more expansive as people come to believe that the deceptions and skullduggery of the district have become more expansive...
Here´s the story as we get it at the classroom level: (and yes, for those who have shown concern about my job security in other threads, I am taking precautions.)
An example of what Anderson describes as an "expansive" request might be the local citizen who requested public records in an effort to examine the legality of the 2009 bond and levy campaign by the district. Those records were apparently turned over to the Public Disclosure Commission, along with a complaint. The Public Disclosure Commission looked at them and decided that a formal investigation of Spokane Public Schools was warranted...
Perhaps, what Anderson didn’t want to say was that these Public Records Requests were:
- becoming more and more incriminating in their nature, becoming more and more troublesome
- becoming more and more likely to expose the pressure put on teachers to support the levy with time and effort
- more and more likely to show where the district was possibly crossing the line from "getting the facts out there" into full-bore collaboration on levy promotion, with the union leadership and local businesses that depend on those levy dollars
From the trenches here, it seems possible that the request from Spokane Public Schools (and likely our union) to Senator Brown for help in limiting (read: shutting down) public access to public records came directly as a result of the Public Disclosure Commission launching an investigation of Spokane Public Schools based on Public Records collected via a citizen’s Public Records Request.
(We are told regularly that we should not air our laundry in public, that as far as the union and district are concerned - we should always remember that "What happens in Vegas - Stays in Vegas".)
So our district leadership and union leadership might have some egg on their face. What does the district do? It appears to me that they went to their local legislators and said "HELP! How do we make the Public Records Law so difficult and expensive that citizens won´t do this kind of thing to us?" And clearly, Senator Brown decided to help them out and sponsor legislation to do just that - put public records out of the public´s reach.

This city has excellent teachers, willing students, and mostly supportive parents. We also have education “leadership” and labor “leadership” making a very lucrative living with things just the way they are..
This paper should have been on the front lines of this story long ago, championing that citizen´s rights. Instead, you´ve besmirched what appear to be caring people - people who appear to be doing the hard work of standing up for the students, teachers and parents of this community.
Those of us who are trying to teach the next generation need more of these involved citizens, not fewer. Making people afraid to get involved, which this story and the district´s statements do, doesn’t help us get the job done.

Posted by brimjoh on 02/18/2012 at 5:37 PM

Re: “When the Levy Breaks

I am a teacher.
I hold a degree in Mathematics, a degree in Education, and a Master’s in Education. I spent years in school so that I could have the pleasure of preparing young men and women for a rewarding life.
I am a member of the SEA, the union. I have to be a member if I want to work in my chosen profession in my chosen location. (I reality, there is a way for me to be an agency-fee-payer, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this posting.)
I’m putting my background out here so you have a basis from which to judge my comments. I will not put my name out here, because I would like to keep my job, feed my family, pay my bills, and avoid the punitive measures that would surely come my way were my identity to become known.
The levy we will each vote on by the 14th is billed as a replacement for a stream of funding that is supposedly essential to keep our schools running.
It is not.
As much as it pains me to air dirty laundry in public, there are some things the parents of Spokane should know.
I really mean, parents, you should know this stuff --- already. You should be so engaged in the rearing of your children that knowledge of the place they spend most of the day ought to be second nature for you.
In many cases this is not so, and that is partially your failure --- but only partially. You are given such a glossy picture each and every day by the head office of Spokane Public Schools that it is reasonable that you accept much of it at face value. You would do yourselves, and your children, a huge service by digging a bit deeper.
Here’s some of what you should find:
You should know that your children are not getting the education you did. They spend a great deal of time having the principles of social justice and equity drilled into them --- at every opportunity available and at the cost of real knowledge they should be acquiring.
You should know that they spend time in math class discussing the plight of Manatee populations, ostensibly as a vehicle for learning the use of graphs. They should be practicing their math skills during that time, yet they, and their teacher, are bound to a discussion of environmental pressures and irresponsible human activities…
You should know that if we, the teachers, complain that this method of teaching waste time and fails children --- we are marked as Cain. You should know that here in Spokane if you are a teacher, but you are NOT a constructivist style teacher --- you have no future in this district. That means your children, the vast majority of them, have a rough future ahead of them…
You should know that we, as teachers, must commit time to promoting the levy. We must get your kids to promote the levy, and we must try and get you to promote the levy, and we must certainly commit time to getting you to vote YES on the levy.
You should know that this levy does little that directly translates into better education for your children. This levy provides money for the district’s administration to throw at curricula they have never seen. This levy provides for salaries at the district offices that are obscene compared to the salary of a 20 year teacher. This levy funds a cradle-to-grave data system that the federal government wants on you and your children. This levy funds much that is extraneous to well-rounded education.
You should know that many of us that belong to the SEA do so because the union has a lock on employment here --- period. We don’t agree with their position on most things, really abhor the way our “dues” are spent in our name for everything from local school board races to national elections, and we detest the stewards that sell out those of us who speak out on these and other issues.
You should know that if you vote NO on the levy the world will not come to an end. You can vote this levy down and demand that your school board fund what is needed --- rather than what will further some administrator’s agenda.
You should know that this is the one opportunity, the one chance you will get to have some say in your child’s education.
You should know better than to take the word of the cat when discussing the health of the bird in the cage.
I am a teacher.
I know.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by brimjoh on 02/10/2012 at 3:57 PM

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