Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Renewing My Teaching Credential

This morning I received an email from myself--one that I sent 5 years ago from futureme.org.  I specifically sent it to be delivered today because of a problem I encountered 5 years ago.

See, my school district keeps track of all sorts of things about me, including when I need to get another tuberculosis test (every 4 years) and when I need to renew my teaching credential (every 5 years).  What's interesting is that they tell me when I need to get a TB test but don't tell me when I need to renew my credential.  They have people whose sole job it is to keep track of that, why can't they send me a reminder the way they do for the TB test?  Heck, even the DMV sends me a reminder when it's time to renew my driver's license!

Lots and lots of us were down to just a few days left before our credentials expired when finally someone at the district told us.  Yes, I understand it's my credential, yada yada, but again, the district has people whose sole job it is to track things like this.  Anyway, I had to jump through hoops and get a temporary credential, or an extension, or something, and then get the real thing.  This took a lot of time down at the district office after school and I didn't want to go through that again.

So I sent myself an email, to be delivered on September 1, 2015.  And I received it this morning.  So I just finished answering a bunch of questions online (no, I'm not being investigated for any felonies, and no, I've never been fired from teaching, etc), paid $102.50 with a credit card, and now I'm magically able to continue teaching for the next 5 years.  I'm still curious what that money is actually for....  Five years ago the fee was about $70. Go figure.

Advice for College Freshmen

Read this today and thought it made sense:
As I enter my junior year at the University of Maryland, I'm armed with the experience and confidence that were sorely lacking when I left home to start my college career. After learning valuable lessons about everything from friendship to food in the past few years, I feel qualified to give a little advice. To all of the incoming freshmen who want their college experience to be the best it can be, here's what I wish I had known before heading off for the first time....
Go read the whole thing and, if you're in my generation, take that little stroll down memory lane!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Is This Really How We Want Our Society To Be?

Who could possibly have predicted that girls would complain about sharing a locker room with a boy?  Why, everyone, of course, except for those who are so open-minded that their brains have fallen out:
Students staged a walk-out even though a transgender student at Hillsboro High School has decided to drop out of P.E. class and quit changing in the girl's locker room. It is an issue that educators across the country are dealing with...

Close to 200 students used their right of free speech to express both displeasure and support of Lila Perry. She is a transgender student, who until recently, has been changing for P.E. class in the girls bathroom even though she is still physically male.

Jeff Childs, a parent of two school age children, drove from farming to have his voice heard on a Hillsboro street corner. "I feel these girls have a right to their own privacy. Without the privacy they have nothing."
I don't know if there's really a psychological condition that causes people to think they're the wrong sex, or not.  I believe, however, that we shouldn't force everyone else to have to deal with that person's particular demons.  I'm not sure that would be a healthy society.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Does Truth Even Matter Anymore?

Someone I knew liked a post on Facebook, and since it came across my feed I thought I'd go take a look.  Here's what I saw:
That prompted me to ask a simple question:  did Morgan Freeman really say that?  Here's the exchange that ensued:
Why put Freeman's face on a quote if you're not trying to use Freeman's reputation to add weight to the quote?  We all know that's why his picture is there.  Hiding behind the "no quotation marks" defense is exceedingly weak.

You might imagine that later comments resorted to calling me names for daring to question this, and you'd be right. 

BTW, I can find no evidence (admittedly from just a couple of web searches) that Freeman ever said what is attributed to him (even without quote marks) above.

If You Can't Get Rid Of This Teacher....

First off, I want to point out that this guy has been teaching 5 years less than I have but makes 50% more money than I do.  Seriously, 50% more.  And it's not because he's everyone's idea of the perfect teacher:
An elementary school teacher who was late to school at least 46 times this past school year and 65 times the year before will be able to keep his job, a state arbitrator has ruled.

The city school district had sought to terminate Roosevelt Elementary School math teacher Arnold Anderson as a result of his years of chronic tardiness.

Anderson told The Associated Press on Friday that breakfast is to blame for his tardiness.

"I have a bad habit of eating breakfast in the morning, and I lost track of time," he said...

While the state-appointed arbitrator slammed the teacher's flimsy excuses and found that “there is no doubt the district has proven conduct unbecoming,” the teacher will be allowed to return to the classroom in January, albeit only after serving an unpaid suspension until then. Anderson earns about $90,000 per year with 14 years of experience...

In Anderson’s case, the arbitrator said the district failed to provide the teacher with due process by providing him with a formal notice of inefficiency or by giving him 90 days to correct his failings.
Holy crap, are you kidding me?  No one told him at any time in the last two school years that he was supposed to be on time to work?

Teachers unions like to point out that administrators should be documenting, documenting, documenting, and then, when there's enough documentation, it might be OK to fire a teacher.  IF no administrator warned the guy in the last two years, then yes, they screwed up.  Does that excuse this teacher's behavior, though?  Does it justify his keeping a $90,000-a-year job?  Is "conduct unbecoming a professional teacher", repeatedly and over an extended period of time, not enough to get fired?  Sometimes I wonder what, besides self satisfaction, I get from having high personal standards.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

This Doesn't Happen Often

It's too early on a Saturday morning.

I'm going to a hot yoga class pretty soon--and the only way I could convince myself to get up so early to go there (it's not far from my school) is to commit to going in to work to set up the math (stats) lab.  I removed all the computers at the end of last school year and now all the tables and chairs are stacked against the walls.  It's not going to set itself up....

I'd never go in to work on a Saturday to do something like this, but since I'll already be in the area anyway due to yoga, it won't be so bad.

Update, 8/30/15:  I fired up Pandora on my computer and got the math lab set up.  I sent an email asking the principal for a few dollars--and 14 more computers so I can have one per student instead of one per pair.  Then  I got to work adding upcoming assignments to our student information system and to my web site.  By the time I left my principal had already responded to my email--I could go buy the little things I needed and get reimbursed by our comptroller, but we'll have to see about the computers :)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Spoiling The Dumplings

Yesterday I gave a Chapter 1 test in two of my classes.  A lot of it was Algebra 2 review but there was a little new material in it.  Finished grading them this morning.  Grades were posted online before lunch today.

Gave quizzes to three classes today.  Since there were only quizzes they didn't take long to grade, but they were all graded with scores posted online by the end of the school day.

I feel like a grading rock star today!  I can't stand when my own instructors make me wait several days for the results of a test, so I don't put my own students through that.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Made My Day

Today, right after 6th period, a student I didn't know from Adam came into my room and asked if he could ask me some questions about West Point.  I had a meeting to get to but we still spent a few minutes.  I asked his reasons for considering West Point, gave him some things to consider, and then had to go to my meeting.

But I just love that.  It does my heart good to know that there are still kids out there today who consider our service academies.

At Least Pretend There's A Drought

If I've had to let my front and back lawns die because I'm not allowed to water them as much as is needed to keep them alive in this heat, then perhaps you shouldn't be having your taxpayer-provided, gas guzzling, global-warming-creating SUV washed a few times a week:
Despite living in one of the most car-centric and image-conscious cities in the world, many Los Angeles drivers have cut their carwashes during the crippling drought.

Not so for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The majority of the supervisors wash their take-home cars two or three times a week, service records show, and actually washed them more frequently after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent cut in urban water use. As the county’s washes continue to consume tap water, some other local governments have pledged to skip washes for months or are using recirculated water...

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had his cars washed more frequently than any of the others, according to the documents obtained under the state public records law. In 2014, Ridley-Thomas had one of his Chrysler 300 Limited sedans washed an average of 2.7 times per week. After the mandate in April, workers washed it 3.1 times per week...

Two other supervisors — Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe — both wash their take-home SUVs about two times a week, and both increased the frequency of washes after Brown’s April mandate (he first declared a state of emergency in January 2014).
Reader and long-time friend MikeAT sent the link to me and had this to say:
I don’t know what is the biggest hypocrisy, the fact these libs in the middle of a drought have their taxpayer provided vehicles washed or the fact some get SUVs....
And some people want even more government, which means an even bigger and more powerful political class--even more people more equal than others.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

If You Strike Me Down

If President Obama can be said to have created any legacy at all, it's been his invigoration of the Republican Party.

If it makes you lefties feel good to think we don't like him because he's black, I encourage you to keep thinking that way.  Don't stop believin', lefties.  Your simplistic arguments--that only you in your own echo chamber believe--make me smile.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I've Missed That

Today I went to my first hot yoga class in well over a year and a half.  I came away with two lessons.  First, I've lost all the bendiness I ever had from my previous practice.  There were muscles and tendons that wouldn't stretch at all, and others strained to do what I wanted.  I have much work to do.  And second, I really enjoy hot yoga--I'd forgotten how much.

Now I'm home, feeding the dog and me, and then hitting the books for my current master's class:  Problem Solving In History.  I'm hoping to learn how to multiply with Roman numerals.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Vacation Is Officially Over For Me

I've been back to work for over 2 weeks now, and have had students for over a week and a half, but what really signals the end of my break is the start of the new semester of my master's program.  Six down, four to go!

Remember When The "Free Speech Movement" Was Centered On College Campuses?

How quaint those days must seem now, with stories like this one out of Rutgers bombarding us on an almost-daily basis:
Rutgers University students, you are being watched.

That appears to be the message a Rutgers.edu web page would like the campus community to absorb. The web page is maintained by the Bias Prevention & Education Committee, which chillingly warns students that there is “no such thing as free speech,” and to “think before you speak.” From the web page:
Since 1992, the Bias Prevention Committee has monitored the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus for bias incidents and has provided bias prevention education to staff, students, and faculty.…

However, the university administration seems to be backing off some of the committee’s claims. When Campus Reform first reported the existence of the web page last week, it looked like this. By Monday, it looked like this. The difference? The university removed the assertion that there is no such thing as free speech.

I suppose this means that administrators recently reviewed the page, and stand by the rest of its claims.
Thank God for FIRE, though it's a shame they're needed at all.

Black Students--A Juxtaposition

The top two posts on Joanne's blog today were both about black students in America:
Study: White teachers expect less of blacks
Non-black teachers have lower expectations for black students than black teachers, concludes a recent study.

“We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two,” writes researcher Seth Gershenson. But it’s likely that teachers’ expectations “shape student outcomes.”
New Orleans improves — with black teachers
Today,  54 percent of NOLA teachers and 58 percent of RSD school leaders are black, writes Stewart. Blacks make up 59 percent of the city’s population.

“Great black school leaders and educators are working hard in a new system with many hopeful new possibilities,” he concludes. This time, growth of the black middle class is linked to “academic results for poor black children.”
What struck me was this:
When schools reopened (after Hurricane Katrina), the Recovery School District required that teacher candidates pass a basic skills test. “One third of the returning teachers failed that test,” writes Stewart.
Just out of curiousity, what races were those teachers?  Has anyone done a study asking what portion of New Orleans' students' improvement can be attributed to getting rid of bad teachers, as opposed to having black teachers?  The bottom line is that students are doing better, but the statistician in me wants to know if the title is correct or not.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Teachers

Here's one person's opinion.  Note to lefties--you can't disagree since it comes from Nate Silvers' blog :-)
Is evaluating teachers an exact science? Many people — including many teachers and their unions — believe current methods are often too subjective and open to abuse and misinterpretation. But new tools for measuring teacher effectiveness have become more sophisticated in recent years, and several large-scale studies in New York, Los Angeles and North Carolina have given those tools more credibility. A new study released on Monday furthers their legitimacy; and as the science of grading teachers advances, it could push for further adoption of these tools.

This evolving science of teacher evaluation was recently thrust into public controversy when, in 2012, nine students sued the state of California, claiming its refusal to fire bad teachers was harming disadvantaged students. To claim that certain teachers were unambiguously bad, and that the state was responsible, the plaintiffs relied on relatively new measures of teacher effectiveness. In that case, Vergara v. California, several top-notch economists testified for each side as expert witnesses, arguing the merits of these complex statistics. In June 2014, the judge ruled that California’s teacher-tenure protections were unconstitutional, a victory for the plaintiffs. Gov. Jerry Brown is appealing, and a similar case has begun in New York state.

But the economists on both sides of the Vergara case are still engaged in cordial debate. On one side is Raj Chetty of Harvard University, John Friedman of Brown University and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University — hereafter referred to as “CFR” — who authored two influential papers published last year in the American Economic Review; Chetty testified for the plaintiffs in the case. On the other side is Jesse Rothstein, of the University of California at Berkeley, who published a critique of CFR’s methods and supported the state in the Vergara case.

On Monday, to come full circle, the CFR researchers published a reply to Rothstein’s criticisms.
Very interesting stuff.  I've long thought that truly effective teachers don't fear this kind of evaluation.