Showing posts from January, 2010

Leaving Finland

Lake Jyvasjarvi I have never lived anywhere for 5 months other than Jyvaskyla, Finland. As my Fulbright journey concludes, there is so much to still digest. It will take months, if not years, to truly assimilate all the learning. Before I left Southern California, I wrote about the what I would miss the most from home and what I  looked forward to experiencing in Finland. It is safe to say I met my goals. Top 7 Goals 1. Discussing Education Helsinki Workshop Through professional development programs, Fulbright Finland connected teachers with scholars and researchers, for the purpose of putting inquisitive minds together. The Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats seminar provided participants with fascinating research and presentations. 2. Nordic Model Bus station in Espoo What does an efficient and earnest country look like?  It looks like Finland. Yes, people pay higher taxes, but get so much in return. I for one appreciated the well-maintained ro

Arne Duncan's Hurtful, Twisted Reasoning

Can a deadly, wretched hurricane which cost thousands of people their homes, lives, and livelihoods be considered "the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans schools?" NO. For the life of me, I cannot understand the penchant for using inflammatory words and thoughts that seems to have afflicted so called ed-reform leaders in the past week. First, Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of D.C. Schools paints laid-off teachers in in her district in broad strokes by saying they were a bunch of child molesters and abusers anyway . Stunning. Then, on Friday, Arne Duncan, excited to have found a new way to appeal to the conservative right stated that "Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to public schools in New Orleans." Stupefying and irresponsible. Last week, here at DFSC, we promised not to let this brave new world propaganda go unchallenged, and to fight lies and exaggerations with the truth. Below are some photos from my mother in law's house in New Orlea

Where Were You?

It hasn’t been easy being a teacher. In my 15 years working in Los Angeles public schools I have encountered scenes of heartbreak and devastation that would break a saner person. Maybe I’m not sane. I’ve always thought that you have to be just a little “off” to be successful in the hard to staff schools like those in which I’ve worked. You have to be able not to blink in the face of questionable management, politically bankrupt school boards, and parents and students who sometimes hone in on you as the enemy for trying to hold them accountable. But my 15 years as a teacher pale in comparison the 30, 35, or even 40 years some of my colleagues have worked to serve students and their communities. I cannot fathom how they must feel, getting ready to retire during a time when their contributions, efforts and sacrifices as educators are being devalued and besmirched by the media, corporate vultures, and politicians. At a time when we should be honoring the servi

Test Scores: What Do They Really Mean?

Don't Forget South Central (DFSC, as christened by K. Libby) has a love/hate relationship with the L.A. Times. On the one hand, its reporting is vastly slanted (the puff piece on charters last week is a primo example). However, many times it is our only source of information on the district we work in. So, reluctantly, we must refer to it for "information." Below is a graphic from the so-called Times Special Report on Charter Schools. Although it can be interpreted in many ways, I see that Green Dot's schools (Charter Management Organizations) have the lowest proficiency averages of all the types of charter schools. The charters most closely affiliated with the District have the highest scores. It seems that having some flexibility from District red tape may result in the highest test scores. The more you venture away into Green Dot territory, whose leaders have no background in education, the lower your test scores will be. One thing to consider is that these s

What Happened to the $200,000,000? Will the School Board Be Denied Tenure Over This?

Teachers in South Central are shocked and aghast at hearing that the school district cannot account for $200,000,000 in money spent on salaries, the Los Angeles Times reported today . "The Los Angeles school district paid $200 million more in salaries than it budgeted last year even as it laid off 2,000 teachers and hundreds of other employees, according to an internal audit" writes Howard Blume, a Times education reporter who sometimes gets things right. Two. Hundred. Million. Dollars. How many jobs could that have saved? At the average new teacher salary of about $40,000, that could have saved 5,000 jobs. At our school, it could have easily preserved our young teaching force, 23 teachers, who were fired and let go in order to "right-size" the district. Over 1,000 students have been affected by having a substitute teacher this year. This could have been avoided. Let's see where this went wrong. Someone was crunching the numbers. Theoretically, LAUSD ha

A Teacher's Opinion on the Governor's Proposals

photo by Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / January 7 , 2010 The new year ushered in even more rapid change in California education, with Governor Schwarzenegger passing new legislation that allows parents to transfer their children from low to high performing schools. It also authorizes a parent trigger at 75 schools statewide, that will begin the process for a change in administration, or possible transfer of management to outside entities, like charter management organizations. The Governor also reintroduced proposed legislation on revising the criteria to fire teachers, to make it easier to do so. All right, here goes: A TEACHER'S OPINION ON THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSALS It seems the Governor's focus is on making it easier for families to flee the public school system. This is, basically, a vote of no-confidence in public ed. Instead of focusing efforts on how to improve the public schools that exist now, the efforts are geared to how best to convert schools to char