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February 1, 2008
Vol. 65
No. 5

Best of the Blog

      In response to the December 20 post, "Bah, Humbug! Educators Get Coal from the President and Congress," commenting on the funding levels for education:
      Thank you, Mr. President and Congress, for holding the line on unnecessary spending in the education field. I continue to see abuse of funding on local levels and within city schools, which continue to perform poorly even though taxpayer money has been poured into these schools for many years. It is time to demand performance within a budget. Administrators, and even some teachers, are only in the field for the financial rewards, not to help all children. I grew up in an environment where teachers gave their all for the student and never complained, as many do today.
      William Norton
      The difference between legislators and executive branch personnel going home for the holidays and teachers, paraprofessionals, staff, and students in low-income, economically deprived communities going home for the holidays is a continuing shame of the nation. More than half of our children go home for 10 days of dramatic uncertainty about food, heat, and family trauma. Our teachers spend their own money to buy coats, hats, boots, mittens, and classroom supplies. We are understaffed, not underperforming. Shame on Congress and the humbug president of the United States.
      Chip Wood
      Running the risk of sounding the contrarian, what's so wrong with a 3.3 percent increase? The E2T2 (Enhancing Education Through Technology) grant looks like it's going to be funded at pretty much the same level as last year. Perhaps one issue is not so much the total funding but the apparent priorities within the education spending bill that results in uneven increases and decreases.
      John Thompson
      The cynic in me shouts out that politicians fear an educated electorate more than anything else, for a truly educated electorate wouldn't have elected very many of them. Why spend our tax dollars on a difficult enterprise that adds value to each American when we can even more easily (and patriotically) spend those dollars on the art, science, and labor of killing our enemies—and in doing so, create more enemies who need to be killed?
      George Peternel
      In response to the December 17 post on the EL article, "Assessing What Matters" by Robert J. Sternberg, which recommends that assessments go beyond academics to assess creativity and practicality:
      Like Sternberg, I value creativity and wisdom more highly than the qualities generally measured on the standardized tests used to make high-stakes decisions. While I try to inspire, encourage, allow, ask for, describe, celebrate, and sometimes even preach these qualities in my high school English classes, I don't measure them. Once attached to grades, entrance or exit exams, scholarships, and school funding, these qualities will be dissected into smaller and smaller parts, mixed with coercion, and dished up as an unrecognizable and unpalatable substitute for the real meal.
      I'm grateful to Sternberg for pointing out what thoughtful educators have suspected for years: that the qualities he values are better indicators of success than the skills we're told to kill and drill to meet adequate yearly progress. But plugging a test for creativity into the current testing landscape will simply make a mockery of creativity. We'd be better off studying the conditions necessary for creativity, making our classrooms rich fodder for creativity, and then reveling in what students create rather than trying to measure what they've done with "creativity rubrics."
      Maja Wilson
      In response to the December 18 post, "Most-Clicked: Behind Before the Bell," which shared results from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) study showing four major factors affecting students' standardized test performance:
      The ETS found that if we know whether the family has one or two parents, whether the child was read to regularly, and about the child's TV watching and absences from school, we have 63 percent of the information needed to predict the child's grade 8 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) score. That's a lot. Jeff McQuillan (in the book The Literacy Crisis: False Claims and Real Solutions) was able to predict 71 percent of the variability on 4th grade NAEP scores using only poverty level and access to print as predictors. He predicted 59 percent of the variability using only poverty level and amount of free reading as predictors.
      As Don Romero points out in his blog comment, a direct application of the ETS study involves "meddling with the family." But improving access to books through better classroom and school libraries, and making sure the school has a credentialed librarian are things that can easily be done by schools.
      Stephen Krashen
      Teachers should not be expected to correct the problems students have at home; however, we can do a great deal to help students compensate and excel. Teachers have done this for generations, particularly teachers who have worked with poor and at-risk students. Not all parents know or care that what they do at home has such tremendous impact on their children's educational success, but those parents are the products of somebody's school, too.
      Renee Moore
      If we as a country can't do anything to change the backgrounds of students, then we must create success in the environment we can control—the school day. This must begin with assigning appropriate work for students. Too many teachers are rigid and want students to "learn the lesson" of failure when they don't or can't do their work. What teachers are not recognizing is that that lesson of failure has been mastered early on in the students' lives.
      Assess students in various ways at several intervals throughout a grading period. Genuine success on quality work will improve the achievement of all students. The constant in students' lives must be the classroom, which should be a haven for children who leave chaos each morning to come to school.
      Jody A. Flowers

      This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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