Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Treason of the Supreme Court

The recent Supreme Court decision to treat collaborative entities as equivalent and equal to a citizen of this country is an act of treason. And it is an act of treason because the American people who can dream an American Dream no matter how much money they have are now marginalized by a Corporate Dream that can expend as much money as is necessary to control public policy - the rights of man.

And so actors such as Osama Bin Laden can now subliminally influence federal and state elections in ways that are wholly unhealthy for the democracy.

This decision flushes away in one misguided conservative-activist decision the American Republic. Every educated person in the world should be fearful of the consequences of this decision.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Teaching Tools: English, Language, and Expression

The teaching aids for reading and writing has come a long way since the simple vocabulary drill programs were introduced. But in many cases, the programs that most useful to teachers lock schools into proprietary tracks that force yearly subscriptions to be renewed over and over again for little more than cosmetic effect.

In this post, I want to enumerate a number of open source alternative applications that cash-strapped teachers and schools can consider.

Digital Comic Strips

Digital comic strips satisfy a whole range of student interests - creating their own short narratives (micro-stories), writing dialog (how does what one character respond to another), and so on. All of this is reading and writing fundamentals with a whole lot of creativity sprinkled in.

The first program is called strip generator and it allows students to add pre-defined characters to comic strip panels and add their own dialog. I've used it in this blog on a number of occasions and its both easy to learn and fun to use.

Another program that's web-based is from ReadWriteThink. And it allows students to choose fixed numbers of panels, drag and drop characters, word balloons and objects into the panels and print out their cartoons. This program is considerably more constrained and elementary than Strip Generator but nonetheless useful.

Open Source Screenwriting Application

I recently discovered Celtx, a program that is intended to be used by professional screenwriters and movie producers. It offers the ability to create storyboards, comics, and more. It has a set of very useful videos to introduce teachers and students to what's available.

It goes without saying that this program is a high school and college level application (this doesn't preclude gifted teachers and students in lower grades giving it a go).

Now, this is a rich product suite that has school pricing options that can be purchased. However, the beauty of this product is that every student can download a free version at home and it works on Windows, OSX, and Linux!

The other feature that English teachers in particular will like is that the characters that students write into their stories can be assigned voices that will play back the dialog. This is often a critically missing component of writing - that is, hearing what your writing sounds like.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"I Have A Dream!" and This Ain't It

The struggle of Humanity for social justice is far too often expressed as a litany of unapologetic platitudes. There is a degrading transformation of an ideal into a disposable sentiment that reduces holidays such as today into little more than another excuse to waste away our lives in the opiates of mass media, gaming, and vacant social networking.

Today, more than any other day, should expose the schemes to close the so-called educaton gap for what they are, an evil social engineering experiment run amok.

Today, Bush's NCLB scheme is called Race to the Top and it is wrapped in the Orwellian language that has plagued education for decades. If we have the courage to talk about these policies in plain english then we could expose their hidden agendas.

The Race to the Top in plain English is a government policy that intends to create the illusion of social equality and justice by providing a test score metric showing that all school children have approximately identical scores in English and math.

The schools will do this so that poverty and housing discrimination can remain intact because we aren't looking to solve inequality, poverty, adequate housing, job training, urban violence, black market drugs or the victimization of the poor to loan sharking. No, equality will be demonstrated in school test scores. And these scores will be used as a tool to establish social classes such as those found in India and China.

Social classes will have all of the corrosive and toxic benefits of racism without any of the fuss people like Martin Luther King would rail against.

There are those who say that Race to the Top is an inappropriate label for this education policy but it is precise in far more ways than educators imagine.

Maintaining racial segregation is at the "Top" of the priority list. The plan is to keep the urban environments warehouses for the poor and underclass citizens. Let them shoot each other, disease each other, and poison each other with social dysfunction. To have a Top is to celebrate a bottom and there is no plan to change where that bottom is.

And to Race to the Top is to Race up a social class hierarchy that excludes the undesirables. The tools of the race are weighed grades, segregation, and a social appetite for permanent poverty.

Martin Luther King's Dream was buried with him. What remains is a social fabric that self-insulates and distances itself from dreams that aren't consumer dreams and bumper sticker intellectualism.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Updated: Race to the Happy Meal

Tuesday the Board got together for a special public meeting to discuss whether or not to participate in the CT Department od Education's Race To The Top grant application.

The initial information we received was both sketchy and dubious.

I started putting together a FAQ sheet to make sense of the monetary implications of what the State was suggesting. Here's the updated version of that:
Region19 Race to the Top (RaTTT Race) Fact sheet

Region 19 was "invited" participate in the RaTTT Race Connecticut Grant submission. We are being told that if we agree,
"Our District can expect up to $66,000 over the 4 year period for participating should we decide to participate in the grant. The allocation is based on the Title I funding formula."


CT applying for $175M to be spent over Four Years

50% of those funds ($87.5M) get disbursed to participating "Districts" based on the title 1 formula

The RTTT Title 1 fund distribution sheet takes every potential participating district and shows *the maximum* potential Title 1 sum *if all districts participate* AND *the grant is fully funded*.

If all that were true then Region 19 *might* get $66,924 over four years

That means:

$66,000 / 4 years = 16,500/year
Corrected: $66,924 / 4 years = $16,731/year

$16500/year / 1262est. EO students/year = $13.08/yr./student
Corrected: $16,731/year / 1262est. EO students/year = $13.26/yr./student

$4.5B / 50 states = $90M/ state if averaged
Fixed: $4.35B / 50 states = $87M/state - flat average

Note that CT is requesting twice the sum of an evenly distributed grant sum across all states!

$29.5M (CT grant) / $87M avg state grant = $0.327777778/$1 of an avg state grant
$175M (CT grant) / $87M avg state grant = $2/$1 of an even state distribution of funds

The RTTT allocation tables that Region 19 received are based on the grant request sum that is clearly double what one might expect as a dollar for dollar expectation based on evenly distributed funds.

If we adjust the State's estimates to simply reflect that each state may receive a fair share sum then:

Instead of $175M, we'll start with the evenly distributed sum of $87M. And since just 50% of that amount applies to the Title I funding, we are talking about dividing up 43.5 million over four years. That's a little less than $10M.

$29.5M RTTT State grant / 4 years = $7,375,000/year (for all CT schools)

$7,375,000/year / 1658 schools in CT = $4,448.13/year/school
$10M per year / 1658 schools in CT = $6,031 per school

But we'd also have to adjust EO Smith's expected sum from $66K over four years to $33K over four years or $8,250 per year - less than $1 per student.

I must caution everyone that this fact sheet is napkin math until proven otherwise.

But finally, the money in many big cities will be funneled directly into the city to be -cough- dispensed. In other words, it may go toward potholes instead of classrooms.

As you can see, our district has virtually nothing to gain by this formula that is obviously dedicated YET AGAIN to -yawn- close the education gap whatever in hell that means.

So much of the Board discussion concerned whether or not our participation or non-participation would hurt the State, cause retaliatory action against the district, or somehow deny us participation in something bigger than... well, money.

And we had a lively discussion about all of these things and more. In the end the vote was unanmously against getting involved. We will politely decline our participation.

However, the State DOE's proposal is shoddy and quite frankly, disingenuous. Connecticut is probably in good company. I examined some other state's public documents and the Race to the Top more accurately looks like a race of blind people in a muddy mosh pit.

Most states have slapped together a bundle of existing, largely platitudinal existing programs that could use some additional funding.

Thankfully, our State DOE is incompetent enough to put together a proposal that is transparent in its agenda and unsupportable in its legal splendor.

Those who sign up for this death march will have their school budgets plundered by Hartford bureaucrats who should be fired and their Department boarded and turned into an abandoned building. That would signify just how vacant this State's education policies are.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Sign This Contract NOW!

The Board of Education received a -cough- invitation from the Department of Education to sign a Race to the Top Contract with them that allows the State Board of Education to ignore the needs of the Region and allow them to spend every red cent of multi-millions on Urban school Districts and, um, themselves.

The Board gave these documents the attention they deserve. Here's a re-enactment: