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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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May 15, 2012
TCAP reading results reveal anomalies
Read this story by EdNews Colorado reporter Nancy Mitchell to find out about Colorado's reading gender gap, how a much-lauded Denver school took a TCAP nose dive and how a low-scoring rural school made a big jump.
May 15, 2012
Looking Back On Student Journalism At Bronx Science
The student press, at least legally, is not a free press. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, school newspapers are legally subject to administrative review. As many — including the comic book character Spiderman — have said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and indeed, we usually count on the good faith of school administrators in these matters of content regulation. At the Bronx High School of Science, however, whether administrators acted in good faith on these matters is not clear. Last year, I was one of two editors of the Editorial page on the school’s newspaper, the Science Survey. While disputes between teachers and administration have received a high profile in media coverage, here is a side of the story you probably have not heard before. Trouble In The Math Department At the end of April 2010, the union complaint the math teachers had earlier filed through the city union was resolved by judgment from an arbitrator. The report more or less corroborated the complaints of the teachers and recommended that both the offending administrator and the union chapter leader, the well liked math teacher Peter Lamphere, be removed from the school. The city’s education department took Principal Valerie Reidy’s side anyway and more or less ignored the arbitrator’s findings. (In December, an arbitrator ruled that Lamphere's low rating should be discarded.) At the time, the newspaper, the Science Survey, had just selected its editors for the last issue and next year, and Seán Toomey and I were slotted as heads of the editorial section. As the situation in the math department had again hit the headlines (articles on the arbitrator’s decision appeared in several city newspapers), we all agreed that it would be incredibly unusual if the school paper didn’t have anything to say on the matter. We (this includes the editors in chief at the time and our faculty adviser) set about drafting an editorial addressing the issue. Getting an article approved in your school newspaper covering an incident that garnered the institution bad publicity citywide is the sort of thing that probably would be a chore in any circumstance. But it was an even dicier situation at the Survey, where the administration took its power of prior review over the paper seriously.
May 14, 2012
Commentary: Help tackling the Common Core
Faced with the not-so-user-friendly new state standards, a literacy coach offers suggestions to daunted teachers.
May 14, 2012
Commentary: The self-fulfilling nature of special ed
A doctoral student reflects back on her elementary school days and considers herself lucky not to have been labeled special ed.
May 13, 2012
Commentary: Becca Bracy Knight podcast
The Broad Center's Becca Bracy Knight discusses the center's work developing talent to run school systems in this season's final Hot Lunch podcast.
May 10, 2012
Commentary: Colorado can take the learning lead
Two proponents of mixing online and in-person instruction say the time is ripe to ramp up such efforts in Colorado.
May 10, 2012
Rural districts get creative about health, Washington notices
Washington notices Colorado's creative ways to improve health in rural schools. The president of the Colorado Legacy Foundation is in Washington this week to share stories with federal officials.
May 9, 2012
Commentary: READ Act a victory for kids
The heads of five education advocacy organizations extoll the virtues of the just-passed early literacy act.
May 9, 2012
Find your school's 2012 TCAP scores
The percentage of Colorado third-graders reading at grade level improved slightly this year, according to results released today by state officials. Across the state, 74 percent of of third-graders achieved at proficient or advanced levels on exams given in February this year, up from 73 percent last year.
May 8, 2012
Ask an Expert: Keeping your child learning – with water – this summer
An expert from the Children's Museum of Denver gives us lots of great ideas to keep kids occupied, moving around and learning this summer by using an easy-to-find ingredient: water. Other things you might need are corks, bowls, sprinklers, an old sheet, a hose. Time for fun!
May 8, 2012
Commentary: Celebrate teachers, don't bash reform
KIPP Colorado board chair Shepard Nevel argues it's possible to celebrate teachers and reform organizations like KIPP at the same time.
May 7, 2012
Commentary: Does the Growth Model make sense?
Educator Marc Waxman has some questions about the Colorado Growth Model, which is being replicated in several other states.
May 7, 2012
Commentary: How to show appreciation to teachers
Middle school teacher Mary Nanninga offers some pointed suggestions about how to show teachers they are appreciated.
May 4, 2012
Editor's blog: Colorado "doodler" state finalist in Google contest
Take a moment to help a Colorado teen win a $30,000 scholarship and Bayfield Middle School get a $50,000 technology grant as part of Doodle 4 Google. Vote now.
May 4, 2012
On Gestalt: A School Is More Than The Sum Of Its Parts
Schools are complex environments, strewn with relationships amongst adults with a multiplicity of roles and allegiances, complicated by the volatile and competitive relationships of children striving to understand their place in the world. To work in a public school is to daily navigate treacherous political and interpersonal waters, work on various teams, alternately pressure and commiserate with parents in meetings and on phone calls, and conference with children to steer them through issues they encounter in their relationships with others. Relationships comprise the foundation on which the real work of schools reside. Teachers meet with one another to plan curricula and assessments (or at least, they should), examine and share student work, analyze data, and share resources and ideas on how to manage children with challenging behavior or inadequate academic progress. Students often have strong relationships with multiple adults in the building, such as the security guard, the secretary, another teacher down the hall, or a trusted paraprofessional or school aide. Teachers use tricks to capitalize on these relationships, distracting students in crisis by asking them to deliver pretend “mail” to other teachers, or sending them to a corner or outside the classroom with a co-teacher or paraprofessional to “de-escalate” and engage in a problem-solving conversation. As a special education teacher, my students often engage with a number of adults on any given day as part of their services delivered via their Individualized Education Program (IEP), such as counseling, speech-language therapy, one-on-one tutoring (SETTS), or occupational therapy. Many of my students are also English language learners (ELLs — gotta love all the acronyms, eh?), and are also pulled for small group English as a second language instruction. This year, I am teaching in an inclusion, co-teaching classroom, and my general education students are also sometimes pulled for academic intervention services (AIS) and dance practice for a school performance. Many of them also attend after-school programs most days of the week. Now think of how many adults contribute to the education of the students I am responsible for. And the farce that is value-added accountability becomes apparent. How can you possibly disaggregate my individual impact on a student from the collective impact of the school environment and that individual student’s work with other adults?
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