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First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our
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June 12, 2012
Parent blog: A student questions school lunch
Check out how your child's school lunches compare to those of student Martha Payne, whose blog went viral with the help of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
June 12, 2012
Going The Extra Mile
A few weeks ago, a parent sent a note to my principal. In part it said, “Ms. Whitehouse is an asset to your school. I only wish there were more teachers like her who would go the extra mile for the kids.” I was touched by this mother’s kind words and the thoughtfulness displayed in taking the time to compose and send the note, particularly in the current teacher-bashing atmosphere. The note worked also made me think about that “extra mile” — who runs it and how far it actually is. Every morning several teachers arrive at school by 7 a.m. (We’d arrive earlier but we are not allowed inside the building until then.) We prepare for our day by organizing lesson resources. We make copies (when the copy machine is working) and put notes on the board. We grade homework and analyze data. We fill out paperwork, plan trips and clean desks with anti-bacterial wipes. Some of us water plants, read professional materials, or prepare our bulletin boards. (That feels like a mile.) A little before 8 a.m., the “show” begins and until 3 p.m. it is a whirlwind of lessons and assessments, student conferences, planning, and duty in the yard, bathroom and cafeteria. Many of us skip “duty-free” lunch to run detention, tutor students or attend meetings. (That’s at least two miles, isn’t it? Cause I’m winded.) When the students leave, our day is not done. Teacher “milers” stay behind to straighten up, review supply needs, gather original materials that need to be copied, and reflect on the day’s lessons or a student’s errant behavior. We look over students’ work and think how best to address their deficits and highlight their strengths. We assess ourselves and redesign our lessons. We make phone calls to parents. Sometimes we speak with colleagues about upcoming tests, lessons, trips, or activities. Often we seek advice from a more seasoned teacher. Some of us attend professional development or college after school. For instance, several evenings a week, Ms. Lichtman takes classes which keep her away from home until 9:30 p.m. (That’s definitely got to be a couple of miles.)
June 12, 2012
Editor's blog: Just say "no" to Tweenbook
The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is tinkering with a way to create a safe site for kids under age 13. This editor doesn't believe that's possible. She prefers "Facetime." What do you think the right age is to join Facebook?
June 11, 2012
Report: Denver schools lack PE, recess, breakfast
A group tracking health trends among students of color wants DPS to expand recess before lunch and to boost gym classes, among other ideas.
June 11, 2012
Are We Failing Gym Or Is Gym Failing Us?
Travis Dove and Juliana Zaloom are students at CSI High School for International Studies. They reported and wrote this piece for their journalism class. Physical education. The term conjures up images of running, basketball, volleyball, and stretching — and, for many students at CSI High School for International Studies, overcrowding, minimal curriculum, and disorganization. As CSI fills to the ceiling of its capacity, the question of what to do with gym class looms over everyone’s heads. Originally, because classes lasted up to 55 minutes per day, the school offered gym at 1.35 credits for students (as well as all other classes). This allowed students to finish the required four credits in three semesters. However, after a Department of Education audit found this practice to be against regulations, gym was reduced to one credit per class. After two years, another audit revealed that gym is meant to be worth .58 credits and offered for a minimum of seven semesters. Because of this sudden change, some seniors’ graduation was in doubt, and zero block gym was created in September 2011. The class would be worth one credit to allow seniors to finish in time to graduate. In addition to being offered to seniors behind in gym credits, some juniors behind in credits (due to taking extra music or art classes) were also placed in zero block. In some cases, students were scheduled for gym more than one period a day so they could make up missed credits.
June 8, 2012
Four Years To Reverse A Bad Decision?
This piece originally appeared in Spanish in El Diario. Last Friday, the Department of Education quietly disclosed that it will end one of its signature policies: the all-out ban on so-called “social promotion” of students in city schools. Finally, "in response to ... feedback and research showing that being retained multiple times can be detrimental for students," principals will receive an additional $1,500 for every student who has already been retained and will have the flexibility to promote those students if they judge that to be best for the student. Turns out, simply holding students back doesn’t always help them do better. And sometimes, it’s not best for a child to be 16 years old in the eighth grade. I want to say, “I told you so,” but that isn’t very satisfying. It just makes me angry. Back in 2008, parents and community members from the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice protested the strict retention policy, based on years of educational research. One hundred fifty of us showed up to protest the Panel for Educational Policy “vote” to put 18,000 students at risk of repeating a grade because of their state test scores — without any plan at all to help those students do better. Of course we don't want our children passed on if they are not prepared for the next grade, but we did want proof that a ban would work, as well as a plan to give students the academic supports they would need.
June 8, 2012
Commentary: Choose the right policy tool
Depending on local conditions, class-size reduction or improving educator effectiveness may prove to be a more successful strategy, says a local policy expert.
June 7, 2012
Ask an Expert: Educational fun with water
An expert from the Children's Museum of Denver gives us lots of great ideas to keep kids learning this summer by using an easy-to-find ingredient: water.
June 7, 2012
Researcher: Gentrification can turn into school integration
The Useable Knowledge series brings education research to GothamSchools readers. In the second installment, Jennifer Stillman presents her research into racially diverse schools in gentrifying neighborhoods. Stillman, a research analyst for the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation, earned a doctorate in politics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She lives in Harlem. Leave questions for Stillman about her research in the comments section. What questions guided your research? I researched the process of school integration in gentrifying neighborhoods because I think school integration remains an important societal goal, despite the dismantling of racial integration programs across the nation. Gentrifying neighborhoods seem full of potential. I wanted to figure out how a school without any white, middle-class families goes through the process of integration. What does it take to attract the first white families to a school in a gentrifying neighborhood? And the next wave? And the next? Why do these families stay or go? Is there a point at which we can say the school has successfully integrated? My research question was one of process, not outcomes, relying on existing literature that links integration with positive effects. I am a “gentry parent” myself (which I define as white, middle and upper-middle class, highly educated parents who are gentrifying a neighborhood with their presence and wealth), and I understand why neighborhood gentrification is controversial.
June 5, 2012
Ask an Expert: Stimulating kids' brains over the summer
Just because it's summer does not mean your child should stop using his or her brain. Summer time is actually a good time to hone certain skills that can improve intelligence. One of the most important aspects of learning, if not the “sine qua non of learning” (as Newsweek called it, Jan. 9, 2012) is attention.
June 4, 2012
Commentary: Teacher voice must lead policy
Teacher Jessica Keigan reflects back on her hybrid role this past year and says more teachers must be brought to the forefront in policymaking.
June 1, 2012
Editor's blog: "Never Seconds" school lunch blog
Check out how your child's school lunches compare to those of Martha Payne, the Scottish school lunch chronicler whose Never Seconds blog went viral with the help of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Share your own school lunch story.
May 30, 2012
Dance keeps Thornton teens focused in school and out
School has just ended but for the members of the Thornton High School Focus Dance Crew, summer signals no break in their rigorous physical regimen.
May 25, 2012
"Find a Book, Colorado" offers up books to all ages
"Find a Book, Colorado" is a new online tool that allows children and parents to look up high-quality, age-appropriate books to read over the summer. Check it out.
May 24, 2012
Commentary: A new addition to principal pipeline
Outgoing Denver principal Peter Sherman discusses a new program he designed for Get Smart Schools to groom potential new school leaders.
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