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Archive for November, 2005

Do Now

Do Now: What is the purpose of such an act?

Every teacher knows the wonderful term, “do now.” Before today this term was nothing but an ideal thought, another bureaucratic must, passed down from the board of education or the school administration. It was a way to keep students busy while taking attendance, writing out the aim or simply getting organized before the start of a lesson. It sometimes worked, but most of the time was simply one more task not completed by students.

I should preface this story by saying that many of my “do nows” up until this point have dealt specifically with the text we are reading. I also have simply asked for volunteers to share their responses before moving into the lesson, as opposed to calling on individuals. When I did begin to call on certain students I found that very few students were actually completing the task. They had no reason to do so. I had to think of some way to hold them accountable for this short period of work. More »

Pay Now or Pay Later

At the end of the second marking period my Assistant Principal used to call us in one by one and question us about pass/fail rates in our classes. Why did I fail so many kids? I explained that while I was working on my ESP powers: I had not yet perfected them and unfortunately I was not successful with the kids who weren’t in class. Did you call the absentees? Sorry, my Star Trek Universal Translator wasn’t working and I was a little rusty in Croatian, Uzbek and Mandarin. By the way, I asked, “Why did it take a month to complete program changes? Why wasn’t 9th grade class size significantly lower? Why did the counselors have humongous student loads?”

For a fourteen year old a high school can be a frightening place: threats of violence, demanding classes and total anonymity. The student becomes a faceless, nameless OSIS number in a sea of students. It is not surprising that a quarter to a third of high school kids are absent every day … and not the same kids. How many high school students are absent more than twenty days a term?

More »

An Agenda In Search Of A Supporting Argument: The Story Of The New Teacher Project’s Unintended Consequences Report

Two weeks ago, a Washington DC educational policy think tank, the New Teacher Project, issued a report entitled Unintended Consequences to great fanfare. The report demonstrated that staffing rules in union contracts were “bad for kids,” Eduwonk proclaimed to the blogosphere. So we decided to take a careful look at the claims. And here’s what we found…. More »

Benefit For Teacher’s Voice

The Teacher’s Voice is a literary magazine of writing by teachers, about teaching.

There will be a benefit poetry reading for the magazine at the BOWERY POETRY CLUB on Friday, December 9th. It’ll be HAPPY HOUR (AND A HALF), 5pm to 6:30. All drinks are 2-for-1 and the cover charge is only 5 bucks! There is a great line-up of readers from the most recent issue of the magazine, including Paul Hostovsky and Hal Sirowitz!

We need to get lots and lots of people in the door, so pass this on to everyone you know. THERE WILL BE OPEN MIC AT THE END, IF TIME ALLOWS!

The Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012
foot of First Street, between Houston & Bleecker, across the street from CBGBs

F train to Second Ave, or 6 train to Bleecker

The NY Post’s Theatre of the Absurd [UPDATED]

Only the editorial writers of the New York Post could stumble unintentionally into a script for the theatre of the absurd, as it did last week with this editorial, “UFT’s Saddam Plan.” According to the brilliant political minds who pen their editorial page prose, the UFT’s proposal for ‘card check’ union organizing in charter schools is tantamount to the authoritarian rule Saddam Hussein inflicted on Iraq for decades. That will certainly come as news to the states of Illinois and California, which have ‘card check’ organizing for all public employees, as well as the states of New York and New Jersey, which have ‘card check’ organizing for not-for-profit and private sector employees not covered by the NLRB. But it does not surprise us that the adolescent editorial staff of the Post finds the law of Iraq under Baathist rule indistinguishable from the law of California and New York under Republican governors.

Let us dispose of the issue of ‘card check’ union organizing, which we discussed recently at some length. The long and short of it is that the Post’s claim, “the UFT would prefer the teachers’ votes be counted in public — you know, Saddam Hussein-style — so that it’ll know who its enemies are,” is such a gross misrepresentation of what ‘card check’ recognition involves that it is simply impossible to believe that it is an error made in good faith. More »

Holiday Roundup

The Carnival of Education is up at the Education Wonks.

Don’t miss the Advocate Weekly from last week at Shut Up and Teach, (it’s the bunk bed version)

The Gotham Gazette the definitive website of everything wonkish in NYC, put together a rather comprehensive article on Charter Schools in NYC that’s worth a read. If you haven’t read Leo Casey’s post from last week about the seminar put together for charter schools by some prominent union busting law firms; it’s an important read, and it’s been excerpted by several other blogs over the last week.

Confined Spaces, a workplace safe and health blog has a round up of the UFT’s efforts to deal with blood-borne pathogens in schools. 

The following are two small excerpts that we’d like to share from an e-mail blast that goes to chapter leaders every week.

FREE SCHOOL SUPPLIES: Are you in a Title I school in the Bronx, Washington Heights or Harlem? Then your teachers could be eligible for up to $500 of school supplies from World Vision, a charitable organization. These supplies are for teachers in low-income schools.  Each teacher can get from $300-$500 dollars worth of supplies that include books, markers, pens, pencils, art supplies, staplers, tape, notebooks, binders and much more. The warehouse is located in the Bronx and the telephone number is 718-292-5600. Your principal has to place the call in order to get the form which is then faxed to the warehouse. The organization will then arrange a date for the school to come to pick up the supplies. 

The UFT established a Disaster Relief Fund to help in disaster situations like that visited on the Gulf Coast states this year. The Committee along with the AFT has set a goal of $2,000,000 to assist our brothers and sisters. The UFT commitment to that national relief effort is $400,000. To meet the goal we are asking our members to purchase the UFT Relief Fund pin by making a donation or $10.00. All monies will be used to assist all our members.

Finally, what is everyone reading over the holiday weekend? I just picked up Frank McCourt’s latest, Teacher Man.

Small Learning Communities Redux

John Jay High School was a struggling low-performing school and the overlords at 110 were encouraging schools to create "Academies." Paul Feingold, the Jay Chapter Leader, and a number of his colleagues created a wonderful “Small Learning Community.” It had its own space and a “dedicated” staff of teachers, counselors and paraprofessionals. Student attendance improved, teacher morale was high and the classrooms were “exciting.” The school administration changed, the Assistant Principals abhorred it, funding ceased and the Academy ended, and, the school went into redesign. No good deed shall go unpunished.

The recent announcement of a “Small Learning Communities” initiative in nine high schools sounds a lot like “Houses/Academies Redux.” Tweed has created 150 small high schools in the last two years. These schools are supported by grants from the Gates Foundation to “intermediaries,” not-for-profit organizations that provide a range of supports for the schools during their first four years. For example, over seven hundred teachers in schools sponsored by New Visions for Public Schools, the largest of the “intermediaries,” trekked up to a hotel in Westchester and spent a day and a half working on a school “issue” of their choosing.

However, the small high school creation effort also “deflected” students into other schools and created serious overcrowding. The teachers in the small schools are predominantly new to the system and many of the principals have limited experience. The move to “small learning communities” is a reaction to the criticism of an overly aggressive small school creation effort.

Can you “redesign” an existing school? Some have compared it to repairing a 747 while in flight.

The real world of the urban high school: five classes a day and at least 150 student a week, common planning time takes place in the car pool and we race into school early to find a parking spot and a duplicating machine that works … The kids see six or seven teachers a day and rarely develop a relationship with any adult, except, maybe, the Dean. The factory model label fits, for teachers and kids.

 While Tweed has chosen to obliterate history we did go through the small learning community era in high schools, called “Houses,” or “Academies.” Taking a group of kids and calling them the “Harvard” House or the “Achievement Academy,” and telling the Assistant Principal that in addition to his usual duties he/she was the Academy Director was not a glowing success.

The irony is we know what works:

 • Block scheduling that allows teachers to teach longer blocks of time with significant fewer kids.

 • Common planning time during the school day that allow colleagues to discuss practice and talk about their students.

 • Family Group/Advisory were teacher and small groups of kids can develop relationships

• Lead teachers who can model and coach newer teachers.

Many of us are victims of a kind of Stockholm Effect. We rigorously defend a dysfunctional system. Change is scary and really hard: we have to figure out how to do it together, as colleagues. Change imposed from above always results in a teacher intafada and a continuing underground combat. We have to use our union to create a functional school system, not use it as weapon to fight a never ending fratricidal conflict.

Irritations With the Reading and Writing Workshop Model

Hello Everyone: This is my first post, and I’m obviously, a new teacher. I teach in an honors academy at a middle school (If I were to say exactly WHERE the school is, then various people who read this blog would know who I am. And, at the moment, I want to keep my identity a secret). I teach 6th graders, and it has been a very difficult, challenging, upsetting and ultimately life changing experience for me as a NYC Literacy Teacher. I’ve made a hell of a lot of mistakes, but I keep coming back everyday. My kids, very bright, lovely and full of potential, have definitely made my first few months "in the trenches" rewarding. But, I do have some issues. No, I have one issue: WHY is the Board of Ed STILL using the reading and writing workshop model?

I don’t get it: I understand that this "model" has been mandated for schools that are or were failing in reading and writing. I get that…but, did anyone bother to SEE if this model actually works? And, if they did bother to see that the model doesn’t work, why is it still being used?

The breakdown: it’s a 90 minute block, broken into Reading Workshop (45 minutes) and Writing Workshop (45 minutes). Each section of the 90 minutes has the following: a 5 minute read aloud (where the teacher reads a selected text to the students) a 10-15 minute mini-lesson (where the teacher explicitly models a strategy he or she wants the students to know for the day. In reading, it’s usually one of the seven reading strategies. In writing, it’s some aspect of grammar or writing) a 5 minute "Try It Out" period (where students actually spend a few minutes attempting to use the strategy the teacher just modeled in class during the mini lesson) a 20 minute Independent Practice/Link section (Where students are using the strategy on their own during independent reading or writing) a 5 minute Share Out (where students discuss whether or not the strategy worked for them and why).

So, according to this schedule, I should be able to effectively model a strategy I want students to know, they attempt it for a few minutes, then I let them go and do it during independent reading or writing (of course, I walk around to make sure they understand and are doing the strategy/mini lesson I taught them). And Boom! My students can move on to more challenging concepts, etc. NOT…I have had such difficulty with using the reading and writing workshop model. I feel as if it strips away any chance I have to attempt to be creative with my students. I am literally stuck with following a set structure everyday. It’s problematic because those who thought up this wonderful workshop model didnt take into account that kids DO NOT LEARN in the same way.

In my classroom, it takes me on average between 20-25 minutes to do my mini lesson, sometimes more. Why? My kids don’t all process information the same way. For some of them, spending more time "trying it out" helps them to really understand what I taught them during the mini lesson. For others, I have to be there at their table, showing them how to do it step by step. Still others don’t process it at all and I have to show them how to do it during reading or writing workshop. Also, the reading and writing workshop model was originally for elementary school kids (grades K-5). Honestly, middle school children are extremely sophisticated. I feel as if the workshop model isn’t very effective for middle school kids. Especially, if they are an honors student. I have kids who understand and can critically evaluate articles from the BBC World News website (i.e. in the unit I just finished for Persuasive Writing, one of my students was turning in daily responses about French Muslims who were, along with the various immigrants living in Paris and the surrounding suburbs, being harassed by the police. I admit that I wasn’t keep up with the news like I should have, so it was very refreshing and suprising to have one of my kids give me a well written account of the editorials the BBC World News were putting out. I also have children who are second language learners and are slowly l earning English. In short, I have students who are are various learning levels.

The reading and writing workshop hasn’t been effective in addressing all of my students’ needs. I have been doing the best I can with scaffolding my teaching to make sure that EVERYONE is learning in my class. It’s a daily process that has its ups and downs. But, I am doing the best that I can. But, I am being honest in admitting that the Reading and Writing Workshop model does not work in its current state. I don’t know of an alternative but, I would like to add a few ideas to ways of making it work if this is the mandated curriculum the board will continue to use for the next few years: a) Keep the 90 minute block.

But, make ALL subjects 90 minutes. I think that students get the short end of the stick in only having classes for 45 minutes a day. Extending subjects to longer periods (whether for 60 minute, 70 minutes, 80 minutes, or 90 minutes blocks) allows students to spend more time learning concepts. Also, a block period allows teachers to really focus on what they feel their students need to learn. b) 10-15 minute mini lessons: PLEASE. People need to realize that learning a concept won’t happen in 10-15 minutes. It make take 20-25 minutes to learn a particular concept in a classroom. It may even take a day or two to learn one single strategy. In my few months on the job, it has taken me about 20 minutes on average to cover one strategy in a mini lesson.

But, I’ve had to spend an additional day or two covering the same topic because my students either didn’t understand it or I didn’t believe that my students had mastered it enough. So, I will spend a day or days on a concept UNTIL all of my students have mastered it. That probably isnt what I’m supposed to do following the reading and writing workshop model, but it works for me. At the end of the day, my kids are my first priority. Their learning comes before any mandates given by the Region OR the Board of Education. c) Give teachers support for their instruction, NOT whether or not their bulletin boards meet Reading and Writing Workshop Standards. Are you evaluating me for my teaching, or are you evaluating me to see if my bulletin boards are neatly presented, my writing folders are clearly seen in the classroom, and I have the literacy "flow of the day" (i.e. a daily agenda of what will happen in class) neatly written on the board? I understand that these things are important to have up or visible in the classroom. But, do bulletin boards matter when I’m struggling to effectively teach students who are scared to speak during classroom discussions because their first language isn’t English? Do they matter when I have to figure out a way to reach those few students who don’t want to do their work and refuse to behave in my classroom? I am sure that bulletin boards matter in the whole scheme of things.

But, as a first year teacher, they just take a backseat to the everyday learning in my classroom. I do have most of these things up in my room (with the rest going up soon–don’t want to have my head served up on a silver platter because I don’t have student work up on the bulletin boards or my "flow of the day" isn’t neat and readable). It’s just that sometimes, things like bulletin boards and the like aren’t as important as making sure that all of my students are learning in my classroom. But, I’m new. And, I’m just learning about the realities of a NYC Literacy Teacher. It’s hard and will be even more difficult as the year progresses, but I do love my job. I just don’t agree with the structures I have to follow in order TO DO MY JOB.

Multiple Pathways Two

Peter Goodman’s “Multiple Pathways” post last week scooped the DOE on its plans to expand the Young Adult Borough Centers. The Mayor announced the initiative yesterday, as the NY Times reports. While the Mayor was announcing, DOE senior counselor for policy Michelle Cahill presented the whole model more informally at an event hosted by Educational Priorities Panel. The YABCs are to expand and get job readiness and career exploration components, the idea being you have to connect these students to the world of work if they are going to see a reason to graduate. Thanks to another few million $$ from Gates and others, the DOE is also adding 15 new transfer high schools, and again, there is a work-readiness component to engage students in their futures. Or as the DOE says, “students have the opportunity to participate in intensive employability skills development and college exploration activities.”

Why, oh why, does the DOE feel it has to speak this way? And why do they try to sound as if they invented these programs? As Peter reported, last year and earlier this year the DOE closed GED centers and transfer high school programs. Then they did a study with gobs of foundation funding and discovered that not all kids graduate without a peep in four perfect years so they recreated this “multiple pathways to graduation” strategy, replacing what was a perfectly workable and well-thought-out system before they arrived. Whatever. Now they invented it and the concept is theirs.

What remains to be seen is if they can really implement. I took down this quote from Cahill: “We know what to do but not how to do it.” A lot of folks at the EPP event were skeptical. EPP director Noreen Connell asked, sensibly, why there wasn’t an effort to fix middle schools, where dropout problems first emerge. Cahill said the DOE is putting Carmen Farina on the case. UFT VP Carmen Alvarez asked pointedly about serving all kids well and Cahill got a tad testy.

The one piece of this that DOE hasn’t much focused on is vocational education schools, which several attendees pointed out have worked well for thousands of kids for years and years. Michael Mulgrew, the UFT’s new Career and Technical Education VP, noted that on average 80% of incoming students in CTE programs are “at risk” but that these schools graduate about 9% more of their students than the rest of the system. These schools offer students academics and career development and it works well for kids who aren’t academically oriented but have skills they develop and use. The “learning to work” components of the new DOE programs have to really connect kids with jobs, not just blab about “employability skills development.”

Who’s Afraid Of Teacher Voice? Charter Schools And Union Organizing

Who’s afraid of teacher voice? Of union organizing in charter schools?

Not just the usual suspects on the anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public education far right. Recent events in New York City provide compelling evidence that the NYC Department of Education of Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Mike Bloomberg is a player and a primary participant in this ‘camp of fear’ – and in ways that, at the very least, are skating on the edges of New York State’s Charter Law, which expressly forbids the use of public money to oppose the efforts of charter school teachers to organize and bargain collectively.

Our tale begins last Monday November 9, at a conference held in New York City’s Harvard Club that featured former Bush Secretary of Education Rod Paige as a luncheon speaker. It was there that the conference organizer, the Atlantic Legal Foundation, launched its “Charter School Advocacy Program.” This inaugural session was entitled “Leveling the Playing Field: What New York Charter School Leaders Need to Know About Union Organizing.” It marked the public ‘coming out’ of professional “union avoidance” and union busting law firms in the New York State Charter School field. More »

Work Stoppages Spike — Look Who Noticed

The Wall Street Journal, which maddeningly restricts nearly all its on-line content to print-edition subscribers, is two-faced. It’s pro-corporate editorial/opinion section carries the same primal sensibility that Jack London ascribed to leaders of America’s business classes when he called them “cavemen in evening dress.” The predictable, hard-right opinion pages are a Fox News with semi-colons, combining slavering respect for all-things Bushie with a loathing for unions and labor leaders that borders on the disturbed.  

And then there are the news pages. To call a lot of these features must-reading—or at least must-scanning— is to say that food is good for you. Checking out the WSJ news pages regularly is almost worth the migraine from the opinion pages.

Take Tuesday’s front-page piece detailing rising levels of strike activity. Staff reporter Kris Maher nails it, showing strikes are spreading along with other employer-labor fights and company-sponsored lockouts. These are so far largely defensive battles against management efforts to cut wages and benefits, but they could be more. And it’s not just graduate assistants taking on greedy NYU and Radio City Music Hall musicians battling with Cablevision. It’s Verizon Wireless workers and telecom workers at Sprint Corp. and copper workers at Asarco LLC, too. Labor action is back in the news, big time.

Of course strikes are no panacea. Strategy counts. Lose one and you’ve blown a fuse that could stay blown for a generation. Timing counts, too. So does preparation. Because if union members aren’t yet willing to strike, no amount of brave, bully talk will get them out. But the fact is that the number of private sector work stoppages went up 14 percent over the last year even as hugely profitable corporations demanded givebacks.

Maher cites Bureau of National Affairs statistics showing “231 work stoppages initiated through the end of August, compared with 202 in the same period last year, with the vast majority being strikes.” And it’s a good thing he does use BNA’s calculations, because they offer a fuller picture than do government-compiled numbers. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment-numbers crunchers for the Department of Labor, tracks major work stoppages (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/wkstp.toc.htm)  —which it defines as actions at firms involving 1,000 or more employees— the BNA is more ecumenical. It tracks everybody. So we know, for example, that of the six unions with the most stoppages between January and August 2004, all increased significantly over a similar period this year, with the Teamsters increasing their job actions from 38 to 47.

Strikers seem to be getting results, too.. Boeing machinists got a better health-care package after striking, though the outcome is unclear at Delphi Corp., where the nation’s largest car-parts manufacturer refuses to back away from King Kong sized takeaways in wages, health care and pensions.

One thing that helps militant job actions sprout and succeed is that the economy is in recovery, at least statistically. Historically, it’s during economic recoveries, when the labor market tightens, that unions do best, both on the picket line and at the bargaining table. It’s also why conservative economists value a degree of unemployment, as a way of tempering wage demands. The real growth in labor organizing in the mid-1930s came on the heels of a mini-recovery, and the nation’s largest strike wave hit after World War II, when the economy boomed even as workers salaries stayed frozen at war levels.  

This period is a little different, with what is called a “jobless recovery” damping strike enthusiasms, something I wish Maher had taken into account. But he makes the case that strikes and militant job actions are seen by more unions and union members as a reasonable and necessary solution to reversing hard employer stances.

That’s not a perspective you’ll find in the Journal’s opinion pages or on its PBS show “The Journal Editorial Report,” which may or may not have been forced on the network’s stations by the former head of its chief funding operation—the Journal says not. So it’s nice to see that when working people fight back it’s news, presented fairly and as fact on The Wall Street Journal’s front page.

The Morass of Gifted Education

A freshman congressman approached Sam Rayburn, the legendary Speaker of the House of Representatives and complained that the Rivers and Harbors Bill provided funding for infrastructure projects in virtually every town in the nation, whether or not they had “rivers and harbors,” and suggested there was no need for the bill. Rayburn, perhaps apocryphally responded, “Son, you’re messin’ with the testicles of the universe.” Klein is “messin’” with the criteria for selection of students into Gifted and Talented programs, to many, the jewels of their universe.

If you want to fill an auditorium just announce the topic is zoning or gifted and talented. Back in the halcyon days the Board of Education had citywide standards for selection of students into Intellectually Gifted Classes (IGC) in the elementary schools and Special Progress (SP) classes in the Junior High Schools based on scores on Citywide Reading and Mathematics tests. The Board even had criteria for the selection of teachers of IGC classes – Abe Levine probably has a yellowed copy in his files – if I remember correctly one of the criteria was that the teacher had to be “cultured” and defined as “regularly attending operas, concerts and museums.” Not a bad idea!

The advent of decentralization devolved the gifted and talented classes issue to local school boards. In some areas of the city the “standard” was being on the executive board of the Parents Association or working for a candidate in a school board election.

 As the middle class, regardless of race and ethnicity began to flee the city gifted and talent classes became an anchor to retain parents. The Astor program had rigorous criteria based on IQ tests, other districts tied their criteria to the Hunter Admission standards. The criteria for “talented” was vacuous, ever meet a grandparent who didn’t think their little Johnnie wasn’t “talented”?

Last year a Brooklyn Regional superintendent made a comment some interpreted as ending gifted and talented classes in the region. A thousand parents and a host of elected officials packed an auditorium and excoriated the absent superintendent. Klein’s announcement of the creation of a citywide “test” to measure “giftedness” is the height of arrogance, and typical of the Imperial Chancellor who rules by edict, and expects his subjects to show proper obeisance.

The current hodge-podge of programs is far from perfect. The current term “screened program” means that schools get to pick their students. Occasionally a school stands out; high tests scores while the surrounding schools have mediocre scores. The press raves and points to a “charismatic,” leader, and the principal basks in the limelight. Closer looks frequently unearth a screened program, what a surprise! The school carefully handpicks their kids and the scores are high!

In the real world retaining middle class families in the City is an important goal and creating and maintaining effective, supportive programs within schools is vital. Programs whose sub-rosa goal is to segregate students by race and/or class are unacceptable. A transparent look at gifted and talented programs is long overdue. The Mayor may have handed the Chancellor the scepter and orb, however; parents, teachers and elected officials should use this opportunity to bring sanity back to the school system.

Education Issues In Last Tuesday’s Election

Now that the dust has settled from last Tuesday’s elections, some thoughtful commentary is appearing. Of particular interest to teachers and public employees was the across-the-board failure of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives in California. Among the proposals that went down in flames was one initiative which would have extended the probationary period of teachers from two to five years, and another which was designed to hamstring the political action operations of public employee unions. In the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson wrote one of the more interesting analyses, Arnold Terminates Himself.

And one of the events which was passed over in the initial election prognostications, the defeat of all eight members of the Dover, Pennsylvania school board who had voted to introduce “intelligent design” into high school biology, is now receiving more attention. Here is the New York Times account. It appears that “natural selection” is an operative principle in school board elections.

Parental Involvement

The Public Education Network‘s email last week included several stories on the impact of parental involvement. Below are excerpts from PEN’s NewsBlast.

Do High School Students Need The Support Of Their Parents To Achieve?(PDF)

"To the 3,883 Lexington, KY Public School teens polled by the Youth News Team — an intrepid group of local students and parents seeking to amplify the voices of young people in education policy discussions — the answer is obvious: 69 percent of them said they believe that most high school students do not need their parents to help them do well in school. But although it may not be readily apparent to the students themselves, a large body of evidence suggests that parent involvement can improve high school achievement and behavior and directly influence a student’s grades. So what’s to explain this disconnect between high school students’ perceptions and the research? Consider some survey highlights: 69% of students with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher (equivalent to a B-plus) report having parents who regularly help them select classes; Students with GPAs of at least 3.5 are nearly twice as likely to report having parents who sometimes or frequently attend school events as students with GPAs below 2.0 (equivalent to a C); and 61% of students with GPAs over 3.5 report sitting down with their families three or more times per week for dinner. The sense that there is an important, though difficult-to-define place for parents in high schools was underscored poignantly by the comment that students want parents to be involved, not too involved. One senior offered encouraging advice for parents navigating their relationships with adolescents, "Be a little nosey…Don’t feel bad for asking questions, because it feels good to know someone cares."" Read the original article.

Pushy Parents Raise More Succesful Kids

"Children of pushy parents are more likely to excel in high school, graduate from college and grow into young adults who are happier with their lives and more prosperous in their careers. The findings of the latest survey of Michigan’s culture of education blow to bits the philosophy of laissez-faire child-rearing that’s the hallmark of Baby Boomer parents, writes Nolan Finley. The prevailing attitude is that children should be nudged, not pushed; nurtured, not nagged; encouraged to find their own way in an environment of low pressure and low expectations. But that doesn’t produce nearly the results as a firm hand on the shoulder and the parental command of, "Go this way." Few children are getting that sort of direction from their parents, according to the Your Child survey of Michigan residents aged 18-30, conducted by EPIC-MRA. Only 30 percent of the young adults say their parents insisted on them going to college. Young adults who are most content with both life and work are the ones whose parents and teachers helped them to set goals. Few got that kind of help, however. Many indicated they trudged through high school without a care and without a clue. They couldn’t make the connection between their classes and their future. Parents didn’t talk to them enough about the value of education, the survey found, didn’t start the conversation about college early enough and weren’t forceful enough in discussing best choices." Read the original story.

Rethinking Parent Conferences

"In most districts, parent participation in conferences drops off significantly in middle school and high school. In this teacher’s rural district, about 85 percent of kindergarten parents signed up for the spring conferences, but only a handful of 12th-grade parents attended — mostly to discuss their kids’ college plans. Even when parents show up, reports Susan Black, they’re not necessarily satisfied. In a study by Boston’s family literacy project, several parents said schools should make meetings longer, ensure privacy, provide options for attending during the day or in the evening, and hold conferences more than twice a year. Why do some parents, particularly those with children in the upper grades, avoid parent-teacher conferences? Shelley Billig of RMC Research Corp. gives three reasons: (1) Middle schools often put less effort than elementary schools into forging strong school-family partnerships; (2) Communication at the middle level tends to be one-way, mainly from principals and teachers to parents and often dealing with students’ poor academic progress and discipline problems; and (3) Middle school students often discourage their parents from attending parent-teacher conferences and from being visibly involved in school activities. Economic and social realities are also to blame in some single parent families and with non-English speaking parents." Read the full article on ASBJ’s website.

A Collection of EduPosts

Another three day weekend without enough to do?
Too chilly in the morning to go out and buy a NY Times?
Need interesting reading without having to leave your house at all this weekend?
Dying to read education blogs from across the country?

Joe Thomas at Shut Up And Teach has posted this weeks edition of The Advocate Weekly.
The Education Wonks have posted the 40th Edition of The Carnival of Education.