March Fourth

It’s March Fourth.

March Forth for Education. Four years ago I participated in a March Fourth Walk with children and parents from Max’s public school to the Civic Center in San Francisco, where students, parents and teachers gathered to demand (ask?) the state to give money back to the public schools. It felt brilliant to be part of such a large group of public school participants and advocates making noise to stop the cuts to public education. We brought signs, noisemakers, water bottles and strollers. We got off work early, we yelled, walked, and chanted. We took pictures and we marched.

Every year that I have been a public school parent in California, I have worked my butt off raising money, trying to figure out what my son’s school needs, what the teachers need, what books need to be purchased, and figuring out how we parents can best put in our time, skills and resources to help schools.
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The California Story

Okay, a “misunderstood teacher” story, and then a great article in defense of the Common Core in California, and why our state is implementing it better than New York and other states have (and are).
Today, my fabulous student teacher and I (and yes, she must be called fabulous), wore our pjs on top of our clothes, brought in toothbrushes, shampoo, mirrors, hair dryers, towels, pantuflas (slippers), bathrobes, soap, nail polish, brushes, combs, an alarm clock, and other accoutrement to act out the morning routine (with reflexive verbs) for our 2nd year Spanish students.  And, yes, yours truly brought a blow up mattress with blanket and pillows and pretended to be sleeping as the sleepy high school children entered the classroom when her rude alarm clock awoke her to 2014 – a totally perfect set-up for the kids’ first day back from winter break.
My fabulous student teacher performed it (and got videotaped) at 9:00 am; and I performed it again later in the afternoon.
Cut to an email received at 5:30 pm sent by the principal, after I walked to my car after my 11 hour day of teaching and an after school district curriculum meeting: “It was brought to my attention that you brought in a queen sized inflatable mattress and have set it up in the front of your classroom. What educational purpose does it serve?”

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Happy New Year and Smarter Balanced Assessments in California coming to your child in 2014 or 2015!

Happy New Year to all –

I am finally over this wretched cold, and sort of ready to go back to work tomorrow.

I had a brilliant time over the past few days grading final essays written by my advanced Spanish students, and, as usual, I have been dismayed by the incredible academic gaps that exist between students. Students with educated parents can write a cohesive and logical argument; students without such parents usually produce confusing and disorganized sentences that spin around disconnected ideas.

It took me years to learn how to write; and I am still trying.

Even with tons of my own work to prepare my students for such a writing assignment, the results show clearly the haves and have-nots.
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Learning without a standardized test

Every year, I embark on a new trajectory with my magical class called Spanish 4 Honors.  This class has the potential to be a Spanish teacher’s dream – I have no set curriculum to cover; I can create high level creative and critical lessons based on literature, history, culture, linguistics, music, theatre, whatever I want.  Some of my students are Hispanic, some are not, some came out of bilingual immersion programs, some are classified as gifted, some are classified as needed special ed accomodations, some are both.  Most of the students are motivated academically, many are highly aware of their grades, some are really interested in learning Spanish.
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Governor Brown will not allow students to be double tested this year!

A couple of items of note for our kids!
Our kids won’t waste time on two completely different end of the year assessments that take up hours of class time!  As you probably know, the old assessments took 10-30 hours of classroom time, depending on the year of instruction and whether your child is an English language learner.  The old tests are primarily multiple choice, and teachers and parents have no way of seeing what their kids actually got wrong.  I have lots of issues with multiple choice state tests, but that’s another post for another day.
The Governor is defying the bizarre mandates of No Child Left Behind that dictate that all kids have to be tested every year, with the cost being passed down to states and local districts for testing materials and the companies that score them.
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Common Core messy messy – a California rebellion and Apple tales

“Those that make test scores and grades the heart of education hit their targets while entirely missing the point.” – Joe Bower

More on the Common Core!

This last week the California legislature voted to suspend standardized testing for all public school students for the 2013-14 year.  (Here’s who voted for and against).  This was based on the idea that we are transitioning from the California state standards to the Common Core standards.  In this transitional year, many districts are spending their money on updating their technology, professional development and practice tests for the Common Core.  Teachers, administrators and districts do not want to test students on the old standards while they are preparing students using the new standards.  Testing kids on both would be a monumental task, stress students, teachers and schools, pull everyone in two directions at once, and stretch districts’ resources – all the while taking time away from actual teaching and learning.
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Integration, please

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 

This last week marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech.

In this speech, Martin Luther King talked about an integrated society in which black and white children would go to school together.  I listened to parts of this speech over 15 times when I was a freshman in Clara Luper’s American History class at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City.
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trying to understand the Common Core (the email that started it all)

As you know me, you know I read a lot about education.  I love it.  It’s what I often do instead of lesson planning and grading late at night.  Sometimes I forward articles to my friends and colleagues.  Lately, I’ve been reading lots and lots of articles both for and against the Common Core State Standards, now adopted by almost all the states.
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Tracking?

I have no idea what the answer is on Honors classes and heterogeneous classrooms.  I debated this one in my Education program 10 years ago (no one got to choose the side they argued for, and I got to argue for tracking), but I feel like I have a new epiphany every day I teach about which way it should go.

I teach at a highly tracked school with the richest members of the community and the poorest immigrant kids from Tonga and Latin America in my district.  My school is nothing but tracked.  There are virtually no Latino, black or Tongan kids names on the GATE lists (unless someone like me nominates one which means that not a single teacher in their 7-10 years of schooling noticed that that this kid was bright); and the honors and AP classes are packed with Asian and white kids at a 40% Latino school.
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What do the State tests show?

The new test scores from the California State Testing Program (STAR) are now available for teachers, parents, administrators and educational researchers to look at.

I think it is worth putting out there some interesting educational perspectives on the STAR tests:

While students’ test scores continue to increase overall on state achievement tests in the US, our students are not making any gains on international standards of educational achievement.
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