I taught full time for fifteen years and am now subbing so that I can finish my novel. I don't have all the answers. None of us do. In fact, even if something works great for me, there is no guarantee it will work for you.
I hope that we will give each other suggestions. I went to all the trainings I could get my principal to approve when I taught full-time. I talked to a lot of teachers. AND I just kept trying things until I found something that worked FOR ME. We can not go against our own nature. Kids can sense that and will test us.
So, don't give up. Keep on trying new things and always know that there is a place to go where you can be anonymous and speak freely.
Best of Luck to all of you. Our children deserve the best that we can offer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

NCTE Explains How to Connect to Summer Reading

Connecting to Summer Reading This Fall
Even if you've made the jump to a Web 2.0 approach to summer assignments, there's still the need to connect to the momentum of summer reading once students return to the classroom in the fall. These resources from NCTE and can help you get started.

First and foremost, remember "Readers Just Want to Have Fun" (G)! As this short article from Voices from the Middle asks, "When was the last time you finished a book and thought, 'Gosh, I can't wait to take a test on this!' or 'This book would sure be great to write an essay on!'" Focus on fun by emphasizing sharing and discussion in response to summer reading.

Involve families and students' extended circle of friends in the conversation. The School Talk issue "Creating Readers: Talking about Books in Multilingual Classrooms" (E) includes some great suggestions and stories.

As the title of this English Journal article suggests, "Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report" (M) offers a number (50 to be precise) of ways to engage students in talking, thinking, and writing about books they read over the summer, or any time.

Tap 21st century literacy tools to build discussion of great summer reads. The English Journal article "Finding a Voice in a Threaded Discussion Group: Talking about Literature Online" (S) explains how these forums increase participation from all students, encourage reflection and critical thinking, and lend themselves to more interactive conversations.

Connect out-of-school reading practices to academic reading strategies. The College English article "Texts of Our Institutional Lives: Studying the 'Reading Transition' from High School to College: What Are Our Students Reading and Why?" (C) asserts that, contrary to common belief, students are reading quite a bit, at least at one university, although they are not spending much time on materials assigned in their courses. The more teachers connect this out-of-school reading to the reading in the classroom, the stronger and more engaged they will find students to be.

Also check out these lessons from Book Report Alternative: Creating a New Book Cover (E), Book Report Alternative: A Character's Letter to the Editor (M), and So What Do You Think? Writing a Review (S-C)!

Sharpton & Gingrich On the Same Page for School Reforms?

Sharpton, Gingrich push Obama's school reforms
By LIBBY QUAID (AP) – 4 days ago

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Arne Duncan is joining forces with two unlikely allies, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to push cities to fix failing schools.

The trio will visit Philadelphia, New Orleans and Baltimore later this year. They plan to add more stops as their tour progresses.

"These are cities that have real challenges but also tremendous hope and opportunity," Duncan told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

The idea came from a meeting they had with President Barack Obama in May at the White House.

Education is high on Obama's priority list. He is seeking to boost achievement, keep kids from dropping out of high school and push every student to pursue some form of higher education.

The president has vowed to make the United States the world leader in the number of people who graduate from college.

He argues that students who do better in school will help themselves in a work force that increasingly depends on high-skilled jobs, and that the country will benefit as well.

Obama discussed education issues in an interview with Damon Weaver, an 11-year-old Florida student.

"On Sept. 8, when young people across the country will have just started or are about to go back to school, I'm going to be making a big speech to young people all across the country about the importance of education, the importance of staying in school, how we want to improve our education system and why it's so important for the country," Obama said.

Sharpton, the liberal Democrat and community activist, said teachers and administrators aren't the only ones responsible for improving schools.

"The parents need to be challenged with the message of `no excuses,'" Sharpton said.

Gingrich applauded Obama for showing "real courage on the issue of charter schools." Obama wants to increase the number of charter schools, which have a controversial history and are a divisive issue for his party's base.

Charters get public tax dollars but operate free from local school board control and usually from union contracts, making them a target of criticism by many teachers' union members.

"I strongly believe that when you can find common ground, we should be able to put other differences aside to achieve a common goal," Gingrich said.

The group plans to visit Philadelphia on Sept. 29, New Orleans on Nov. 3 and Baltimore on Nov. 13.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Coach Sherrie says: This is what happens when anybody with any money or power can opt out of the school system. The powers that be don't care because it doesn't affect their loved ones; they go to private school. If you have some brains and can't afford that, you can always find a magnet program to attend. <3

NCLB's Broad Impact

Studies Weigh NCLB's Broad Impact
By Dakarai I. Aarons
State-level implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act has changed how education is delivered and to whom, researchers have found. Still, they say, it’s difficult in some cases to measure which changes can be attributed solely to the law.

The researchers presented their findings at a conference hosted yesterday by the Washington-based Urban Institute’s National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research and the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University. They studied state implementation of the landmark federal education law and its impact on student achievement, teacher distribution and quality, and the teaching of subjects not covered in the law, among other topics.

With Congress likely to take up reauthorization of the law next year—an attempt in 2007 stalled on Capitol Hill—researchers and policymakers are looking for lessons learned.

Coach Sherrie says: Sorry, but I couldn't download the entire article. I just keep wondering where the leaders are going to come from if we don't care about the top students anymore. I also wonder when they are ever going to ask the teachers how they think things are going.

Teaching Is Hot New Job

Teaching is the new hot job as recession forces career changes

By JESSICA MEYERS / The Dallas Morning News
Paul Washington oversaw hundreds of employees in the auto industry and navigated the finicky retail market for Target. Now he's taking on a much more daunting task: teaching history to eighth-graders.

Washington, who will start work this month at Stafford Middle School in Frisco, is among a cadre of professionals leaving corporations for classrooms as the economy continues to wallow and frustrated employees reconsider career trajectories.

School districts nationwide are seeing a rise in these applicants, though they are having almost as much difficulty finding a job in this field as in their previous one. Slim opportunities have them vying against trained teachers and reinvigorating the debate between real-life expertise and experience in education.

The New Teacher Project, a national organization that trains midcareer professionals for the classroom, said applications for its summer training programs were up by an average of 29 percent.

"Whenever people get laid off, we have an influx of candidates," said Chris Kanouse, the director of teacher preparation and certification for the state Education Service Center for North Texas.

"But it has been difficult for individuals who think it's going to be an easy transition into the teaching world when that world isn't opening positions like they used to."

Texas requires its teachers to be state certified, and most of these newcomers go through a program called alternative certification. It involves hundreds of hours of coursework and classroom observation and usually takes a year to complete.

The Education Service Centers – there are 20 around the state – are among a number of providers offering alternative certification programs. The local center, which is Richardson, just started a program specifically for laid-off engineers at the behest of Texas Instruments.

Two weeks ago 3,500 applicants who have their alternative certifications were looking for local teaching positions through the Education Service Center's job network. But only 312 jobs were available.

Washington considers himself fortunate to have snagged a position. The 36-year-old Frisco resident worked as a general manager for CarMax until he was laid off.

"I managed adults all the time," he said. "Then I started spending all day coaching kids in youth sports and thought I could do this as a career. I could give back."

Fewer jobs out there

Teachers are struggling to find jobs – regardless of training – because most North Texas school districts are hiring fewer of them.

The Garland district is hiring almost 400 fewer teachers than last year, and only accepted 48 with alternate certifications. Dallas, which is hiring 285 teachers this year compared with 754 last year, has selected 250 who are alternatively certified. Even Frisco, one of the few districts that hasn't seen a sizable drop in new teachers because of enrollment growth, is hiring more conservatively. The district is bringing on 376 teachers this year, down from more than 400 last year. Of those, 62 are alternatively certified.

Linda Bass, Frisco ISD's assistant superintendent for human resources, said administrators don't maintain a quota or actively weed out people with nontraditional training. Instead, she said, they look for "knowledge of the world and specialized experience" along with an understanding of "technology and creative ideas."

The dearth of teaching jobs is a bonus for districts that are more selective in their hiring. It gives those districts the opportunity to select applicants with more extensive education-centered backgrounds, said Amber Magness, who completed her master's degree in early education at the University of North Texas in May.

She's been applying for positions across the region since October but hasn't found a job.

"Those who are obtaining [alternative certification] could be qualified," she said, "but they don't have the classroom experience I bring to the table, the student teaching, the clinicals."

'Steep learning curve'

Educators say not all professionals can transfer their skills onto a chalkboard.

"Some people believe teaching is easier than it is," Kanouse said. "They look back at when they loved school and the three to four teachers they liked. This is a serious steep learning curve, and not everyone is suited to teach."

But Kanouse argues that they recognize this by the time they start teaching. They've completed their required coursework and observation. And these new teachers also are likely to stay in the field, she said.

"When people make this career change, they're doing it because it is important to them. Someone in midcareer is probably going to be there much longer than someone who is younger who transitions into teaching."

A connection with kids

Training and passion are important elements in teacher quality, but they don't determine effectiveness, said Kate Walsh, the president of the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality.

"You can't point to a study that shows that a teacher who has gone through traditional training is better than one who didn't," she said. "I'd argue that neither are doing a good job. We do know that being smarter matters. If you perform high, the chances of having high student achievement increases."

But a teacher's specific training doesn't matter.

"It's all about the connection with kids, which is not necessarily someone who is touchy feely," she said. "It's someone who holds you to a higher standard."

'Something rewarding'

That connection is what had Chad Davis staring intensely at an overhead projector screen this week during Frisco's new-teacher training session.

The 38-year-old McKinney resident re-evaluated his priorities when his finance company folded last year.

"I wanted something more rewarding," said Davis, who had spent 12 years in commodities and business management. He'll teach business and computers this fall at Frisco's Centennial High School.

"A lot of kids lack the knowledge to make financial decisions," he said. "I want them to have something they can rely on throughout life."

The bell rang for the next session, but he hung back as the cafeteria cleared.

Like any new teacher, he said, "I'm worried about getting it right."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Obama Effect

'Obama Effect' at school: Black parents volunteer, expect more

Barack Obama greets a volunteer at a National Day of Service event in which volunteers wrote letters to the troops on Jan. 19 at Coolidge Senior High School in Washington. African-American parents who say they'll volunteer in their child's school rose to 60% from 23% a year ago.

By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
A new survey suggests that President Obama's victory last November had a positive effect not just on the academic expectations of black Americans — it may have raised parents' interests in volunteerism.
The "Obama Effect," documented last winter, showed that Obama's rise during the 2008 presidential election helped improve African Americans' performance on skills tests, which helped narrow a black-white achievement gap.

BUDGET: Obama aims high for higher education
EXPERTS: A few words for the president on closing the 'achievement gap'
OBAMA ELEMENTARY: Renamed school made inauguration the lesson

In the new findings, African-American parents of children in K-12 schools say they're much more likely to volunteer in a classroom this fall, in effect narrowing a volunteering gap.

The survey, being released today by GreatSchools, a San Francisco non-profit that promotes parental involvement, finds a jump of 37 percentage points in the portion of African-American parents who say they'll volunteer in their child's school — 60% vs. 23% a year ago.

In the same period, the percentage of white parents who plan to volunteer rose six points, from 47% to 53%.

"Clearly, this data is showing that the parent in chief, President Obama, is having an impact on parents' thinking, especially African-American parents' thinking," GreatSchools CEO Bill Jackson says. He notes that in several speeches, Obama has urged parents to turn off the TV, read to their children and attend parent-teacher conferences.

"That jump that we're seeing … is clearly a response to that," he says.

The Internet survey of 1,086 parents has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. For the African-American group, the sampling error is much larger — 12.7 percentage points — but the new findings are outside the sampling error.

In January, Vanderbilt University management professor Ray Friedman and a team of researchers found that in a series of online tests, the performance gap between blacks and whites shrank dramatically during two key moments spotlighting Obama in the 2008 campaign.

The findings, dubbed the Obama Effect, offered "compelling evidence of the power that real-world, in-group role models like Obama can have on members of their racial or ethnic community," Friedman said.