Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Resolutions

  • Focus on the positive.
  • Tolerate Regents Prep
  • Plan a Summer Program that expands on what we have already accomplished.
  • Utilize DLR and SmartBoard technology into the classroom.
  • Fight the Filter.
  • Model effective teaching strategies for student-teachers.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Does Homework Work?

From Alfie Kohn's website :

This is an excerpt from Alfie Kohn's recently published book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. For one teacher's response to this excerpt, read In Defense of Homework.

It may surprise you, as it did me, to learn that no study has ever demonstrated any academic benefit to assigning homework before children are in high school. In fact, even in high school, the association between homework and achievement is weak -- and the data don't show that homework is responsible for higher achievement. (Correlation doesn't imply causation.)

Finally, there isn't a shred of evidence to support the folk wisdom that homework provides nonacademic benefits at any age -- for example, that it builds character, promotes self-discipline, or teaches good work habits. We're all familiar with the downside of homework: the frustration and exhaustion, the family conflict, time lost for other activities, and possible diminution of children's interest in learning. But the stubborn belief that all of this must be worth it, that the gain must outweigh the pain, relies on faith rather than evidence.

So why does homework continue to be assigned and accepted? Possible reasons include a lack of respect for research, a lack of respect for children (implicit in a determination to keep them busy after school), a lack of understanding about the nature of learning (implicit in the emphasis on practicing skills and the assertion that homework "reinforces" school lessons), or the top-down pressures to teach more stuff faster in order to pump up test scores so we can chant "We're number one!"

All of these explanations are plausible, but I think there's also something else responsible for our continuing to feed children this latter-day cod-liver oil. We don't ask challenging questions about homework because we don't ask challenging questions about most things. Too many of us sound like Robert Frost's neighbor, the man who "will not go behind his father's saying." Too many of us, when pressed about some habit or belief we've adopted, are apt to reply, "Well, that's just the way I was raised" -- as if it were impossible to critically examine the values one was taught. Too many of us, including some who work in the field of education, seem to have lost our capacity to be outraged by the outrageous; when handed foolish and destructive mandates, we respond by asking for guidance on how best to carry them out.

Passivity is a habit acquired early. From our first days in school we are carefully instructed in what has been called the "hidden curriculum": how to do what one is told and stay out of trouble. There are rewards, both tangible and symbolic, for those who behave properly and penalties for those who don't. As students, we're trained to sit still, listen to what the teacher says, run our highlighters across whatever words in the book we'll be required to commit to memory. Pretty soon, we become less likely to ask (or even wonder) whether what we're being taught really makes sense. We just want to know whether it's going to be on the test.

When we find ourselves unhappy with some practice or policy, we're encouraged to focus on incidental aspects of what's going on, to ask questions about the details of implementation -- how something will get done, or by whom, or on what schedule -- but not whether it should be done at all. The more that we attend to secondary concerns, the more the primary issues -- the overarching structures and underlying premises -- are strengthened. We're led to avoid the radical questions -- and I use that adjective in its original sense: Radical comes from the Latin word for "root." It's partly because we spend our time worrying about the tendrils that the weed continues to grow. Noam Chomsky put it this way: "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum -- even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."

Parents have already been conditioned to accept most of what is done to their children at school, for example, and so their critical energies are confined to the periphery. Sometimes I entertain myself by speculating about how ingrained this pattern really is. If a school administrator were to announce that, starting next week, students will be made to stand outside in the rain and memorize the phone book, I suspect we parents would promptly speak up . . . to ask whether the Yellow Pages will be included. Or perhaps we'd want to know how much of their grade this activity will count for. One of the more outspoken moms might even demand to know whether her child will be permitted to wear a raincoat.

Our education system, meanwhile, is busily avoiding important topics in its own right. For every question that's asked in this field, there are other, more vital questions that are never raised. Educators weigh different techniques of "behavior management" but rarely examine the imperative to focus on behavior -- that is, observable actions -- rather than on reasons and needs and the children who have them. Teachers think about what classroom rules they ought to introduce but are unlikely to ask why they're doing so unilaterally, why students aren't participating in such decisions. It's probably not a coincidence that most schools of education require prospective teachers to take a course called Methods, but there is no course called Goals.

And so we return to the question of homework. Parents anxiously grill teachers about their policies on this topic, but they mostly ask about the details of the assignments their children will be made to do. If homework is a given, it's certainly understandable that one would want to make sure it's being done "correctly." But this begs the question of whether, and why, it should be a given. The willingness not to ask provides another explanation for how a practice can persist even if it hurts more than helps.

For their part, teachers regularly witness how many children are made miserable by homework and how many resist doing it. Some respond with sympathy and respect. Others reach for bribes and threats to compel students to turn in the assignments; indeed, they may insist these inducements are necessary: "If the kids weren't being graded, they'd never do it!" Even if true, this is less an argument for grades and other coercive tactics than an invitation to reconsider the value of those assignments. Or so one might think. However, teachers had to do homework when they were students, and they've likely been expected to give it at every school where they've worked. The idea that homework must be assigned is the premise, not the conclusion -- and it's a premise that's rarely examined by educators.

Unlike parents and teachers, scholars are a step removed from the classroom and therefore have the luxury of pursuing potentially uncomfortable areas of investigation. But few do. Instead, they are more likely to ask, "How much time should students spend on homework?" or "Which strategies will succeed in improving homework completion rates?" which is simply assumed to be desirable.

Policy groups, too, are more likely to act as cheerleaders than as thoughtful critics. The major document on the subject issued jointly by the National PTA and the National Education Association, for example, concedes that children often complain about homework, but never considers the possibility that their complaints may be justified. Parents are exhorted to "show your children that you think homework is important" -- regardless of whether it is, or even whether one really believes this is true -- and to praise them for compliance.

Health professionals, meanwhile, have begun raising concerns about the weight of children's backpacks and then recommending . . . exercises to strengthen their backs! This was also the tack taken by People magazine: An article about families struggling to cope with excessive homework was accompanied by a sidebar that offered some "ways to minimize the strain on young backs" -- for example, "pick a [back]pack with padded shoulder straps."

The People article reminds us that the popular press does occasionally -- cyclically -- take note of how much homework children have to do, and how varied and virulent are its effects. But such inquiries are rarely penetrating and their conclusions almost never rock the boat. Time magazine published a cover essay in 2003 entitled "The Homework Ate My Family." It opened with affecting and even alarming stories of homework's harms. Several pages later, however, it closed with a finger-wagging declaration that "both parents and students must be willing to embrace the 'work' component of homework -- to recognize the quiet satisfaction that comes from practice and drill." Likewise an essay on the Family Education Network's Web site: "Yes, homework is sometimes dull, or too easy, or too difficult. That doesn't mean that it shouldn't be taken seriously." (One wonders what would have to be true before we'd be justified in not taking something seriously.)

Nor, apparently, are these questions seen as appropriate by most medical and mental health professionals. When a child resists doing homework -- or complying with other demands -- their job is to get the child back on track. Very rarely is there any inquiry into the value of the homework or the reasonableness of the demands. One prominent example of this sensibility is pediatrician and author Mel Levine, whose advice for dealing with kids who don't do what they've been told reads like a heavy-handed parody of early-twentieth-century scientific management -- except that he wants us to chart the "work output" of six-year-olds. Parents "need to take on the sometimes adversarial and perverse authoritarian role of taskmaster," he tells us. They should "set up and enforce consistent work times" and limit the hours that children spend on purely relaxing activities, which are "likely to be detrimental to output." Levine offers helpful examples of logs, charts, and bar graphs that should be posted in our homes so we can keep track of kids' productive output.

Someone who looks at children and sees (insufficiently productive) workers is unlikely to raise questions about the structural imperatives of schooling -- what kids are made to do, and why, and whether it is of any value to the kids themselves. Levine offers case studies of children who don't do their homework, but never once examines the content of the assignments to determine whether they're likely to be beneficial, let alone what basis there is for believing that homework in general is necessary. Our goal, as parents and teachers, is merely to maximize kids' "output," to make them more efficient at carrying out any instructions they've been given.

Sometimes parents are invited to talk to teachers about homework -- providing that their concerns are "appropriate." The same is true of formal opportunities for offering feedback. A list of sample survey questions offered to principals by the central office in one Colorado school district is typical. Parents were asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree with the following statements: "My child understands how to do his/her homework"; "Teachers at this school give me useful suggestions about how to help my child with schoolwork"; "Homework assignments allow me to see what my student is being taught and how he/she is learning"; and "The amount of homework my child receives is (choose one): too much/just right/too little."

The most striking feature of such a list is what isn't on it. Such a questionnaire seems to have been designed to illustrate Chomsky's point about encouraging lively discussion within a narrow spectrum of acceptable opinion, the better to reinforce the key presuppositions of the system. Parents' feedback is earnestly sought -- on these questions only. So, too, for the popular articles that criticize homework, or the parents who speak out: The focus is generally limited to how much is being assigned. I'm sympathetic to this concern, but I'm more struck by how it misses much of what matters. We sometimes forget that not everything that's destructive when done to excess is innocuous when done in moderation. Sometimes the problem is with what's being done, or at least the way it's being done, rather than just with how much of it is being done.

The more we are invited to think in Goldilocks terms (too much, too little, or just right?), the less likely we become to step back and ask the questions that count: What reason is there to think that any quantity of the kind of homework our kids are getting is really worth doing? What evidence exists to show that daily homework, regardless of its nature, is necessary for children to become better thinkers? Why did the students have no chance to participate in deciding which of their assignments ought to be taken home?

And: What if there was no homework at all?

If anyone has a copy of this book I would love to read this. Being on a split schedule I don't even like doing homework.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Transparency and Building Democratic Community

The following was inspired by a recent comment on a another blog :

You know the expression “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”?

Well, why don’t we ask our students to help with some of the problems we’re having? They are part of the problem, right? Perhaps they could provide solutions. They are, after all, the consumers. Don’t we want their input? Isn’t it their school? We may have more at stake since some of us will be in the building longer than the kids, and we may have more to offer in the way of experience. But…I can’t help but think that if transparency and building community are part of our vision (distributive leadership), we need to invite all voices to be heard.

What we share on these blogs are, in a sense, our educational philosophies. If we don’t want students to see what we write, maybe we need to rethink what we write. Or, to take it one step further, maybe we need to rethink what we think. For a school that’s all about teaching and learning, we have a lot to learn. I remember being really impressed by Woolsey’s comment that everyday he is the teacher and the student. We need to keep those words in mind. The blog should be open to all members of the QHST community, all of its stakeholders.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Beyond the Classroom

The following appeared on a small schools list serve I belong to. The author has an intresting take on putting what we do in the classroom into perspective.

It reads:

Classroom without boundaries offers alternatives in NCLB era.

Former Greenville High football coach Charles Brady's summary on the need for a public outcry about public education made for some interesting reading on Sunday. Great job, by the way, coach on addressing the fundamental flaws with No Child Left Behind and the new teaching to the test atmosphere that we appear to be under.

However, I think there was a fundamental flaw in the structure of the education system when someone decided many years ago to put 30 children of the same age in a classroom with a teacher and expect each one of the students to get all the knowledge that was due to them regardless of discipline problems, different learning styles, teacher work load and the various student backgrounds.Coach Brady is absolutely right. There has been a change in education delivery since NCLB. But, I will play devil's advocate by saying that thinking public schools and institution of learning in general are solely responsible for the education of our children is flawed as well.

Public schools are required by law to present narrow objectives in order that they are measured by a standard called a state test. So, why not expand upon a child's education if we know what we're up against with the limitations of No Child Left Behind?It is unfair to put the blame entirely on school districts when the critical thinkers and leaders don't emerge from our ranks.When I get a chance to go into classrooms around local school districts, I often draw a huge circle on the blackboard to represent all of the knowledge in the world.In the middle of the huge circle, I then draw a small dot, illustrating to children the portion that teachers and school districts are responsible for.

Next, I ask a simple question: “Who is responsible for the rest of your education?”

This question is quite easy to answer. If we want to develop children's thinking and creativity, learning has to be encouraged at homes, in churches and in communities. Making your home a place rich with various literature and modeling the idea that reading is important by frequently doing it, registers with children in a powerful way.Simple word association games and cross-word puzzles wake up dormant areas of the brain.When mothers and fathers place their reluctant, timid children in front of a church congregation to say a simple Easter speech or make church announcements, public speaking, articulation and presentation skills are sharpened.
When a tutor or mentor takes an hour or two to really reinforce a skill or introduce a child to helpful information not necessarily learned under the auspices of a state benchmark, higher level thinking skills are developed.

We have to make our children fall in love with knowledge by encouraging learning outside the classroom. When children broaden their thinking, the teacher's job invariably becomes easier, they are more tolerant of others and they are more likely to pursue learning throughout their lives.The classroom has its purpose. That is to give students enough knowledge to satisfy objectives and quantify achievement with grades and assessments.

With the current atmosphere in education, sometimes the best qualified, most dedicated and well-intentioned teachers simply don't have enough time to give every student what they really deserve.But, the classroom will always be a much-needed, vital part of a child's education.To think that school districts are the end all of education and the sole holder of that responsibility is narrow-minded and a formula for perpetuating the blame game.

As a parent, it's my responsibility to work with teachers and administrators to ensure that my children get all they can from the traditional school setting. I also take the very personal responsibility of letting the world be their classroom as well.

Some legislation will come along one day and render NCLB obsolete. But, no legislation can supersede the desire to use all of life's moments as opportunities for education.

Patrick L. Ervin is a reporter for the Delta Democrat Times

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Getting the Future Ready

Below is an interesting excerept from an article in this months Time Magazine. Are we getting our students ready for the future?

Knowing more about the world. Kids are global citizens now, whether they know it or not, and they need to behave that way. Mike Eskew, CEO of UPS, talks about needing workers who are "global trade literate, sensitive to foreign cultures, conversant in different languages" -- not exactly strong points in the U.S., where fewer than half of high school students are enrolled in a foreign-language class and where the social-studies curriculum tends to fixate on U.S. history.

Thinking outside the box. Jobs in the new economy -- the ones that won't get outsourced or automated -- "put an enormous premium on creative and innovative skills, seeing patterns where other people see only chaos," says Marc Tucker, a lead author of the skills-commission report and president of the National Center on Education and the Economy. That's a problem for U.S. schools, which have become less daring in the back-to-basics climate of No Child Left Behind. Kids also must learn to think across disciplines, since that's where most new breakthroughs are made. It's interdisciplinary combinations -- design and technology, mathematics and art -- "that produce YouTube and Google," says Thomas Friedman, the best-selling author of The World Is Flat.

Becoming smarter about new sources of information. In an age of overflowing information and proliferating media, kids need to rapidly process what's coming at them and distinguish between what's reliable and what isn't. "It's important that students know how to manage it, interpret it, validate it, and how to act on it," says Dell executive Karen Bruett, who serves on the board of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a group of corporate and education leaders focused on upgrading American education.

Developing good people skills. EQ, or emotional intelligence, is as important as IQ for success in today's workplace. "Most innovations today involve large teams of people," says former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine. "We have to emphasize communication skills, the ability to work in teams and with people from different cultures."

Can our public schools, originally designed to educate workers for agrarian life and industrial-age factories, make the necessary shifts?

Global Superpower

As most of you know I am not a big fan of standardized exams, however after reading an inspiring article in Edutopia, about the IB program offered to all students in the Rockville Center school District on Long Island, my interest has been peaked.

On the same topic I also came across the following article.

The Washington Post reported today:

Ranking High Schools, 2006

By Jay MathewsWashington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, December 12, 2006; 4:18 PM

“The Challenge Index rates each school by taking the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests the school gave in 2006 and dividing by the number of seniors who graduated from the school this year. High school educators who have learned, as the teachers at Garfield did, that even average students benefit from AP and IB are more likely to have more students taking those exams and do better on The Post's list. High school educators who stick with what is still the majority view about AP and IB in America -- that the programs are suitable only for top students -- do not do so well.

In many cases, the list defies the conventional wisdom that schools with lots of low-income students are bad and schools with few such students are good. That is not to say that most low-income schools do well on the list. Most do not. Many of their teachers and administrators accept the widespread assumption that their students can't do AP or IB. But the few schools in poor neighborhoods that break out of this mindset are worth studying.”

Can QHST follow this lead? Should we?

Monday, December 11, 2006


Previously concerns with our "Block-Scheduling" have been hinted at as a potential problem. We are not alone with this concern however I think we still need to do more research and share our personal benefits and drawbacks to our current "blocks" of time. I am not referring to our "split scheduling" (that post will follow).

Excerpted form an EducationWorld article to school administrators:

"Even though more and more schools are switching to block scheduling, the approach has drawn fire from some educators and parents. Critics of block scheduling assert that the new scheduling format creates or exacerbates certain educational problems.

What will students do for 90-minute periods? critics ask. Proponents of block scheduling cite active learning as the key to keeping students engaged and learning during longer periods. But, even with a block-scheduling format, critics say, many teachers continue simply to lecture students rather than engaging them in active learning. Block scheduling in itself is no guarantee of active learning. And if active learning doesn't take place during, for example, a 90-minute class period, students may have trouble paying attention for the entire class.

Opponents of block scheduling, like the group Parents for Academic Excellence based in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, point out that student absences create problems under block scheduling. Making up missed work is always difficult. But when a student misses one day of classes under block scheduling, the student misses the equivalent of two days of instruction under the traditional system. A weeklong absence means the student misses two weeks of material. Such an absence may cause a student to fall behind to the extent that making up the work is difficult.

Teacher absences may lead to other problems, according to doubters. Under block scheduling, will a substitute teacher be qualified to teach 90-minute periods of, for example, physics?

Courses like languages or mathematics are sequential. Some critics of block scheduling point out that a student may take French I in the fall, not take French at all in the spring, go through the summer, and then take French II the following fall. At issue is how much French the student will recall after a break of several months. Advocates of block scheduling say most forgetting happens in the first few weeks after a course is taken. Yet critics point to studies that indicate greater memory loss over longer periods of time.

A practical hurdle also stands in the way of block scheduling in some school districts. A state arbitration panel in Connecticut recently ruled that Region 13, covering the towns of Durham and Middlefield, would have to pay teachers more under a proposed block schedule plan because teachers would be required to teach six different courses a year instead of five courses. The panel ruled that teachers should be compensated for added preparation time involved in an extra course, even if the teachers would teach for the same length of time. The school district still adopted block schedule after the ruling, but it reconfigured its scheduling to ensure that each teacher is responsible for only five courses. "

I found the "substitute" issue quite relevant. I t must be tough to be a substitute teacher in our school. However, we have diminished some of the problems listed in this excerpt because we have an annualized program. Personally in a project based Global Studies classroom, block scheduling works. I am not familiar with the other content areas enough to see how it poses a challenge. Are the challenges for the teacher or the student? Are there any benefits to block scheduling?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Holes. Common Areas, and Attendance

Mike I am concerned about the students who are being allowed to hang out in the commons area during their free periods without any adult supervision. The bathrooms have been locked as a result of vandalism that I am sure are being committed during these unsupervised periods. I know it is illegal for me to leave my students unsupervised in a classroom how is it these students are left unsupervised in a commons area?


Dear Freire Family,
Part of the problem is that many of the student in the common area are not Freire and our students are not allowed to be in the other common areas creating an excess of students in the area. I will be patrolling the area during class changes and making sure the light stays on. We also discussed in the 10th grade team meeting ideas for changes to project learn that will minimize the problem. We will discuss at our next faculty meeting.


Hello All:

Whether or not the students in the hall or commons belong to any given community is essentially irrelevant (although Fox and I both saw several Freire students: in the Emerson common area at about 9:45am on 12/5. Freire students were also asked to report to class on numerous occasions on Friday, 12/1). The issue is that students are not being held accountable to report for "filler classes" ie project learn or auditorium/library duty. They are not being held accountable because attendance is not being taken and they are not recieving credit for such courses. In addition, adults in the building turn a blind eye to their meandering the hallways. It is essential that we are all on the same page with this issue.

It is our obligation and responsibility to do our best to usher students out of the hallway regardless of what community they belong to. We are members of the QHST family and must behave as such even though we identify with different branches of the family tree. The issue is school wide, it is not endemic to one community alone. Our students are NOT COMMUNITY CODED!!!! A student is a student, and we all know that we can't identify what community a student belongs to unless we ask them, which, frankly, is the topic for another conversation.

I am curious to hear the thoughts of other members of our QHST community. I am also more than willing to work with anyone that really would like to solve this problem regardless of their branch of QHST!


I agree with Cathy. Here are my questions:

HMMMMMMM.......Let's think about our situation: Kids are expected to report to a place where attendance is not being taken and credit is not being given, when they do not report, there are no repercussions for not showing up. What do we think will happen? I know I am only an art teacher but I expect bad situations to arise when students are unsupervised. What do you think?

This is a fascinating topic. Like Eric, I am wondering why attendance is not being taken, why a grade is not being given and what people really expect if there are no consequences to student non-attendance. I was unaware that attendance was not being taken or that a grade was not being given – these were certainly not presented as part of the design plan. In fact attendance must always be taken – it is a legal obligation. In the original design, each class was to be pass/ fail.

Within a few days, all students will have their scheduled attached to the back of their ID and this will make it much easier for security, deans, teachers and anyone else to check that a student is in the right place. Of course, each day I see and hear many of you - who know perfectly well without looking at any documentation who is supposed to be where – moving students along. As Cathy says, this is good practice and we should all be doing it. Most of us are already. This will allow security to address the more serious resisters.


For the most part, I agree with the issues that have been raised. I also want to point out that, as a project learn instructor, I ALWAYS take attendance and DO issue grades (even though it is only a P/F grade). Aside from two students who have never attended the class, my students enter class and work on their projects and/or homework assignments. They are NEVER unsupervised and are never given the liberty to do what they please.


I must weigh in. Students in Project Learn classes are expected to report to class with either work to do or a book to read. Attendance is taken and students should be held accountable for their time and behavior as they would be in any other class.
The only students in the common areas should be students identified as those with a free and not programmed for library. When I see students in the third floor common area I ask to see a program. Those without programs are sent to their guidance counselor to get a program to verify they are free. We are reluctant to allow students other than Montessori in the third floor common area because they are not known by the teachers that may be looking out from 318 (which is often left with the door ajar so we can monitor the area), or myself, or Ms. O'Neill. There has been vandalism in the common area during times when students other than Montessori are left in there, perhaps because they do not have a sense of ownership for the space. We try to be vigilant in supervising all students on the third floor, and in the rest of the building as we travel through it.


Is everyone defining the word "free" as a whole in student's programs or does it mean free periods anywhere in their programs?

Why is Nancy's information different than the one we recieved at the Emerson meeting yesterday. According to our meeting, no students should have a free in an unsupervised area such as the community common areas. We need to be on the same page. We need to obviously communicate better with each other.

What kids are supposed to be where and when? How do we know this?


Hi All:

I appreciate the responses, but the question of "Project Learn" in the Library and the Auditorium remains unanswered. It stands to reason that "teachers" with actual "project learn" classes take attendance and give a grade, albeit P/F, however, issue of the library and auditorium remains. I saw two Emerson students in the hall yesterday and asked them for their programs. Guess what? There was NOTHING scheduled for that period (6). These students are good students, but good students can go "bad" when left to their own devices. I am still confused and honestly, I am getting a bit frustrated with the situation.


Administrators and colleagues, take note. I have been in communication with UFT point personnel for the NYC school libraries. Students should not be assigned to (programmed for) the library. Since the library is not an assignment, school librarians do not--I repeat, do not--take attendance. "Different by design" should not mean "Ignore the UFT contract."


Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The Montessori seniors in my government class are amazing. Every time I walk away from the class I am re-energized as a teacher. The students always impress me. Everyone has experiences one of these types of classes at one point in their career. I am so lucky to have two of them in the last three years here at QHST.

Having co-taught a current events class with Frank Sweeten my first year at QHST that was so engaged I honestly thought my teaching career had reached a peak. I now realize that it was only a plateau.

I know so might say it's the "Honeymoon Stage" but its been three years now...

PLEASE read the blog our seniors have worked hard on creating please read the linked articles, read the comments and please feel free to respond. My students have strong opinions but I have found they listen so much better to online discussions.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Who benefits from inclusion?

In one of our last discussions I was told that “…how can you 'deal with' each issue when you aren't the one who thinks they are a problem? This discussion will go nowhere unless people who think there's some big problem speak up…”

Here is yet another opportunity!!!!!!!!

I have linked a website that shows the general benefits of an inclusion program in a school. I would love to hear what the concerns of my colleagues on this topic.

I am not going to start with the “pillars” of the concept paper we all were aware of, I want to make the argument that the idea of inclusion benefits all students of all levels. Let us be both open and honest in the discussion.

Impassioned responses are always louder than angry banter.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Report Says Immigrant Students Lose in Choice of Schools

"New small schools, many with attractive specialties like art, health sciences and sports careers, have become a magnet for philanthropic dollars and positive national publicity. Yet in the first two years of their existence, city policy allows these schools to deny admission to immigrant students who need help learning English, the report notes."

What percent of our learners are ELL?

Less Filtered.

I just recieved the following email in reference to this post...

We have unblocked the website(s) requested at your school.

Thank you for using the "SWS Change Request" web form.

Project Connect Support

Friday, November 24, 2006


Small Schools deliver the New Three Rs, according to Bill Gates. Rigor, Relevance and Relationships are better in a school where the principal knows every student by name. (note this hyperlink does not work on DOE computers)

OR on ABC .....Dropout special...

Excerpted below :

"But thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the school
system overhauled the way it does business.

It split a school of
1,300 students into four smaller "learning communities," each
with its own faculty.

The teachers now stay with the students all
four years and create in effect surrogate families. Now 71 percent of students
at Clover Park earn their diplomas."

Progress at this high school
came from teachers getting to know their students and the
challenges they face..."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Colleges Embrace Blogs

I know I get obsessed with things and can't let things just lie. (Brody and Mayo remind me of this during lunch) As I was reading the NY Times online (something you can still do on NYC DOE computers) I came across this article. I was glad to see that higher education sees the value in (peer to peer) technology. I only hope this trickles down to HS one day.

You do not have to go to far to see its use:

Check out or

The NYTIMES article I am referencing is excerpted below:

"While some colleges and their presidents have seen their reputations shredded on
student blogs, and others have tried to limit what students and faculty members
may say online, about a dozen or so presidents, like Dr. McGuire, are vaulting
the digital and generational divide and starting their own blogs....

....“When I first started learning about blogs, I said, ‘Well, here I
like to discourse on issues of the day, connect with the campus community,’ ”
recalled Dr. McGuire, who said she wrote all her own entries. “Here’s a way I
can talk a couple of times a week to everybody.”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Last Straw : Leaping Backward with Technology

I do not want to beat a dead horse but.....

What is going on with the DOE? check out this website :

Can someone please explain to me why on classroom computers students can now read all the (teacher moderated) comments from this web log, but are no longer able to leave their own (teacher moderated) opinions?

This class was running quite smoothly before the growing "filter" decided to filter out student thought.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Share Your Concerns

I want to thank everyone for sharing their feelings and voicing some comical swipes at one another's intelligence and reading ability in our last strand of comments. However I would like to get a concrete list of genuine complaints from the people that are experiencing the problem. Ruth, in her comment to the last post mentioned the need for such clarity. I agree, so far the only complaints that were mentioned were DEAR and Block Scheduling therefore these will start the list. Once we have listed the issues that some are trying to improve upon maybe we could generate some possible solutions. We could do this here! Let’s take a moment, state the issue and your suggested solution. Let’s not attack our fellow teachers. There are no wrong answers here. Let’s just share our ideas.


Complaint =DEAR

Why its a problem? = I never get to finish the chapter I'm reading. I read too slow.

Possible Solution?= Lets just have DEAR all day. or at least another 20 mins.

As I am writing this post and sorting through my email I wanted to share something I came across.

Michael Klonsky (small school advocate in the Chicago Public School System) warned Bill Gates of the "traps" of school reform on his blog:

Excerpted below:

"...please get rid of all those whiners. You know who they are; the ones who keep complaining about "how hard it is" to convert large high schools into smaller learning communities. You know, the ones who are always making up excuses like: "Oh, if only we had better teachers and principals to work with, then we could really do a better job at reform." Or like over there at Manual High in Denver where they are saying: "Oh, those kids didn't want to go to that school anyhow..." and "Oh, the district leaders didn't really buy in." Get rid of 'em, Bill. Send 'em back into the school bureaucracy for some education-through-labor until they get their s*it together.

Next, forget this "replicable models" business. This isn't Starbucks. Good schools have their own unique conditions and any strategy for reform needs to take them into account. Don't let your consultants or spin doctors tell you that there's a high school over there in Kansas City or someplace where there's been a miraculous turn-around because they followed this or that consultant's model. By the way, that model just got booted out of a certain school district in Florida. Probably didn't have good enough teachers and principals to replicate the miracle in Kansas City. Oh, and another by the way...that school is Kansas City is no miracle either."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Spreading Vision

After reading the following article (posted below), I began to think about the discussion around the contract vs the philosophical mission in our school. I don't think they necessarily come into conflict; however I do believe it's time to stop beating around the bush and find out who is unhappy and what they're unhappy about.

I find it very odd when people say the "administration" is stuck to his vision when that's really such a good thing! It seems obvious from previous posts, and problems in our school's current structure, that the real problems arise when people become wishy washy about the vision and compromise it bit by bit.

We all work very hard here at QHST and the philosophy of teaming dedicated teachers to small learning communities with structural common planning times, although not conducive some of the benefits of larger schools, is well within the bounds of the contract and consistent with the national a trend in education.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Schools think smaller Wells, Crane and Clemente embrace ‘learning communities


Wednesday,November 08, 2006

Small learning communities, commonly referred to as schools within a school, will sprout at Wells Community Academy and Crane Tech next year, as part of a $4.2 million grant recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Small learning communities aim to personalize students' education in large high schools of 1,000 or more students. The programs work differently depending on the school, but they typically entail teachers following the same set of students as they advance from grade to grade in a strategy known as "looping." Students also are given the option in small learning communities of choosing from specialized programs that range from liberal arts to science and technology, according to Ed Spikes, a small schools program manager with Chicago Public Schools.

Spikes said the federal grant will help start five new small learning communities in Chicago high schools, two of which will go in at Wells Community Academy at 936 N. Ashland and Crane Tech Prep Common School at 2245 W. Jackson.
Crane Tech Vice Principal Patricia DeLoney said the school is establishing a plan for how to set up the program, which would start next year, but its still in the early planning stages.
"We're developing it as we go," she said. "We just have a skeleton right now."

Alanna Chuprevich, a library media specialist at Wells, said the school already is operating a freshman academy this year under a program designed by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

She said the freshman academy operates similar to a small schools program, with teachers moving along with students as they proceed to the next grade. The freshman academy program focuses on providing students with better time management, note-taking and organizational skills, Chuprevich said. She said the program allows teachers to coordinate better in crafting an educational strategy.

"In a smaller, more cohesive community, it's more personalized," she said. "What's nice is these teachers have a common planning time and can share with each other about the successes, failures and needs of the students and effectively communicate."

Like Crane, though, Wells still is crafting a plan for establishing themes for its small learning communities program, which is set to start next year, Chuprevich said.

Roberto Clemente High School in West Town is not a recipient of the grant money this year, but the school has operated a small learning community program since 1997.

Nguyen-Trung Heiu, small schools director at Clemente, said the school started a small learning community pilot program in 1997 and expanded it in 2001 to include six separate small schools programs.

"The attendance was up and the achievement was up and the number of students getting into college was up; therefore, the administration here decided to go for it," he said.

He said this year all of the school's roughly 2,500 students are enrolled in one of the small learning community programs. Each program includes roughly 400 students, which breaks down to about 20 to 25 students per classroom.

The programs at Clemente, which administrators refer to as "small schools," include: math, science and technology; journalism, communication and law; fine and performing arts; world languages; dual language bilingual; and a military academy.

Ken Rose, who works at the school through a partnership with Northwestern University, said the students enter the small school of their choice, adding that very few request transfers to other programs at the end of the year. He said the curriculum for each program is essentially the same, but the examples and themes are different.

"This is all about personalization," Rose said. "It's about getting to know teachers and students really well for the four years and being caught in a safety net, so they don't drop out.
"In the old model of high school, you could go through four years of high school and not make a real tight connection with either a teacher or another student."

He said that since Clemente formed its small learning community program, the attendance rate has gone up from 77 percent in 1996 to 88 percent in 2004. And between 1998 and 2005 the graduation rate increased from 60 percent to 71 percent.

He said the school is still not satisfied with the current graduation and attendance rates, but it hopes the rising trend will continue.

"When you look around Chicago there are more and more small learning community schools, and I think more high schools will go this way," he said.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Obviously I have Too Much Time

The following are a list of QHST articles and sites I found online:

Alternatives to Jam-packed Queens High Schools

College Now

D75 @ QHST

American School Board Journal: April 2006

Education Update Online

ISA features our students

Senator Clinton meets QHST Student

Teach for America (Radio)

No Child

Last year around this time I pledged I would find the time to go and see this play. Being a teacher, husband, father, waiter, security guard, and teamster I still haven’t found the time to attend the show. Now that the NYTimes has picked up the buzz that Demi Bliziotis brought to my attention last year I feel I really must find the time.

I would love to make this a QHST faculty field trip. According to the article there are $20 day of show tix available for NYC teachers. I think $20 spent here is better spent than $10 on Borat.

“You come across this resistance and it shatters your idealism,” he said. “You experience this immediate frustration — how far below grade level the kids are and the way they’re acting out. You start to wonder why you’re teaching. You get so disillusioned. So just to know that Nilaja Sun was able to bring her passion to the students, and that it worked. You have a curriculum to teach, but you need to bring yourself.”


'No Child', written and performed by Nilaja Sun, is a tour-de-force look into the New York City Public Education system by the acclaimed teaching-artist and solo-performer. Ms. Sun transforms into the teachers, students, parents, administrators, janitors and security guards who inhabit our public schools every day and are shaping the future of America. Hal Brooks directs. — TheaterSource

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

QHST the MP3 Version?

A nationally syndicated radio program has discovered Lori Mayo two years after QHST. Click on the link below and listen to Lori's story.

(Click Here for the MP3) <--- after downloaded fast foward to min 44.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Small Schools: Are They Working?

"We looked at good schools, and they were autonomous, and made the hypothesis that autonomous was an important ingredient," said Tom Vander Ark, the foundation's outgoing executive director of education giving. "But there were problems with that hypothesis ... and I think we know today that what struggling schools need more than autonomy is guidance."

Foundation's small-schools experiment has yet to yield big results
By Linda Shaw Seattle Times staff reporter

Tyee High School essentially ceased to exist last year.

Its building still stands a few blocks east of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but three new, smaller schools now share its old space, each with its own principal, its own classes, its own theme. The three still cheer for one, combined football team — sports is the one place the old Tyee remains. But each school will probably have its own graduation this spring.

Tyee, however, is one of the few Washington high schools to come close to what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation first envisioned when it started giving grants to help big schools carve themselves into smaller units — ideally, with no more than 400 students.

The experiment — an attempt to downsize the American high school — has proven less successful than hoped.

The changes were often so divisive — and the academic results so mixed — that the Gates Foundation has stopped always pushing small as a first step in improving big high schools. Instead, it's now also working directly on instruction, giving grants to improve math and science instruction, for example.

Most of the dozen-and-a-half Washington schools with so-called "conversion" grants have ended up only as hybrids — a mix of small-school elements added to big-school features.

Education givingThe Gates Foundation has given about $1.4 billion in education grants since 1999, most of which are tied to improving high schools. The money has been given to states, districts and individual schools, and has helped start or redesign more than 2,000 new schools across the nation.

In Washington state, the foundation has given about $140 million to school districts and schools, in addition to college scholarships. With the help of foundation grants, nearly 20 Washington high schools are working to break themselves up into smaller units — either as independent small schools or what's called "small learning communities" where students spend the majority of the school day.

What's considered a "small school"? The Gates Foundation defines "small" as roughly 400 students, or about 100 per grade level. Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Nationally, one high school in Denver abandoned the effort, at least for awhile. In Washington, staff at Henry Foss High in Tacoma and Davis High in Yakima clashed over how — or whether — to do it.

"We looked at good schools, and they were autonomous, and made the hypothesis that autonomous was an important ingredient," said Tom Vander Ark, the foundation's outgoing executive director of education giving. "But there were problems with that hypothesis ... and I think we know today that what struggling schools need more than autonomy is guidance."

The Gates Foundation's push to shrink public high schools has been the best-known hallmark of its education giving. About the time it began in 1999, the foundation said typical comprehensive high schools needed a major overhaul if they were going to reduce the dropout rate and prepare all students for college or work.

The foundation looked around the country for schools that achieved those goals and found that many were small — places where teachers and students knew each other well, and no one could slide by, or even disappear, without notice.

In the past six years, the foundation has given grants to more than 2,000 high schools — of which about 800 were existing schools attempting to create smaller schools within schools.

In theory, the big-school breakups are a way to keep using school buildings that would be too expensive to abandon, and create smaller high schools at the same time. But it was always a gamble.

"It has clearly been an important learning process for us ... and for these districts and schools," Vander Ark said.

Striving to achieve
About a dozen and a half Washington high schools were some of the first to attempt to convert from big to small.
Most were part of a program, started in 2001, that paired school-improvement grants with generous college scholarships. Called the Achievers program, it was open to schools with large numbers of low-income students. They each received about $500 per student over five years to help them create so-called "small learning communities" — as autonomous as possible.

All of the Washington schools have made a number of changes aimed at making their campuses feel smaller.

At many, for example, freshmen and sophomores spend all or most of their day in a small "school" or "academy," where they know their classmates and teachers better than they could in a larger school.

Teachers usually have opportunities to meet to coordinate lessons and discuss students they share.
Many of the schools also instituted "advisories," in which one teacher meets regularly with a group of students to mentor and advise them.

The schools say such a middle road was the practical approach, and it has yielded improvements, especially in attendance and behavior. But academic-achievement gains have not been dramatic.
The change has also proven much more difficult than the Gates Foundation or school leaders imagined. Parents pushed to keep classes and programs. Districts didn't always support the change. Teachers spent long hours debating how — and whether — to do it.

"We argued more than we collaborated," said Lee Maras, principal at Davis High in Yakima.
At Foss and Davis, for example, the majority of the faculty at one point voted not to seek additional funding from the Gates foundation.

Tyee, Clover Park High in Lakewood, Pierce County, and one of the "small schools" at Enumclaw High are the schools in this state that have done the most to replace their bigger selves with smaller schools that operate independently.

The rest aren't close to being fully independent institutions. That's partly because of logistics and partly due to beliefs that students should be able to choose from a wide range of courses.

Most of the schools, for example, allow "crossovers," where students — especially juniors and seniors — can take classes outside of their small schools.

Small-school advocates say that such "crossovers" dilute the personal climate that's the biggest strength of small schools.

Yet even Tyee and Clover Park allow a few.

At Davis, the staff failed to agree on how or whether to break itself into smaller pieces, Maras said. Some teachers didn't want to break up some of the school's existing programs — such as International Baccalaureate and English as a Second Language.

For a time, Maras said, he felt he'd failed to do what was needed to help Davis improve. But then he said he realized that, through all the debate, staff agreed to improve instruction and find ways to make the campus more personal — and were seeing results.

"We were having all of these difficulties trying to achieve something that might not have been the most important thing," he said.

Worth the effort?
Some small-school advocates question whether a school that's a mix of big and small is worth the effort.
"Some would say they get the worst of both worlds," said Rick Lear, director of the Small Schools Project, which has received Gates grants to help Foss, Mountlake Terrace High and other schools. "I know they don't get the best of small schools out of it."

He noted that teachers, in particular, don't get the benefits of seeing fewer students each day, as they would in a true small school.

Valerie Lee, a University of Michigan professor and co-author of a new book about five big-school conversions, cautions that the phenomenon is still so new it's hard to draw hard conclusions about its value.
One troubling finding, Lee said, was that social stratification at all five schools increased, with the motivated students with good grades gravitating toward one or two of the smaller units, and unmotivated students to others.
"The students and teachers all recognized that there was one subunit where all the loser kids were," Lee said. "We had kids say: 'We know we're losers, and here we are all together in the loser academy.' "

The Gates Foundation, however, says it thinks most of its grantees have made good progress, with more low-income students in challenging classes and on a college track.

"I think it's safe to say it's left them all in a better place," Vander Ark said.

He says he's not bothered by the fact that most of the schools haven't broken themselves into fully independent subunits. He still thinks schools need to be small; he says he hasn't seen a big-school model that's working well. But changing a school's size, he said, isn't always the best starting point.

Going forward, the foundation is advocating a core curriculum that all high-school students would be expected to take, he said. And it wants to help improve math and science instruction by backing efforts to increase math requirements for high-school students, and to train more math and science teachers and pay them better.
He expects those efforts to be just as controversial and difficult as changing the structure of high schools.
Many of the conversion schools' leaders say they're finally spending more time on improving instruction, too, after years of working through all the debates and details of changes in structure.

"To get our heads around it ... took some time," said Mountlake Terrace principal Greg Schwab. "It still is taking some time."

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Regents Exam Grades Changed

What has happened to us? We as educators are now fighting over grading standarized tests? I know the teacher found dead over a pile of regents exams is soon to follow... I can't wait for the Law and Order episode.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The following appeared in the PIS a week ago.

"There is a question that I would like to throw out. Do we need four computer rooms? One model would be to distribute the computers to the classrooms of teachers who use technology as essential part of their teaching and use some of the rooms as generic classrooms. Don’t forget we are now a wireless school and will continue to purchase rolling labs with 32 laptops. Perhaps Walter could post a paragraph on his blog designed to elicit teacher responses to this question. Maybe I’m wrong – maybe we do need all four labs."

Please post your suggestions !

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Who's Failing?

I am so confused with the Saturday and after-school programs being offered in our school? I think it is great addressing the problems of students deficient in credits but I am truely concerned. Why did we get rid of the opportunity of a traditional “night school”?

Two seniors, one from Montessori and one from Emerson approached me as to how they could make up credits from their freshmen year? I pointed them to the teachers with whom they originally took the course; they said the teachers want nothing to do with them. My suggestion was to them let them benefit from the after-school/ Saturday program however I was not sure if this was right.

In October 20th's NY Times article "Study takes a Sharp Look at City's Failing Students" Gottman clearly states we are on the right track as to how to dissuade students from dropping out of High School, but from the voices of the students I don’t know if we are really ready to deal with new route to academic success.

Are we prepared to award credit to previously unsuccessful students? Who gets the second, third, and fourth chances? Who are we to say no? Are we the gate keepers to accreditation?

Now that we have them staying in school whats next?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

$1.2 Million, Well Spent?

Today in class we discussed the city’s decision to allocate $1.2 million to our 10th and 11th graders with their most popular product the PSAT. After reading the article, Bloomberg Unveils a Plan to Encourage City Students to Take the PSAT, students were then asked a series of question:

1. Why are schools so interested in PSAT exams?
2. Who benefits from PSAT exams?
3. Is the “College Board” profiteering?
4. What affect will this exam have on the sophomore class?
5. Why did the author add the last line to the article?
6. What will school do with the results?
7. Are we as a society ready to let the “College Board” assess our 10th grades?
8. Who pays for the proctors, the non-test taking students, and the counseling of the students who received poor results?
9. Is it a NYC High School’s responsibility to provide prep classes for the “College Board” exams?
10. How might the $1.2 million dollars a year of public school funding be better spent than the PSAT exams.

Please read their comments below. Anything anyone (student/teacher/parent/Jonathan Kozol) can add will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The following quoted directly from our UFT blog:

"After my first year at the QHST, I considered the idea of taking a sabbatical. I had hoped to study the educational system in Germany and perhaps incorporate their best teaching practices into my pedagogy. When I brought this plan to the administration, I was asked to reconsider this idea because any kind of leave essentially ignored one of the primary foundations of the QHST: building community between the teachers and the students. It was a convincing argument, and so I deferred my foreign studies.

In this week’s Principal Information Sheet, Mr. Pugh states that we agree on many points, and indeed I do agree that building community is vital to our students’ success. It is for this reason that I categorically disagree with the idea that “attrition is a good thing.” When we lose talented staff members, it is the students who lose. In addition, stating that attrition is desirable allows us to circumvent the reasons that teachers may be dissatisfied and occludes ways to search for solutions that could make the QHST a better place to work.

We did, however, agree that when teachers work, they should get paid. When I was informed that teachers were being encouraged to design PD workshops for November 2, I asked Mr. Pugh if the teachers would be compensated for preparing workshops. I know that in the past, compensation for these kinds of workshops has been rather inconsistent. He agreed that they should get paid for their time. If you have a workshop that you would like to present, see Mr. Pugh so that he can approve your idea before you spend time developing the idea.

In addition, the comment in the PIS regarding paraprofessionals and their feelings of exclusion shows that the UFT and the administration can work together to create a dialogue that will address the staff’s concerns. I also wanted to remind the paraprofessionals that Kathleen Grantz represents the paraprofessionals and will bring your concerns to the consultative meetings with Mr. Pugh. Also be advised that paraprofessionals are not mandated to attend the 40-minute meetings which are traditionally scheduled for two Mondays per month. They may attend, but it would be strictly voluntary.

And lastly, a bit of levity. It was stated in the PIS that I will be running a PTA meeting sometime in November. When I read that I thought that adding that demand to my considerable workload would surely cause me to look for a teaching position elsewhere, thereby adding to the attrition rate for 2008. But Mr. Pugh reassured me that it was an error; I have scheduled a UFT meeting on November 2, at the end of the day.



Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Veterans for Peace

Today in class we were honored to have to members of the Veterans for Peace organization join us about their experience in the military. Ms Groebner contacted the non-partisan speakers to share their experiences and choices they made during the 1960’s while the country was recruiting soldiers during our armed conflict in Vietnam.

Their message was simple. They cautioned our graduating seniors against the dangers of racism that had been instilled in them during basic training and spoke about the danger of not having an action plan after graduation from high school.

Impressed by the positive culture that exudes from each student and faculty member as you walk through the halls of the building, Dayl Wise (Speaker) said, “I arrived here early and I was totally impressed, not only with the school’s physical environment, but with the attitude of the student body... you can tell that there is something special going on here.” Dayl has spoke at numerous high schools throughout the country and clearly has a solid basis for comparison.

Ms. Grantz, Mr. Shatz, Mr. Eddelson, Mr. Brown, and Ms, Groebner would like to extend a warm thanks to Dayl Wise and Jim Murphy for coming to our school and sharing their experiences with a (Montessori and Friere) Participation in Government class. I personally would like to thank Ruth for once agian providing such a rich educational environment in my classroom.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why do students destroy the computer labs?

I am sickened by the lack of stewardship in the common areas of our building in particular the computer labs. “The lab” was designed poorly; the screens hide the faces of the users making anonymity a rampant cover for all distracted behavior. I myself have resolved to limit any use of the room to allowing no more than four kids at a time enter the room with clear intent and time limit.

The concept of a computer lab is outdated. Technology needs to seamlessly flow uninterrupted lest its use becomes the distraction. Teachers creating lessons saying, “ I want the kids to use computers,” ought to rethink their motives. Imagine how silly a teacher would sound stating, “I want them to use paper.” Of course students will incorporate technology but only when its necessar, not mandated.

Why the destruction?

Maybe it’s because of a Marxism class I took in Grad School at St. John’s University that I feel this way, but it seems students feel alienated from the technology in our building. The computers are not theirs. It is not their world. The network does not allow personalization. (Changing the background) The printers in “the labs” do not work. Students cannot receive or send email without using an filter avoiding proxy website.

Students realize the computers are not theirs, they see them as a tool teachers use to waste their time. There is a dichotomy setup from the get go…there is “class time” and “computer lab time.” Setting up this barrier, which is reinforced by inexperienced (or over experienced) teachers unable to successfully blend technology into their lessons is a reciepe for disaster.

How do we avoid the destruction?

Teachers need to facilitate the lessons. Sending students into the labs to “do their projects” is not enough guidance. A teacher that asks the students, “What are you looking for? How are you going to find it on the web? What keywords do you need to type?” and then follows up with a question like, “Did you find what you are looking for? What are you going to do with that information now?” Teachers that cannot master the technology themselves should not bring students into the computer lab. I feel that I have a grasp on the computer technology available to us in the school, but I feel uncomfortable taking and entire class into “the lab”. I am aware of my limitations, and know that I would be unable to monitor the room the way it needs to be, especially the absurd design of the lab the way it currently is currently laid out.

YES students need to respect the property, but to the same extent teachers too must respect the students enough to acknowledge that the students are going to know when the teachers are just taking up time in the lab with them.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Guns in SLCs???

Like everyone else in America I was appalled by the school shooting in Lancaster, PA. However to think this is some sort of epidemic, and the need for drastic measures now must be taken is a little ridiculous. The recent incidents are not "violence in schools" related, but rather the acts of depraved media grabbing suicidal morons invading the sanctity of our schools. Schools are not less safe however society may be.

The recent violent events in schools should not be confused with "school violence".

"I don't suggest [arming teachers] is the only answer or the silver bullet to solve all our school violence problems," Lasee said. "But it's part of the puzzle of making our schools a safer place for our children."

As for Rep Frank Lasee of Wisconsin, he has obviously never sat in on an SLC (faculty) meeting when the issues of comp time, the sequence of history classes, pizza during advisory, or alpha vs. numeric grades has been an issue. I do not want my colleagues to carry weapons. I know I'm safer because they do not.
Watch a heated partisan debate over the issue here if your filter allows .

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Results are In

Bleow is a reprint of the Newsletter that was published on our UFT Blog yesterday. Please feel free to comment here.

Results from the questionnaire.

1. I think more common planning between communities would improve the experience of teachers and students.

Strongly Agree= 13 Agree= 5 Disagree= 6 Strongly Disagree= 30

2. I believe that Advisory is worthwhile, particularly the way it is presently structured. Strongly Agree= 32 Agree= 10 Disagree= 6 Strongly Disagree= 3

3. Though DEAR / Advisory is not considered a prep, I often spend a great deal of time working on activities.
Strongly Agree= 15 Agree= 6 Disagree= 2 Strongly Disagree= 28

4. I feel that in many cases distributive leadership is a myth and that decisions are made without considering the opinions of the staff.

Strongly Agree= 13 Agree= 6 Disagree= 4 Strongly Disagree= 29

5. I would prefer not to have students come into my class as teaching assistants to simply fill gaps in their programs.
Strongly Agree= 13 Agree= 7 Disagree= 3 Strongly Disagree= 28

6. I often feel that students have too much power, and teachers do not have enough power.
Strongly Agree= 8 Agree= 7 Disagree= 9 Strongly Disagree= 28

7. I wish I had more support from the administration.

Strongly Agree= 8 Agree= 8 Disagree= 7 Strongly Disagree= 28

8. I feel that this non-traditional approach does not prepare students for college-level work.
Strongly Agree= 9 Agree= 10 Disagree= 3 Strongly Disagree= 27

9. The administration is very sensitive to the daily struggles that teachers face.
Strongly Agree= 27 Agree= 7 Disagree= 8 Strongly Disagree= 7

10. Generally speaking, the workload at the QHST is excessive.
Strongly Agree= 12 Agree= 6 Disagree= 6 Strongly Disagree= 25

11. I am pleased with the way the QHST has evolved and taken shape over the past four years.
Strongly Agree= 27 Agree= 10 Disagree= 7 Strongly Disagree= 6

12. There needs to be a more balanced approach between teacher-led instruction and student-centered approaches.

Strongly Agree= 13 Agree= 8 Disagree= 3 Strongly Disagree= 26

13. I wish that the administration was more considerate with my time. Strongly Agree= 9 Agree= 7 Disagree= 5 Strongly Disagree= 27

14. I often wish that the climate at the QHST was more open to dissenting opinions. Strongly Agree= 9 Agree= 7 Disagree= 6 Strongly Disagree= 27

Comments -- These are ALL the comments, and they are taken randomly from the questionnaires. There is
no significance to the order in which they are listed.

1. Main concern is time. Too much is asked of us without being given the time to do it. Remove some of the "extra" things we have to do, to free up time for class-related activities. Do we really
need 3 SLC's per week?

2. Concerns -- a) no more electives, students have holes in programs; therefore, certain sugjects become "repeater classes." b) The separation between communities gives less time to meet within disciplines to plan topics, etc c) No reason for 3 start times -- 1/2 of teachers do not teach first two bands d)Tracking within co-hort level e) single grade advisories. Solutions: a)Cross community classes would allow more opportunities for students to take different electives and fill up programs. b)Split community start times/cross community classes. c) Mix communities co-horts, d) Mixed grade advisory

3. Paraprofessionals are not considered as part of the "staff." We are not included in planning and teaching, and are treated as if we are uneducated and invisible. We are not utilized to the fullest potential.
Solutions: Include us in community meetings and acknowledge us. Assign us to work with several students if we can do so.

4. This is trying to divide the staff and cause problems. We all knew waht we were in for when we signed on. I only answered what I felt was appropriate.

5. I like the idea and philosophy behind small learning communities; however, there are drawbacks to having split schedules. One drawback is the lack of electives available to the students.

6. Although I don't agree 100% with everything done at QHST, why would those that represent us, put out a survey like this. The way the questions are written, it clearly shows a tone that you are dissatisfied with QHST. We all knew QHST philosophy when we were hired and we all agreed to follow it. I am offended by this survey, and I am worried that the writers of this survey will only seed to cause rift -- not solutions -- Disgraceful!!

7. Why aren't the students at QHST given all the same opportunities? Why is the division in this school so black and white?

Concerns: Students safety during "holes" in periods, b) excessive amounts of students in common areas, c) "Project Learn" . . . what is it? d)Why are teachers removed from subject classes and asked/told to teach "Project Learn." Solutions: Create a "curriculum" and rename Project Learn.

9. Due to split schedule, it is impossible to co-plan with other teachers. I am talking about different sciences -- for example all chem or liv. env teachers. I wish we had to SLC's rather than three so that we have more time to prep and grade papers which keep piling up constantly.

10. I am concerned about the changing time of the administration. To me, it seems as though the best interest of the students is put on the back burner. In the past, decisions have been made collectively with the best interest of the students as the primary factor behind every decision. I don't feel as though the priorities are in the right order.
Solutions: Always put the best interest of the students first. Decisions should be made with that first and foremost. Let's go back to distributive leadership.

11. I wish we had a more traditional schedule -- same classes meeting daily. Students would be more prepared. We could build in vocational programs for students with disabilities. How can the Empowerment Zone people tell us we can be flexible with the idea?

12. I am somewhat bewildered by this questionnaire -- Let's use the Union for some real issues when necessary -- not to cuase negative conversation about the foundation of QHST. These questions are very leading and seem to focus on the very culture/basis that the school was founded on! Why question a method of pedagogy if you came here to do the pedagogy expected and of which you knew about ahead of time. Since when can we not do
some teacher-led instruction? Or is it that it is what some teachers would really like do do all the time since it is so much easier to carry off than to create a project that students can really learn from? What are our real issues? Do teachers really need help and maybe won't accept it? Are they reallyh open to professional dialogue, for constructive critiques? I admit that we have a heavy work load, but I had the same at my last school. Opinions that do not always agree with the philosophy of QHST should be heard if they are not a put down but rahter ideas that are for the benefit of our students! Everyone should be heard and I feel are.

13. The 3 separate schedules and start times are detrimental to after-school activities. Students that finish at 2:20 are asked to wait 2 hours to be a part of a club or team. The 3 schedules are totally unnecessary.
Solution: Can 2 communities start at the same time?

Concerns: a) I am concerned that students spend more time in DEAR than they do in their subject-area classes. b) Aren't schools supposed to be for children? Arent they supposed to be educated? What's with TA's, TI's, Service, Project Learn? Where are our priorities? Solutions: Perhaps we can incorporate DEAR into the humanities and extend iehter SS or English to cover th egap during lunches. B) Planning, planning, planning. The idea that students' academic needs come first in a "collge prep school" should be first and foremost in our minds.

And I get the last word . . . . . Thank you all for taking part in the survey and for your enthusiasm, dedication, and your professionalism. I want to end on two points we can all agree on. We do have an extremely talented staff and together we can certainly find the best ways to serve our students.
Also, staff members have voiced their frustration at their inability to post comments on this blog. There are three reasons for this. First, I did not want to create a UFT blog that would make it possible for staff members to criticize other UFT members. That would be antithetical to the idea of the United Federation of Teachers. Secondly, I was afraid that staff members may write statements that might create difficulty with the administration.

Finally, when I created the blog, I thought of it more as an electronic newsletter rather than a message board. Mr. Brown has opened his blog to teachers who would like to make comments about the UFT and this blog. Here is that website: I, too, have contributed comments to his blog.