Friday, August 27, 2010

One teacher's view of 'value added' evaluations

(Kim Jones) I checked my professional ranking the other day. Can you guess what I do? Here is a hint, in case you haven't read the papers or listened to the news lately. Later this month, my job performance will be published, and I will be publicly ranked against my colleagues. Give up? I am a teacher — fifth grade, to be exact.

After reading the recent stories in this newspaper about "value added" evaluations, which look at whether individual teachers raise or lower their students' test scores, I requested a link that would allow me to look at my scores in advance of their publication. I had no idea where my ranking might fall. Heart pounding and palms sweating, I clicked on my name, and when I looked at the graph, I was relieved — momentarily. My scores were high. But almost immediately I felt terrible, like a fraud. I felt more removed from teaching than I had in my 15 years on the job. This was my value as a teacher? The rest of the story...

Charter Schools in LA

What are your thoughts on Charter Schools? Do they, in fact, challenge the status quo? Will they get the result the traditional public school system have struggled to achieve?

Over the last decade, a quiet revolution took root in the nation's second-largest school district.

Fueled by money and emboldened by clout from some of the city's most powerful figures, charter schools began a period of explosive growth that has challenged the status quo in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Today, Los Angeles is home to more than 160 charter schools, far more than any other U.S. city. Charter enrollment is up nearly 19% this year from last, while enrollment in traditional L.A. public schools is down. And a once-hostile school board has become increasingly charter-friendly, despite resistance from the teachers union. In September, the board agreed to let charters bid on potentially hundreds of existing campuses and on all 50 of its planned new schools. The rest of the story...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Internet, Your Brain, and Schools

(Larry Cuban) If you use smart phones, laptops, and other devices a few hours a day and find them stimulating, if not captivating--don't read Nicholas Carr's The Shallows. It is a well-written, highly provocative argument that will give you the willies. Using the Internet daily, he says, "to find and classify information, to formulate and articulate ideas, to share know-how and knowledge.... (p. 44)" has changed the wiring in our brain affecting how we read and think. Experimental studies show the plasticity of our brain in re-wiring neurons in response to frequent Internet use. And he invokes history--from Plato to the invention of the clock to 15th century printed books--to buttress his argument. He also uses his personal experiences.

As a professional writer and longtime user of computers, Carr was an early adopter. He grabbed ever quicker modems, glommed onto the Internet, larger hard drives, broadband, email, Google, Facebook, RSS feeders--anything that would make work (and life) faster, better, and connected. He spent a lot of time online jumping from link to link. The rest of the story...

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