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.